Singer: Bhai Gopal Singh Ragi and chorus
'Mera Mujh Mein Kichh Nahi' is a wonderful hymn on the theme of letting go. A popular recording is from 1972 by Bhai Gopal Singh Ragi, a blind singer with a mellifluous voice. When I was growing up, I heard his recordings on a gramophone player at home.
The hymn encourages us to let go by having faith in a personified higher power. Repeatedly, it says that there is no I, it is all You. How is such belief helpful to me in my day to day life? It helps me let go of attachments, making me feel relaxed.
What kind of attachments do I have to let go? All sorts. The list is embarrassingly long :) Here are two examples:
The fundamental issue with attachments is that of control. Feelings of loss of control are concomitant with feelings of helplessness, frustration and anxiety. With such feelings, I lose my peace of mind. When I lose my peace of mind, how can I soothe myself and restore my peace of mind? By letting go!
The struggle between control and letting go manifests itself in many forms. For example, a friend posted this article on FaceBook last week: 15 Things You Should Give Up To Be Happy. Item number 2 is 'give up your need for control' and item number 14 is 'give up attachment'. Many other items in the article are essentially about control and letting go.
How do hymns like 'Mera Mujh Mein' weave their magic? How do they dispel my anxieties arising from attachments listed above?
1) The hymn instils faith in a personified higher power who shall take care of my loved ones. For example, after I have done my best, I invoke the following thoughts: "I am limited in my abilities and my efforts. The ultimate guardian of me and my loved ones is You. May my loved ones be safe, peaceful and joyful." With these thoughts firmly in my mind, I smile and I become relaxed :)
2) When the desire to possess beautiful forms arises, I invoke the following sentiments: "These beautiful forms belong to You. Who am I to possess them? These include material objects, people, my body, my breath, my mental prowesses. Everything is Yours." With these thoughts firmly in my mind, I smile and I become peaceful and joyful :)
A story from Guru Nanak's life comes to mind. In his youth, he was working as a storekeeper. One day, he was counting provisions verbally, 'One, two, three, ..., eleven, twelve, thirteen'. When he reached thirteen, he started saying that number repeatedly. In Punjabi, the number thirteen is 'Tera', which also means 'Yours'.
Letting go is the same as 'submission of the ego' and 'acceptance'. How?
Submission of Ego and Acceptance
Here is an attempt to explain the term 'submission of ego' in somewhat mathematical terms: If the reality is X but I wish the reality were Y, where X and Y are different, that reflects a separation of the universe into 'I' and the 'complement of I'. Well, the Universe has not physically separated; such separation is entirely a matter of our perception. By accepting X, 'I' and the 'complement of I' become aligned. They fuse or unite to become one. In this sense, 'letting go', 'submission of the ego' and 'acceptance' are the same concept. Some examples of X and Y are described in the section 'Acceptance of Loss' below.
Sufi compositions, Bhakti poems and various devotional texts mention separation and union repeatedly. What separation and what union are they talking about? My understanding is that they are referring to the separation into 'I' and the 'complement of I', as explained above. Through submission of the ego, which means that we accept reality as it is, union is obtained.
To explain the concepts of separation and union, Sufi poetry uses the example of separation and union with one's physical beloved. That is just an analogy. Truly, the terms separation and union refer to acceptance or non-acceptance of situations that we face in our daily lives. Some of these situations may involve our physical beloved. Many do not.
There is a good reason why Sufi poets adopt the example of one's physical beloved. Our state of mind during separation from our beloved is characterized by negative emotions like anxiety, depression, anger and loneliness. The same state of mind arises by non-acceptance of our daily life situations. Our state of mind during union with our beloved is characterized by positive emotions like peace and joy. The same state of mind arises by acceptance of our daily life situations.
Acceptance of Loss
Grief is an inevitable part of human experience. For example, the discovery that my child is autistic triggers grief. The discovery that the person I love so dearly does not reciprocate my feelings triggers grief. The discovery that I no longer have my job triggers grief. The discovery that I can never bear a child triggers grief. The list is endless.
In modern psychology, the Kübler-Ross Model for the grieving process is quite popular. It was developed in 1969 by a Swiss psychiatrist Kübler-Ross who spent many decades working with the terminally ill. The model has five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. The first four stages reflect non-acceptance. Note the words used for describing non-acceptance: 'denial', 'anger', 'bargaining' and 'depression'.
How does one reach 'acceptance' when faced with grief? Many techniques and ideas are found in psychology and spiritual books. There is no single technique or algorithm that works for everybody. For those with a devotional bent of mind, hymns like 'Mera Mujh Mein' are helpful. They shorten the time period that we would otherwise have spent in denial, anger and depression. They also lessen the impact of these negative states of mind, quickly bringing us back on track, with smiles adorning our faces :)
The verses of 'Mera Mujh Mein', as sung by Bhai Gopal Singh Ragi, are drawn from four different compositions by Kabir (1440 - 1518), Guru Nanak (1469 - 1539) and Guru Arjan (1563 - 1606). The website SriGranth.org hosts famous translations of these compositions, which I have cut-and-paste below. My personal understanding is under 'Interpretation' in each section.
(कबीर) मेरा मुझ महि किछु नही जो किछु है सो तेरा ॥
तेरा तुझ कउ सउपते किआ लागै मेरा ॥२०३॥
Tera Tujhako Saunpte, Kya Laagat Hai Mor?
Mera Mujh Mein Kuchh Naahee, Jo Hovat So Tor.
In returning what belongs to You, what does it cost me?
Nothing inside me is mine, it is all Yours.
My understanding of the second line is different from the translation above. For me, the word ईघै means 'here' ("at one hand") and the word ऊघै means 'there' ("on the other hand"). A key phrase is केल करत बिचि which means 'plays in between'. My understanding of the second line is that even the dichotomy between nirgun (without form and without attributes and without qualities) and sagun (with form or with attributes or with qualities) is a dichotomy! Any dichotomy divides oneness, just like the two halves of the yin yang diagram.
तूं जीवनु तूं प्रान अधारा ॥
तुझ ही पेखि पेखि मनु साधारा ॥१॥
तूं साजनु तूं प्रीतमु मेरा ॥
चितहि न बिसरहि काहू बेरा ॥१॥ रहाउ ॥
हउ किछु नाही सभु किछु तेरा ॥
ओति पोति नानक संगि बसेरा ॥४॥५॥११॥