The Anand Sahib of Guru Amardas is a literary masterpiece of devotional poetry; its aesthetic and symbolic elements will please the literary critic.
Some biographers have tried to make the Anand Sahib a historical document by stating that it was composed in 1554, soon after Guru Amardas’s grandson-the son of Mohri was born, and to whom he gave the new name of ‘Anand,’ in place of the pet-name (Sidh-yogi). This story appears improbable because the composition contains no reference to any event or the child. It is a purely religious composition and needs no peg to hang on. Its theme is of man’s true goal and his spiritual illumination. The word ‘Anand’ means bliss, so it is a song of man’s spiritual achievement, or of being in tune with the Infinite. In a metaphysical sense, this stage is known as harmony, equipoise or Sahaj.
Every man desires happiness and joy, but he tends to seek it in things either apart from himself or which pertain to his sense organs. He does not realise that these things at best can only give him temporary or unstable happiness. Firstly, man seeks to do better than his neighbor or colleague. He wants more wealth, power and position. The human rat-race increases both avarice and greed, it inflates the ego and often leads to domination and exploitation. Even after gaining what he has set his mind to, he is afraid of losing what he has obtained. This fear of a possible loss creates tensions in his mind, so that he becomes unable to enjoy that which he already has. Additionally there is the fear of some one doing better, so he tries to keep others at bay. All this destroys his peace of mind sad sense of achievement, so that in spite of his power and position, he inwardly feels dissatisfied and sullen
Man’s desires and doubts cast a shadow on his efforts to gain joy. Even if some joy is experienced, the spectre of its short duration haunts the mind and creates anxiety and neurosis. After a while, this condition appears openly when his friends and relatives feel that he is mentally disturbed and unhappy.
The Anand is both inspirational and philosophical in its content. It details the pilgrim’s progress and the obstacles that lie on the way. The ultimate goal is for union with the Supreme Reality. It is called Sahaj, Nirvana, Mukti, Sangham. Sahaj is a mental state which encourages the living of a normal family-life and a concern for social commitment. The requirement is one of detachment; all that one possesses, is to be regarded a kind of trust and used for good and altruistic purposes. Similarly, one’s senses directed to higher goals and not only to worldly enjoyment. Regard your body as a chariot, your mind the charioteer, your soul, the owner of the chariot, while your senses are the horses and desire is their road. The soul symbolizes divinity; man cannot realize his divine element without seeing through the veil of Maya. Normally he regards himself as separate from God, it is this obvious duality or fallacy that the Guru removes. Through the Guru man may realize his divine nature, then he becomes Gurmukh or Sunmukh. Those who remain worldly-wise and follow their own ego, they are called Munmukh orBemukh. Their senses-eyes, ears, tongue etc. lead them to mundane and evil pursuits, not towards spiritual effort (Sadhana). So self-discipline and obeying of the Guru’s directions is the way to spiritual progress.
The obstacles on any spiritual path are many and difficult. They include human cleverness, intellectual hair-splitting, family attachments, the taboos and rituals of traditional religion, conformity to custom and convention, the unending chain of desire, hypocrisy and ‘ad hoc means’ for the purpose of compromises with ideals and principles for personal gain, and the many other compulsions of expediency. The disciple in to overcome such obstacles by obeying the instructions of the Guru. The blessing of the Guru will support and enable him to progress, on his spiritual path. Any association with godly people or of doing of acts for the public good and social welfare, also help on the spiritual journey.
The pattern of the Anand projects a development of thought. Stanzas one to five mention that Bliss obtained through the Guru, after his instructions are followed. Stanzas six to twenty deal with the various obstacles and difficulties that one may face on the spiritual path. Stanzas twenty-one to twenty-five tell us about the two types of human beings: the ego-oriented and the God-oriented. Stanzas twenty-six to thirty-four mention the various desires that hold man back from his inner quest. Stanzas thirty-five to thirty-nine deal with the correct functioning of the human body and its senses. Stanza forty deals with the benefits of sincere recitation and singing in particular of the Anand. These benefits are enlightenment, a realization of the blissful state and the ultimate union with Divinity. In short, Bliss may be attained through self-discipline and the development of one’s own personality through purity, morality, contentment, poise, compassion, wisdom, a loving understanding of others and spiritual harmony.
The Anand belongs to the sixteenth century and contains words from sant-bhasa (saint-lore). It represents the idealism of the Guru and his vision for man’s ultimate achievement. Its large canvas covers the realities of contemporary life.-including a description of the paraphernalia of organized religion, which ironically disguises the hypocrisy and egoism of its practitioners, under the veneer of outer correctness and cleanliness. The diction of the Anand suited to its theme and musical from-Ramkali raga.-leaves a subtle and powerful impression on the mind of the disciple. The diction is powerful, with ‘winged’ words and ‘felt’ phrases, which make a great impact on the listener. The ‘loaded’ text deals with some of the basic concepts of Sikh religion like Sahaj, Karma, Hukam, Shabad and Maya, words which in addition to their semantic nuances, also reflect the spiritual states of the Third Guru. Consider the polarised juxtapositions, like Sahaj and Sansa (18),u Sach and Koor (19),Nirmal and Maila (19), Sanmukh and Bemukh (21&22), Sachibani and Kachi-bani (23&24),Punn and Paap (27),Har-ras and Un-ras (32). These con ts all add to the beauty of the composition.
The Anand reassures every one that they can experience both joy and bliss, without sacrificing the normal comfort and pleasures of life. Bliss is the destiny of man, Pain and suffering, though unavoidable, do not disturb the inner peace of that person who leads a purposeful and pious life, by obeying the Guru’s discipline.