“When the monsters are nipping at your heels, the Twentieth Paurī wipes away all your sins.”
~ from the teachings of the Siri Singh Sahib, Yogi Bhajan (1)
“Sequence has a consequence. When we start a sequence, the consequence will be there. If you do not want the consequence, do not start the sequence.”~ Siri Singh Sahib, Yogi Bhajan (2)
Reflections on the 20th Pauri from Ram Singh Khalsa:
One of the main expressions of wisdom and mental clarity is the capacity to perceive the consequences of our thoughts, words and actions, and to act (or to refrain from acting) according to that perception. The twentieth Paurī of Jap Jī Sāhib gives us an opportunity to meditate on what is called samskara: the consequences of our mental and physical activities (in particular those we repeat) and their imprint on the psyche.
The Siri Singh Sahib, Yogi Bhajan taught a lot about habits, and explained how important it is to learn to change our habits. What he meant by habits is not only our behavioral habits (all the things I do and keep doing), but also recurrent beliefs (especially those that do not support me), conditioned reactions, thought routines and emotional patterns. He even defined meditation as “the art of breaking habits” (3).
But where are our habits coming from? Where in us are they installed?
“[When] the emotion becomes commotion and enters the subconscious mind, then there is a problem. Then you have a pattern, a style of life. And then the pattern will govern you. These commotions become our patterns: we call them habits. First we create a habit, then the habit creates us. There is hardly any person who doesn’t get into a habit. And it is very difficult to break a habit. If there is a wrong habit, you have a lot of trouble: life becomes unhappy.”
~ The Siri Singh Sahib Yogi Bhajan (3)
The mind is a multi-layered structure. What we ordinarily see is mostly the surface of our mind, that the Siri Singh Sahib, Yogi Bhajan referred to as “positive mind,” and could also be defined as “ordinary consciousness.” But most of our mental activity happens below the surface: like an iceberg, most of the mind is below the sea level. That part being below the ordinary consciousness, it is called sub-conscious. The subconscious is definitely where our habits and patterns are rooted, some deeper than others.
There is a strong interaction between the surface – where things are happening – and the subconscious. Whatever is happening at the surface provokes emotions, thoughts and mental impressions, and if they are not dealt with or processed, they will have to be stored in the subconscious – just like we tend to store old things in the basement instead of clearly deciding whether we want to keep them in the living room or get rid of them.
Now that we don’t see them anymore, we think they disappeared. But they actually remain active, taking a lot of energy and mental space, polluting our psyche, haunting our lives. Such neuroses are traditionally referred to as monsters or demons “nipping at our heels.” And in return, they will have an impact on what is happening on the surface – just like potatoes rotting in the basement will eventually be smelled in the living room!
And while very few people will take it as a sign that it is time to clean the sub-level, most people, for many reasons (fear, laziness, ignorance…) will try to isolate more the sub-level from the surface level so they can try to ignore what is happening downstairs. But it’s happening in their own house – their own mental space – and that corruption may even attack the very foundations of the building:
Siri Singh Sahib Yogi Bhajan said, “God, when it starts unloading into the unconscious, then you’ve had it (4).”
The word likh means “writing,” but its original translation is “engraving” (probably because before writing with ink on paper, our ancestors engraved tablets of clay) or “etching”: our mental and physical activities, repeated over and over again, leave grooves and patterns in our subconscious mind. And soon we have very little choice but following those grooves, life after life, even if we know that they lead us to disaster.
Whatever seed (bīj) we plant, of virtue or of negativity, of happiness or of misery, we shall have to eat their fruits. In other words, what is happening in our lives is the fruit of what we installed in our subconscious.
That is why this Paurī starts with purification, with cleansing. First comes the most superficial pollution, the one that is easily cleansed:
When the hands, the feet or the body are dirty, water can wash away the dirt.
Then comes a more serious pollution, and we need more than just water to take it away:
When the clothes are soiled by urine, you need soap to wash them clean.
But mental pollution is much more difficult to get rid of. When the intellect, the very structure of the mind, is corrupted by our misdeeds, errors, negative emotions, demeaning thoughts or destructive actions, then we need another kind of purification: loving the Nām, the spiritual identity, the Divine Infinite that we consciously, daily, vibrate in our lives.
The love of the Nām is not like water or soap: the idea here is not just to flush our mental pollution away. Cleansing is not enough: we need to install something so great, so essential, so ultimate, that it leaves no space to any parasite or corruption.
Gurū Nānak invites us to plant and nurture another kind of seed in our subconscious: the seed of the Nām. It is the seed of the True Self that we already are, and it shall grow as a large and royal tree, with golden fruits of happiness and fulfillment. That’s why the inner, silent repeating of Sat Nām is called Bīj Mantra: the mantra that plants the seed of the True Self within our mind. And in Kundalini Yoga, we learn to plant it breath by breath: inhale meditating on Sat, exhale on Nām. Sat Nām!
(1) Yogi Bhajan, The Aquarian Teacher, 80.
(2) The Teachings of Yogi Bhajan, April 9, 2001.
(3) The Teachings of Yogi Bhajan, February 21, 1978.
(4) The Teachings of Yogi Bhajan, July 23, 1996.
*This article was originally shared in a 40-Day Japji Sadhana hosted by Sikh Dharma International in partnership with other legacy organizations.
Ram Singh came in touch with Kundalini Yoga as a child in Togo (West Africa) in the early eighties. Since then he never stopped exploring the unfathomable richness of the teachings of Yogi Bhajan. Since many years he has been blessed to be guided by his spiritual teacher, Shiv Charan Singh, through that deep journey . After years of teaching in contexts where yoga is still little present – a center for drug addicts, a group of elderly students, an institution for autistic teenagers, a nursing training school, etc. – he and his wife Gururavi Kaur founded in 2011 the Dharamsal Yoga Center in Toulouse, France, dedicated to the teachings of Kundalini Yoga.
As a Kundalini Yoga Lead Teacher Trainer, Ram Singh is involved in several KRI-approved Teacher Training programs worldwide: School of Karam Kriya, École de Paris, International College of Kundalini Yoga and Yoga Teachers 4 Africa.
Ram Singh is also involved in the teaching of Karam Kriya, the sacred science of applied numerology. A singer and a musician, he is the author of three albums of mantras of Kundalini Yoga and sacred songs from the Sikh traditions. And as a lover of Sikh sacred scriptures, Ram Singh teaches courses on Jap Jī Sāhib. After translating Japji Sahib and the whole Nitnem – the collection of Sikh daily recitations – into French, he has recently committed to complete the translation of the whole Sirī Gurū Granth Sāhib.