Chapter 1: Fear Is a Beggar
The speaker is lost - what is there to say? Only he remains: his glory, his grandeur, his endless resonance. The seer is lost; only the seen remains. You are extinct, completely annihilated; then who will give tidings of him? Whatever discussions men have had about God have been hopeless. When a tremendous event occurs we are struck dumb; when a person reaches God he becomes speechless. Not only is speech lost, but the very breath stops. You stop completely at the moment of knowing him: neither thoughts move, nor words, nor breath, nor does the heart beat. Even a single heartbeat would deprive you of his sight, that slight trembling can produce a separation.
In just such a moment of speechless silence, Nanak has uttered these words. They are not to teach others, but to express his own helplessness.
There is no end to His virtues,
Nor to their narration.
There is no end to His works and His bounty,
And endless what He sees and hears.
There is no knowing the secrets of His mind;
There is no beginning or end to it.
So many struggle to know His depth,
But none has ever achieved it;
As long as you feel you have known God, you are under an illusion - you err. For whatever you have known cannot be God, whatever you have measured cannot be God, whatever you have fathomed cannot be God. You must be diving into some lake; you are nowhere near the ocean. You have gone into some insignificant valley; you have not known the abysmal depths where falling is endless. You must have climbed some nondescript hill on the outskirts of your village; you have no knowledge of his Everest where climbing is impossible. We have succeeded in climbing the Everest of the Himalayas, though with great difficulty, but to scale his Everest is unthinkable.
Why is it impossible? Try to understand how inconceivable it is to gauge or understand God..we are a part of him. How can a part know the whole? I can hold everything of this world within my hand, except myself. How can I hold myself in my own hand? My eyes can see everything under the sun, but how can they look at me? They cannot see me completely for the simple reason that they are a part of me, and the part can never know the whole; it may get glimpses but not the complete picture.
The difficulty is that we are a part of this vast expanse. Had we not been a part of God we would have known him; had we been distinct and separate from him, we could have gone around him and investigated. But we are a part of him; we are his very heartbeat, his breath! How can we go around him? How can we grasp him? Man is but a particle of sand in this vast expanse, a drop in the ocean. How can this one lonely drop contain the whole ocean? How can it know the entire ocean?
This is very interesting: the drop is in the ocean and the drop is the ocean. So in a very profound sense, the drop knows the ocean, because the ocean is not different from the drop. And yet in another sense it cannot know the ocean because the ocean is not separate from it. This is the biggest paradox of religion: we know God and yet we do not know him at all. How can this be when he throbs in us and we in him? We are not far from him; in fact there isn’t the slightest distance between him and us.