Humility During the Trials of Life

Humility: A Spiritual Journey – 11

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Humility is most accurately judged during the trials of life, when one is under tremendous stress. While the mind is reeling under the stress of adverse situations or circumstances, usually something buckles inside, and humility becomes the first victim. The first thing that a person does is to start blaming others for his/her woes. The second thought that is experienced is, why me? These two thoughts are enough to drive out the humility. However, if humility remains the core strength during such challenging times, then the person can experience the disappearance of blame and doubts; together with blossoming of humility. He/she experiences:

  • A tremendous faith and trust in Almighty God.
  • An acceptance of adverse situations as something integral to the human experience.
  • A clear understanding that even these challenging circumstances have been thrust on us to learn from them and grow.
  • A firm conviction that, like everything else in life, this too is a transitory phase and that it will come to pass. Just as happiness does not last forever, this trial also cannot last forever.
  • An understanding that pain and suffering are as much a part of life as is joy and happiness. In fact, they are like two sides of the same coin.
  • Whatever I am going through today is payback for my some egregious behavior in the past.

These are not just words of wisdom, but powerful observations of life that Guru Ji has shared with us in these words:
“Joe mai keeaa so mai paaiaa dhos n dheejai avar janaa. 21.” — (SGGS, Pg. No. 432)

Meaning: Whatever I did (in the past), for that I have to suffer consequences; I do not have to blame anyone else.

Guru Ji explains pleasures and suffering as two sides of coin in these words:

“Sukh dhukh dhue dhar kaparrae pehirehi jaae manukh” — (SGGS, Pg. No. 149)

Meaning: Pleasure and pain are the two garments given, to be worn (here in this world) in the Court of the Lord.

Therefore, our Guru Ji has inspired us to repose complete faith during the trials of life with these words:

“Jaa ko musakal ath banai dhoee koe n dhaee. Laagoo hoeae dhusamanaa saak bhe bhaj khalae. Sabho bhajai aasaraa chukai sabh asaraao. Chith aavai ous paarabreham lagai n thathee vaao.” — (SGGS, Pg. No. 70)

Meaning: When you are confronted with terrible hardships, and no one offers you any support, when your friends turn into enemies, your relatives have deserted you, and all the support has given way, and all hope has been lost, -if you then come to remember the Supreme Lord God, no harm shall touch you.

Here, Guru Arjan Dev Ji has shared that even in the most trying circumstances, when all support is lost, when the enemies are closing in, and even the close relatives have run away instead of supporting, one cannot lose hope, but instead should seek the support of the Almighty in full faith. The result will be that the calamity will pass by. In Chapter VII, we saw how Guru Arjan Dev Ji depended solely on his faith in the Almighty, during the attacks of Sulbi Khan and then by Sulhi Khan. Guru Ji’s tested advice is that no matter what the circumstances are, do not lose hope or faith, and do not let it disturb your mental equilibrium and tranquility. Guru Ji’s conviction is that outside storms should not uproot your inner calm in any situation. Having a strong mental strength is essential to face challenges with firm determination. When life is disrupted, it should not produce any self-pity, despair or self-loathing. Instead, Guru Ji wants us to accept the situation calmly, and then deal with it firmly. Just as a soldier prepares for the battle during peace times, same way one should mentally be ready to face challenges and the associated uncertainty even in the midst of celebrations. However, the reality is we become euphoric with success, as if it is never going to end. Thus we always are dreaming big about our future, with a dream house, a dream job, a dream car, a dream vacation, a dream marriage, and a dream retirement, etc. We are constantly ratcheting up our expectations, but we never mentally prepare for the unexpected. We say let the good times roll in life.

Happiness and pain are like yin and yang of the Chinese philosophy - they represent the two constant opposite operating principles in nature. Their influence makes us uncertain, but if we understand that both are integral part of life, we can change our approach to life and equally accepting both. We can face the challenges with full conviction that like everything else in life, even these trials are going to pass. With shelter, protection and support of Almighty God, whose writ runs everything; there is nothing to worry about.

Let us turn the pages of history for our inspiration. We will see how Guru Gobind Singh Ji faced the tumultuous trails in his life with the utmost humility. Guru Ji’s entire life was full of challenges coming his way one after the other in quick succession. But still in all adverse situations, Guru Ji held utmost faith in God and humility was his steady demeanor. Wherever he had success and achievements, he always credited God for it. Let us briefly visit some of the incidents:

At the age of nine, he asked his father Guru Teg Bahadur Ji to offer himself for the protection of the rights of the Hindus to practice their faith. Let us try to understand the background and circumstances associated with this event. At the time, Aurangzeb was is power and was hell-bent on converting all Hindus to Islam. To him, all methods were justified-coercion, inducements, terror, violence, massacre, etc. Aurangzeb’s strategy of first converting high-class Brahmins in Kashmir was a clever strategic move, to affect the total mass conversion of the entire Hindu population (as lower castes would automatically follow the elites). The Brahmins, under the leadership of Kirpa Ram came to Guru Teg Bahadur Ji on May 25, 1675 and pleaded for help. Guru Ji heard their plight, becoming pensive-thinking about the appropriate course of action. At that time, young Gobind Rai walked into the room and upon seeing the gloomy faces of visitors, asked his father, Guru Teg Bahadur Ji about it. Guru Ji shared the plight of Hindus with young Gobind Rai. Guru Ji also added that this plight called for a sacrifice of a pious soul. Gobind Rai’s suggestion to his father was, “Who can be holier than you, and who more pure?” This conveys a profound understanding-well above his biological age. Guru Ji was delighted with young Gobind Rai’s words, as he felt assured that his young shoulders were ready to assume the mettle of responsibility of being the next leader. Guru Ji said to Kirpa Ram that the house of Nanak respects all religions and firmly believes that everyone should be free to practice their faith without any fear of oppression. Guru Ji deplores oppression and encourages oppressed to be brave in these words:

“Bha-ai kaahoo ka dhayt neh neh bhai maanat aaan.” — (SGGS, Pg. No. 1427)

Meaning: One who does not frighten anyone, nor is afraid of anyone else.

And so, Guru Teg Bahadur Ji sacrificed his life, for the Hindu religion upholding the principle of helping the weak and freedom to practice one’s faith in Delhi on November 11, 1675. Before the execution of Guru Teg Bahadur Ji, his three Sikhs, Bhai Mati Das, Bhai Sati Das, and Bhai Dayala were tortured in front of Guru Ji’s eyes, in an effort to weaken Guru Ji’s resolve. But those scare tactics could not weaken Guru Ji resolve. In fact the torture of three Sikhs did not even weaken their faith, and their willingness to pay for with their sacrifice. Guru Ji was publicly beheaded in Chandni Chowk, Delhi. After the execution the severed head and body were left there deliberately, to serve as a lesson on the fate of those who dared to resist the imperial injunctions. The anguish caused by the martyrdom cast a severe gloom over the Sikhs, who felt their spirits sagging, that none dared to claim the body. Bhai Jaita dressed as a sweeper, taking cover of the severe storm picked up the severed head of Guru Teg Bahadur Ji and hurried away towards Anandpur. On his arrival Guru Gobind Rai (later Gobind Singh) received the severed head of his Guru father reverently, and he proclaimed:

Tilak junnjoo raakhaa prabh taakaa. Keeno baddo kaloo meh saakaa.” — (Bichittar Natak)

Meaning: (Guru Teg Bahadur) Has saved the Tilak (religious mark worn on the forehead) and Junnjoo (sacred thread) of Hindus. By doing so he performed a great historic deed in Kaljug (Dark Age).

He was deeply touched by the dauntless courage and devotion displayed by Bhai Jaitha. Guru Ji flung his arms around Bhai Jaitha’s neck for his daring act of securing the head and boldly declared, “Rangretas are the Guru’s own sons. Here through you, I embrace them all.” Guru Gobind Singh performed the last rites reverently in Anandpur. Today Gurudwara Sisganj stands there in memory. His words of homage to his Guru and father show his upbeat spirits, during a trial even at a very young age:

“Teg bahadur ke chalat bhayo jagat ko sok. Hai hai hai sabh jag bhayo jai jai jai sur lok.16.” — (Bichittar Natak, Ch. 5)

Meaning:The whole world bemoaned the departure of Teg Bahadur. While the world lamented, the gods hailed his arrival in heavens.

Now let us look at the battle of Bhangani, which was thrust on Guru Ji at the young age of 22. Guru Ji has himself shared the reasons, as the jealousy of the hill chiefs for the attack in his letter to Aurangzeb. Guru Ji shared that they resented the fact that they were idol worshippers, while he was not. They could not stomach his religious and social reforms. They were unwilling to accept the principle of equality of mankind. Thus, by attempting to quell Guru Ji’s rising power, they scurried for favors from Emperor Aurangzeb. Guru Ji had no trained army and very limited resources, which he put to full use, combining presence of mind with boldness of moves and by taking calculated risks. After three days of a severe and bloody battle, Guru Ji decisively won the battle on April 16, 1689. In this battle, many hill chiefs, including Hari Chand lost their lives. Hari Chand was a seasoned and boldest commander on Fateh Chand’s side but lost the battle to Guru Ji.The surviving chiefs, along with their armies took to their heels. Despite having secured a complete victory, Guru Ji declared:

Run tyag Bhagae. Sbahai tras pagae. Bhaee jeet meri kirpa kaal keri.” — (Bichittar Natak)

Meaning:The brave warrior fled the battlefield in fear. I became victorious because of Your blessings.

Guru Ji did not have any ambition in establishing his own rule with a kingdom; so after tending to the wounded, and disposing of the dead, he evacuated Bhangani.

Siege of Anandpur Sahib is another example. At the instigation of hill chiefs, Governor of Sirhind agreed to attack Anandpur Sahib. Emperor Aurangzeb while he was in Deccan (South India) received the petition of Governor of Sirhind there. He ordered the Governors of Sirhind and Lahore to jointly march against Guru Ji at Anandpur. Even the hill-chiefs joined them along with their forces. As their frontal attacks were soundly beaten back by the Sikhs, the strategy of siege was employed to weaken and finish the Sikhs by cutting their supply lines off, in order to starve them. The siege lasted almost seven (7) months. The provisions were running really low, while hunger, fatigue, lack of sleep and other hardships took their heavy toll on the disciples of Guru Gobind Singh Ji. According to Daulat Rai, “No king, no general had ever stood up or even thought of making a fight against myriads of Imperial forces.” The Sikhs bore the hardships with patience and fortitude. But as time went by, some started getting anxious, longing for normal lives, wanted the siege to end. When besiegers heard about the discontent in Guru Ji’s ranks, they sent messengers who swore by cow and Quran, promising safe passage. Finally the disciples suggested to Guru Ji that they should take the offer of safe passage and evacuate. Guru Ji did not agree, so they pleaded for this measure to save Guru Ji, four little ones and their mother and grandmother. Guru Ji even turned that down, saying that the words of the enemy could not be trusted. Still persisting they called upon Guru Ji’s mother, Mata Gujri to persuade Guru Ji to accept the offer. Although, Guru Ji was not receptive to the suggestion, he finally relented and agreed despite his own wishes and better judgement, feeling the pain and suffering of the Sikhs. Furthermore, he also looked at the bigger picture of carrying on his holy mission in the future.

During the evacuation from Anandpur Sahib in the winter of 1704, Guru Ji and the entourage were pounced upon by a large enemy force on the banks of river Sarsa. There was hard hand to hand fighting in the pouring rain and darkness of wintery night. Guru Ji in the process lost everything, his four sons, and his mother, but still he did not waver in his resolve. Guru Ji faced all the challenges and hardships without any rancor, bitterness, or complaint - all in total humility. Next morning, Guru Ji was still unperturbed and held the morning service of Keertan of Assa De Waar on the river banks in the midst of the booming of guns. After the evacuation from Anandpur Sahib, Guru Ji, along with his two sons and forty Sikhs, regrouped in a dilapidated adobe structure at Chamkaur, where they were again surrounded by Imperial hordes. The General of the Imperial hordes sent a message to Guru Ji demanding surrender, which Guru Ji refused. Guru Ji sent back reply through a Sikh saying:

“Jab aav kee auouadhh nidhhaan banai ath hee ran mai thab joojh maro(n).” — (Chandi Charitar Savaiya)

Meaning: When the time to leave this world comes, I should die fighting heroically in the battlefield.

The reply does not show any fear of certain death, rather it clearly spells out a valiant defiance. That night when the forty surviving Sikhs retired to sleep, Guru Ji was strolling inside the building and deciding on positions for the fight next day. He looked admiringly at his exhausted, fatigued Sikhs and his words of appreciation were:

“Einehee kee kripaa kae sajae ham hain nahee mo so gareeb karor parae.” — (Dasam Granth, Pg. 1)
Meaning: It is through their aid that I have attained this status; otherwise there are millions of unknown mortals like me.

Early morning next day, Guru Ji posted Sikhs on all sides as planned, and then perched himself on the roof to defend it against the attack of Mughal forces. When the forces attacked, they were greeted by arrows raining with such ferocity, as if there were thousands of Sikhs inside. As the attacking Mughal forces were unable to pierce through the defenses they were frustrated and they changed their strategy. In defense a party of five Sikhs would come out to fight and meet certain death. At the end only five Sikhs survived in this battle, where forty fought against ten thousand of Mughal forces. This was vivid demonstration of where one fought against an army, making true Guru Ji’s words:

“Sava lakh sae aik laraun tabhae Gobind Singh naam kahaun.”

Meaning: When my Sikh can fight one hundred twenty five thousand; then I will call myself Gobind Singh.

It is here in Chamkaur on December 22, 1704 that the two elder sons of Guru Gobind Singh Ji; laid down their lives fighting heroically. In fact, Baba Ajit Singh had approached Guru Ji with a request for permission to fight. He pleaded, “Father you have named me Ajit or unconquerable, so I will not be conquered - if overpowered I will die fighting.” Sure enough he lived and died upholding the meaning of name Ajit. When Baba Ajit Singh fell in the battlefield, fighting heroically, it inspired his younger brother; Baba Jhujhar Singh was only 14 years old, when he made a similar request to his father. A fourteen-year old displayed the heroics of a seasoned soldier in the battlefield and died fighting. Guru Ji had sent his two older sons to fight in the war, knowing well what the outcome would be, of facing vastly outnumbered forces. He eye-witnessed his sons’ giving their lives, but still was thankful to the Almighty. The Sikhs in Chamkaur Garahi, who witnessed the brave fight put on by the young sons of Guru Gobind Singh Ji, were acutely pained by the loss. Although, Guru Ji felt the void created in his mighty heart, as a loving father would, yet his resolve did not waver. But, when the Sikhs came to Guru Ji and expressed their sadness at the loss, Guru Ji asked them to draw a line on the ground with an arrow. When the line was drawn, he then asked them to move the top soil over the line to erase it. Then Guru asked the Sikhs if the earth felt anything when the line was drawn or when it was erased? The Sikhs replied in a chorus of “No!” Then Guru Ji added that they should consider the Sahibzadaes coming to this world and departing as similar to the line drawn on earth and erased. In extreme humility, he accepted all the sad things happening in life. Later on in Damdama Sahib when Guru Ji’s wife enquired about whereabouts of Sahibzadaes; Guru Ji reply was:


"In Putran ke sees par vaardiye sut chaar. Chaar mooye tau kia hua jeevat kayee hazaar"

Meaning:I have sacrificed my four sons. So what if my four sons are dead, when thousands are alive.

This is the kind of unwavering outlook Guru Ji was empowered with, that even loss his children did not affect his life’s mission.

When only five surviving Sikhs in Chamkaur, concerned about the consequences of ensuing fighting at day break, passed a unanimous resolution called Gurumata entreating upon Guru Ji to affect his escape. Guru Ji accepted the edict. Three Sikhs also escaped with Guru Ji and the remaining two - Sant Singh and Sangat Singh were to hold on the Chamkaur Garahi until their last breath. In the pitch-black darkness of night, Guru Ji got separated from the three escorts accompanying him. Guru Ji was left alone by himself; he walked barefoot in darkness, getting cuts and blisters on his feet and legs. Still he did not complain, even though he was hungry, fatigued, emaciated, and cold in the jungle of Machhiwara. Instead he was thankful; he remembered God and cherished Him in his heart. So strong was his conviction in God that even in his escape, he saw the hand of God. Guru Ji reminded himself that if you separate yourself from God, then everything will be depressing and painful. This is a rallying call and it exemplifies the strength of the man with humility. There is only one thing dear to such a person-the love and remembrance of God. Guru Ji poured his heart in the chilling wind in these words:

Mithr piaarae noo haal mureedhaa daa kahinaa. Tudhh bin rog rajaaeeaaa daa odhan naag nivaasaa dae rehinaa.” — (Shabad Hazare, Dasam Granth)

Meaning: Please tell the dear friend – the Lord – the call of his disciple. Without You, the use of rich quilts is like a disease, and the comforts of the palace are like dwelling with the snakes.

From Machhiwara, Guru Ji escaped, with the help of Ghani Khan and Nabi Khan, dressed as Pir of Uch trudging bare-foot through thorny bushes for four days without any food. Guru Ji moved to Jatpura, where he was befriended by Rai Kalha. Rai Kalha was fully aware of the Imperial Orders against helping and consequences of sheltering Guru Ji; still he took the risk and offered to help. There, Guru Ji asked him to send someone to get first-hand information on his two little sons and his mother. Mahi was assigned with that task and he went out and brought back the news in a few days. When Mahi narrated the tragic story, Rai Kalha and others in the audience wept copiously. Even after hearing the horrible news that - his two remaining sons at ages nine and seven have been bricked alive, at the behest of Nawab Wazir Khan. Guru Ji did not flinch, simply accepting the fate as God’s divine will. Guru Ji said they are not dead, as they did not barter their faith, but rather they have become immortal. Guru Ji’s words in Zafarnama to Aurangzeb sums up his attitude as follows:

“Thuraa gar nazar hasath lashakar v zar. Ki maa raa nigeh asath yazadhaan shukar. 105.

Meaning: If you are proud of your army and riches; I always have faith in the gratitude of the Supreme Being.

Taking leave of Rai Kalha with the help of three brothers named Shamira, Lakhmira and Takht Mal, Guru Ji moved to Dina for his own safety. He was certain that the Imperial army would soon close in on him; so he started his defense preparations. When Guru Ji learnt that the force of five thousand of Nawab of Sirhind was on their way, Guru Ji picked the location of a lake near Khidrana to engage them. He had enlisted Sikhs coming to him and offering themselves; in addition he also engaged more soldiers on salary to be ready for any eventuality. Guru Ji spent a few months in Dina. It was here, near the village of Kangar, that Guru Ji composed his famous letter, Zafarnama or the Epistle of Victory, in Persian verse addressed to Emperor Aurangzeb. The letter was a severe indictment of the Emperor and his commanders, who had perjured their oath and treacherously attacked him once he was outside the safety of his fortification at Anandpur. It emphatically reiterated the sovereignty of morality in the affairs of State as much as in the conduct of human beings and held that the means as important as the end result. Although the Zafarnama was devoted entirely to Aurangzeb’s behavior, we can still find Guru Ji’s humility and unflinching belief in Almighty from his words:

“Shahan-shah ra bandeh-e chaakar-am. Agar hukm aa-yed b-jaan haazar-am.62”

Meaning: I am the menial servant of the Lord; I will come to your court only if He commands me to do so.

The forty deserters from Anandpur, who had earlier written a disclaimer to Guru Ji, also came back there to fight again on the side of Guru Ji. These forty deserters on returning home had been shamed and taunted by their women folks, for their cowardly act of deserting Guru Ji. At their homes they came to know what transpired over at Anandpur, after they had departed. Now full of remorse they decided to redeem themselves for their cowardice, by deciding to join Guru Ji and fight to the end. Travelling in small groups, mostly at night to avoid being detected they reached Khidrana. On reaching Khidrana they learnt that Guru Ji had crossed over to the other side of the lake. Here on that spot they decided to engage the enemy - to be the vanguard for Guru Ji - offering themselves as fodder to the enemy.

The Mughal army attacked Guru Ji and the Sikhs. A long, bloody battle took place on May 08, 1705. A large number of Sikhs, who were fighting on the Eastern side of the mound, were giving way to pressure from the Royal armies. Here Bhai Mahan Singh the leader of the forty proposed to his men to engage the enemy thereby relieving the pressure, as they were along with Mai Bhago in the vanguard of Guru Ji’ soldiers. All at once the forty deserters charged and cut off the ambitious band of attackers. Guru Ji also sent reinforcements; He showered arrows from his strategic position on the mound, down on the Imperial army, killing a number of them. The resistance of the Sikhs became so fierce that the invaders were completely demoralized. The enemy became restive, for want of water. It was not possible for them to reach the lake of Khidrana. In the semi-desert terrain the scorching summer heat was reaching its peak. Guru Ji anticipated the strategic importance of water hole and based his defenses around it. The only water enemy could get was fifteen miles behind them. Thirst and oppressive heat, and the tough resistance offered by the Sikhs, compelled the Mughal army to make a hasty retreat.

Here we can see that even during the most trying times, Guru Gobind Singh Ji, always had full faith in the Creator and had a constant relationship with Him. It is because of this relationship that Guru Ji accepted every situation in life without any complaint and in full humility. These historical anecdotes inspire us to build a personal relationship with the Almighty in the present moment, instead of living in the future or the past. This relationship has to be built by seeking His sanctuary, in complete humility. When this is in place and secured, then dependence on others will not be necessary. The life will be lived with the dictum of:

“Jio thoon raakhehi tiv hee rehanaa dhukh sukh dhaevehi karehi soee.” — (SGGS, Pg. No. 356)

Meaning: As You keep me, so do I live. You are the Giver of peace and pleasure. Whatever You do, comes to pass.

Thus, we can see that remaining humble during trials in life is quite challenging. It is only when someone is blessed with the grace from God that one can do so. Gurus, with their own acts and preaching, are advocating for ultimate humility and dependence on God during trials in life. Let us also strive to inculcate humility and always pray for God’s grace. His grace alone can humble us completely, such that even during crucial trials in our lives, we solely depend on Him. Guru Ji’s dictum clearly tells us to make it part of our lives:

“Jae sukh dehai ta tujhai arradee dukh bhee tujhai dhaiyee.2. Jae bhukh dehai ta itt hee raajaa dukh vich sukh manayee.3.” — (SGGS, Pg. No. 757)

Meaning: If You will bless me with happiness, then I will worship and adore You. Even in pain, I will meditate on You. Even if You give me hunger, I will still feel satisfied; I am joyful, even in the midst of sorrow.

In conclusion, we can say that challenges and trying times in life are our chances to grow in humility; by embracing the hardships and having complete faith in Almighty’s grace, we can tackle the challenges successfully. When we put our trust in Him then a protective wall shields us during the challenges. As the protection of Almighty is there, we are able to overcome the challenges. Words that come out of our mouth are:

“Taatee vaau na lage'ee paarabraham saraNaae'ee. Chaugiradh hamaarai raam kaar dhukh lagai na bhaae'ee.1.” — (SGGS, Pg. No. 819)

Meaning: The hot wind (of maladies) does not even touch one who is under the Protection of the Supreme Lord God. All-around I am surrounded by the Lord's Circular line of Protection; pain does not afflict me, O Siblings of Destiny.

When the protection of Almighty is there, there is no fear left, even in the midst of fighting. It is fear alone that makes one weak. The fearless come out victorious as Guru Gobind Singh Ji says:

“Na ddaro ar so jab jaai laro nisachai kar apunee jeet karo.” — (Chandi Charitra, Dasam Granth)

Meaning: I may not fear the enemy when I go to fight and assuredly I may become victorious.

Continued to Next Page 


More by :  Bhupinder Singh

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