The ‘Four Laavan’, that are recited at the time of a wedding ceremony in the Sikh tradition, are in fact the four steps or stages towards the union of soul (Aatma) with the Super-Soul (ParamAatma).
One has to invest some time and effort, and go through different stages in life to achieve any desired goal, and it is certainly helpful to know what steps to take and what stages to go through to accomplish what we want.
Guru Ramdas ji, the fourth Guru of the Sikh tradition, has beautifully explained this process in these, very elegantly composed verses:
हरि पहिलड़ी लाव परविरती करम द्रिड़ाइआ बलि राम जीउ ॥
बाणी ब्रहमा वेदु धरमु द्रिड़हु पाप तजाइआ बलि राम जीउ ॥
धरमु द्रिड़हु हरि नामु धिआवहु सिम्रिति नामु द्रिड़ाइआ ॥
सतिगुरु गुरु पूरा आराधहु सभि किलविख पाप गवाइआ ॥
सहज अनंदु होआ वडभागी मनि हरि हरि मीठा लाइआ ॥
जनु कहै नानकु लाव पहिली आरंभ काजु रचाइआ ॥१॥
In the first stage, a devotee, who is interested in knowing the Truth, starts the journey with the Karam-Kaand- the ritualistic worship. He puts his mind in the reading of the Holy Scriptures- the sayings of Brahmaa, the Vedas etc. and establishes his mind firmly in Dharma by giving up sin. Established in Dharma, he meditates upon the name of the Lord. By worshiping, adoring and being in the company of the perfect Guru, the sins are dispelled. By the great fortune, the name of the Lord sounds sweet and blissful to the mind. ‘Nanak’ says in the first stage, the journey towards the union with Almighty thus begins.
हरि दूजड़ी लाव सतिगुरु पुरखु मिलाइआ बलि राम जीउ ॥
निरभउ भै मनु होइ हउमै मैलु गवाइआ बलि राम जीउ ॥
निरमलु भउ पाइआ हरि गुण गाइआ हरि वेखै रामु हदूरे ॥
हरि आतम रामु पसारिआ सुआमी सरब रहिआ भरपूरे ॥
अंतरि बाहरि हरि प्रभु एको मिलि हरि जन मंगल गाए ॥
जन नानक दूजी लाव चलाई अनहद सबद वजाए ॥२॥
Second step: The true Guru leads the soul to the Almighty (by the grace of the Guru, soul meets the Super-soul). Keeping the fear of ‘the Fearless’ in mind, the dust of false ego is eradicated. By the ‘Nirmal Bhau’ - ‘Pure fear’ - which is purely out of love and respect - not from the fear of being punished, he sings the glory of God and sees the Lord’s presence right in front of him. Lord, the Supreme Soul, the master of the universe is pervading and permeating everywhere. There is one; only one God within (everything) and outside as well. ‘Nanak’ says in the second stage, the ‘Anahad Shabad’* is played.
हरि तीजड़ी लाव मनि चाउ भइआ बैरागीआ बलि राम जीउ ॥
संत जना हरि मेलु हरि पाइआ वडभागीआ बलि राम जीउ ॥
निरमलु हरि पाइआ हरि गुण गाइआ मुखि बोली हरि बाणी ॥
संत जना वडभागी पाइआ हरि कथीऐ अकथ कहाणी ॥
हिरदै हरि हरि हरि धुनि उपजी हरि जपीऐ मसतकि भागु जीउ ॥
जनु नानकु बोले तीजी लावै हरि उपजै मनि बैरागु जीउ ॥३॥
In the third stage, the mind becomes astonished and enthusiastic (towards God) and un-attached (to the worldly affairs). Having found the immaculate Lord, one constantly sings His praises, and tries to explain what cannot be explained in words. By the destiny inscribed on the forehead, the name of the Lord constantly vibrates in the mind. ‘Nanak says, in the third stage, feelings of ‘un-attachment’* fills the mind.
हरि चउथड़ी लाव मनि सहजु भइआ हरि पाइआ बलि राम जीउ ॥
गुरमुखि मिलिआ सुभाइ हरि मनि तनि मीठा लाइआ बलि राम जीउ ॥
हरि मीठा लाइआ मेरे प्रभ भाइआ अनदिनु हरि लिव लाई ॥
मन चिंदिआ फलु पाइआ सुआमी हरि नामि वजी वाधाई ॥
हरि प्रभि ठाकुरि काजु रचाइआ धन हिरदै नामि विगासी ॥
जनु नानकु बोले चउथी लावै हरि पाइआ प्रभु अविनासी ॥४॥२॥
In the fourth stage, the mind achieved the ultimate state of ‘Sehaj’ and found ‘Union’ with the Lord.
The Lord seems so sweet that day and night, mind is absorbed in Him.
Lord's name (now) resonates cheerfully because the reward of mind's desire - the Lord master - has been obtained.
‘Nanak’ says in the fourth stage, union with the Immortal Lord God is achieved (soul comes in union with God).
It’s interesting that in the second stage, the Guru says: “Satguru Purakh Milaaya” (Satguru lead me to the Almighty) and in the fourth stage he says “Hari paaya Balraam jio” and “Hari Paaya Prabhu Avinaashi”, accomplished the union with Almighty Immortal God.
There must be a reason for Guru Ramdas ji to use two different words while explaining second and the fourth stages, as there is a significant difference in the meaning of ‘Milaaya’ and ‘Paaya’.
Milaaya means meeting and ‘Paaya’ means achieved, accomplished or united.
'Meeting God', as in the second stage may not necessarily mean 'union with God'.
Therefore, in order to enter the fourth stage of ‘Union’, one has to pass through the third stage of ‘Bairaag’.
*Naad and Anahad Naad –
The 'Naad' or Sound can only be produced by the following three actions.
1. By hitting: like clapping, things dropping on the ground, playing instruments by hitting such as drums, Tabla, Dholak, Sitar, Guitar & Piano etc.
2. By rubbing: like rubbing hands or fast wind rubbing against trees or other objects, musical instruments such as Violin, viola, Saarangi etc. in which a bow is rubbed against the strings.
3. By wind passing through a narrow hole: as in Flute, Clarinet or the vocal chords.
However, in the eastern Holy Scriptures there is a concept of another kind of sound which is produced by none of the actions mentioned above and cannot be heard or measured by any worldly means. It’s called Anaahat or Anahad Naad; 'un-struck sound' that is not of this world.
** Un-attachment is different than detachment.