Before the seafarer begins any journey, he must ensure that the ship is seaworthy, for the largest ship can be sunk by the smallest hole.
Devotees would come to my teacher, and ask for the gift of His name. “Not so fast,” my teacher would say, “let us first plug the holes.” One may sit in meditation, and even as the tongue whispers the holy words, the thoughts are busy, and anger is committing mental violence against another. The ship is leaking, and the voyage will be fruitless. Sinking is assured, as meditation becomes an empty ritual, and the holes become bigger.
When Guru Nanak Dev was at Jhanda town in Punjab, an ascetic sought his help. “I worship daily,” he said, “but I am far from enlightenment.” The Guru told him to gift him that which was his, and refuses to leave him. The ascetic thought everything will leave me – the body, worldly possessions, even my thoughts. “It is your ego that is not leaving you, and it makes you feel proud even in worship.,” the Guru said, “give me your ego, it is the hole that is draining your meditation.”
The Gurus therefore prescribed selfless service as the first prerequisite, the exercise that repairs the holes. At the teacher’s abode, the devotee performs community service. Shoes are dusted and polished. Food is cooked, then served, and the utensils are washed and polished with care. The visitors are served cool water and hot tea, and the floors are swept clean, and the toilets tended to. The elderly and the ill are gently nursed, and cared for.
When the devotee is aware that all is mortal, and achieves humility, the Guru Granth Sahib calls out:
Accept that all is mortal, give up hope of immortality//When you know you are the dust of all feet, then, come to Me.//The holes repaired with service to all, the devotee is ready to sail under the teacher’s guidance.