Ornaments for the Soul
By Ravin Kaur
The expectations of women in our Sikh and Punjabi community are endless: from behavior to clothing, from cooking to cleaning, from careers and child raising. One in particular I have noticed is that of women being expected to wear jewelry. Many mothers and mothers-in-law, especially after marriage, pressure their daughters/daughters-in-law to wear gold and exhibit their possessions. In this pursuit, some families face financial and logistical difficulties in getting these “ornaments” for their daughters. This tradition continues over generations despite having heard the common refrain of contemporary women, “No I will not wear all these. I am not into gold.”
I understand that many want to give gold and jewelry as a gesture of love or goodwill. But many women do not wear gold that often. For instance, one of my relatives never wore her real gold jewelry for over 20 years. So, what purpose did it serve her? Apparently, it’s an asset; an asset to the point where they were a point of contention during her divorce.
What is the use of these external ornaments? What about those whose outer selves are adorned with gold but their inner selves are unadorned with Divine virtues?
Gurbani addresses this very topic of inner versus outer beauty. The Gurus wrote many verses about what it means to be a truly beautiful person or a pretty Kaur, and we we can learn from theses shabads. I will share some simple, yet succinct messages with regards to the true adornment of a woman. I will also talk about the symbolic meanings of some ornaments in gurbani, such as necklaces, bracelets, rings and eyeliner.
If the mind becomes the ornament of pearl and every breath the string…one becomes pleasing to the Divine and enjoys Divine love. ~ Asa, Ghar 6, Mehala 1, Guru Granth Sahib, 359
We spend a lot of money, time, and effort on ornaments and accessories to enhance our physical beauty. But what about our inner selves – do we do the same to beautify our mind? Here, Guru Sahib states that it is our mind that needs to be the pearl. To become a pearl, it requires a persistent effort to adorn the mind with good values such as humility, compassion, and forgiveness. Only when the mind is steady and beautiful, do we attain bliss.
If she wears the necklace of the Divine’s Name around her neck and makes the Divine’s remembrance her toothbrush…then she revels in Divine union. ~ Asa, Ghar 6, Mehala 1, Guru Granth Sahib, 359
The best ornament that we can constantly wear around our neck is the one of consciousness of the Divine. It ensures that the Divine is always in our mind and such an embellishment truly enhances our beauty. Having the Divine Name always on our lips and in our hearts will ultimately beautifying our lives. It helps us to notice and appreciate the beauty surrounding us, and not dwell on the negatives of others.
If she makes the awareness of the Creator her bracelet and wears it around her wrist, her mind becomes steady. ~ Asa, Ghar 6, Mehala 1, Guru Granth Sahib, 359
When we are mindful of the Creator’s omnipresence and lead a life with this awareness, then our mind is steadied and free. If we conquer our mind, we are able to overcome life’s challenges and adversities. Driven by our consciousness of the Omnipresent, we will start performing good deeds with our hands. Such deeds beautify our hands, not expensive bangles. We go on to attain Divine grace and are endowed with eternal happiness — these hold more value than external beauty which, is never everlasting.
If she makes Divine-remembrance her ring for her finger and takes Divine-consciousness as her silken clothes…then she attains union with the Divine. ~ Asa, Ghar 6, Mehala 1, Guru Granth Sahib, 359
We sometimes receive a ring at our betrothal ceremony and it remains on our finger, a constant pleasant memory and reminder of our loving engagement with our soul mate. The beautiful clothes further enhance our consciousness of the relationship and brings joy. Similarly, by leading our daily lives in Divine memory and awareness, we embrace the Divine values and enrich ourselves spiritually. This will enhance our happiness. Love for the Divine in our hearts and living with such consciousness in our minds is the most exalting beautification for our souls. This is what leads to internal harmony and bliss.
If she makes patience the weaving of her braids and applies the eyeliner of Divine love…then she delights in the embrace of Divine union. ~ Asa, Ghar 6, Mehala 1, Guru Granth Sahib, 359
The Divine virtue of patience imbued in our way of life and in our daily routine enhances our beauty more than the ornamental materials we use. Simplicity supported by virtues is the way advocated by gurbani. Similarly, the vision of love towards the world is the element that will add the sparkle of Divine beauty to our lives. Patience and love bring inner stability.
Through a symbolic expression of beautification of a bride, these verses shed light on how we need to spiritually decorate our lives rather than focusing on external beauty. External beautification does not help us to enlighten our beings, nor does it prepare us to embrace the Divine and receive life’s blessings. Divinity and bliss dawn upon us only when we beautify our minds and purify our hearts. This is not to say we should not wear any jewelry or abandon it all, but it should not become our obsession or all consuming. We should remember that our real goal in life should be to adorn our soul and mind with Waheguru.
My dear sisters, let us try to tread on this path and pave the way for our generations ahead. We are the voices of today and tomorrow. We are the beautiful daughters of the age.
Part of the article is from A Word A Thought (AWAT), a daily email exploring gurbani words and reflecting on Sikhi. You can subscribe here.
You can read a full English interpretation of the above shabad, here. For more context and an explanation of the shabad, visit this site (note: it is in Punjabi).
Photo by Gurumustuk Singh.