THE SIKH RELIGION
ITS GURUS, SACRED WRITINGS AND AUTHORS
BY MAX ARTHUR MACAULIFFE
LIFE OF GURU NANAK
After his sojourn with the Sidhs the Guru returned to the plains of the Panjab and travelled in a north westerly direction until he reached Hasan Abdal,
[1. Sidh Gosht.]
then a great centre of Muhammadan religious enthusiasm.
There abode on a small hillock a bigoted and selfish priest known as Bawa Wali of Kandhar. The Guru and his minstrel needed water for their evening repast, and it could only be obtained from the Wali. Mardana told him that he and Guru Nanak had arrived, and he advised him to see the Guru, who was a great saint of God. Bawa Wali, who claimed exclusive holiness for himself, became offended on hearing the Guru’s praises, and refused the required water. He said if Mardana’s master were such a holy man. he ought to provide water for himself. When this reply was communicated to the Guru, he sent Mardana back to the Wali with the message that he himself was a very poor creature of God, and laid no claims to the character of a saint. The Wali paid no heed to this protestation, but persisted in his refusal to afford water to the Guru and his minstrel. The Guru was then compelled to bore a hole near where he had taken shelter, and a stream of water immediately issued forth. Upon this, the Wali’s well dried up, there being only a limited supply of water in the locality. The Wali’s rage naturally increased, and it is said that he hurled the hillock upon Guru Nanak’s unoffending head. The Guru, on seeing the descending volume of earth, raised his right arm to protect himself. It is related that upon this the fall of the hillock was arrested. The impression of the palm of the Guru’s hand was left on the descending mass, which is now known as ‘Panja Sahib’ and held in reverence by the Sikhs.
After a brief residence in Hasan Abdal the Guru proceeded to Gorakh-Hatari, a quarter of the city of Peshawar on the frontier of the Panjab where there is an ancient temple of Gorakhnath. The Jogis having heard of his fame were anxious to discover how he had acquired such moral and
spiritual influence, and, when the Guru was seated, put him the questions contained in the first four verses of the following hymn. The Guru’s replies follow:–
What callest thou that gate at which thou sittest? Who can see the gate within it?
Let some one come and describe to me that gate to attain which the Udasi wandereth.
How shall we cross the ocean
How shall we be dead when alive?
Sorrow is the gate, wrath the porter, hope and anxiety its folding-doors.
Mammon is a moat, domestic life its water; man abideth by taking his seat on truth.
How many names hast Thou, O God! Their limit cannot be known; there is none equal to Thee.
Man ought not to call himself exalted, but dwell in his own thoughts; what God deemeth proper, He doeth.
As long as there is desire, so long is there anxiety; how can one who feeleth it speak of the one God?
When man in the midst of desires remaineth free from desires, then, O Nanak, he meeteth the one God.
In this way shall he cross the ocean,
And thus be dead while alive.
On uttering this hymn the Guru was pressed to adopt the style and religion of a Jogi. The principles of the Jogis’ sect were explained to him. The Guru replied:–
The Word is my meditation, divine instruction the music of my horn for men to hear;
Honour is my begging-wallet, and uttering the Name my alms.
Father, Gorakh awaketh.
Gorakh is He who lifted the earth and fashioned it without delay;
Who enclosed water, breath, and life in the body, and made the great lights of the moon and sun;
Who gave us the earth as our abode, but whose many favours we have forgotten.
Sidhs, Strivers, Jogis, Jangams, and Pirs are many.
If I obtain the Name from them, I will sing their praises, and serve them heartily–
Paper and salt melt not in clarified butter; the lotus remaineth unaffected by water–
What can Death say to them, O Nanak, who meet such saints?
After his successful discussion with the Jogis the Guru decided to visit Makka, the pole star of Muhammadan devotion. He disguised himself in the blue dress of a Muhammadan pilgrim, took a faqir’s staff in his hand and a collection of his hymns under his arm. He also carried with him in the style of a Musalman devotee a cup for his ablutions and a carpet whereon to pray. And when an opportunity offered, he shouted the Muhammadan call to prayer like any orthodox follower of the Arabian prophet. As usual in his peregrinations, he was accompanied by his faithful minstrel and rebeck player Mardana. It is recorded that whenever he met children on his journey he joined in their sports. He accidentally found a Muhammadan faqir also bent on the Makkan pilgrimage, and passed a night with him in pleasant spiritual converse. The pilgrim offered him his bhang-pouch, and asked whether he was a Hindu or a Musalman. The Guru replied with the hymn he had previously addressed to the Emperor Babar when he inquired what intoxication that was whose effects should never depart.
As they proceeded on the road to Makka, it is said, a cloud they saw over their heads accompanied them. The pilgrim became alarmed at the unusual occurrence,
and said to the Guru ‘No Hindu hath ever yet gone to Makka. Travel not with me; either go before or after.’ The Guru told the pilgrim to precede him. When the pilgrim turned round to see where his companion was, it is said he could see neither him nor the cloud. The pilgrim then began to wring his hands, and said, ‘It was God who was with me, but I could not endure the sight of Him. He worked illusion on me.’
When the Guru arrived, weary and footsore, in Makka, he went and sat in the great mosque where pilgrims were engaged in their devotions. His disregard of Moslem customs soon involved him in difficulties. When he lay down to sleep at night he turned his feet towards the Kaaba. An Arab priest kicked him and said, ‘Who is this sleeping infidel? Why hast thou, O sinner, turned thy feet towards God?’ The Guru replied, ‘Turn my feet in a direction in which God is not.' Upon this the priest seized the Guru’s feet and dragged them in the opposite direction, whereupon, it is said, the temple turned round, and followed the revolution of his body. Some understand this in a spiritual sense, and say it means that Guru Nanak made all Makka turn to his teaching. Those who witnessed this miracle were astonished and saluted the Guru as a supernatural being.
The Qazis and the Mullas crowded round the Guru, and interrogated him on the subject of his religion. They admitted that he had accomplished a great feat, but the source of his power was not apparent. They opened his book, and seeing that it was on religious subjects, inquired which was
[1. Curious it is to find the same expression in an Italian operatic writer of the eighteenth century.
E se, dov’ ei dimora,
Non intendesti ancora,
Confondimi, se puoi;
Dimmi dov’ ei non è.
superior, the Hindu or the Muhammadan religion. The Guru replied, ‘Without good acts the professors of both religions shall suffer. Neither the Hindus nor the Muhammadans shall obtain entrance into God’s court. All their devotions shall vanish like the fleeting dye of safflower. Both sects are jealous of each other. The Hindus insist on saying Ram and the Moslems Rahim, but they know not the one God. Satan hath led them both along his own flowery way.’ On that occasion the Guru uttered the following hymn in the Tilang measure:–
Thy fasting and worship shall be acceptable
When thou, O man, keepest watch over the ten apertures of thy body, hatest the world,
Chastenest thy mind, restrainest thy sight, and fleest worldly desires and wranglings.
Every day of the month offer thy love to the Lord thus shalt thou be recognized as pure and gentle.
Keep the fast of meditation, and let the renunciation of pleasure be thy dance;
Keep watch over thy heart, so shalt thou be a really learned man;
Abandon delights, ease, evil speaking, mental anxiety, and vexation;
Treasure kindness in thy heart, and renounce the devices of infidelity;
Extinguish the fire of lust in thy heart, and thus become cool.
Saith Nanak, thus practise fasting, and thy faith shall be perfect.'
When the Guru had finished, the Qazi said, ‘Well done! I have to-day for the first time seen a real saint of God.’ The Qazi then went and told the high priest that the darwesh Nanak had arrived. The high priest went to see him, shook hands with him,
[1. This hymn is not found in the Granth Sâhib.]
and sat down beside him. He thanked God that Nanak had come.
The high priest asked Nanak if the Hindus who read the Veds, and the Musalmans who read the Quran, should or should not find God. The Guru courageously replied with the following outspoken hymn of Kabir:–
O brethren, the Veds and the Quran are false, and free not the mind from anxiety.
If for a moment thou restrain thy mind, God will appear before thee.
O man, search thy heart daily, that thou mayest not again fall into despair.
This world is a magic show which hath no reality.
Men are pleased when they read falsehood, and quarrel over what they do not understand.
The truth is, the Creator is contained in the creation; He is not of a blue colour in the guise of Vishnu.
Thou shouldst have bathed in the river which floweth in heaven.
Take heed; ever fix thine eyes on Him who is every where present.
God is the purest of the pure; shall I doubt whether there is another equal to Him?
Kabir, he to whom the Merciful hath shown mercy, knoweth Him.
The high priest then asked how God might be obtained by men. The Guru replied that it was by humility and prayer. He added the following hymn in the Persian language:–
I make one supplication before Thee; lend Thine ear, O Creator.
[1. In the brain instead of the Ganges and other sacred streams of the Hindus.
2. Also translated–Embrace perpetual poverty, fix thy mental eyes on God, and thou shalt behold Him everywhere present.
3. Also translated–If there be another like Him, then entertain doubt.]
O God, Thou art great and merciful; Thou art the faultless Cherisher.
The world is a perishable abode; O my heart, know this as the truth.
Azrail seizeth me by the hair of my head; yet thou knowest it not, O my heart.
There shall be no wife, no son, no father, no brother, no one to take my hand.
There shall be no one to hinder my falling at last when my fate cometh.
I have passed my nights and days in vanity, and my thoughts have been evil.
I have never done a good act-this is my condition;
I am unfortunate, I am also miserly and negligent; I see not, and I fear not.
Nanak saith, I am Thy slave, and the dust of the feet of Thy servants.
The high priest then asked the Guru to tell him the composition of matter, the nature of the God he adored, how He was to be found, and in what consisted the essence of his religion. The Guru replied again in the Persian language:–
Know that according to the Musalmans everything is produced from air, fire, water, and earth;
But the pure God created the world out of five elements.
However high man may leap, he shall fall on the earth again.
Even though a bird fly, it cannot compete in endurance with the torrent and the wind which move by God’s will.
How great shall I call God? to whom shall I go to in quire regarding Him?
[1. Azrâil is frequently mentioned in the. Sikh sacred writings. In the Muhammadan dispensation be is. the minister of Death who separates men’s souls from their bodies by violently tearing them asunder. The Qurân, Sûras 32 and 79.
2. Takbîr is understood to be for the Arabic taqdîr, destiny.
4. Akâsh, or ether, being the fifth.]
He is the greatest of the great, and great is His world men depart in their pride.
I have consulted the four Veds, but these writings find not God’s limits.
I have consulted the four books of the Muhammadans, but God s worth is not described in them.
I have consulted the nine regions of the earth; one improveth upon what the other saith.
Having turned my heart into a boat, I have searched in every sea;
I have dwelt by rivers and streams, and bathed at the sixty-eight places of pilgrimage;
I have lived among the forests and glades of the three worlds and eaten bitter and sweet;
I have seen the seven nether regions and heavens upon heavens.
And I, Nanak, say man shall be true to his faith if he fear God and do good works.
In due time the Guru proceeded to Madina, where he vanquished the Muhammadan priests in argument. Thence he journeyed to Baghdad, and took up his position outside the city. He shouted the call to prayer, on which the whole population became wrapt in silent astonishment. The high priest of Baghdad, on meeting face to face the enthusiastic stranger, inquired who he was and to what sect he belonged. The Guru replied, ‘I have appeared in this age to indicate the way unto men. I reject all sects, and only know one God, whom I recognize in the earth, the heavens, and in all directions.’
Upon this the Guru began to repeat the Japji. As the high priest listened to its doctrines he said, ‘This is a very impious faqir. He is working
[1. Banno’s Granth Sâhib.
2 It is certain that the Guru omitted the words Muhammad ar rasûl Allah of the creed, and substituted Arabic words of a similar sound to express his own ideas. Hence the astonishment of the people.]
miracles here, and informing us, contrary to the authority of our holy Quran, that there are hundreds of thousands of nether and upper regions, and that at last men grow weary of searching for them.’ The high priest then called upon the Guru to give a manifestation of his power. Upon this, it is said, the Guru laid his hand on the high priest’s son and showed him the upper and lower regions described in the Japji.
The Guru having accomplished his mission in the West resolved to return to his own country. When he arrived in Multan, the local high priest presented him with a cup of milk filled to the brim. By this he meant it to be understood that the city was full of holiness already, and that there was no room for another religious teacher. The Guru, in no wise disconcerted, took the milk and laid on it an Indian jasmin flower. The cup did not overflow. This typified that there was still room for the Guru in the midst of the Multanis, as there is still room for the ever flowing Ganges in the ocean.
The Guru, after a brief sojourn in Multan, set out for Kartarpur. His reputation daily increased in the world, and men meditated on his name. He insisted that praying for anything except God’s name merely conferred on man a crown of sorrow By this time the Guru had founded a pure religion and made his coin current in the world.
In due time the Guru and his minstrel arrived at Kartarpur on the right bank of the river Ravi, opposite the present town of Dehra Baba Nanak. There he doffed his pilgrim’s dress, and donned worldly garments in order to show that he did not desire men to devote themselves exclusively to an ascetic life. At the same time he sat on his religious stool, and began to preach to the people.
During Guru Nanak’s stay at Kartarpur he continued
[1. Japji, Pauri xxiii.]
to compose hymns which diffused spiritual light and dispelled mental darkness. He ever con versed on religious subjects, and divine measures were ever sung in his presence. The Sodar and the Sohila were chanted in the evening and the Japji repeated at the ambrosial hour of morning.
At Kartarpur, Mardana, the Guru’s faithful minstrel, advanced in years and wearied with his long wanderings and physical privations, fell ill. He felt that he had no hope of longer life, and resigned himself to man’s inevitable fate. He had originally been a Muhammadan, but, being now a Sikh, the question arose as to how his body should be disposed of after death. The Guru said, ‘A Brahman’s body is thrown into water, a Khatri’s is burnt in the fire, a Vaisya’s is thrown to the winds, and a Sudra’s is buried in the earth. Thy body shall be disposed of as thou pleasest.’ Mardana replied, ‘Through thine instruction the pride of my body hath totally departed. With the four castes the disposal of the body is a matter of pride. I deem my soul merely as a spectator of my body, and am not concerned with the latter. Wherefore dispose of it as thou pleasest.’ Then the Guru said, ‘Shall I make thee a tomb and render thee famous in the world.’ Mardana replied, ‘When my soul hath been separated from its bodily tomb, why shut it up in a stone tomb?’ The Guru answered, ‘Since thou knowest God and art therefore a Brahman, we shall dispose of thy body by throwing It into the river Ravi and letting it go with the stream. Sit down therefore on its margin in prayerful posture, fix-thine attention on God, repeat His name at every inspiration and expiration, and thy soul shall be absorbed in the light of God.’ Mardana accordingly sat down by the river, and his soul separated from its earthly enclosure the following morning at a watch
[1. A translation of these divine services will be found in this volume.]
before day. The Guru then, by the aid of his Sikhs, consigned Mardana’s body to the river Ravi, caused the Sohila to be read for his eternal repose, and concluded the obsequies by distributing karah parshad (sacred food). The Guru counselled Mardana’s son Shahzada and his relations not to weep. There ought to be no lamentation for a man who was returning to his heavenly home, and therefore no mourning for Mardana. The Guru bade Shahzada remain with him in the same capacity as his father, and he would be held in equal honour. Accordingly Shahzada, the Guru’s faithful friend and minstrel, accompanied him to the time of his death.
In the Granth Sahib are found three sloks of the Guru, dedicated to Mardana, against the use of wine. The following, which may conveniently be given here, will suffice as a specimen:–
The barmaid is misery, wine is lust; man is the drinker.
The cup filled with worldly love is wrath, and it is served by pride.
The company is false and covetous, and is ruined by excess of drink.
Instead of such wine make good conduct thy yeast, truth thy molasses, God’s name thy wine;
Make merits thy cakes, good conduct thy clarified butter, and modesty thy meat to eat.
Such things, O Nanak, are obtained by the Guru’s favour by partaking of them sins depart.