December 6, 2020

Phurna

(c) J. Singh, 2017

It was evening. Manohar Singh sat quietly in the prayer room in his own home. It was the largest room in the house, originally designed to be a media room, but when Manohar had purchased the house from the builder, he decided to convert it into a prayer and meditation room. With help from a few local Singhs, Manohar and his wife were able to bring the Guru Granth Sahib home, where he reverently installed it with the appropriate religious protocol and convention. Ever since that day, he and his wife had dutifully performed the prescribed seva (service). Every day, in the early morning before dawn, he would rise, bathe and perform the duties of opening the Guru Granth Sahib and reading. And in the evening after dusk, he again would perform the required duties of closing the Guru Granth Sahib. It had been many years now, and Manohar and his wife had kept up the daily routine faithfully.

He recited a prayer silently as he sat. It was quiet in the room, with an atmosphere of serene peacefulness. Manohar waved the chaur sahib over the Guru Granth Sahib in reverence as he worked. The light outside began to fade and slowly gave way to darkness as Manohar was reciting the evening prayers. He was deeply absorbed in the sacred words when the door opened and his aged mother walked into the room. She closed the door behind her, performed matha tek (prostrating herself with her forehead touching the ground) in front of the Guru Granth Sahib, and then sat down on the floor, leaning her back against the wall for support. Manohar continued his prayers without casting a glance at her. He stayed focused on performing the seva. He did not get distracted by her presence, but instead kept his mind on the prayers he was reciting. She didn’t disturb him, but sat quietly observing.

Years of reading the Guru Granth Sahib and following the daily regimen had yielded benefits for Manohar and his wife, starting with the self-discipline of rising early every day. This by itself had transformed their lives, as it developed their mental and emotional muscles. There were other benefits, too, which extended beyond the physical and material world. They found solace, a feeling of deep contentment, mental peace, and a sense of deepening spirituality. This way of living had eventually became a priority for them, and as time passed they found themselves more attached to it than any other lifestyle. Gradually, they stopped attending parties at friends’ houses, watching popular culture movies, or spending time shopping for the latest clothes and fashions. Their interest in idle gossip dwindled, and they found themselves spending time instead listening to the soulful compositions of the shabads from the Guru Granth Sahib. Slowly, in time, their entire lives began to be centered around the Guru Granth Sahib, and they felt sincere gratitude for the deep feelings of peace and contentment that they were experiencing as a result.

The unseen spiritual development they experienced was at times unknown even to them. Something would happen, and only when someone commented that they were lucky, or what a coincidence it was, would they notice and realize that they were indeed gifted in the spiritual sense. These coincidences increased as they spent more time reading and studying from the Guru Granth Sahib. It wasn’t something they had tried to keep track of, or had even realized was happening, but it was undeniable. Due to the nature of it, they didn’t talk about it much, and mostly kept it to themselves. Instead, they focused on reading and continuing to learn from the Guru Granth Sahib. They didn’t want to get sidetracked and distracted from the real purpose.

Life was progressing. Now that the kids were grown and off to college, Manohar and his wife found themselves with a lot of free time on their hands that they didn’t have before. After a brief bout of loneliness without the children at home, they began engaging in activities and hobbies. Manohar’s wife found a renewed interest in music, and spent hours every day practicing the harmonium and singing. Her goal was to sing the shabads fluently. Manohar set up a makeshift workshop in the garage and started doing some woodworking, creating small pieces of art. It was a rediscovery of sorts, and they were delighted at being fortunate enough to enter this phase of their lives in relative peace and harmony.

Manohar finished reciting the evening prayers just as he completed the prescribed duties for the evening protocol. He stood up and walked around to the front of the dais, where he stood with the palms of his hands pressed together. With eyes closed, he began the Ardaas, the prayer of supplication. After which, the observed protocol was complete, and he performed his final matha tek for the night. His mother stood and observed it all without a word. Manohar didn’t speak to her or even look at her. He knew she was there, but he stayed focused on his task, keeping his mind attuned to the prayers and duties he was performing.

When Manohar had finished his duties, he quietly exited the room, closing the door behind him. His wife was standing outside in the hallway, clutching her phone in one hand and tears streaming down her face, her eyes red from crying.

“I just got a call from India,” she said, her voice shaking as she broke into tears again. “It was— it was Dolly. She told me that your Mom just passed away, it was just fifteen minutes ago.”

Manohar gently gathered his wife in his arms as she sobbed and held her lovingly in his embrace.

“I know,” he said quietly.

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