The Sweetest Taste

I’ve just been reading Jaap Sahib, and my happiness is so intense that I cannot describe it. Jaap Sahib is the second daily prayer of Sikhs, the powerful hymn of God’s praises by the Tenth Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh. My great teacher, Baba Virsa Singh, advises us to read Jaap Sahib seven times each day. To be able to do so, we have to concentrate all our attention on the scripture. Then reading it is not an empty ritual; it becomes a precious time of communion with the One Who is praised. The happiness of this communion grows and grows. Here’s a little sample of Jaap Sahib in the translation of Dr. Harjit Singh Gill: Guru Gobind Singh is speaking to God:

[You are] beyond description

In splendid glory

The Light of every soul

The Sweetness of every nectar.

This sweetness, this intense inner happiness, is what we all seek. But we look for it in the wrong places. Advertisements promise us happiness if we buy a certain mouthwash, smoke cigarettes, drink beer, vacation on the beach. How misplaced our trust! When one experiences the pleasure of being imbued with God’s Light, worldly comforts or discomforts are of little interest. If breakfast is only two chapattis, what difference does it make when one is already intensely happy? If fame and fortune come, how can they add to the happiness one is already feeling?

There are no commercials for communion with God. Even if there were, how could we speak of this sweetness? The Sikh scripture says it is like giving a sweet to a speechless person. She can taste it, but she has no means of describing what she has tasted.

Nevertheless, the lovers of God are so overwhelmed by the pleasure of communion with God that God’s Name is always on their tongue. Guru Nanak sings,

I live by Thy Name

And my mind is in bliss, Oh Lord. . . .

Supremely sweet is the nectar of Thy Name,

And it is through Thy Name that desire is stilled.

Of course! As my teacher, Baba Virsa Singh, points out, “When one is merged with the Great Reality, no worldly pleasure can compare with the sweetness of this communion.”

I live in Gobind Sadan, a series of interfaith devotional communities in North India which have been developed by Baba Virsa Singh. Our life is materially simple; we support ourselves by farming. By the grace of God, a great surplus is created and used to uplift the poor. We don’t need much—the requirements of food, shelter, and clothing are easily met when we all work hard in remembrance of God and share with each other. And nowhere in the world have I seen such supreme happiness as I see in the people who tend the vegetables and the flowers. As I am beginning to understand a bit of Hindi and Punjabi, I am discovering why there is so much light in their faces. One evening I stood watching the sunset next to an old man who has been working in the same vegetable patch for decades. He smiles but doesn’t speak much. He simply said, “How beautifully the Creator manifests in His creation.” He did not speak from theories he has read in books; his only book is nature, for he does not read. What he says comes from his own genuine experience. Two other gardeners recently said to me, “Look, God is here in every leaf. In every leaf—God, God, God.” These gardeners may have ragged clothes, but the supreme happiness is always theirs.

The Fifth Sikh Guru sang,

The Lord’s lotus feet have pierced through my mind

And I am dyed red, like the hue of madder.

My life, soul, body and heart now belong to God

And all falsehood has left me. . . .

The deer is pierced by the arrow of the bell’s music

And the black bee is entangled with the fragrance of flowers.

The lovers of God remain absorbed in the Lord’s feet

And desire nothing else.

[for BBC World Service Words of Faith]