Hukam or Divine will

Guru Nanak Dev ji came on to this earth to liberate people from their suffering. The primary reason of this suffering, Gurbani says, is “Maya” or a “sense of duality”. Given this, it can be expected that the primary focus of Guru Sahib would be to break this sense of duality in the people’s minds.

In the first stanza of the very first Bani Guru Sahib uttered, Guru Nanak Dev ji lays out the way to break this sense of duality. First, he asks the questions, “how can this wall of duality/illusion be broken?”, and then he answers:

ਕਿਵ ਸਚਿਆਰਾ ਹੋਈਐ ਕਿਵ ਕੂੜੈ ਤੁਟੈ ਪਾਲਿ ॥
ਹੁਕਮਿ ਰਜਾਈ ਚਲਣਾ ਨਾਨਕ ਲਿਖਿਆ ਨਾਲਿ ॥੧॥
How can you attain truth? And how can the veil of illusion be torn away?
O Nanak, by obeying His Hukam (Divine Will) that is written with you.

The emphasis and the objective of Gurbani is to break out of this “Maya” or “veil of illusion” or “sense of duality”, and Guru Sahib has laid out the path to the same in the very beginning of Guru Granth Sahib ji. Therefore, I believe these lines need to be understand by every follower of Gurbani. The path is simple:

ਹੁਕਮਿ ਰਜਾਈ ਚਲਣਾ ਨਾਨਕ ਲਿਖਿਆ ਨਾਲਿ ॥

It means that we need to obey the divine will or Hukam that is written with every human being. We don’t need to search for it outside; it is inlaid in our soul (written with us).

What does divine will mean?

Guru Sahib explains in the second stanza:

ਹੁਕਮੈ ਅੰਦਰਿ ਸਭੁ ਕੋ ਬਾਹਰਿ ਹੁਕਮ ਨ ਕੋਇ ॥
Everyone is under His Command (Divine Will); no one is beyond His Command.

So, divine will means a law according to which everything happens. Thus, everyone, including us, are under divine will.

Then, a question arises: how can we not follow it, if we are also governed by the divine will?

The answer is: we cannot get out of divine will, but we can choose to resist it or accept it only unwillingly. In other words, rather than accepting the divine will happily, we can complain about it or criticize it.

However, “ਹੁਕਮ ਮਨਨਾ” or “accepting the divine will” has been mostly misunderstood by the people. Given that everyone accepts good conditions, one doesn’t need any spiritual teaching to accept good conditions. However, one needs spiritual teachings only if you are supposed to accept bad conditions. So, people have understood “ਹੁਕਮ ਮਨਨਾ” or “ਭਾਣਾ ਮਨਨਾ ” (i.e. accepting the divine will) as accepting the bad conditions of life. Therefore, when someone dies, some mishap occurs, or anything bad happens, people ask the victim to “ਭਾਣਾ ਮਨ”. As a result, Hukam or Divine will has come to be associated with bad events in life. Therefore, it is not surprising to see people blame God for the misfortunes in their lives.

Accepting the divine will is not just accepting the given conditions of life; it is a way of life. Since everything is happening under Hukam, it means being happy with whatever happens.

Think about it now! What will happen when you are happy with whatever happens? What will happen when you become unconcerned with the outcomes?

“Hukam manna” in its true sense means getting unconcerned with the outcomes. In such a case, what sort of efforts will you do? A lot of people will think that if we are not concerned about the outcomes, we won’t do anything. This thinking is misplaced.

Bhagwat Gita also says “Focus on efforts, not on outcomes”.

Bhai Veer Singh ji has written that a Gurmukh never does anything for the outcome.

The question is: if not for the outcome, then for what will we do our efforts?

When unconcerned about the outcomes, we’ll do efforts because we consider them right or valuable. We’ll then follow our conscience. We’ll then never be able to cheat anyone (since cheating and all frauds are for achieving certain outcomes). We’ll always do things which bring us peace and joy. No person will ever leave his passion (which is inherently joyful) to pursue a high paying job. No person will study just to get marks. All our efforts will be end in themselves, rather than just means to some outcome. We’ll then be focused on the present moment, rather than worrying about the future. The life of a person who has completely accepted the divine will is the life of an enlightened being.

However, we haven’t reached there now.

But we, as seekers, need to start somewhere. Probably, we need to start listening to our inner conscience as to what does it want. We need to start listening to our inner joy as to what does it want. We need to start doing activities for their inherent usefulness instead of any money or status or any outcome they lead to. In other words, we need to start walking on the path of “accepting the divine will”.

Till now, we have briefly looked at the meaning of divine will and what does it mean to follow the divine will. Now, we’ll look at each of these aspects in more detail with examples.

The meaning of Hukam or Divine Will

I would like to share a story written in the book “Illusions” by Richard Bach.

Once there lived a village of creatures along the bottom of a great crystal river. The current of the river swept silently over them all — young and old, rich and poor, good and evil — the current going its own way, knowing only its own crystal self. Each creature in its own manner clung tightly to the twigs and rocks of the river bottom, for clinging was their way of life, and resisting the current was what each had learned from birth.

But one creature said at last, “I am tired of clinging. Though I cannot see it with my eyes, I trust that the current knows where it is going. I shall let go, and let it take me where it will. Clinging, I shall die of boredom.”

The other creatures laughed and said, “Fool! Let go, and that current you worship will throw you tumbled and smashed against the rocks, and you will die quicker than boredom!”

But the one heeded them not, and taking a breath did let go, and at once was tumbled and smashed by the current across the rocks.

Yet in time, as the creature refused to cling again, the current lifted him free from the bottom, and he was bruised and hurt no more.

And the creatures downstream, to whom he was a stranger, cried, “See a miracle! A creature like ourselves, yet he flies! See the messiah, come to save us all!”

And the one carried in the current said, “I am no more messiah than you. The river delights to lift us free, if only we dare let go. Our true work is this voyage, this adventure.”

But they cried the more, “Savior!” all the while clinging to the rocks, and when they looked again he was gone, and they were left alone making legends of a savior.

When I think of Hukam, I think of this crystal river. Hukam is the flow of the life-current or “Naam” or “Shabad” through the entire universe. It is the flow of the river back to its source. And all we need to do is to just surrender to the flow of the river, and the river will lift us up, and fulfill all our desires. If we just let go of our clinging to different things, Hukam or this flow of the life current will lift us up; it desires to lift us up, but we are clinging very heavily to the rocks at the bottom. We are clinging because we are unaware of the nature of this flow. We are clinging because being unaware of the flow, we are unaware if the flow will take care of us or smash us against the rocks and kill us. The purpose of all spiritual wisdom is perhaps to convince us that the flow is beneficial for us, and it desires to lift us up from our daily struggles. All we need to do is just let go or surrender to the flow, and we’ll be lifted up into an effortless living.

There is obviously an inherent risk in letting go or surrendering to the flow since no matter how much we hear about the nature of the flow or Hukam or God, we can never be sure till we experience it. And experiencing requires letting go. We can experience it only if we take the risk and drop the clinging to our material pursuits, possessions and beliefs. We can experience it only if we surrender ourselves while leaving behind the clinging habit of the lifetimes. It takes enormous faith to take this risk – faith in Gurbani that Hukam or this flow is for our own benefit and once we leave ourselves completely to it, it’ll take care of us.

Given the prevalent faithlessness in the world and the enormous faith required for this task, there are only rare people who take this plunge. Those rare people are then called Saints or Prophets or Avatars. Given the rarity of these people, only a few people in the world are able to see one of them in their lifetime. And when we see them, we think that they are special, but we miss that they are like us, just that they have surrendered to the flow of the universe. The flow of the universe or Hukam is how God pervades in this universe.

In the beginning, when an aspiring soul decides to drop its clinging to material things or rocks at the bottom, the people around laugh at it. They make fun of it for some time since for the period of transition, the soul is neither clinging to the rocks nor floating at the top of the river. During the period of transition, it is rather smashed against the rocks. It undergoes suffering since it has been lying close to the bottom of the river, where there are rocks. However, if the soul keeps its faith in Hukam or the benevolence of the divine and refuses to cling back to the rocks or the material pursuits, it is then gradually lifted up. It is lifted up to the levels nobody has seen or can imagine. People who are clinging to the rocks at the bottom – they don’t even believe that one can live without clinging to the rocks.

But a person who has bored completely from clinging to the rocks refuses to cling back (ਖ੍ਵਾਰ ਹੋਏ ਸਭ ਮਿਲੇੰਗੇ ਬਚੇ ਸ਼ਰਨ ਜੋ ਹੋਏ) and eventually rises up and starts to flow with the current of the flow, where all of his needs are taken care of by the flow and he is filled inside out with joy, peace, and love.

Khoji, a Sikh Saint, has written an essay on Divine Will (My thinking has been majorly impacted by this essay). He writes:


HIS ATTRIBUTES, such as :—
JOY, and
are projected and manifested in the Cosmos at different planes of Cosmic consciousness, (just as the sunshine is the projection of the SUN).

ACTIVATION and REFLECTION of the prolification and projection of these Divine Attributes and Qualities is called
which pervades, engulfs, works, and reflects in, and through every particle of this vast Universe.


The DIVINE WILL or LAW is :—
omnipresent, and
which conditions the existence, and directs the working of every particle of this vast Universe.


Each ray inherits and reflects all the qualities of the Sun. Similarly, each ray of projection and activation of the DIVINE WILL reflects all the Divine Qualities, such as : —
bliss, and

Now, just sit back and read the above lines a few times. Don’t just skip over them. These lines are some of the most beautiful and wisdom-laden lines I have ever read. The more I try to understand them, the more they blow my mind over.

Just read what is written in these lines. It is written that Hukam or Divine Will is the projection of divine love, compassion, peace, joy, and benevolence. What it means that Hukam, under which everything happens, is the projection of love, joy, and peace. It means our life is governed by a force full of love, joy, peace, and compassion. Then, why do we need to worry? If the universal force, which governs everything, is full of love, grace, mercy, and compassion, then wow! What do I need to do then? Then, why do I need to worry? Everything is governed by Hukam and Hukam is nothing but the projection of divine love, grace, mercy, compassion, and peace. Then, if I leave everything to Hukam, my life will be filled with these virtues. What else do I want?

For my entire life, I have struggling for bits and pieces of love, peace, and joy, and now, Gurbani is telling me that…..Continue reading

One Comment

  1. Koi aan milavay mera preetam pyara, hao tis peh aap vechaee…

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