THE SIKH RELIGION
ITS GURUS, SACRED WRITINGS AND AUTHORS
BY MAX ARTHUR MACAULIFFE
LIFE OF GURU NANAK
The Guru proceeded to the river Ravi and thence to Lahore. The Lahore territory was then farmed from the Emperor by a millionaire Khatri, whose name was Duni Chand. He was performing the ceremony of shradh for his father, when he heard of the devout Nanak’s arrival. He took the Guru to his house, and treated him with great affection. When everything was ready for the anniversary feast, Duni Chand began to feed the Brahmans. The Guru, on being summoned, asked what the matter was. Duni Chand replied that it was his father’s shradh, and that he had fed one hundred Brahmans in his name. The Guru replied, ‘It is now two days since thy father hath eaten anything, and yet thou sayest thou hast fed one hundred Brahmans for him.’ Duni Chand asked where his father was. The Guru replied that he had become incarnate in a wolf, which was now in a clump of trees six miles distant. The reason
[1. Shrâdhs are oblations of cakes and libations of water made to the spirits of deceased ancestors: Vide Monier Williams’s Indian Wisdom, passim.]
his father’s soul had entered a wolf was, that while he was in human birth he had coveted meat which a Sikh was cooking, and had died in that desire.
The Guru, on seeing several flags over Duni Chand’s door, asked what they were. It was explained that each flag denoted a lakh of rupees which Duni Chand had acquired. On this the Guru gave him a needle, and told him to keep it until he asked for it in the next world. Duni Chand took the needle to his wife, and told her to put it by for the purpose indicated. She believed him crazed, and asked how a needle could go to the next world. She accordingly charged him to return it to the Guru. Duni Chand took the needle with his wife’s message to the Guru, who said, ‘If such a small and light thing as a needle cannot go to the next world, how can thy wealth reach there?’ Upon this Duni Chand fell at his feet, and prayed him to tell him by what means his wealth should reach the next world. The Guru replied, ‘Give some of thy wealth in God’s name, feed the poor, and thy wealth shall accompany thee.’ Upon this Duni Chand distributed seven lakhs of treasure, for he understood that disobedience to the Guru’s order would militate against his salvation. He then became a disciple of the Guru, and began to repeat the Name. Guru Nanak uttered the following on the occasion:–
[1. Instead of chhâr, dust, the Granth Sâhib has khwâr, despised.]
The Guru went in a north-east direction, and took up his post on the bank of the Ravi. His arrival there caused great excitement, and every one went to see him. He was universally held to be a man of God. All who visited him went away pleased. Every verse that he composed was at once published abroad. He used to compose verses like the following, which faqirs sang to the accompaniment of reeds:–
The was only the one Name mentioned in the Guru’s dwelling, and he became the object of great popular admiration.
A millionaire official who dwelt in a neighbouring village began to depreciate the Guru. He said, ‘Who is this person whose name is repeated by every one, as if he were a god, though he is only a mortal like ourselves? The Hindus are being perverted, and even the Musalmans are losing their faith. Come, let us imprison him.’ When the speaker mounted on horseback, the animal shied and threw him. Next day he again mounted, but, as he proceeded on his way, became blind and had to alight. Those who his calamity were afraid to make any remark save that Nanak was a great saint. They, however, suggested to the millionaire that he should do homage to the Guru. Upon this he began to praise the Guru; and those who were with him bowed towards the Guru. The millionaire again
[1. Âsa ki Wâr.
2. Râmkali ki Wâr I.]
mounted his horse, intending this time to go and supplicate the Guru, but immediately fell down. His companions addressed him, ‘Thou hast made a mistake in going on horseback. Go on foot, that thou mayest be pardoned.’ He took this advice. On arriving at a spot whence the Guru’s residence could be seen, he recovered his sight, and began to make salutations in the Guru’s direction. On arriving in his presence he fell at his feet. The Guru was pleased and made him his guest for three days. The millionaire, in honour of the Guru, founded a village, which he called Kartarpur, on the margin of the Ravi, and built a Sikh temple therein, both of which he dedicated to the Guru.
One day a fanatical Brahman came to the Guru and begged for alms. The Guru, who was at his break fast, invited the Brahman to join him. The Brahman replied that he would not eat food in that way. He would only eat what he had cooked himself. He would first dig up the earth to a depth of a cubit so that all impurity of the surface might be removed, and he would also make a cooking square into which none but himself might enter. He would then dig a span deeper, and make a fireplace on which he would put firewood which he had washed, so that no insects might be burned in it. The Guru had not attended to these formalities, and the Brahman spurned food otherwise cooked. The Guru told him he would give him uncooked viands which he might cook himself. He then went outside and began to dig up the earth, but wherever he dug he only turned up bones, which he deemed a still greater abomination than the Guru’s food. He continued digging all day, but with the same result. At last, overcome by hunger, he went and threw himself at Nanak’s feet, and asked for the cooked food he had previously rejected. The Guru was pleased to gratify him, and then composed the following:–
The Guru initiated the practice of singing hymns in the end of the night. A boy seven years of age used to come to listen and stand behind him. When the singing was over, he used quietly to ,depart. One day the Guru ordered his servants to detain the boy in order to discover the object of his continual attendance. He was accordingly brought before the Guru, who asked him, ‘O boy, why comest thou so early in the morning to listen to hymns? This is the time of life for thee to eat, play, and sleep.’ The boy replied, ‘Sir, one day my mother bade me light the fire. When I put on the wood, I observed that the little sticks burned first and afterwards the big ones. From that me I have been afraid of early death. It is very
[1. The Carissa Carandas.
2. A class of faqirs with matted hair and thin chains to their feet. They generally go about ringing bells.
doubtful whether we shall live to be old, and so I attend thy religious gatherings.’ The Guru was much pleased on hearing this wisdom from the child’s lips, and said he spoke like an old man (budha). On that occasion the Guru composed the following:–
[1. The worldly man does not remember death.]
The boy to whom the above hymn was addressed was subsequently known as Bhai Budha on account of the complimentary expression of the Guru. He was held in such high estimation that he was commissioned to confer the tilaks or patches of Guruship on the first five successors of Guru Nanak.
Kalu with all his people proceeded to where his son the Guru had fixed his habitation. Sikh societies then began to be formed. The Guru took off his extraordinary costume and dressed in a more conventional manner. With a cloth around his waist, a sheet over his shoulder, and a turban on his head, he looked the impersonation of holiness. The string of his fame rose to heaven, it was said, like that of a kite. Every one addressed him, ‘Hail, Nanak! a great saint hath been born in the world.’
[1. Sri Râg, Ashtapadi.]
At Kartarpur, a watch before day, the Japji and the Asa ki War were repeated. Then followed reading and expounding of the Guru’s hymns, until a watch and a quarter after sunrise. This was succeeded by singing and the reading of the Arati (Gagan mai thal). After this, breakfast was served. In the third watch there was again singing, after which in the evening the Sodar was read. Then the Sikhs all dined together. The repast ended with further singing. After a watch of night had elapsed the Sohila was read, and every one then retired.
The Guru when not engaged in prayer occupied himself during the day in Kartarpur in giving instruction to all who sought it. He thus delivered himself to Malo and Bhago on the subject of Hindu penances: ‘To burn in fire, to abide long in water, to fast, to endure heat and cold, to hold up one’s arm permanently, to do penance with body reversed to stand for a long time on one leg, to live on forest tubers and roots, to abide on the margins of rivers, to wander over the world as a pilgrim, to fast at full moon–all such penances are works of darkness.’
The Guru thus expressed himself on the subject of the devotional exercises of the Sikhs: ‘To recall the wandering mind from the distraction of the senses, and then employ it in pious discourses and in devoutly singing and listening to songs of praise of the Almighty–know that these are meritorious acts which may be easily performed. They involve but little labour and bring great reward. The Hindu penances on the contrary involve great trouble while only small recompense is obtained therefrom.’
The Guru replied to a man called Kalu who had asked him for a definition of a holy man: ‘Recognize him as holy in whom are to be found friend ship, sympathy, pleasure at the welfare of others, and dislike of evil company. In the first place, the intentions of holy men are pure. Secondly, they are
pleased on hearing the praises of others. Thirdly, holy men serve the virtuous. Fourthly, they honour those who can impart to them learning and good counsel. Fifthly, as there is a periodical craving for food or intoxicants, so they feel a craving for the Guru’s word and for divine knowledge. Sixthly, they love their wives, and renounce other women. Seventhly, they avoid subjects from which quarrels may arise. Eighthly, they serve those who are superior to themselves in intelligence or devotion. Ninthly, even if strong, they are not arrogant, and trample not on others. Tenthly, they abandon the society of the evil, and only associate with the holy.’
Two Sikhs, called Bhagta and Ohri, asked Guru Nanak how rest was to be obtained, and transmigration avoided. The Guru replied as follows: ‘You shall find rest by avoiding manmukh karm (perverse acts).’ Being asked to define manmukh karm more particularly, the Guru replied: ‘It is to be heartily envious of every one, to desire that worldly wealth and all happiness should forsake others and come to oneself, to suffer great pain as one beholdeth the houses and property of others, to believe all men one’s enemies, and do good to no one. Expel all this evil from your hearts. In the second place, the perverse man is proud and relentless to every one. When he seeth such and such a person inferior to himself, he never adviseth him; nay, he laugheth at him, and treateth him with contempt, saying, "His is not equal to my lofty intellect." In the third place, the perverse man is addicted to slander; but do you renounce it and never utter it. If any one praise another who is superior to him, he cannot endure it, nay he becometh wroth, saying, "O! I am well acquainted with him." In this way he uttereth slander. How can he who is proud of his efforts and envious of others ever possess excellence? In the fourth place, if the perverse man receive advice, he will not act on it through obstinacy; nay, he will
perversely do the very reverse. These vices–envy, pride, slander, and obstinacy–belong to the perverse. Relinquish them, acting as trees do when they drop their leaves in autumn.’
The Guru was asked why the words Sat Nam–the True Name–were always written as an introduction to his hymns. He replied, ‘The Name is the God of all gods. Some propitiate Durga, some Shiv, some Ganesh, and some other gods; but the Guru’s Sikhs worship the True Name and thus remove all obstacles to salvation. Accordingly, the prefatory words, the True Name, are written in all compositions.’
It was here the Guru composed his poem on the Twelve Months of the year. The description is of course suited to the climate of the Panjab, his native country. We here give a translation in extenso:–
[1. Durga is the energy or consort of Shiv.
2. Ganesh is an elephant-headed god of the Hindus, who in one of his attributes presides over literature, and is specially invoked in the prefaces to literary works.
3 The Indian seasons and months are–1, Spring, which includes the months Chet and Baisâkh; 2, the hot weather, Jeth and Hâr; 3, the rainy weather, Sâwan and Bhâdon; 4, the temperate weather, Assu and Kartik; 5, the cold weather, Maghar and Poh; 6, Autumn, Mâgh and Phâgan. These seasons are in Sanskrit and Hindi called respectively–Basant, Grîkham, Pâwas, Sard, Him, and Sisar. The latter season, when the leaves fall, is contemporaneous with the European early spring. The Indian lunar year begins with Chet, which is movable, and the Indian solar year with Baisâkh about the 12th of April.
4. In Indian sacred writings several creations and destructions of the world are alluded to.]
Nanak, the woman is waiting for Thee; hear Thou, O Omnipresent Spirit.
[1. Its cry is ‘prio’, a word which also means beloved. Hence it is
said the bird calls to God and lives in His worship.
2. The black Indian cuckoo. Its name is derived from its cry, which increases in volume of sound as it progresses. It is larger than the chatrik.]
[1. God, in the sense that He loves not the sinner, The word Bairâgi
ordinarily means a man without love for the world. The Bairâgis now
form a special sect who worship Vishnu and wear sacrificial threads. They are distinguished from the Sanyâsis who worship Shiv and dispense with sacrificial threads.
2. We are obliged here to take a liberty with the word bhala, which
3. After the summer solstice.]
Nanak, she is the happy wife who is embraced by her beloved Spouse.
[1. Kukâh is supposed to be the Saccharum munja, and kâhi the Saccharum spontaneum.
2. That is, so much time has passed away, that I fear I shall never meet my Beloved.
3. Guided by the lamp’s light.
4. Shall not suffer transmigration.]
Meet us, O God, and open the doors of our understanding; otherwise one hour shall be as six months.’
[1. That is, I ever think of Thee and repeat Thy name, but am unworthy to receive Thee.
The Ganges, the Jamna, the meeting of the three rivers at Tribeni Priyag,[l] the seven oceans,
Alms, charity, and worship are all contained in God’s name. I recognize Him as the One God in every age.
Nanak, in the month of Magh, if I repeat God’s name with great delight, I bathe at the sixty-eight places of pilgrimage.
[1. A famous place of Hindu pilgrimage, near Allâhâbâd. The third river is the Saraswati, which is supposed to meet the Ganges and Jamna underground. The Saraswati, though no longer seen, was at one time an actual river. From a legend in the Mahâbhârat it would appear that it took its rise with other great rivers in the Himalayas, that it thence flowed through Râjpûtâna, where it occasionally disappeared in the sands of that country, and that it finally debouched north of Dwâraka into the Arabian Sea.
2. Sixty-eight is the number of sacred places of pilgrimage in the estimation of the Hindus.
3. Ras really means relishes.
4. The following is the Hindi time-table:
When the dear Lord is obtained, everything is arranged the Creator knoweth everything.
I am dear to Him who decorated me; I have met Him and am happy.
The couch of my home is beautiful when my Beloved enjoyeth me; the holy have good fortune written on their foreheads.
Nanak, the Beloved enjoyeth me day and night; having obtained God as my Spouse, I am a permanent bride.
At that time there was a man in very straitened domestic circumstances who had a daughter to marry. He appealed to Guru Nanak to assist in procuring her a wedding outfit. The Guru told him to give him a list of the things he required, and he would send for them. The man did so. The Guru called a servant of his, named Bhagirath, and ordered him to go to Lahore and fetch what was required. He warned him at the same time not to spend a night in that city. Bhagirath, on arriving in Lahore went to a shopkeeper, and asked him to supply the articles at once. The shopkeeper bade him remain for a day and everything should be ready. Bhagirath said it was impossible. The shopkeeper told him that everything should be ready on that day, but the bride’s bracelets could not be made and coloured before nightfall. Bhagirath explained the order that had been given him. The shopkeeper inquired what sort of master he had who had issued such an order. Bhagirath replied that his master was the Guru. The shopkeeper inquired who the gurus of this generation were. Bhagirath could only reply that his master was a great Being. The shopkeeper rejoined, ‘Wretch, where canst thou find a great being this age?’ After further colloquy and praise of the Guru by Bhagirath, the shop decided that he would go with him to his
[1. Which he characterized as a city of poison and wrath–Lahaur shahr zahir qahir. By this the Guru meant the intemperance and licentiousness of that city.]
master. He had a set of coloured bracelets in his private house, which he would take and give the Guru. ‘If he be a great being,’ continued the shop keeper, ‘he shall be my Guru as well as thine, and he shall have the bracelets for nothing; but, if he be not a great being, I will exact the full price from him.’ When the shopkeeper saw the Guru and heard his gentle remonstrance with Bhagirath for his delay, he became convinced that he was a great being and searcher of hearts, and he accordingly fell at his feet and was made happy. He remained three years with the Guru, during which time he committed to memory many of his hymns.
When the shopkeeper returned to Lahore, he sent for merchants and bankers and sold them every thing he had in his shop. He then sailed to Ceylon to extend his commerce. There he took up his residence and began to trade. At the same time he led a religious life, and did not forget the Guru’s hymns. He used to sing them late into the night, and again rise before day for his devotions and. ablutions. On the subject of bathing the Guru had taught him that whoever bathed a watch before day in cold water and repeated God’s name with love and devotion, should receive nectar at God’s door, and be blended with Him who is unborn and self-existent.
After bathing, the shopkeeper used to repeat the Japji and read the Guru’s hymns. He was wont to take breakfast at daybreak, and then go to discharge his worldly duties. Though the people of Ceylon were said to corrupt strangers who went among them, they had no influence over the shopkeeper, who continued to adhere rigidly to the teachings of the Guru. The king of the country, whose name according to the Sikh annals was Raja Shivnabh, hearing that the shopkeeper would not conform to the religious customs of his country, summoned him to his presence. The shopkeeper presented the Raja with a coconut in token of his loyalty. In reply to the Raja’s
questions, he said that he had already obtained what others sought to obtain by fasting, religious ceremonies, and austerities; so why should he perform them? The Raja asked him what it was he had obtained. The shopkeeper replied that he had beheld a great being and thus secured salvation. The Raja inquired if he had really obtained spiritual comfort by seeing the great being. The shopkeeper replied, ‘Sire’ when one hath met God, what further comfort is necessary?’ The king asked, ‘In this Kal age who is there, a sight of whom can confer salvation?’ The shopkeeper replied, ‘Such a person is Guru Nanak; the mere repetition of his name can confer salvation.’ He then translated for him one of the Guru’s hymns. The Raja on hearing it was satisfied, and joy thrilled through his frame. He then requested the shopkeeper to take him to where Nanak lived, so that he too might behold him. The shopkeeper replied, ‘Sire, meditate on him in thy heart, and thou shalt meet him here.’
The shopkeeper loaded his ship with the products of Ceylon, and returned to India. Raja Shivnabh remained at home, thinking of the Guru and yearning to behold him.