The senses do not experience anything without your mind, their experiences rely entirely on your attention. When you pour your attention into a sense organ, then only is it motivated and gains strength. But if you withdraw your attention from all five senses, what remains is the one, because all the five will be lost instantly. And the real search is for this one alone. In these sutras Nanak has shown the method of removing the attention from the five senses.
Now let us try to understand the sutras:
Five are the tests and the ministers;
They gain shelter and respect at His door
They decorate the king’s court.
Attention is the guru of the five.
Dhyana, attention, is the one guru of the five senses. If you remain scattered among the five you are misled, but if you catch hold of the one you will arrive.
Looking at a woman grinding wheat, Kabir said: “No one can remain whole between the two slabs of the millstone.” Kabir was telling his disciples that he who is caught in the millstone of duality is similarly ground to bits and cannot be saved.
Kabir’s son said of this: “But there is something else in the millstone – the middle shaft. What if someone were to hold on to that?”
In his next couplet Kabir refers to this shaft, saying that he who takes refuge in it, he who seeks protection by holding on to the one amidst the two grinders, cannot be ground by them.
Whether you say two, like Kabir, or five like Nanak, or nine, or infinite, the meandering routes are many but the destination is one. On whatever path you choose to wander, the method of passing through will be specific for this path. Nanak’s method means that when you eat you must be aware of your attention: the food is going in, various tastes are forming in the mouth, so experience it all with careful attention. If you taste your food attentively you will find that eventually the taste fades away and only attention remains. Attention and observation form a blazing fire which turns taste to ashes.
While seeing a beautiful flower, observe very attentively and you will find that the flower is gone and only observation remains. The flower is like a dream, attention is eternal.
When you see a beautiful woman and observe her without getting lost in a maze of thoughts, you will soon find that she is no more – like a line drawn on water – and only attention remains. If you thus remain alert and attentive with each of your senses, the forms of the senses fade away and the formless alone emerges. Once a person arrives at this dhyana, nothing can destroy it.
Nanak says there is only one master of the five senses, and that is attention. All the five senses, like five rivers, pour their waters into this very dhyana.
Psychologists also study this phenomenon: eyes see, ears listen, hands touch, the nose smells; but neither eyes nor ears nor hands nor nose can perform these tasks on their own. Then who is it that joins them all?