Once thespian Balraj Sahni (who used to teach at Santiniketan then) asked the Nobel Laureate Rabindra Nath Tagore, “You have written the national anthem for India. Can you write an international anthem for the whole world?” Tagore replied, “It has already been written. Not just an international anthem, but an anthem for the entire universe. It is the aarti written by Guru Nanak in the 16th century.” Tagore was referring to the Sikh Aarti (ceremony of light). Gurudev Tagore was so enamoured of this aarti that he personally translated it into Bengali. Here is the story behind it :

When Guru Nanak traveled to Puri at the Jagannath temple, the temple priests invited Guru Nanak to join them to join in the Aarti of the Lord. Guru Nanak agreed and went and sat inside the temple. The priests stood in front of the idol gods and started to wave platters with lights, incense and offerings placed on it. All the devotees who had gathered stood up and gazed at the Lord with great devotion. Guru Nanak filled with great pleasure, was transfixed and remained seated. So overwhelmed was he, that tears rolled down his eyes

At the end of the aarti, the priests complained to Guru Nanak, “You said you would join us to join us in the Aarti of God, but you remain seated on the floor with your eyes closed!” Guru Nanak then replied with this Shabad, saying “Dear brothers! Does our Jagannath exist only here and in this wooden image? Is he not dazzling in the aura of his own greatness, inside all creation? Cannot his Mahima be felt and experienced without the accompanying rituals?

Imagine the priest doubting Guru Nanak’s devotion because he did not participate in the ritual as the priest thought he should. Do we understand the rituals are accompanied by a view that is to be kept…in alignment. Depending on the tradition of which the ritual is, the view is to be kept in mind with awareness to invite the proper fruit of the practice (You may study more about “View-Practice-Fruit”) To get an idea: In Non-dual Shaiva Tantra ‘God’ is pure awareness that is no different from you at all while in the dualistic Shaiva Siddhanta: God, Creation,and Beings(Pasu) are 3 distinct entities which cannot be further dissolved.

This point is not stressed enough, or at least I think, that spiritual injunctions must be tailored for the individual. Every statement with even a hint of guidance must be accounted with context.

The question of the kinds of ‘whether there’s a god, with form or formless ‘ are serious questions which shouldn’t be settled with answers that are ‘what someone said.’ The answers are to be studied in a comprehensible manner. Eg. If you hear a Gaudiya Vaishnav telling you Krishna is ,exclusively, the Supreme Godhead. Wait a minute before you reject it, or accept. How about you study the overview of the tradition he’s coming from, get familiar with the foundational beliefs of the tradition and the reasoning for their beliefs. It wouldn’t take a while to understand the basic overview. After you’ve put in the reading, it’ll be clear for you to rationally analyze their principles, and/or ask your heart whether it resonates with the ‘view’ presented.

To allow the impact of a teaching to be revealed: sit with it for some good time, question it, do that extra Google. And/or sit with it in silence and let your intuition take you from there.

(Sharing a beautiful rendition of the
aarti that Guru Nanak spontaneously composed wherein he said that when the Lord is Omnipresent and Omnipotent, how I can worship him with a small set of lamps and incense. He ought to be worshipped as grandly as his grandeur deserves. Guru Nanak sang an Arti in his melodious voice, describing how the entire sky is the platter on which the sun and moon are lamps for worship. The stars and the planets are the gems and pearls, the mythical Mount Meru, covered with sandalwood trees is the incense and the wind blowing from all directions is the grand fan for the beloved.)

Source for the Puri Incident : February – March – 2012, Odisha Review

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