Human life enjoys a higher status than animals. Gurbânî says,
He who spends life of selfish interests is not a human being but an animal. One major difference between human beings and animals is that animal fills his stomach or of its young ones (others may remain hungry, it does not disturb him), but a human being beside taking care of his own family members also try to be useful to other needy persons. Thus it is said that he who is not aware of his duties is no better than animal. Not only righteous or religious people of the world but even atheists are well aware of such duties of a man. Even those who harbour communistic thoughts propagate the need to have sympathy towards fellow being. The Sikh Gurus have defined the objectives of a human in the following words that is one of the pillar of the religious structure that they have given to the world—
This is the high ideal of Sikh religion that the atheists are totally ignorant. And to reach the pinnacle of this ideal, Gurmat has defined three principles—
A Sikh should lead life according to these three ideals. Guru Sahibs have emphasized on the righteous earnings not on just doing something to earn. For fulfilling their needs. thieves, dacoits, smugglers, pickpockets, cheats also put in much labour but such earnings are impediments in the path of God realisation. The righteous earnings mean earnings acquired through hard work in which physical self is involved and the hands and feet are doing some useful work without harm to anyone and the society. Guru Sahib has also instructed his Sikhs to use a part of their earning for the welfare of others—
Emphasizing on the need to earn wages through hard work and condemning parasitic apptitude in order to fill their stomachs and meet all other needs, Guru Nanak Dev Ji, the founder of Sikh religion has said—
An essential aspect of Hindu religion is renunciation of the world for search of God. It encouraged them to leave their homes and escape the vagaries of running and suporting their families. Many left their families and started living in jungles, mountains and caves, in the garb of Sadhus and Sants. They condemned the institution of family life and yet visited the householders for alms and charity to meet their basic requirements. Sikh Guru Sahibs were not prepared to see their Sikhs treading this path. They wanted to see them struggling for God realisation even while living life as a householder in the society. The following quotes of Gurbânî are ample proof of the attitude of Sikh founders towards familial life.
During his conversation/debate with Sidhs, Guru Nanak Dev Ji explained the Sikh principle as under—
(Guru Sahib says that the true knowledge is that living life as a worldly man, a man should never be complacent, not let his mind get disturbed. But without Lords name, the mind can never be stable and the desire of mammon never reduces).
One must remember God (Naam Simran) while actively pursuing the worldly duties and living a house holder’s life. There is no need to go to the jungles forsaking all responsibilities.
If the Sikh principle of righteous earnings is adopted by the world over, social evils like theft, dacoity, pickpocketing and smuggling etc would all disappear from the character of human being. The life then will become peaceful spiritually. The concept of righteous earnings have been well ratified by Bhai Santokh Singh and Bhai Gurdas Ji—
It is written in Rehatnama Bhai Desa Singh–
The matter does not end on righteous earnings and Naam-Simran. There is a third principle that is inseparable from these two and that is—Vand Chhaknâ.
The concept of Vand Chhaknâ places humans above the animals. Those who are bereft of this virtue can equate themselves with birds and animals. In support of this virtue, the Sikh Gurus commenced the system of taking out Daswandh. To take out one-tenth of one’s earning and offering it to the Guru for undertaking welfare projects for the community was commenced by Guru Arjan Dev Ji. Sikhs used to make offerings of money according to their own choice even during the period of first four Gurus. These offerings were spent by Guru Sahibs on the propagation of Sikh ideology, help of the needy and other philanthropic projects. The initial efforts of preaching Sikhism made by Guru Nanak Dev Ji and maintainence of its tempo by other successor particularly Guru Amar Das Ji who established 22 Manjîs and 52 Peerhâs, who attached the devotees with the key centres of preaching where the Guru used to reside. Those who were appointed as Manjîdârs and Peerhâdârs were responsible for spreading the gospel of Sikhism and
help persons of other religion attach with Gurmat. When Guru Ram Das Ji laid the fuoundation of Sri Amritsar as a central place of Sikh religion, he appointed Masand wherever a sizeable population of Sikhs existed whose job was to keep Sikhs attached with their Guru, collect their offerings and reach them to the Guru periodically. This system lent strength to the organisational structure of Sikhism. The Masand used to be persons of noble character. They used to maintain all accounts in writings. They were required to render and explain all accruels before Guru Sahib at least once a year.
Guru Arjan Dev Ji asked his Sikhs to set aside one-tenth of their earnings for undertaking works of common welfare. This amount would be sent to Guru’s treasury to exercise central control and ensure that more important tasks were undertaken on a higher precedence. The masand system was further strengthened by Guru Arjan Dev Ji. He would spend this amount on such projects as raising of buildings, digging of Sarovars, meeting expenditures on Langar, and suitable accomodation for Sangat who could be visiting the place for a short period. He also made it a point to spend the amount on such projects which were for the larger benefits of the people. A proof of it is available in Sikh history when Guru Sahib stayed at Lahore and the areas adjacent to it from 1594 to 1597 and tended the sick and hungry who were hard hit by grave famine. The collection of ‘Daswandh’ was spent on food, medicine and clothing of the people. He arranged digging of wells for the farmers. He stayed at Lahore for over eight months in looking after the sick and destitudes.
Mohsin Fani—the author of Dabistan-e-Mazahib (Persian) writes as under :
“No offerings were taken amongst the Sikhs before the fifth Guru (Guru Arjan Dev Ji) i.e. there was no set system of collection of offerings. What ever they offered was all acceptable. Guru Arjan Dev Ji appointed a Masand in every city so that he could collect offerings of all Sikhs. Every follower of Guru Nanak used to deposit one-tenth of his earnings with this officer. The officers (Masand) used to reach all the money and other offerings of the Sikhs to the Guru Darbar on Baisakhi every year. The Guru would then honour them with a turban.’’ According to Gokal Chand Narang, “It had become easy for Guru Sahib to plan his budget. His income had far exceeded that of the mughal rulers.”
The system of ‘‘Daswandh’ was continued by successive Gurus. Guru Hargobind Sahib used the money to raise a neucleus army to fight the cruel and tyrant mughal rulers beside meeting expenditures on various welfare tasks. The ninth Guru Sahib arranged digging of sweet water wells in Bangar region and used the ‘Daswandh’ amount for this noble task. Over a period of time the ‘Daswandh’ system became corrupt. Guru Gobind Singh Ji discontinued it and asked his Sikhs to deposit their offerings themselves with the Guru’s house so that the funds are not misused. The tenth Master used the offerings for military hardware, enrolment of Sikhs and equipping them with essential items possessed by a soldier, construction of forts in order to fight the increasing tyranny and oppression. While Guru Gobind Singh Ji punished the corrupt
Masands severely, he also honoured others who were honest and loyal. Bhai Pheru, a masand was one such person who was awarded the title of ‘Sachî Dâharî’ and ‘Sangat(i) Sâhib’. When the accountant who was sitting close by pointed out that Bhai Pheru had never reached ‘Daswandh’, Guru Ji said that he had been reaching it to him directly. Explaining his statement, Guru Ji said that Bhai Pheru has been spending the Daswandh amount in feeding the poor and meeting their financial needs. Thus these offerings had been reaching him directly—‘The mouth of a poor is the coffer of Guru.’
These episodes are enough to provide us guidance as to how the offerings of the Sikhs should be spent today. The Rehatnamas written by some key Sikhs also give us evidence and neccessary guidance in respect of Daswandh.
Dharm kirt ke nafe vichon Guru daswandh devey. (Bhai Chaupa Singh)
Guru Gobind Singh Ji ended the system of personal/living Guru by granting Guruship to Sri Granth and Guru Panth, but kept the institution of Daswandh in tact so that the needs of missionary work of Sikh Panth could be met for ever.