Humility: A Spiritual Journey – 5
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In the previous article, we explored how the legacy of humility was passed on from the first Guru Nanak Dev Ji to the fifth Guru Arjan Dev Ji. Now in this Chapter, we will explore some examples of extreme humility displayed by the succeeding five Gurus, from the sixth Guru Har Gobind Ji to the tenth Guru Gobind Singh Ji. Before exploring this let us check with Guru Arjan Dev Ji again about the effectiveness of the weapon of humility. Guru Ji sums it all in one line:
"Eis aagai ko n ttikai vaekaaree." — (SGGS, Pg. No. 628)
Meaning: No evil-doer can withstand these weapons.
When the sixth Guru Har Gobind Ji, sat on the throne of Guru Nanak, he started a new tradition by wearing two swords symbolizing devotion and strength. Thus, he injected a new thought and a direction in the world of spirituality. Generally, those days life of suffering, surrender, and self-denial were considered as signs of a religious person, but by wearing two swords Guru Ji completely revolutionized the spiritual world. Guru Har Gobind Ji realized that the divine message of peace and harmony advanced by preceding Gurus, in a spirit of utmost humility now needed the protection from the onslaught of evil, which martyred the fifth Guru. He, unsheathed his shining sword, and declared a war against the unrighteous rulers in India. By wearing two swords, Guru Ji declared himself as a friend of the oppressed and a foe of those who perpetuated oppression. The Sikhs used to address him as True king, yet humility was his way of life. Let us refresh an incident related to the death of Manohar Das (a great saint himself and a great-grand-son of Guru Amar Das). Guru Har Gobind Ji could not attend the funeral, so he plunged into a deep prayer for him. Later on, Guru Ji sent out an invitation to Anand Rai, son of Manohar Das, to visit him.
Anand Rai travelled in a palanquin to visit Guru Ji. When Guru Ji was informed about his arrival, he came out of his house and in a gesture of welcoming put his shoulder under the palanquin and carried Anand Rai. When Anand Rai saw Guru Ji, he alighted from his palanquin and bowed down to Guru Ji saying, “Why do you treat me with so great a kindness? I am just dust of your holy feet. What if bamboo grows tall? It cannot be fragrant like a sandal-tree.” Guru Ji smiled and replied, “Without the service of his saints, man is a barren rock.” So, we can see that although Guru Ji changed the strategy after the torturous execution of Guru Arjan Dev Ji, he was still a stickler to the principle of humility.
The seventh Guru Har Rai Ji was a grandson of Guru Har Gobind Ji. As a child, he always wore heavy dresses with lots of pleats. One day as he was passing through Guru Ji's garden, the pleats of his dress struck to a flower; which got plucked and fell down on the ground. Har Rai Ji accidently stepped on the fallen flower, while walking through the garden. Guru Ji saw this and said to Har Rai Ji, “My son! Always watch out when you move around. Otherwise you may disturb the slumber of union of some blessed ones, tear them away from God; as you have torn this flower from its branch.” Har Rai Ji was deeply moved by these words and he took the advice to heart for the rest of his life. After this incident, whenever he walked, he carefully gathered the pleats of dress, so as to not repeat the incident again. Guru Har Rai Ji retained this humility for the rest of his life. In fact, the following Salok by Farid Ji from Guru Granth Sahib Ji became his dictum for life:
"Sabhanaa mun maanik thaahan mool machaangavaa. Jae tao pireeaa dee sik hiaao n thaahae kehee dhaa." — (SGGS, Pg. No.1384)
Meaning: The minds of all are like precious jewels; to harm them is not good at all. If you desire your Beloved, then do not break anyone's heart.
Thus, living a life of humility, Guru Har Rai Ji inspired others to do the same. One night a group Sikhs singing hymns to the accompaniment of musical instruments arrived to visit upon Guru Ji. Guru Har Rai Ji was in his bed sleeping. Suddenly he was awakened by the sounds. Guru Ji got up in a hurry from the bed and in the process injured his toe. Although he was bleeding from his toe, he did not stop to take care of the wound, but rushed down a flight of stairs to welcome the party coming to visit him while singing hymns. Guru Ji warmly welcomed the incoming party. One Sikh from the visitor’s party noticed the bleeding toe and inquired about it. Guru Ji replied that he tripped against the bed while he was trying to get up. That Sikh in empathy asked Guru Ji what was the need to rush like that in the total darkness. He further added that hymns are yours, and so is the whole Holy Scripture which Gurus have authored. Guru Har Rai Ji replied that what he said was absolutely true, but these are not just Gurus uttering alone, but the words are embodiment of Gurus own personal experiences. Guru Ji clarified that these words can ferry a person across the flaming worldly ocean to the other world. Therefore, it is imperative that when these words are uttered or sung, these words should always be accorded highest reverence. By this incident Guru Ji set an example of reverence and humility.
Now, let us look at the incident from the life of the eighth Guru Har Krishan Ji. He became Guru at the tender age of five. Emperor Aurangzeb, the ruler at the time, asked his minister Raja Jai Singh to invite Guru Ji to Delhi, so that he could hear him in person, before deciding on the case brought by Ram Rai about the rightful heir to Guru Har Rai. Raja Jai Singh acting as the emissary personally delivered the invitation. Guru Ji responded that he would be willing to come to Delhi at the invitation of Raja and sangat of Delhi, but not to visit the Emperor. Raja acceded to the condition and promised that visiting the Emperor would be Guru Ji's decision alone. Guru Ji made plans and set out for Delhi from Kiratpur. On their way, the party halted at village Panjokhara in the Ambala district, in the second week of February 1664. At the village, many excited visitors came to visit Guru Ji. Seeing the stream of visitors heading in that direction, a Brahmin named Lal Chand asked where they were heading. The villagers replied they were heading to visit the camp of Guru Har Krishan Ji. Lal Chand asked, “Anybody can call himself Krishan, but does he have the qualities of Krishan? In addition with his name there is a prefix Har, is he greater than Krishan? How old is he?” On learning the age of Guru Ji he remarked, “Krishan gave us Gita, but can he even interpret a single Saloka of Gita?” The villagers informed Guru Ji about the taunts of Lal Chand. Guru Ji observed that he was blinded by pride. Then Guru Ji asked villagers to bring in Lal Chand.
Guru Ji told Lal Chand, “There was no scarcity of anything in the house of Nanak, including that of knowledge. If I explained the Saloka you may still harbor doubts in your mind. Why don't you get a person of your choice and let us hear the explanation from him. You will yourself witness the blessings of Nanak.” Lal Chand picked Chajju Ram, a dumb and illiterate water carrier, who was standing nearby for the task. Guru Ji then beckoned at Chajju Ram to come closer and he put the other end of the stick in his hand on Chajju's head. Upon the touch of the stick, a magical transformation took place within him. Now Lal Chand quoted the Salokas and Chajju elucidated them with supporting quotes from Upnishads and Vedas. Lal Chand was amazed; he realized his folly and apologized to Guru Ji for his haughty behavior. He further added, “I see that you are Holy god Krishan himself.” Guru Ji explained to him the three golden principles of life as laid out by founder Guru Nanak Dev Ji. Guru Ji also shared a quote from Guru Nanak Dev Ji about humility (see Chapter IV) and advised that one could never let pride enter the heart. Lal Chand experienced the power of humility, by facing the defeat in the challenge, his pride in caste and erudition evaporated. He himself became a Sikh and Guru Ji assigned him to be the preacher of Sikhism in the same area. Interestingly, Chajju Ram was appointed as a preacher and was assigned a separate territory of Jagannath Puri.
Guru Har Krishan Ji shed his mortal coil at the age of twelve and advised Sikhs that the next Guru was in Bakale. Meanwhile, Dhir Mall, elder son of Baba Gurditta declared himself as the heir. There were 22 claimants posing as the Guru, but Guru Teg Bahadur was formally declared as the ninth Guru by Makhan Shah, when he climbed top of the house and declared, “Guru ladho rey.” The other claimants then quickly faded at once from the picture, but Dhir Mall still retained his aspirations to become the Guru. He made up his mind to put an end to Guru Ji’s life. He hatched a conspiracy with Masand Sheehan to attack Guru Teg Bahadur Ji after the departure of Makhan Shah and his soldiers, back to their camp. When Sheehan got wind that Makhan Shah had left with his soldiers, they decided to put their plan into action. Dhir Mall, Sheehan, along with their twenty-five gunmen, reached Bakala. When Guru Ji saw Dhir Mall, Guru asked him to desist from his nefarious designs. But Sheehan got closer and fired a shot at Guru Ji. The shot bruised the shoulder of Guru Ji, yet he remained calm, composed and did not retaliate. In the meantime, the attackers plundered valuables from the Guru Ji's house and retreated.
As soon as Makhan Shah found out about the incident, he turned around and marched back to Dhir Mall's camp with his soldiers. Dhir Mall and his associates tried to escape, but were nabbed and received a sound thrashing. They were all handcuffed and presented before Guru Ji along with the loot. Guru Ji not only pardoned Dhir Mall, Sheehan, and their accomplices, but also asked for all the looted property to be returned back to them. Makhan Shah decided to keep the Adi Granth, as it was the community property of all Sikhs. But Guru Ji scolded Makhan Shah and reminded him that Guru Nanak has given the wealth of Naam and there was no need for anything else. Truly, a magnanimous heart filled with humility is the only vessel, capable of holding such an ungrudging gesture.
Now let us look at the life of the tenth Guru Gobind Singh Ji. On the Baisakhi day of 1699, Guru Ji created the order of the Khalsa. A day before the Baisakhi at a specially convened celebration at Kesgarh, in Anandpur, Guru Ji at the conclusion of Kirtan (congregational singing), came to the stage with an unsheathed sword glistening in his uplifted arm and asked for a head. The stirring call cast gloom, fear, with panic spreading like a wildfire among the attendees. As there was no response to the first call, he made the second call and finally on the third call Bhai Daya Ram, raised his hand and offered his head. Guru Ji took him inside a separate tent holding him by hand. A powerful stroke of sword was heard and blood started flowing out of the tent. Guru Ji came out brandishing the blood-stained sword and demanded another offering of a head. After Bhai Daya Ram, there were four more such calls one after the other. Responding to which Bhai Dharam Das, Bhai Mohkam Chand, Bhai Himmat Rai and finally Bhai Sahib Chand responded by offering their heads. The next day, on Baiskhi, Guru Gobind Singh created Khalsa Panth with a new and unique baptismal ceremony (known as Amrit Sanchar). During that ceremony those five who had offered their heads were initiated and were declared as Khalsa. They were knighted as “Singhs” and became known as the Five Beloved Ones (Punj Pyare). Then addressing the Sikhs, Guru Ji said, “Today I have obeyed the mandate of God to lift the downtrodden.” Guru Ji also said, “When Guru Nanak tested his Sikhs, only one Sikh, Guru Angad stood the test successfully. Today, I have found five Sikhs devoted to the Guru and I am very proud.” Guru Ji then said these words and declared that he has merged his soul in them:
“Khalsa mero roop hai khas. Khalsae meh karao nivas.” — (Sarb Loh Granth)
Meaning: Khalsa is my true form. Within the Khalsa, I abide.
After administering Amrit to the five who had offered their heads, Guru Ji got on his knees and with folded hands, begged of them to baptize him and others. This act of Guru Ji begging to get baptized perplexed the five, who took Amrit. Guru Ji set their amazement, disbelief, and hesitancy to rest by declaring that he had merged his very soul in them, the Khalsa. Guru Ji asked them to baptize without any hesitation as disciples and master are one for-ever. The Guru was baptized and initiated into the Order of Khalsa at the hands of his disciples. His name was changed from Gobind Rai to Gobind Singh, in the same way he changed the names of the beloved disciples. This is considered as a unique example in the history of mankind where the Master (Guru) became the follower of his disciples. Where else can one find a better example of humility and equality? No wonder Guru Ji is admired and adored by these words:
“Vaah vaah Gobind Singh aapae gur chaelaa.” — (Bhai Gurdas II, Vaar 41)
Meaning: Wonderfully great is Guru Gobind Singh, who is the Guru as well as the disciple.
Here is another remarkable incident from Guru Ji’s tumultuous life. After leaving Anandpur during the siege, Guru Ji finally came to Damdama Sahib and dictated Guru Granth Sahib to Bhai Mani Singh, who acted as the scribe. After completing this momentous task Guru Ji proceeded towards south India. While passing through Alwar, an area of Rajasthan, Guru Ji reached Narayanpur (generally known as Dadudwara), as it held the seat of renowned saint Dadu. When Mahant Jait Ram the head of the place at the time, heard about a king with his soldiers camping outside, he came out to check. It was evening time and Guru Ji was getting ready for the dewan. He met Guru Ji and received him warmly, invited him to visit the mausoleum of Dadu Ji. Guru Ji was impressed by the cordial sincerity and reverence of Mahant and he accepted the invitation. Guru Ji took the tour, heard from Mahant about the life of Dadu Ji, and also his connections with the Sikh Gurus. When visiting the shrine of Dadu Ji, Guru Ji lowered his arrow in salutation to life of Dadu Ji. After completing the visit, Guru Ji returned back to his camp site. The Sikhs who had accompanied Guru Ji surrounded him and requested him to dismount from his horse. They inquired about the gesture of salute with the arrow as they deemed that gesture as having broken one of the principal tenets of the faith. They quoted Guru Ji’s own written dictum, “Worship not even by mistake cemeteries or places of cremation.” They quoted Guru Ji’s own words:
"Pooran prem pratteeth sajai brath gor marrhee matt bhool n maanai." — (Dasam Granth, Page 1)
Meaning: He decorates himself with perfect love and faith, and believed not in fasts, tombs, crematoriums and hermit cells, even by mistake.
Guru Ji was very impressed that these Sikhs, though young and new to the faith, already possessed a thorough understanding of the tenets. They even declared that Guru Ji should be liable for a penalty, which after the formal deliberations, was set at 125 Rupees.
Guru Ji was very pleased at the alertness to the principles displayed by the Sikhs. He admitted he was technically in non-compliance, therefore liable for the fine. He cheerfully accepted and paid the levied fine. This amount was used to procure a tent which was used as langar tent for dining purposes. Although Guru Ji lowered his arrow in salute to test the Sikhs, he showed the utmost humility when confronted with the penalty and accepted the consequences. Thus, we have seen that all ten Gurus inherited the virtue of humility and displayed it in their lives through their deeds, words, and actions. No wonder the following line “prayer for humility” has been incorporated in our daily prayer, to act as a catalyst and a reminder for us:
“Sikhaa daa mun neevaa, mut uchee, mut pat daa raakhaa aap Waheguru.”
Meaning: May the minds of all the Sikhs remain humble and their wisdom exalted; O God! You are the protector of wisdom.
The Sikhs always pray for humility and higher wisdom to serve humanity. With humility as our inner strength, we can soar up in our spiritual journey. Let the humility from the lives of our Gurus inspire us to not just be humble ourselves, but also to become our wings, to soar into the spiritual heights.
In these two Chapters we have touched upon some of the most salient incidents of humility from the lives of the Gurus. These incidents sited here from the lives of the Gurus are just a few samplings. But the entire lives of the ten Gurus were full of such incidents. All the Gurus exhibited humility, when responding to challenging situations in their lives. In fact the quality of humility was always the characteristic trait in them.
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