I recently stumbled upon a youtube mix that included the mantra “Waheguru” sung to the melody Bach’s Prelude in C (start at 39:06). It got into my head and I began singing it in the shower, but I realized that I had no idea what Waheguru actually meant. So I reached out to humanity’s collective prostetic brain (ie. google) and found out that it is the Sikh name for God, which literally means “wonderful teacher.”
This was one of those “a-ha” moments, like I was standing in a cathedral and turned my attention from one beautiful stained glass window to another, and realized that all the different colors around me shared a common source.
The reality that the word “God” points to is so vast that it cannot be contained in a single human system or image or word. Different paths offer different descriptions of What It Is. By studying the different aspects that each path emphasizes, we gain a better appreciation of the whole. Or, to continue with the image above, our appreciation of the sun is hightened when we see the colors that result from filtering it through different lenses.
Learning about this Sikh name for God has been especially interesting in my current situation, where even going down the street is a struggle. It’s important to remind myself in difficult times that the experiences that come my way are there to help me learn and to grow. A good teacher knows how to push a student and will will set up conditions for the student to discover something within himself that he didn’t know he had.
There have been times these past few weeks when I’ve been struggling with my crutches and cursing under my breath about how tired I am and how unjust the situation is. I’ve been blessed, however, to have the Waheguru mantra come to my heart in times like these. When I do that, it connects me back to the larger picture: this suffering is there to help me understand something I might not have been able to otherwise.
Already, I am beginning to understand on an entirely different level just how interdependant and interconnected we are. In this moment, I am particularly vulnerable and in need of aid. But this is actually true all the time! Every moment of our existence is contingent on countless beings, from our parents, to the farmers who grow our food, to the multitudes of insects and animals that create healthy soil.
Most of the time, we are not really aware of how “I am because you are”. But when you’re sick, you quickly realize on an experiential level what a debt we owe to those around us. This is simply the way things are, which goes unnoticed, underappreciated, or simply forgotten in day to day life.
I accept that I may be entirely delusional when I assert that, like a roller coaster architect, the soul designs its own lessons, and then forgets it designed them in order to make the experience more fun. I may be completley out of my mind to think of God as an impersonal force that gives and learns lessons. It may be true, as Jung argued, that God is entirely a psychological projection, an idea designed to help us navigate through life’s turbid waters.
But at the end of the day, using these ideas imbibes my life with patience, compassion, and understanding. “Waheguru” helps me to escape being entirely sucked into the ego vortex.
In another week, my ankle will hopefully have healed to the point where I can walk on it again. Until then, crutches are very useful to fascilitate my body’s return to its natural state of health.
Similarly, perhaps one day I will be able to jettison the ideas I’m leaning on as well. As beautiful and elaborate as our descriptions of God may be, we are not meant to hang on to them. “I pray to God to make me free of God”, as Meister Eckhart put it. Or in Buddhist parlance, the raft is there to get you to the other side; you don’t take it along with you after you’ve arrived. In my physical situation, it would be rediculous to hold on to the crutches after I’ve healed.
Our ideas of the divine (or enlightenment) are there to help us correct our vision, to restore our perception to seeing reality as it really is– throughly interdependent, creative, generous, and above all, mysterious (oh, and remember that you’re not at the center of it).
For now, however, I’m still a thoroughly ego-based being who does not always remember this, and as a result I am prone to anger, compaining, and judgment. I need crutches.
Take any means you want to help your ankle heal (there are surprisingly many options out there, including “knee scooters“). Take any means you can to de-egofy yourself.
If it’s through mantras, great. If it’s through a very Zen-like disidentification with pain, great. The important thing is that you find some way to to de-personalize the situation and open up to what it is, which will always be beyond your comprehension.
Be a good student, and open yourself up to what the teacher is trying to convey.