“‘Look at the skilled blacksmith working steel. To the untrained eye, he’s merely repeating the same hammer blows, but anyone trained in the art of calligraphy knows that each time the blacksmith lifts the hammer and brings it down, the intensity of the blow is different. The hand repeats the same gesture, but as it approaches the metal it understands that it must touch it with more or less force. it’s the same thing with repetition: it may seem the same, but it’s always different. The moment will come when you no longer need to think about what you’re doing. You become the letter, the ink, the paper, the word.’” — The Witch of Portobello
Daily, I read the 38th Pauri of JapJee Sahib. I’ve given countless talks on it, thought about it incessantly, even debated about it in front of a sangat; but, inspiration and understanding often come when we are unaware.
It tells of a special blacksmith named Patience, who sets up a workshop in an inferno of Contentment. Bit by bit, with the precision of a thousand arrows, Patience picks up the raw iron, an ugly little clump of dirt and mineral, only to throw it in the growing fire of Concentrated Effort. The flames, which would feel uncomfortable to any other person, are welcomed by the blacksmith for he knows their secret. The iron glows bright red for a few minutes. The clumps of dirt hastily evaporate into nothing, but the iron is still stubborn and hard. Again, the blacksmith picked up the iron, examines it with a critical eye -judging and seeing the microscopic imperfections. No, still needs work. Still not ready.
Back to the inferno. The iron screams out a bloody red color until it realizes the fire is not the enemy. Greater things lie ahead.
Now, the iron, colored red as the love struck poppy, chases the fire, welcoming it, cherishing its warmth.
You are ready now, says the Blacksmith, you are now ready.
Carefully, with nimble hands aged from clutching the black tongs, the blacksmith takes the glowing iron and places it, like a parent would with a newborn child, on a cool Anvil. This Anvil is special—unlike any other anvil the world had seen before. It is the Anvil of Intellect. Swirls of thoughts, ideas, identities make this Anvil strong and stable. However, it knows its task—it is merely the battle ground of the war between the molten iron and the Hammer of Spiritual Wisdom.
Over and over and over again, the iron is assaulted with the blunt edge of the hammer; the iron is stretched out, spread thin. No, no. Too much pressure here. How about a bit here?
The iron cries out and with each passing strike, feels as if the world is falling apart in beautiful shapes—shapes that it will soon take. It begins to see its destiny.
Once more to the furnace, young one. You are not malleable enough. Please, a few more times.
Days go by, years go by, ages go by. Still, Patience is carrying on. The iron is assaulted, having been ripened by the flames that cool it and by the hammer under which the iron has no choice but to conform.
With each strike, tears well up. With each strike, there is an uncomfortableness. With each strike, there is a realness, a freshness, a reassurance of the future. With each strike, the iron begins to tentatively adopt a shape.
The Blacksmith, hearing the cries of the iron, blows a strange life into the fire of contentment. It is mixed with the breath of discipline, a depth-less respect for the shape the iron is going to take. Some call it Simran, some call it Fear, some call it Respectful Love. To the Blacksmith, it merely accelerated the process of melting. As he spins his breath to feed the flames, the temperature rivals the sun.
The flames rise up, lick the iron with whispers of a Song of Bliss, a chorus of a melody unheard.
The universe falls apart, and the iron does not have the will to hold onto to its stubbornness. Let go. It is much easier. There are great thing in store for you.
Now, you are ready. You are finally ready.
Whispering to himself, the Blacksmith pours to liquid iron, still bright red and exhausted, into a Crucible of nothing else but Love. Not a dirty love, tarnished by obsession, blinded by insecurities, covered by the soot of selfishness. The crucible is made of a selfless Love that is constructed from the highest of all thought: Divinity. Completely empty, it is filled with the molten iron.
But, the dirty iron no longer exists… it has taken a new form. Beat by the flames, struck by the Hammer, for centuries, it finally exists in its perfect form: the essence of Immortality. Seasoned by the temperament of Wisdom, bullied into submission by Contentment and the careful handiwork of Patience, gone are the specks of dust, gone are the imperfections.
Now, it is molded to its true destiny: a coin.
The world speaks of priceless golden coins, copper coins which it uses to purchase luxuries, necessities. Each coin comes with an identifier: a symbol of the nation that made it.
This coin is no different. It is used to purchase a luxury. It has a symbol of a nation.
The luxury being a priceless Jewel. The symbol of a nation that isn’t a nation at all but a collection of souls seeking the Timeless. This coin is not given but earned—in times of happiness, in times of loneliness, in times of painstaking numbness.
It is only then that the iron realises that the coin was within it all along.
Balpreet Kaur is a first-generation sophomore at the Ohio State University, where she is studying both Neuroscience and Psychology. She hopes to continue onto medical school to become a neurosurgeon, research the effect of social stigma on the progression of mental disorders in developing countries, and hopefully, open a few free clinics in Africa.
At OSU, she is a part of the executive board of the Better Together team, president of the Sikh Student Association, and a Humanities Scholar. Being inspired by the tenets of universal love and service in Sikhism, she aspires to learn about the human condition and, one day, save the world – one step at a time. Her turban and her faith inspire her to be different and to initiate dialogue with others. She finds herself reading everything and anything in her spare time, meditating, baking vegan deserts, and thinking about the profundities of life.