Chaurasi Lakh Joon Upai, The 8.4 Million Lifetimes

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Chaurasi Lakh Joon Upai, words by Guru Gobind Singh

Men who possess mighty elephants become kings and rule over the whole world.
Men who take numerous ritual baths and give in charity elephants and other animals, and marry at special savambers.
All these and even Brahma, Shiva, Vishnu and Indra shall at the end fall into the noose of Death.
But those who fall at the feet of God and seek his protection shall not go through the cycle of transmigration.
Were emperors to possess tall and noble elephants painted in beautiful colours and adorned with golden trappings.
Were emperors to possess millions of horses galloping at speeds faster then that of the wind and racing like the deer.
If other kings having powerful and long arms were to visit these emperors and bow their heads to them in submission.
It matters not if such powerful emperors existed because at the end they all left this world barefooted and empty handed.

Why such a large number, from where did it come?

Sikh philosophy overlaps with Hindu philosophy on many points, one being the concept of transmigration of the soul and the circle of Chaurasi Lakh, the 8.4 million lifetimes.

Chaurasi Lakh means 8,400,000. This is the number of different joons (lifetimes or possible lifeforms) that constitute the circle of transmigration. Why 8,400,000, surely scientists have categorised and classified species which vastly differs from this number? (The question is unimportant 'the number' just is 'the number' and many times in both Hindu and Sikh texts is has been written so.

There are different ways to categorise amd classify lifeforms, and why should the ancient number given match that with present day scientistic classifications. For example, there are many ways to classify Raags (Classical Indian musical modes). One way is to classify them according to their thaat or parent scale, another way to categorise the same raags by looking at their Jaati or number of swars (notes) in the raag scale. In ancient times as stated in the manual Sangeet Ratnakar raags were classified according to whether they were male of female, as can be seen there are many ways to classify the same thing, so to question the figure of 8,400,000 seems pointless, especially since the figure appears in Guru Granth Sahib Ji many times over.

Does Man Cause his personal suffering

Man suffers. He seeks to escape suffering, but he does this by following the worldly way of pursuing the path of ego, wealth, power and worldly knowledge. Engrossed in worldly pleasures he feels no interest in the divine light that lies within him. He is bewitched by the beauty of earthly things and gets entangled in them. He does not search for the Truth, the realisation of which could make him eternal, holy and blissful, ending all his sufferings. So absorbing and deluding are the worldly pleasures that they leave man with no time to think of higher aspirations. They detract him from his age long quest to unveil the hidden Reality within. Guru Ji says " Madmen, you remain sleep ! Intoxicated with the pleasure of worldlyness and love for your family, you waste your life in fleeting delights."

While a man sleeps in sin and worldlyness, no understanding of truth comes to him. When death grabs him and stikes, only then does he awaken. Infatuated by the glamour of worldlyness, most mortal men toil day after day for possessions, power and pleasure. All the time he looks away from the truth. His stay in this world is like a dream. His earthly relationships and possessions are momentary and of no avail. As long as man is tied up in passions, pleasures and desires for earthly things, so long he falls, age after age in the circle of birth and death and indures the sorrows and sufferings of one life after another…

The Guru says, "Clinging to his ego, man falls into a trap. Bound by the love of self, he is bound by death, and he comes and goes." There can be no rest or peace, no happiness in this slavery. There is only suffering. After wondering for ages in suffering one obtains the priceless gift of human life, but again he sinks deep into worldliness, pleasures and ego pursuits. He never realises that the real joy and peace can only be found in union with God, the source of bliss. Missing the opportunity to unite with God, he falls back into the circle of birth and death. Every one that comes into this world must depart. Life is like an overnight guest, man arises and leave at dawn. Death is always on man's doorstep. It gives no warning. Mans possessions, his wealth, his land, his house remain behind and pass into other hands. Even his learning, wisdom, beauty and power do not accompany him. Man blossoms for a day or two and then fades and falls. When death calls he must leave all behind and pass into the unseen world.

There is no fear of the death of one's roop (body) if the love of God dwells in ones soul. Real death is the forgetting of the Lord. Those who in their hearts have desires for the pleasures of gold, silver, women, perfumes, horses, palaces and meat, how can the love of the Lord dwell in their hearts? Forgetfulness of the Lord is the snare that chains man to earthly things and sends him to the city of death. Those who fill their hearts with the love of God find eternal life in God.

The Guru is the Light and God is the source of Light. Thus God is the Primal Guru. And the one in whom the Primal Guru reveals His Light is also the Guru, the Enlightened. In essence, there is no difference between the Light of the Primal Guru and the Divine Guru in body. Says the Guru, the Guru is in God, and God in the Guru, and the two are but One. Those who have seen the Light of God within have no eyes for any other, no ears for any lesser truth, there whole being is absorbed in the Light that have realised.

Have you ever tried to explain differential equations to a four year old? If differential equatations are above you try with a simple quadratic equation the result will be the same, a blank face. The child may look at the equation on paper and may recognise certain aspects of it like the digits or the variables x, y and z, but the whole concept will be beyond him. This is because the child has not learned the fundamentals of mathematics, his mind is not yet ready. As a result the child may throw up his hands in protest and refuse to believe that such things exist.

I think you know what I am driving at. Similarly, when certain concepts are revealed to people regarding Karma and spirituality then they also throw their hands in the air in disbelief followed by howls of laughter and ridicule. This is good, for they are at a stage spiritually, usually calles denial, where they cannot comprehend and will not belive what is being explained to them. They may be able to identify with certain aspects but find difficulty with the whole. Some Sikhs today find it hard to believe in Karmic law, "I have total control over my life" they say. Some also find difficulty with the Sant tradition. "We do not need Sants to tell us what to do" they say "Just read the Guru Granth Sahib Ji."

Who is spiritually advanced enough to interpret the bani? Certainly not me, I hold that it is the same Sant who can guide us and help us on our path. "There is no Swarag or Narak or Chaurasi Lakh joon" they say even though the Guru Granth Sahib Ji, states this time and time again. Pleeease do not take my saying this, as a 'put down' - as someone looking down on another, we are all on a journey, but at different stages our egos just get the better of us.

In the following shabad, Guru Nanak Dev Ji describes the relationship between man (the bride) and God (the husband). We become entrapped by worldly pleasures and enjoy all that it has to offer but forget the purpose of life, to unite with our Lord. In the middle of the shabad reincarnation is mentioned, that we come and go in an endless cycle ever wasting away.

Siree Raag, First Mehl:
The life of the discarded bride is cursed. She is deceived by the love of duality.
Like a wall of sand, day and night, she crumbles, and eventually, she breaks down altogether.
Without the Word of the Shabad, peace does not come. Without her Husband Lord, her suffering does not end. ||1||
O soul-bride, without your Husband Lord, what good are your decorations?
In this world, you shall not find any shelter; in the world hereafter, being false, you shall suffer. ||1||Pause||
The True Lord Himself knows all; He makes no mistakes. He is the Great Farmer of the Universe.
First, He prepares the ground, and then He plants the Seed of the True Name.
The nine treasures are produced from Name of the One Lord. By His Grace, we obtain His Banner and Insignia. ||2||
Some are very knowledgeable, but if they do not know the Guru, then what is the use of their lives?
The blind have forgotten the Naam, the Name of the Lord. The self-willed manmukhs are in utter darkness.
Their comings and goings in reincarnation do not end; through death and rebirth, they are wasting away. ||3||
The bride may buy sandalwood oil and perfumes, and apply them in great quantities to her hair;
She may sweeten her breath with betel leaf and camphor,
But if this bride is not pleasing to her Husband Lord, then all these trappings are false. ||4||
Her enjoyment of all pleasures is futile, and all her decorations are corrupt.
Until she has been pierced through with the Shabad, how can she look beautiful at Guru's Gate?
O Nanak, blessed is that fortunate bride, who is in love with her Husband Lord. ||5||13||

Vaars by Bhai Gurdas Ji

Bhai Gurdas Ji mentions the 8.4 million life forms over and over again to drive home the message that without Naam and without His grace we wonder endlessly through life after life. This human form of life given to is so precious that we must not fritter and waste it away for who knows when we shall get this chance again. The devis and devtays (the lesser gods and goddesses, 33 crore are mentioned in ancient texts) that occupy various celestial levels are all themselves in life forms, albeit higher ones. But even they cannot get liberation from the circle of life and death, they also long to be blessed with a human life so that can meditate of Gods name and obtain mukhati (salvation) for this can only be done in one's humam life form.

Of the eighty four lacs life classes, birth as a human is the best.

Eyes behold, ears listen to and the mouth speaks sweet words. Hands earn livelihood and feet take towards the holy congregation. In human life alone by the rightful earning, out of one's savings, other needy ones are fed. Man by becoming gurmukh- Guru oriented, makes his life meaningful; he reads Gurbani and makes others understand (the importance of) bani. He satisfies his companions and takes the holy water touched by their feet i.e. he inculcates complete humility. Humblytouching of the feet should not be repudiated because in the dark age, this quality is the only asset (of the human personality). People of such a conduct will swim the world-ocean and also get along other disciples of the Guru. (Punna1)

One Oankar, the primal energy, realized through the Grace of the divine preceptor

Oankar transforming into forms created air, water and fire. Then separating earth and sky He threw two flames of sun and moon in between them. Further creating the four mines of life He created eighty four lacs of species and their animalcules. In each species further are born myriads of creatures. Among them all, the human birth is the rare one. One should, in this very Birth, liberate himself by surrendering before the Guru. One must go to holy congregation; the consciousness should be merged in the word of the Guru and cultivating only a loving devotion, one should undertake to follow the path shown by the Guru. The man by becoming altruist becomes beloved of the Guru. (Punn4)

Water, earth and the nether world are full of eighty-four lacs of species.

In each species innumerable creatures are there. Having created myriad universe He provides sustenance for them. In each particle that Lord has extended Himself. On the forehead of each creature are written his accounts; Only that creator is beyond all accounts and counts. Who can ponder upon His greatness? (Punn8)

Souls wander fruitlessly in the eighty-four lakhs of species of life.

The rare human body has been obtained owing to virtuous actions. Moving on greatest path of the Guru orientated, the self has lost the ego. Maintaining the discipline of the holy congregation has come to fall at the feet (of the Guru). Gurmukhs have adopted the name of the Lord, the charity, the ablution and truthful conduct steadfastly. The man has merged his consciousness in the Word and has accepted the will of the Lord. (Punna 18)

The law of Karma

The law of Karma is based on cause and effect. We have transmigrated through so many joons that it is unimaginable, as crazy as it may seem maybe we were once a cat or a frog, a bull, a goat but one thing you can be sure of is that we were unable to do Naam Simran. We now find ourselves in the body of a human our one chance to possibly break out of the circle of life and death, and what do we do , we deny it, we fritter it away. A life as precious as a jewel we throw away like a pebble. Without Naam there is nothing. One may live a very pious life full of good deeds and charity, but as harsh as it may sound without Naam you have nothing.

O body of mine, you have come into this world, what kind of Karam have you committed Anand Sahib.

O beautiful soul of mine always seek the truth, all these things you see around you will not go with you in the end. Anand Sahib.

Whosoever deserts the Guru, will never obtain salvation without him.You may enquire from wise saints (who will tell you that) such a person will never attain salvation else-where. He shall wonder in many births and deaths and will not obtain salvation without the true Guru. (However) he may subsequently obtain salvation by attaching himself with the feet (obeying the instructions) of the True Guru, who will infuse in him, Naam. Anand Sahib

The Law of Karma.

We come into this world with one purpose and one purpose only to jap Naam and do Simran so that we can break out of this Chaurasi Lakh circle and achieve mukhti (savlation) everything else in life is a deviation from this. We come into this world with an already active Karma account. Everything we do, everything we say, everything we think is recorded as a karam. Who we interact with, what events take place in our lives are all preordained. That is not to say we have no say in the matter. How we react to these events is through our own mindset. We have the power to change. An event occurs, we can take it one way or another. We find we have the gift of music, we either use it to create Bhangra tunes and end up in pubs and clubs and fall in with bad company or we use it to sing Shabads and Kirtan. A performance of Indian Classical Music can be 30% set compostion and 70% improvisation, in the same way we come into this world with set karams but how we use them is up to us.

Whatever one does, he will get the fruit thereof. One will reap the crop out of the kind of seeds he sows. (Dhanasari Mahala 1. p662)

It is observed in Guru Nanak Dev Ji's Asa Di Var that one has to suffer the consequences of and render accounts in accordance with ones own deeds. (Asa Di Var. p473)

Guru Nanak Dev Ji says "O mind, I warn you to hear my true advice,. God will call for your accounts, and your account books will be read. Those who have not worshipped , remembered and repeated God's name will be summoned under the angel of death. Such sinners will have to pass through the most narrow of lanes, through which they can neither proceed forward nor backward. Remember that falsehood shall be destroyed and Truth shall ever exist. (Mahala 1. Var Ramkali.)

Have you ever had a friend that you were very close to, then all of a sudden you drift apart and never make contact. When you eventually meet there is no rapport, no connection any more. You come away feeling 'what happened to us we used to be so close?' The truth of the matter is your 'sunbundh' has finished, your karmic account has finished hence there is no need for you to interact anymore. Do you know a person who for no real reason really hates you? I know of a couple of ladies who are related to my family who are like this. For no reason they emanate vibes of hate, there foreheads screw up when we meet and they would rather not greet me at all. Again this is cool , they are just acting out their Karams that have been set, maybe I did them some wrong in the past and now they feel this revulsion everytime they see me. The point is they cannot help it, but if they were aware of the powers that are at work then maybe they could fight it and turn the bad karam into a good one. Remember, everyone has Akal Purkhs jote (divine light) in them. You hate someone you hate the jote in them. You see some unfortunate tramp in the street and you are revolted by them , you are showing disrespect at the jote within them. You see a person with a funny walk or a speech impediment and you pass a remark about them,you create a Karam, and you are making fun not of the person but of the divine light that we all have in us. Look at all in the same way, if someone is less fortunate then yourself, then do not feel superior or repulsed by them, thank Guru Ji that he has blessed you with such good fortune. In this way all barriers are broken, Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs all look the same, the Krodh or anger towards other people diminishes, you put less emphasis on material things , you do not lust after young women , the brotherhood of man starts to become apparent.

Maanus ke jaat sub-hey ekh pehchan bo.

Recognise the brotherhood within all.

We now come to the five Dhust who have us so within their grasp that we are like drug addicts on a trip oblivious to what is happening to us. They have us in their clutches and so totally immersed within them that day by day we fritter away our lives. I am of course talking about Kaam, Karodh, Lobh, Moh and Hunkaar. These five rule our lives we aimlessly run around lusting after this and that, I must have a bigger house, bigger car, more holidays I must amass a bigger fortune, I must party and enjoy myself that we forget what we really are here for. Do not misunderstand, we require a house, a car, a holiday. We need money a good job, but if we make these things the sole purpose of our existence then we have lost and the Panj Dhust have won.


Kaam : refers to lust and illegitimate sex. It is one of the greatest evils that tempts people away from God. It makes an individual weak-willed and unreliable. Normal relationhip as a house-holder is not restricted in any way in Sikhism. But sex outside marriage or sex against the will of the partner is taboo, as it can cause unlimited sorrows.

Krodh : is anger and needs to be controlled. A person overcome by 'krodh' loses his balance of mind and becomes incapable of thinking. According to Sikhism, 'krodh' takes a person away from God as hatred has no place in religious practise.

Lobh : means greed, a strong desire to possess what rightfully belongs to others. It makes an individual selfish and self-centred. It takes a person away from his religious and social duties. A person can become blind with greed if an effort to control the desire for unlimited possessions is not made.

Moh : refers to the strong attachment that an individual has to worldly possessions and relationships. It blurs the perspective of a human being and makes him narrow minded. It deviates a person from his moral duties and responsibilities and leads him towards a path of sin.

Ahankar : means false pride due to one's possessions, material wealth, intelligence or powers. It gives an individual a feeling that he is superior to others and therefore they are at a lower level than him. It leads to jealousy, feelings of enmity and restlessness amongst people. Sikhism requires that a person serves the society and community with humility. Hence, the practise of cleaning the footwear of visitors to a Gurudwara is followed by many devout Sikhs.


Wisdom (gyan) : is the complete knowledge of a set of religious principles. It can be achieved by hearing good, thinking good and doing good. A man of wisdom tries to achieve a high moral standard in his life and interaction with others. According to Sikhism, the first steps to wisdom is to consider oneself as an ignorant person who has to learn a lot in life.

Truthful Living (sat) : This is more than 'truth'. It means living according to the way of God i.e. the thoughts should match the words that a person speaks and his actions should also match his words. Truthful living brings a person closer to God.

Justice (niaon) : means freedom and equal oppurtunities for all. Respect for the rights of others and strict absence of attempts to exploit a fellowbeing. Sikhism forbids the desire to loot anothers property. It also strictly instructs the Sikhs to show respect even for the women and children of an enemy.

Temperance (santokh) : means self control which has to be developed through meditation and prayers. A Sikh has to banish evil thoughts from his mind by constantly repeating Gods name and reciting prayers. Torture to the body to develop self-control is not advocated in Sikhism.

Patience (dhiraj) : implies a high level of tolerance and empathy for others. It requires control over ones ego and willingness to overlook anothers weakness or mistakes. It requires that a Sikh should be strongwilled, but kind hearted.

Courage (himmat) : means bravery i.e. absence of fear. It is the ability to stake ones life for ones convictions and for saving others from injustice or cruelty.

Humility (namarta) : is a deliberate denial of pleasure at one's own praise and admiration. It means underplaying ones own strengths and respecting the abilities of others. It is the antidote to 'ahankar'

Contentment (sabar) : means refraining from worldly fears and submitting oneself to the will of God. The typical worldly fears can be fear of death, poverty, disrespect and defeat. It is this virtue that has given the Sikhs the moral strength to withstand the various atrocities committed on their community in the last three centuries.

We need to get things into perspective, we need to make Waheguru the centre of our existence, remember him always, keep him in your hearts, whatever you do however large or small do it with Guru's Mukh and he will never desert you.