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Chapter 4: Some Other Ganges

If I have succeeded in attaining His pleasure, I have bathed in all the holy rivers.
And if I fail to please Him, why should I bathe and adorn myself?
In this whole created universe, nothing is attained without actions;
But he who listens to but one teaching of the guru,
His understanding becomes like a precious jewel.
He is the benefactor of all.
Let me never forget Him.

Were you to live through four ages, or even ten times more,
Were you known on all nine continents, and were to gain universal following,
Were you to earn fame and praise from all of mankind,
If you have not His grace, nothing will save you.
You are like the lowliest worm; even the worst of sinners may point the finger at you.
Says Nanak, He makes the worthless worthy,
And showers the gifted with more gifts.
None but God can bestow such excellence.

Suddenly one night Nanak left his house and disappeared. Nobody knew where he had gone. They searched all the temples and dwellings of sadhus where he was likely to be, but he was nowhere to be found. Someone said he had been seen going towards the cremation ground, but nobody could believe it. No one ever goes to the burial ground of his own will. Even the dead man does not want to be there, so the question of a living person going voluntarily seemed impossible. But when Nanak was nowhere to be found, as a last resort they had to look for him there. They found him sitting before a fire deep in meditation.

His people shook him and said, “Are you out of your mind sitting here at this hour, leaving your wife and children behind? Don’t you know where you are? This is the cremation ground.”

Nanak replied, “He who comes here has already died; death is no longer ahead. What you call your house is where you will die in due course. Then which one is to be feared? Is it where people die or where people never die? Besides, if some day you have to come here, it is most unseemly to come riding on four people’s shoulders; therefore I came myself.”

This incident is very significant. Nanak has no quarrel with what has to be. He accepts all that is. Death is to be. Death is welcome. Why trouble others? It is better to come on one’s own. But we are always opposed to what will be. Our desire is for it to be different, but Nanak has no such desire. All is his wish! If he wills that Nanak should die, he accepts his wish.

That night, however, people persuaded him to come home. After he returned Nanak was never the same again; something within him had died and something new had been born. It is only by dying completely within that the new birth takes place. In the process of birth you have to go through the burning grounds, and he who passes through the burning ghats knowingly, voluntarily, attains a new birth. This is not the birth of a new body; it is the unfolding of a new consciousness.

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