Get a feel of the terrifying ocean


manamukh bhoujal pach mueae guramukh tharae athhaahu
The self-willed manmukhs putrefy and die in the terrifying world-ocean, while the Gurmukhs cross over the bottomless ocean.
Guru Nanak Dev Ji, SGGS 63

The past weekend, I got a taste of the unimaginable power of the ocean when my wife and I took a break from city life to relax at the sun-kissed beautiful white sandy beaches of Kenya’s coastal city of Mombasa. From the beach, everything looks so beautiful, innocent and tempting – the hot sun, the cool waters of the oceans, the waves lapping at your feet as you walk on the sands that meet the end of the ocean. Urges churn up to surf the waters, take a boat out and enjoy the deeper ocean. If we are not careful, the same beauty can swallow us whole.

We took a boat a kilometer into the Indian Ocean to feed the fish near the coral reef and allow some divers to go snorkeling and explore the sea-life beneath the water surface. Having left the safety of the shore, even the first few meters were terrifying as the boat begins to negotiate the waves which get stronger as we advance further into the sea. Terrifying thoughts crossed my mind – what if the waves get stronger, what if the boat tips, what if I fall overboard, what if . . . what if . . . Those were mere thoughts, and yet they were enough to send a chill down your spine. The deeper we sailed into the sea, the more we were at the mercy of the so-far-gentle waves. Knowing how to swim can save one if the unfortunate happens, but what can the mere mortal do if the waves decide to carry the swimmer deeper into the sea, away from the shore?

We dropped anchor at about a kilometer into the sea, which at that point must have been about a hundred meters or so deep. The waves rocked the boat but the anchor kept it in place, but was nevertheless not any less comforting to imagine just what could go wrong. And what if it did? The sea would have claimed us as its own, gone forever, without trace, into the deepest realms of the ocean. The first day, the sun went down and the skies became overcast. The winds got stronger, the waves stronger and the sea began to look fierce. But the boatman said it was only a little rough – we simply don’t know what is rough when the sea decides to get nasty. Our boat rocked in the waves, as temperatures dropped with the rain pouring in. What we thought would be a pleasure to step into the ocean and view its magnificent beauty turned into mixed emotions of awe and fear.

It was a welcome relief when our two hours of venture were over as we headed back to shore. We realised that what kept us afloat and in place was the anchor, had we not had it, the waves would have been less than forgiving. Moreover, if we were to be at that point of the ocean without a boat would have been even more terrifying. Let alone sinking into the sea, the creatures of the ocean would have found their meal first. So many thoughts touch the waves of the mind. And what a relief it was to get back to shore. But once back on solid land, the foolish mind forgot the fear of the ocean and desired it again. So we went again the following morning. The fear was much less, but it was superficial. The day was clearer, the sun was crispy and the waters were cool. What was fearful the morning before, one could have now thrown caution to the wind and be less at guard to the elements. What a foolish mind we have, and here is the lesson from all this.

From where we stand, everything looks like fun and innocent joy. Unless we understand the true nature of what we are looking at, the same same fun and innocence can turn into a nightmare from which me may never awake. The ocean we look at from the shore is the world, with all its pleasures and temptations. The moment we step deeper into it, we realise its darker secrets. The waves are our vices – kaam, krodh, lobh, moh, ahankaar, nindya, chugli, eerkha – and when we do not take heed to the waves and throw anchor, the same waves can consume us. But the ocean must be crossed, for we are at one end from which we need to get to the other side. Imagine that you are stranded and that you must cross the ocean to get home. The thought of crossing the ocean is itself a daunting thought, let alone getting down to it. To cross the ocean, you need not just a boat, but a boatman as well whose expertise can steer the boat through the elements of the ocean.

At this point in our lives, we are not on the shore. We have only stepped a few meters inside the ocean. We are all in the ocean, which our Guru describes as a terrifying one. The world is the ocean – here we have all the good things and the bad ones too. The good things are the sunshine, the cool waters (virtues and contemplation); the bad are the waves, the winds (vices and corruption). The ocean creatures and the depths (death) are our ill fate which will have us whole. One cannot choose not to cross the ocean and stay at the safety of the shore for when a tsunami hits, we will be dragged by the into the waters and sucked into its depths.

kehath kabeer shhodd bikhiaa ras eith sa(n)gath nihacho maranaa
Says Kabeer, give up the pleasures of corruption, or else you will surely die of them.

Bhagat Kabeer Ji, states in Guru Granth Sahib Ji (Ang 91) that our pleasures of corruption will be our ruin. At this juncture, we are at some distance in the sea and carelessly playing with the waves which are yet manageable. We are still swimming deeper and deeper, thinking we can make it without a trouble. But as you go further down, the sea becomes more and more rough and to be safe from it, you need a boat. Kabeer Ji continues to advice:

rameeaa japahu praanee anath jeevan baanee ein bidhh bhav saagar tharanaa
Meditate on the Lord, O mortal being, through the Word of His Bani; you shall be blessed with eternal life. In this way, shall you cross over the terrifying world-ocean.

That boat we need is the Word of His Bani (Guru Granth Sahib Ji). Every boat needs a captain without whom the boat will be unable to be headed to the right direction. You do not sit in boat and try to steer it yourself when you know nothing about the winds that determine the sailing. With an able captain, all is safe. But there are also those captains that think they know it all and their brash attitude and carelessness can spell doom for the boat and those it is carrying. If one wishes to make it to the other side, an experienced captain is needed whom we place our whole-hearted trust in. For one such earnest passenger, this is the fear:

bhaaee rae bhavajal bikham ddaraa(n)o
O Siblings of Destiny, the terrifying world-ocean is so difficult to cross-I am terrified!

Guru Nanak Dev Ji describes in Guru Granth Sahib Ji (Ang 63) how terrifying the world is, with all its honey-coated poison of corruption that steer us away from Waheguru. These corrupting pleasures become the captain of the poor soul at sea and condemn it to the sure darkness of death. Without the support of Naam (Truth), we will only be terrified, just like Guru Nanak Dev Ji describes in Ang 59 of Guru Granth Sahib Ji:

bhavajal bikham ddaraavano naa ka(n)dhhee naa paar
The terrifying world-ocean is difficult and dreadful; there is no shore on this side or the one beyond.

naa baerree naa thuleharraa naa this va(n)jh malaar
There is no boat, no raft, no oars and no boatman.


sathigur bhai kaa bohithhaa nadharee paar outhaar
The True Guru is the only boat on this terrifying ocean. His Glance of Grace carries us across.

GuruJi explains clearly that when in the ocean, we need not just a boat, but oars and a boatman too. For one to become Gurmukh, that fear is needed without which love and trust for the Lord cannot develop. Gurmukhs are those passengers that have stepped aboard the Boat of Naam and entrusted the steering to the True Guru (instruction of Gurbani), while those outside this Boat are manmukhs who are either swimming the waters or aboard rafts and boats that have no captain. To get aboard the True Guru’s boat, we need the Glance of Grace of Waheguru. By mere effort of our own is not enough. We need to invoke His Grace so that we may climb aboard to safety. How we invoke His Grace is through submission to His Will (and that we will trust in all that He decides for us) and walk the path of His Word.

jap thap sa(n)jam dhharam n kamaaeiaa
I have not practiced meditation, self-discipline, self-restraint or righteous living.

Guru Arjan Dev Ji in Ang 12 of Guru Granth Sahib Ji explains how we ruin ourselves by not meditating and living a righteous life. We invite His Grace through remembrance of His Name and walking the path of Righteousness through resisting the urge to sin. GuruJi advices us to make all the effort we can to cross this world of poison – the terrifying world-ocean.

sara(n)jaam laag bhavajal tharan kai
Make every effort to cross over this terrifying world-ocean

Guru Amar Das Ji in Ang 161 of Guru Granth Sahib Ji tells us to instruct the mind to contemplate on what the Word has to say so that we may be safe in this world-ocean. Only through contemplation can the mind agree to the instruction of the Guru and offer itself before His Teachings:

sun man maerae sabadh veechaar
Listen, O my mind: contemplate the Word of the Shabad.

In the following words of Guru Arjan Dev Ji in Ang 102 of Guru Granth Sahib Ji, we come to understand how we can board the boat of Naam – through the Saadh Sangat (where the Shabad of the Guru is contemplated on).

saadhh kai sa(n)g oun bhoujal thariaa sagal dhooth oun saadhhae jeeo
In the Saadh Sangat, the Company of the Holy, they cross over the terrifying world-ocean, and conquer all their evil passions.

In conclusion, what we have come to do in this world is to cross it so that we can find union with our Creator and break ourselves from the noose of death that constantly brings us back to the shore of the ocean which is separating us from Waheguru. Only Naam is the Boat, the instruction of the True Guru is Captain and the world-ocean the scape to cross over from. The next time you are at the beach, observe the raw nature of the ocean and that you are to cross it, with all its rough weather, biting winds, rocking boat and deathly dark waters. It must be crossed, there is simply no other choice. Those Gurmukhs before have crossed safely across it, while the proud manmukhs have been claimed by the depths of the dark waters. GuruJi does not say the following words for nothing:

sara(n)jaam laag bhavajal tharan kai
Make every effort to cross over this terrifying world-ocean

Yes, the effort must be made – do your Nitnem, love Truth, discard the path of falsehood and corruption of the mind, live the life of an Amritdhari and step aboard the boat of the Guru. In able hands, you will cross this earthly existence and at the same time enjoy the beauty that surrounds it.


Come, O Saints, and join together, O my Siblings of Destiny; let us tell the Stories of the Lord, Har, Har. The Naam, the Name of the Lord, is the boat in this Dark Age of Kali Yuga; the Word of the Guru’s Shabad is the boatman to ferry us across. O my mind, chant the Glorious Praises of the Lord. According to the pre-ordained destiny inscribed upon your forehead, sing the Praises of the Lord; join the Holy Congregation, and cross over the world-ocean.

– Guru Ram Das Ji, SGGS 799



  1. Jagdeep said,

    June 5, 2006 at 1:09 pm


    Pyare khalsa jeeo,
    it’s so wonderful what you write, you seem to be a very enlightened soul.
    could you please help me out in the confussion i am driving with?
    My question is some of our cultural belives and our religious belives do not match, and the today’s youth like myself end up getting confussed, could please help me and others who are lost as well

  2. lakhvir said,

    June 5, 2006 at 1:25 pm

    Jagdeep Ji,

    You have asked a question which I think will need a deeper insight for which I need to do some research and prepare a separate post. Could you also please enlighten us with some of the confusions you have? I understand you are from Kenya, do let us know what it is that takes place here that is causing confusion, so that we can help clear the cultural and religious differences in Sikhi.


  3. Puneet Kaur said,

    June 6, 2006 at 10:48 am

    Gurufateh ji

    Veer ji you put down Guru ji’s bachan so very beautifully.we would all literally die or be wandering without Guru JI’s NAAM…

    Guru rakha

  4. JAY said,

    June 9, 2006 at 4:04 pm

    That is a wonderful thought and insight you had of the ocean. These are some of the questions that make one loose mind over the magnificent sight of the vast waters. It brings tears to those who see beyond the nature and joy to those who choose to ignore nature. Meaning, when one sits by the shore lost in the oceans meditation, you tend to realise how it resembles life itself. But, when you merely dive into the ocean, it is jst but for moment of pleasure without the knowlege of looming danger. A tear for the TRUTH and joy for the IGNORANT.

    You have mentioned “an experienced captain is needed whom we place our whole-hearted trust in”. But remember one thing, one has too open their eyes wide enough to see beyond the ocean, think long and hard enough to make sense of right and wrong, feel strong enough to know what is true and what is not. One may find an experienced captain, but can that really be a true captain? Can he really be the guide without faltering? Search your heart, mind and soul for a true captain because this is a very decietful world we live in. Whoever shall want to cross the ocean, he shall only listen to what the heart, mind and soul say, not what the others have wanted them to think or feel! Listen and evaluate but do not let others evaluate for you. Only then can a true experienced come personally to you.

  5. lakhvir said,

    June 9, 2006 at 4:17 pm


    The captain referred to in this post is metaphorical. It is directed towards the spiritual equivalent of the Caption – which is the Word of God, as preached by those that laid down the foundations of our faith. You are absolutely right about being careful abou the captain we chose, for this world is full of false prophets and self-professed holy men. That is why it is wise to seek the shelter of our Scriptures and for the Sikhs the Captain has been clearly chosen by our Gurus – the Captain is the teachings of our Gurus, as recored in the Living Guru of the Sikhs, Guru Granth Sahib Ji.

    As far as other religions are concerned, the Captains are their respective teachings, as recorded in their respective Scriptures. The true teacher is the Word of God, not what man merely says out of his own fickle wisdom. The way to confirm if your captain is competant, study his/her life in comparison to what they teach from the scriptures. If that person’s actions matches what he preaches, emulate his example and follow in humility. That is the core message of all religions.

  6. Davinderpal Singh said,

    June 14, 2006 at 9:50 am

    Waheguru ji ka Khalsa. Waheguru ji ki Fateh.

    Bikh bhoujal dubde kadleh jan naanak ki ardas.

    Exclently descrided paji.

    Waheguru ji ka Khalsa. Waheguru ji ki Fateh.

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