The Divine Light of Ten Gurus
Dr. Onkar Singh
The educated Sikhs generally, and some cults and and those outside the Sikh fold, are of the view by and large that the basic theory laid down by the ten Gurus and its practice show some difference between the two. There view seems to be based on the fact that right from the time of Guru Nanak Dev upto the time of Guru Gobind Singh the principles laid down by them would have developed further and taking into account the changed circumstances some changes would have been brought about. But this view does not hold water according to the Sikh thought. For example, some sects following the Sikh faith, present Guru Nanak in a light as if he advocated only the path of peace or spiritual seclusion for which the Sikh faith was founded. In the same way, some other sects present Guru Gobind Singh in a light as if the path of holding the sword only is acceptable. Some even go to the extent of understanding the faith that Gurus laid different paths, which put together, goes to make the Sikh faith. These are the results derived without exerting much to know the real import of the faith. Regarding these results as academic achievement, the real context of the Sikh philosophy would not be understood.
Limiting the Sikh faith in the context of politics, leaders like Mahatma Gandhi had also tried to say that it was not just for Guru Gobind Singh to raise the sword. He too would have felt the same way, as the raising of the sword by Guru Gobind Singh was quite a different way from other Gurus (except Guru Hargobind Sahib). The basic idea of this paper is to clarify thse wrong notions, by estsablishing that all the Ten Gurus had the same Divine Light burning in them.
In the religious sense, from the very beginning the central point has been the seeing of the Divine Light. All the religious texts and the teachings of their heads explain the nature of this Divine Light. That is why the Tenth Master has defined it as ‘Bhan bhanai; Chandra, chadrai’ and prefixing ‘Namau’ (Humble salutation) to these, highlights the sense of surrender obtaining in Gurbani.
The showing of spiritual light has only one underlying idea that the entire universe has been accepted as Maya which symbolizes pitch darkness. The burning of the Divine Light is the accepted means of removing this darkness. This the religious way, to show which the Sikh faith was founded, so that the human mind should be enlightened. Bhai Gurdas elucidates this in his first Var.
With the passage if time the concept of God, as Formless, received a set back and man, according to his own understanding, began to conceive God in various forms.In the Hindu faith, the idols came into being. In many faiths, many of their leaders claimed they had the divine light within them, introduced the custom of their own worship, and to hold their teachings as the only and final word in regard to the Supreme Being. In this context it is stated that ‘Satnam kinhoon na dridhdhaya’ (No one tried to make people firmly believe in the True Name).
To establish the point of Divine Light, the Gur-shabad (Guru’s Word) or Gurbani has been held to be central to it. The concept of Divine light has been duly accepted in Gurbani. That is why it is referred to as ‘Dhur ki bani’, ‘the revealed word’, ‘Khasam ki bani’ ‘Words of the Master’ and ‘Hukmao’ (the Divine Command).
No Guru has made a claim that the bani had been written by them, but all the Gurus have said in an unambiguous manner that every word of Gurbani is the Glowing Divine light. To show this Divine Light, the Gurus themselves become the lamps as means thereof. It is accepted in the history of religions, whenever on this earth, because of absence of virtuous living, a decline comes and darkness pervades all round, then to again spread the Divine Light, A Great Person or the Guru becomes a means thereof. Bhai Gurdas says in this regard-
‘Suni pukar Datar Prabh, Guru Nanak Jag mahi pathaya’
(God Almighty listened to the call (of humanity)
And He deputed Guru Nanak to this world. (lst Var )
To correctly analyse the concept of ‘Guru’ in the Sikh Faith, a deep study of Swaiyyas(a poetic meter) by Bhats (the bards) is absolutely necessary. A serious examination of Bhatt-bani makes it crystsal clear that for ‘Dhur ki bani’ (revealed word), the Gurus bcame a means or the Divine Light which shone in them, as they were purest souls for whom the words Satguru (True guide) and Guru have been used.
‘Sa dharti bhayee hariavali jithai mera Satgur baitha Aye.
Sa Jant Bhaye hariavalai jinni mera Satgur dekhya jaye.
Dhan dhan pita, dhan dhan kul, dhan dhan su janni
Jin Guru janya maye.
Dhan dhan Guru jin Naam aradhya
Aap tarya, jina ditha tin laye chhadaye..
Hari Satguru mailahu daya kar,
Jan Nanak kdhovai paye. (SGGS, p.310)
(The land becomes green with (vegetation)
Where my True Guide goes to sit.
The mind of those blossoms who go
To have a glimpse of my True Guide
The father is a blessed one, so is the lineage
And blessed indeed is the mother
Who gives birth to Guru as his mother.
Blessed is the Guru dwelling on His Name
He salvaged himself and and those
Who saw him also got salvaged.
Pray, that we meet such a True Guide
Sayeth Nanak, he would humbly wash
The feet of those who help to meet him
In a way, the Divine Light has been appearing from Formless Truth in the form of Truth. In this context, the Bhats have tried to understand the Guru-jyoti and this is given in Sri Guru Granth Sahib. Bhat Sal says about Guru Ram Das –
‘Too Satgur chahu jugi aap aapai Parmesur
Sur nar sadhik sidha Sikh sewant dhuro-dhur.
Adi jugadi anadi kala dhari trih loyeh
Agam nigam Udhran jara jammeh arohe.
Gur Amar Das thir thapiyo pargami taraan taran.
Aap antak badai na Sal kavi Guru Ram Das teri saran. (P.1406)
(O True Guide, you have been in the four ages, as True Lord.
Goss, men, mendicants, sidhas and Sikhs are in Your service throughout the ages. The Vedas have been saved by you by killing demons….The poet Sal says, Guru Amar Das, I seek refuge under your lotus feet, as you can destroy all the sins.)
‘O my body, God has placed His Light in you and then you came to this world’ means that it is the common light which lays down the principle(Guru Gobind Singh) ‘Manas ki jati sabai eko pehchanbo.’
(There is only one race, the human race, keep this in mind).
But the body in which burns the Supreme Light, it may be an oridinary one to look at, but because of the inner Light, they are the source of wonderful possibilities. For example, Dr. Taran Singh writes,
‘After entering the stream, the halo appeared round Guru’s head and his face exuded beams of bright light.’ This is called ‘jote dhari’ (placed the light) and ‘jote prakashan’ (lighting of lamp) which becomes eternal. This could be accepted as what Guru says and what actually takes place.
To understsand this in greater detail, in the Sikh Faith, for showing the Divine Light, Gurus’ three forms – the ten Gurus themselves, Sri Guru Granth Sahib and Guru Panth (the path laid by the Guru, or the Gurus’ followers) are to be examined. After a study of Bhats’ swaiyyas, we can say that the Bhattas, by showing God’s light in Gurus’ bodies, established Guru’s form (Sargun). Bhai Nand Lal explains this as under in his reha nama (code of conduct). He as the Tenth Master –
Tum ju kaha Gurdev ji darshan kar mohi aye.
Lakhiai tumra daras kahaan kahau mujhai samjhaye
Guruji’s reply was
– ‘Teen roop hai mohi kau sunahu Nand chit laye
Nirgun, Sargun Gur Shabad kahia tohi samjhaye.
(You say, my master, come and see me yourself. Where can I
see you, what way, let me know.)
(I am in three forms, listen to me, O Nand Lal. Formless, with form, and in my Word, indeed)
In principle, we will have to accept this and proceed further that the Sikh faith, through Guru’s words, establishes Guru’s supremacy. Accepting Shabad (word) as Guru, Guru Nanak made it clear in Sidhagosta that to come out of the darkness, only the light of the word can help us. But in spite of this, the historical fact is before us that after the installation of Granth Sahib as Guru, the tradition of Guru being with us always, continued till Guru Gobind Singh’s time. This historical fact is also before us that Guru Gobind Singh in 1708 AD before coronating Guru Granth Shaib, had in 1699 on the Baisakhi got baptized and accepted the Sikh Panth also as his Guru. This points to the fact clearly that he had passed on his physical Guruship to the congregation, or Khalsa. This made the Sikhs believe in-
Khalsa maira roop has khas
Khlsai main haun karon niwas.
(Khalso is my specific form And I abide in the Khalsa)
This method explained the principle which Guru Nanak Dev had established while passing on Guruship to Bhai Lehna (Guru Angad). We can conclude from the above analysis that the foundation of accepting the word as Guru himself had been laid by Guru Nanak himself and final touch to this principle was given by the Tenth Masterr in 1708 AD when he coronated Guru Granth Sahib as the Guru. Thus during the presence of all the ten Gurus (from 1469 to 1708) the physical presence of the Gurus should be regarded as the living Light of Gurus.
The second point worth considering is whether all the ten Gurus were the same Light? As has been stated in the beginning of this paper, many people and some sects, being unable to differentiate between the light of the Guru and the body of the Guru, fell victim to wrong conclusions. Nanak is not a body but a Light. The ten bodies of Gurus represent this Light and this representation continued through them so long as the Sikh psyche was not able to have the intellect to view the body and light objectively. For this purpose Guru’s Light had been placed in Guru’s Word. This is the original gift of the Sikh faith to the Religious thinking.
To clarify further the above point, let us consider first of all the most important happening in Guru Nank’s life time, Guru’s getting into the Bein (stream). In the Janam Sakhi (Life stories) of Meharban, the story writer describes this as under:
‘O Nanak, whosoever is blessed by you, have already been blessed by me. And those who remember your name, have also been blessed by me. O Nanak, let my Name be remembered by all in the Kali Yuga (Dark age). Exhort people to remember my Name, give charities and take bath (to clean their body) and let them keep this firmly in their mind. Let the world sing my praises. Make them follow the righteous path by your teaching so that the people are helped to attain salvation… Giving him the treasure .of Truth, contentment, firm practice thereof, restraint and amiable nature, Nanak was sent by God Almighty to the Kaliyuga’ – (Janam Sri Guru Nanak Dev, p. 89).
God’s light was kindled fully in Guru Nanak after his entering the stream, and those who had the eye to see it, could see the light clearly. Thereafter, in order to salvage the people crying in the inferno, Guruji decided upon to make a further move on his onward journey. It was the historicity of this Guru Jyoti (Guru’s Light) which should be accepted as having passed through the Ten Gurus, reached Sri Guru Granth Sahib and Guru Panth (The congregation, the Khalsa). The ten bodies of Guru Nanak, Sri Guru Granth and Guru Panth all three are co-equal among themselves as also complementary to one another in an infinite relationship. Pointing towards this, Bhai Gurdas says –
‘Guru Sangat bani bina, doojio ote nahin hai bhai’
(Without Guru’s congregation, and Word, there is no other support.)
This is the method adopted by the Guru.
‘Ika bani, ik Gur, iko sabad vichar.’
(The one (same) Word, the one (same) Guru and the One (same) view of the word).
This can be given the name of ‘Light of the lamp’ In order to give the final shape to the above concept. The Tenth Master, in 1699 AD, selected the Five Beloved Ones got himself baptized by them, and passed on the Guruship to them and the ultimate aim of ‘Gur Sangat Kini Khalsa’ (Guru’s congregation was made the Khalsa) came to light. Dr. Sher Singh writes, ‘The Tenth Master passed on to the congregation (Panth) the Light which had reached him through Guru Nanak, his successor Gurus and the Five Beloved Ones.’ It is not merely a statement because its underlying principle highlights its relevance.
The creation of Khalsa is the culmination of the attempt being made to pass on the Light, or the name of such culmination is Khalsa. Before assuming the form of Guru, the Khalsa remained under the light of the Lamp. This can be confirmed by citing the example by which, while leaving the Anandpur Fort, Chamkaur Sahib, Dadu Duara and handing over the sword to Banda Bahadur at Nander, he obeyed the orders of the Khalsa and cofirmed the passing on of the Guruship to it and later on while breathing his last, Guruji formally coronated Granth Sahib as Guru, highlighting the principle of Shabad Guru (Guru’s Word is Guru). The second point which comes to the fore is that the hymns of six Gurus are incorporated in the Granth Sahib. All the Six Gurus firmly followed the principle of the Same Light and used only word ‘Nanak’ at the end of each hymn. No Guru wrote any hymn under his own name.
Oftentimes attempts had been made to mislead the reader of Bani of all the Gurus, as if the different Gurus had been talking in different contexts in their Bani. For example, sometimes it is wrongly deduced from Guru Tegh Bahadur’s hymns as if these hymns point one to the Navriti Marga but a deep study dispels this misgiving as the Bani throws light of the same lamp.
A study of the Sikh history sometimes creates a doubt in the mind of the curious reader whether the Gurus, whose hymns are not found in Sri Guru Granth Sahib, were the part of the light of that lamp like the other six Gurus whose hymns are incorporated in Sri Guru Granth Sahib and Guru Gobind Singh whose writings are found in the Dasam Granth.
It can be said in reply that the difference that may appear outwardly, or there may be separate layers, but through a deep insight one would come to the inescapable conclusion that the Jyoti and the Method were one and the same. It was because of the exigencies of times that the light entered different bodies. For example, Guru Har Gobind did not write ‘Bani’ but his concept of Miri-Piri and establishment of Akal Takhat is like composing Bani in a way. The Eigth Master assumed Guruship at the age of five years and three months and led his followers and facing the wrath of the Emperor Aurangzeb, in a way amounts showing the True Light, or writing of Bani. The hymns of six Gurus, the martyrdom of the fifth Guru, the establishment of the ‘Throne of the Timeless’ (Akal Takhat), making the supreme sacrifice of having his head severed by the Nineth Guru but not surrendering his determination, and founding of the Khalsa by the Tenth Guru, are all indicative of One lamp and One light. The Tenth Master says about this in ‘Bachitra Nataka’ –
‘Bhinn bhinn sabhoon kar jana.
Eik roop kinhoon pehchana.
Jin jana tinhi sidhi payee
Bin samjhai sidhi hath na ayee.
(Very few recognized the one form Thos who recognized, Had
true understanding Without which it is like Groping in the dark.)
To conclude, these points, which come to the fore, can be accepted:
The existence of all the Gurus and the hymns recited by them point to the same directioin. On the basis of Gurbani and other historical happenings, to think of a difference is quite irrelevant and impossible to be proved. It can be determined from the following:
Joti uha, jugat sai, kaya pher platiai.
(It is the same light, the same way, only the bodies undergo a change.)
The writings of the Tenth Master, which are not under question, conform to the hymns of Sri Gru Granth Sahib.
The Sikh ideology points to the Shabad Guru’s eternal lead rather than that of a physical Guru.
The Guru’s Light, rather than the physical presence, can be said to be the transformation from the mortal body to the immortal Word.
Those who point to the differentiation, are the victim of preconceived ideas. As –Jai jivai pat lathi jaye’ is interpreted.
The first exhortation that Guru Nanak made after coming back from the stream was ‘Na ko Hindu na Mussalman’ (There is no Hindu or Muslim). Thereafter, ‘Na ko bairi nahin begana (There is no enemy, nor an alien) was the exhortation. The same principle prevailed when the Five Beloved Ones were chosen by the Tenth Master.
‘Joti prakashan’ (Light of the Lamp), symbolizes the co-equal position of the Granth (the Holy Book) and the Panth (the congregation-Khalsa) as also the Gurmat Sidhant ( the basic tenet of the Sikh Faith), the demarcation of which had been completed during Guru Gobind Singh’s time.