THE THIRD MASTER AMARDAS NANAK
Prof. Puran Singh
THE POOR SERVANT
Datu, the son of Angad, was for a while, at enmity with Amardas. Once he proclaimed himself a Master at Khadur, but he was not accepted. At this, Datu, full of rage, went out to Goindwal, and kicked Amardas; having always regarded him as a poor servant of the family.
"What! a servant of ours, made into a master?" cried Datu. But Amardas only knelt down and began rubbing Datu's feet in deep reverence, "Sire," he said, my flesh is old and hard; it must have hurt your foot."
THE INJUNCTION AGAINST CASTE
No one could gain an audience of Amardas without first partaking of the Bread of Grace at the Temple of Bread. This Temple was now kept up by the Sikh Commonwealth; and everyday's collection of grain was milled and baked into bread and distributed free, reserving nothing for the morrow. If men were few and the bread more, the Guru was that day at home to the animals of the town : the cows, the horses, the bulls, and the buffaloes, were fed. If anything still remained, the good disciples took it to the river and feasted the fish with it.
THE HUMOUR OF AMARDAS
Amardas had a very happy way of receiving people for initiation. There is a beautiful life story of Bhai Menhga to be told. Menhga in vernacular means precious, and the Guru called Bhai Menhga meaning-one whom he had purchased at a very high price. One day, a disciple named Lal (meaning ruby) came for initiation. Amardas at once remarked: "0, you are a Lal of the Guru." Another day, a rich Mussalman horse-dealer named Allahyar came to the Guru merely to see him. But he became the Guru's slave when the shining glance fell on him and the Guru remarked, "Thou art Allah's yar!" (the friend of Allah). Ah it is difficult to be His friend. Come, I will make you the slave of God !" Allahyar entered discipleship. Later on this saint was known as Allah Shah of God-the King.
Guru Amardas had two daughters: Bibi Sulakhni, known as Dani; and Bibi Bhani who was the younger of the two. The latter from her very girl hood,was fond of solitude and mystic thought. When playing with her girl companions, she used to recite the Guru's hymns and thus preserve her own spiritual atmosphere. She used to dress in a simple suit of coarse cloth (khaddar), as a poor girl, seeing which some of the Sikhs were displeased. One day one of them offered her jewels and silk dress to wear, and asked her to clothe herself as became her dignity. In reply to this she chanted a hymn of Nanak-"All this is illusion, and the wearer thereof too, illusion"; and she requested the Sikh to put all the proffered money into the sacred Temple of Bread for the service of the people. Bibi Bhani later on entered the path of discipleship; and she is one of the brightest among the heroic Sikh women who played their part in history.
THE CHOICE OF THE BRIDEGROOM
One day the mother conversed with the father ~bout her daughter Bibi Bhani, "We must give away Bibi Bhani in marriage now," said the mother. "To whom shall we give her?" said the father. "To a youngman like him," said she pointing at the same time to a youngman standing by. "Yes give her to him, then," said the father.
The youngman thus discovered was Jetha (first born). In this way the bridegroom was chosen; and, as he came to claim the bride, the Master said, "What gift do you choose, my son? It is our custom to present a gift of your choice at this time: choose, therefore, my son; at my expense be your ch6ice." "Sire, give me the jewel of Nam, give me the song of thy praise." Here and thus did Jetha enter discipleship. He was married to Bibi Bhani; but, as poor as the bride and as spiritual as she, he began labouring, and thence forward continued as an humble disciple among a hundred thousand more who were digging the Guru Baoli (a well, with a staircase made of masonry leading down to the surface of the water). Jetha, like the others, carried baskets full of mud on his head, and surrendered himself wholly to the service of the Master in his love and Dhyanam, having renounced without repining all cares of the past and all anxiety for the future.
HOW THE FRAGRANCE SPREAD
A remarkable book, Bhai Menhga and Mai Suhag Bai, had recently been published (as tract No.209) in the series of the Khalsa Tract Society, Amritsar. It is one of the truest pieces of Sikh history that has come to light-a history in a poem as all true history should be. Bhai Menliga and his wife both yearn for the life of the Spirit, but are invariably defeate~ by ascetic ideas-"garbs of renunciation," till they despair of getting truth anywhere. And yet they cannot live without it .A stranger, a distant relative of theirs, comes on a visit with them. She makes herself perfectly at home with them, and looks after them as if she were the mother of the family. She cooks for them, serves them and lives as if she had thought: "Let me pour out floods of love, and efface myself." Since her arrival, that sense of acute despair which had come upon the household has been slowly vanishing. This kind woman has brought solace to them, but they do not know that it is coming from her. They notice that there is something in her life which she scrupulously hides from them. The more they think of her, the more imposing and mysterious in their eyes becomes this seeming-insignificant person. They find her acting as the mother of many orphans, and as the sustainer of many a poor girl deserted by a cruel husband-gambler, thief or drunkard. They find her sitting beside the wet and cold bed of a poor mother on whose starved bosom lies a new born babe, striving to suck. The wretched mother finds in her both a nurse and a benefactress, who washes her clothes, brings her new dress and food, looks after her children as long as she is confined to bed, and whom everyone in the house calls upon in need. They find in her a secret river flowing in a thousand channek, bringing water of life to the dead and the dying. They find her dumb about religion; she refuses to be defined, declines to be named-she desires only that someone may catch the gleam of her soul and follow it.
She dawns as a gradual revelation on Bhai Menhga and his wife. Her every act is a prayer, her very step a song, and herself like the sky spread over the snow tops-as pure, as high. Things develop further and further. Once the couple fell dangerously ill. Twentyone days of a sort of typhoid fever and another fortnight of childlike physical weakness; but this untiring mother-servant of theirs is by their bedside, nourishing them with the milk of Love. Led by the grey lady, the couple go to Goindwal, where they join the holy army of the Guru.
Amardas had, out of the abundance of his generosity, given authority to 146 apostles of his to go and spread the fragrance in as many regions, and to preach the truth
through the language of action in one uniform spirit of the Master; namely, in love and service of the people. Out of these 146 adepts, 94 were men and 52 women. Out of these 52 chosen women, one was Mai Suhag Bai, the Grey Lady, who had rescued the drowning couple.
Ramdas or Jetha (as he was called), being the first-born of his parents, was from Lahore. Jetha's parents found him a moody boy, who would do nothing useful for any consideration. Driven by his people, Jetha was at last seen selling boiled pulse to the passers-by on a roadside near Lahore, where sometimes in his joy he would distribute the whole stock of pulse free to the hungry-an ideal pulse seller! Finally, renouncing his native place, Jetha joined a party of Sikh pilgrims, and went with them to Goindwal. Soon afterwards he was discovered by the Guru's discerning eye; and thenceforth, Jetha never left the Guru's presence, whether the latter was making the rounds in his own country or on a journey to distant Hardwar. He was so selfless, meek, sweet and alluring, that the disciples began calling him by this original name Ramdas-which means Servant of God. After his marriage, he visited his parents with his noble bride; but he could not stay-he would die if separated from his Master. So he returned to Goindwal, and lived at his Master's feet.
THE JEALOUSY OF THE ARISTOCRATS
The prosperity of the disciples made the Moslem and Hindu priests and rich men very jealous of the growing fellowship surrounding the Master. A movement against him developed, and he was charged with wishing to make all castes one. By his teaching he had polluted, they said, the religion of his and their ancestors. Guru Amardas was accordingly summoned to the Imperial Court to meet the charges against him, but he sent as his representative Jetha, by whose frankness and persuasive advocacy, the storm-clouds were dispersed and the accusers abashed. All passed off well, but hatred rankled still in the hearts of the opponents.
THE MASTER AT THANESHWAR
The Guru went on the long journey to Hardwar to see his old friends and acquaintances; and, as he went, scattered the blessings of Nam. On his way he halted at Thaneshwar, where the people asked why he composed hymns in the unknown Punjabi dialect and why not in Sanskrit-the only language in which great truths can be expressed. The Guru said, "Sanskrit, now that is no longer the people's tongue, is like well water-sufficient for the irrigation of a small tract of land; whereas Punjabi, being the living language of the people, even if it be nothing but a dialect, is as the rain, which falls in showers all over the country."
AMARDAS AND HIS PEOPLE
Bhai Bud ha, seeing the coarse bread that the Master ate, while from his Temple of Bread his people were always feasting, said, "Why should we, your Sikhs, be so well fed, when you eat this coarse bread ?" The Master replied, 9'Bhai Budha, there is no difference between me and my people. I eat with their mouths, whatever you give them. That is my sustenance and not this coarse bread only." Jetha standing by, was visibly moved, and burst forth in spite of himself into the song of praise:
"O Master! Thou hast that abundance of Love for thy disciples which the mother has for the Child,
As waters are to the fish, we thy disciples are to thee! Thou feelest the relish of the bread thy people eat and the taste of the water they drink
As the cow finds her soul in the calf, as a bride finds it in her bridegroom, so dost thou find thy joy in thy disciple."
AMARDAS AND EMPEROR AKBAR
Emperor Akbar came to pay a visit to Amardas at Goindwal. It is written, he got down from his horse and walked a little distance bare-footed in his habitual reverence for all saints. The Emperor could not, however, be shown into the presence of the Master before he had partaken of the Bread of Grace.
The Emperor, having complied with this requirement, obtained the audience he wished. It was on this occasion that the Emperor offered to Amardas a large estate for the Service of Bread. The Master declined his offer, and said, "I have already dbtained enough from my Creator. The people are my lands and estates. Enough, that daily we get our bread from God; we do not think of the morrow Enough, that we are of the Poor, and think of the Beloved." But as a token of his appreciation of the Guru's work, the Emperor gave an estate of a few villages as a present to Bibi Bhani; and this is the estate that later on was converted into a flourishing colony of disciples, where today stands the famous city of Amritsar.
AMARDAS AND JETHA
What Nanak saw in Angad, what Angad saw in Amardas, Amardas saw in Jetha; who was the divine Beloved of Amardas, and the story of whose discovery by means of a happy chance (introducing him into the family as a bridegroom) has been related. Bibi Bhani also had won the heart of the Guru by her continued devotion; and she prayed him that, to avoid all jealousy in the family, the inheritance, as birth, of the Spirit of Nanak, should henceforth, by his authority, be confined to her offspring.
The Guru conferred this favour on her; but the husband of the elder daughter was held in higher respect and the Guru felt that the people were opposed to his selection of Jetha. Accordingly, he sent for both sons-in-law, and required each of them to build him a platform for his morning and evening assemblages. Rama and Jetha set to their appointed work and finished it. The Master told Rama, the elder, that his platform was not well built and he must throw it down and build anew. Rama built it a second and a third time with no better result. The Guru continued to give the same orders to him till in disgust, he refused to rebuild it anymore. Jetha was treated by the Guru in exactly the same manner. He built and rebuilt the platform seven times, and each time with an increased joy and greater fervour; always falling at the Master's feet, imploring forgiveness, and pleading ignorance of the Master's exact requirements. When the platform was thus made ready for the seventh time, when the same joy was Jetha's and the same pleading, the Master strained him to his bosom, in an embrace as fervid and close as that in which Nanak held Angad. "Go, my son, as thou hast raised this platform seven times, so seven generations of thine shall receive in their soul, the spirit of Nanak and his high throne in Heaven," he said.
THE BRIDEGROOM CROWNED
Amardas sent for his two sons Mohan and Mohri, and for Bhai Budha and other Sikhs. In this shining assembly of disciples, Amardas, having obtained five pice and a cocoanut, got down from his seat, placed Jetha thereon, and set the offerings before him, saying, "Thou art myself. The light of our Master Nanak is in thee." Jetha was acclaimed by the whole assembly as Ramdas, the Master.
Mohan resented this act of his father, retired in indignant silence to the solitude of his own room, and remained there confined all his life, voluntarily cut off from
all society. Amardas then asked his younger son Mohri how he would look upon Ramdas?"Sire, to me, he is Nanak, Angad and thyself, in one!" said Mohri. Amardas, visibly moved by these innocent words, blessed the boy, and said, "Thou art my dutiful good son !" And Ramdas said, "0 king of truth! pray give the Master's honour to Mohri Ji, and grant me the honour of being thy devoted slave for ever and ever!" Amardas said, "I have given thee what was thine, and I have given him what was his. He is my poor good son, thou must take care of him."