The Key To Transformation – ATTENTIVE LISTENING


Attentive Listening
The Key to Transformation

Pauris 8 to 11 of Jap Ji Sahib are devoted to “suṇiai”, which literally means “by listening (to the Guru’s instruction)”, which a seeker must follow, and to which he or she must commune in order to reach the goal, here expressed as “sadaa vigaas” – a state of everlasting bliss.

Attentive listening holds the key to transformation. These pauris emphasize listening as a means to transcend our limited consciousness into cosmic awareness, gaining access to deeper dimensions of knowledge and existence. As we read through them, we recognize the emphasis Guru Nanak places on attentive listening and the fruits of such communion.

The thing to remember is that, Guru Nanak is calling for radical change, not business as usual. Trouble is we hear what we want to hear; nothing gets past our conditioned thinking. Even when we “hear” Guru Nanak, we “translate” what we hear through our existing filters and “interpret” what we “hear” to suit or reinforce our habitual way of thinking.

The faculty of listening is a continuum, just like our body-mind-soul-spirit is a continuum. We are ordinarily familiar with physical hearing, enabled by the senses; we are also distracted by the inner noise of our own minds. A capacity that lies dormant in the deepest core of our being and the one we need to activate/awaken is attentive listening.

Pauri 8 enlightens that by listening attentively and contemplating on the divine teaching of Gurbani with love and devotion,

  • One is led to a spontaneous development of the capabilities associated with ancient spiritual masters, such as, Siddhs, Pirs and Yogis.
  • It leads to the development of intuitive knowledge of the world and beyond.
  • One realises that the Almighty pervades in all regions, continents, and planets.
  • And thus one is enabled to overcome all of one’s fears, even the fear of death.

The point is, be attentive while seeking Gurbani’s knowledge and thus awaken yourself to the higher planes of spiritualty. 

Pauri 9 (suṇiai eesar barmaa iňd) states that by listening attentively and reflecting on the divine teaching of Gurbani with love and dedication:

  • One realises the identity and nature of the mythical gods of the past and the god-men of modern times – they too are under the influence of worldly temptations (Maya).
  • Even a wicked person transforms and begins to appreciate divine virtues.
  • The method of spiritual union with the Divine is understood.
  • And one comes to know the essence of all religious scriptures or teachings.

The message is that, instead of seeking boons from others, pay heed to Gurbani’s wisdom and elevate yourself to a newer and higher paradigm of life.

Pauri 10 (suṇiai sat saňtokh giaan) reveals that by listening attentively and pondering upon the divine teaching of Gurbani with love and dedication:

  • One imbibes the qualities of good character, spiritual contentment, and higher knowledge.
  • One intuitively undertakes an internal pilgrimage of cleansing as opposed to the physical bathing at various places of pilgrimage, a ritual, as physical cleansing of the body cannot wash away one’s sorrows, pains, and wickedness.
  • One attains the same honour and dignity as that is achieved by scholars through reading and studying.
  • One’s mind becomes easily attuned to divinity and steadied for all time.

Be attentive while appraising Gurbani’s jewels of wisdom and thus enrich yourself with spiritual and divine values.

Pauri 11 (suṇiai saraa guṇaa ke gaah) tells that by listening attentively and pondering upon the divine teaching of Gurbani with love and devotion:

  • One comes to fathom and acquire all good qualities and values.
  • One attains the status like that of spiritual leaders and emperors, etc.
  • Even the spiritually ignorant find and begin to follow the right path.
  • The world becomes fathomable, i.e. the challenges of the world become surmountable.

Such are the blessings of paying heed to Gurbani’s words of wisdom. Be a sincere seeker and enjoy the sublime essence of divinity.

All four pauris (8 to 11) end with the following statement:

naanak bhagtaa sadaa vigaas.
suṇiai dookh paap kaa naas.

This is their underlying message that the devotees who pay heed and grasp the essence of Gurbani’s teachings are forever in bloom, overflowing with spiritual joy and happiness. By emulating the way of life preached by Gurbani, they are enabled to overcome all their sorrows, grief, and wickedness.

In summary, although listening is self-evident to most of us, Guru Nanak’s repeated emphasis (almost a tenth of the Jap Ji) compelled the obvious question: are we not listening already, or is there another kind of listening that the guru wants us to cultivate.

Ordinary “hearing” is often confused with attentive listening, especially the kind that Guru Nanak is teaching. Ordinary hearing is passive, inattentive and shrouded by our inner mental chatter, filtering out most of what is heard. We hear what is agreeable and that only serves to reinforce our habitual patterns.

Attentive listening on the other hand is a dynamic process, requiring a quiet and open mind. Listening, for Guru Nanak, is the foundation for spiritual formation and growth, leading ultimately to communion with the divine. This becomes one’s journey as well as the goal.

Gurbani is very clear and insistent that the ears were attached to our bodies so that we could listen to truth. All other hearing is but falsehood blowing around in a gust of wind; only listening to the words of true wisdom can be deemed successful.

ਕਿਆ ਸੁਣੇਦੋ ਕੂੜੁ   ਵੰਞਨਿ ਪਵਣ ਝੁਲਾਰਿਆ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਸੁਣੀਅਰ ਤੇ ਪਰਵਾਣੁ   ਜੋ ਸੁਣੇਦੇ ਸਚੁ ਧਣੀ॥
Why do you listen to falsehood? It shall vanish like a gust of wind. Nanak! Only those ears which listen to the True Master are fruitful. SGGS, 577

Extracted from AWAT’s recent issues on Jap Ji Sahib.

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Compiled and edited by
Ravin Kaur


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