THE SIKH RELIGION
ITS GURUS, SACRED WRITINGS AND AUTHORS
BY MAX ARTHUR MACAULIFFE
LIFE OF GURU NANAK
The Guru and Mardana again set out on their travels. It is said that they went to the west and crossed the rivers Ravi and Chanab, and, after a long circuitous route through a desert country, made their way again to Pak Pattan to pay another visit to Shaikh Brahm. They sat down to rest about four miles from the city. Shaikh Kamal, a pious and God-fearing disciple of Shaikh Brahm, who had gone
[1. Sâs girâs, expiration and inspiration.
2. Sri Râg.]
into the forest for firewood, observed the Guru and his attendant. The latter was playing his rebeck, and singing the following:–
Thou art the tablet, O Lord, Thou art the pen, and Thou art also the writing.
Speak of the one God; O Nanak, why should there be a second?
Shaikh Kamal went and, after obeisance, sat down near them, and asked to have the couplet repeated. This was done, and he learned it by heart. He then took up the firewood he had collected and went home. He told his master of his adventure, and repeated the couplet for him. Shaikh Brahm was highly pleased that the Guru had again visited his country, and he promptly proceeded to welcome him. After mutual salutations, the Guru thanked God for having again granted him a sight of Shaikh Brahm. After some friendly conversation, the Shaikh asked the Guru to explain the couplet. ‘Nanak, thou sayest, "There is only one God; why should there be a second?" I say:–
The Guru replied:–
There is but one Lord and one way;
Adopt one and reject the other.
Why should we worship a second who is born and dieth?
Remember the one God, Nanak, who is contained in sea and land.
The Muhammadan priest then said in turn:–
The Guru traversed this instruction: ‘It is not
[1. Malâr ki Wâr.
2. Farîd’s Sloks.]
necessary for me to tear my coat or adopt a religious garb. Men who reside at home and work in their ordinary costume shall find the Lord if they fix their hearts on Him;'
A young wife sitteth at home, her Beloved is abroad; she continually thinketh of Him and pineth away.
She shall have no delay in meeting Him if she have good intentions.
Shaikh Brahm replied to the latter couplet:–
When she was little, she enjoyed not her Spouse; when she grew up she died.
Lying in the grave she calleth out, ‘I have not met Thee, O Lord.'
Guru Nanak then gave utterance to the following, to the effect that salvation depends upon virtue and not on a pleasing exterior or the possession of accomplishments:–
The Shaikh then put the following questions
What is that word, what that virtue, what that priceless spell;
What dress shall I wear by which I may captivate the, Spouse?
[1. This reply of the Guru was subsequently versified by Guru Amar Dâs:–
Why tear thy coat, Nânak, and why wear a blanket?
Seated at home thou shalt find the Lord if thine intentions be good.
2. Wadhans ki Wâr.
3. Farîd’s Sloks.
4. Farîd’s Sloks.]
The Guru replied:–
Humility is the word, forbearance the virtue, and civility the priceless spell.
Make these three thy dress, O sister, and the Spouse shall come into thy power.
The Spouse shall be hers who serveth Him.
Forsaking all His other companions He will go to her.
The Shaikh then said he wanted a knife–‘Give me such a knife as will make those who are killed with it acceptable to God. With the ordinary knife in use the lower animals are killed, and if a man’s throat be cut with it he becomes carrion.’ The Guru replied: ‘Dear Shaikh, here it is:–
Truth is the knife, truth is pure steel;
Its fashion is altogether incomparable.
Put it on the hone of the Word,
And fit it into the scabbard. of merit.
If any one be bled with that, O Shaikh,
The blood of avarice will be seen to issue forth.
If man be slaughtered with it, he shall go to meet God,
O Nanak, and be absorbed in the sight of Him.'
On hearing this the Shaikh raised his head in amazement and said, ‘Well done. Thou hast seen God, and art dear to Him. God hath been very kind to me in that I have met thee. It would be rude to ask any further questions of those who are so beloved by Him.’ The Guru then volunteered the following:–
There is friendship between beauty and love, alliance between hunger and dainty viands;
Companionship between greed and wealth, between a sleepy man and a bed and coverlet.
[1. Tewar, three pieces forming an Indian woman’s dress.
2. Farîd’s Sloks.
3. Râmkali ki Wâr.]
The anger which barketh is despised; it is vain to worry with worldly occupations.
To be silent, O Nanak, is good; without the Name the mouth is defiled.
The Shaikh asked the Guru to let him hear a strain in praise of the one God. ‘My idea is’, said the Shaikh, ‘that adoration cannot be performed without two beings, that is, God and the Prophet; Let me see whom thou makest man’s intercessor.’ The Guru called upon Mardana to play the rebeck and recite the first slok and pauri of the Asa ki War.
I am a sacrifice, Nanak, to my Guru a hundred times a day,
Who without any delay made demigods out of men.
Nanak, they who, very clever in their own estimation, think not of the Guru,
Shall be left like spurious sesames in a reaped field-
They shall be left in the field, saith Nanak, without an owner.
The wretches may even bear fruit and flower, but these shall be as ashes within their bodies.
God Himself created the world and Himself gave names to things.
He made Maya by His power; seated He beheld His work with delight.
O Creator, Thou art the Giver; being pleased Thou bestowest and practisest kindness.
Thou knowest all things; Thou givest and takest life with a word.
Seated Thou beholdest Thy work with delight.
[1. Malâr ki Wâr.
2 A shlok in Sanskrit is a distich or couplet, but in modern Indian poetry it may extend to the length of an English sonnet. The word pauri is literally a ladder. In the Granth Sahib it means a stanza of five lines, and always follows a slok.
3. Also translated–Thou givest and takest life from the body.
4. Âsa ki Wâr.]
Shaikh Brahm asked the Guru for further instruction. The Guru then spoke on the subject of humility, and said that as water, which resteth lowly on the earth, riseth under pressure into the air in sparkling fountains, so they who preserve a humble mind mount to God’s highest pinnacle.
The Shaikh then rose to take his leave, and said, ‘O Nanak, thou hast found God. There is no difference between Him and thee. Kindly grant that I too may be on good terms with Him.’ The Guru replied, ‘Shaikh Brahm, God will cause thy cargo also to arrive safe.’ By this the Guru meant that God would accept the Shaikh’s devotion. The Shaikh requested the Guru to give him a certain promise of this, and the Guru complied. They then shook hands and parted.
The Guru next proceeded to Dipalpur. During his journey a Sanyasi asked him to define the word udas. The Guru replied: ‘To make use of all things in this world and not deem them one’s own, but only God’s property, and ever to possess a desire to meet Him is udas.’
The Guru then visited Kanganpur, Kasur, and Patti in the Lahore District. He thence proceeded to Windpur, not far from the present town of Cholha, in the sub-collectorate of Tarn Taran in the Amritsar District. He met some Khatris who dwelt there; but when they saw him dressed as a faqir and heard his minstrel Mardana sing, they were displeased at what they considered the masquerade he had adopted, and said to him, ‘What dress is this which thou hast assumed? Having become a faqir, thou hast disgraced thy tribe, and led the world astray. Quit this place.’ The Guru represented that he would only remain for the night, and would depart next morning. He added that he was not leading people the wrong way, but guiding them to salvation. They replied that they would not allow him to remain for a moment in their village. He must
depart at once, or they would forcibly expel him. The Guru, complying with this insulting order, said that the Guru’s place should ever be permanent.
The Guru thence proceeded to a village on the site of the present Goindwal, where he desired to stay, but no one except a poor leper would receive him or allow him to remain there. The leper took him to his hut, and entertained him for the night. The leper thanked God that he had at last seen a human face, for even the lower animals had fled from him. When he began further to bemoan his fate, the Guru uttered the following:–
The Guru further warmed towards the leper and blessed, him. The leper was cured of his malady, fell at the Guru’s feet, and began to utter the Name.
The Guru then travelled through Sultanpur–his old head quarters when he was a Government official–Vairowal, and Jalalabad, until he arrived at a place called Kari Pathandi in the Amritsar District. In Kari Pathandi he made many Pathan converts. They used to serenade him with instrumental music, interspersed with cries of ‘Hail to King Nanak!’ The Guru there composed the following:–
[1. That is, in a future birth.]
The Guru continued his wanderings and visited Batala in the Gurdaspur District. Thence he proceeded a second time to Saiyidpur, where he again visited Lalo. Lalo complained to him of the oppression of the Pathans. The Guru replied that their dominion should be brief, as Babar was on his way to the conquest of India. The Guru then addressed the following threnody to his host:–
[1. He who performs heartfelt devotion.
2. Tilang, Ashtapadi.
3. This refers to the licentiousness of Bâbar’s army.]
He who made men assigned them different positions; He sitteth apart alone and regardeth them.
True is the Lord, true His decision, true the justice He meteth out as an example.
Bodies shall be cut like shreds of cloth; Hindustan will remember what I say.
They shall come in ’78, depart in ’97, and then shall rise another disciple of a hero.
Nanak uttereth the word of the True One, and will proclaim the truth at the True One’s appointed time.
Lalo asked the Guru what he meant by saying that God had assigned men different positions. The Guru replied as follows:–
A Brahman came to the Guru, offered him a basket of fruit, and said, ‘My friend, thou art uttering hymns of wrath.’ The Guru replied, ‘Remain not here; there is a pool three miles distant; go thither with thy family. All who remain here will be put
[1. That is, the Mughals shall come in Sambat 1578, and depart in Sambat 1597 (A.D. 1540). The Sambat year is fifty-seven years in advance of annus Domini. The departing monarch was Humâyûn. The disciple of a hero is understood to be Sher Shâh Sûri, who dispossessed him. This line appears to be an answer to a question put to the Guru by Lâlo.
3 Mâjh ki Wâr.]
to death.’ The Brahman acted on his advice. After some days Babar assaulted and destroyed the city. He also devastated the neighbouring villages. There was a general massacre of the people, and Pathan as well as Hindu habitations were plundered and razed to the ground.
The lives of the Guru and Mardana were spared, probably because they were strangers, but they were imprisoned and placed under the superintendence of Mir Khan, an officer of Babar’s army. Mir Khan, on seeing them, ordered, ‘Take away these slaves to work.’ The Guru was condemned to carry loads on his head, and Mardana to do the work of a groom. The Guru upon this uttered the following:–
When the Guru had finished this hymn, Mardana saw some women weeping and shrieking as they passed along, and asked his master what had happened to them. The Guru told Mardana to play the
[1. That is, I am a hereditary servant of God.
rebeck. Mardana replied that he could not do so, as he was holding a horse. The Guru bade him utter ‘Wah Guru’ and let go the horse. Mardana obeyed and played the Rag Asa, to which the Guru sang the following hymn:–
[1. The bridegroom’s mother or elder sister waves water around the head of a bride and then drinks it, so as to take all her ills on herself.]
After this, Mir Khan, the governor of the jail, arrived. He saw that the Guru’s bundle was raised a cubit over his head without any apparent support, and that the horse entrusted to Mardana followed him while he played sacred music on his rebeck. The governor communicated this information to Babar. The Emperor replied that, if he had known the city contained such holy men, he would not have destroyed it. At the governor’s suggestion he went to the prison, which was two miles distant. There were Pathan and Hindu women huddled promiscuously together, grinding corn. The Guru had also been supplied with a hand-mill for the same purpose. It is said that the mill revolved of its own accord while he put in the corn. The Emperor addressed the Guru, but he was in a trance, thinking of the slaughter of his unoffending countrymen. On awaking he uttered the following hymn, which, however, is not found in the Granth Sahib:–
[1. The Hindu name of God.
[2. The Muhammadan name of God, which Hindus shrink from
MILTON, Samson Agonistes.]
It is said that the Emperor, on hearing this, fell at Nanak’s feet, and declared that God appeared on his face. Upon this all the courtiers saluted Nanak. The Emperor asked him to accept a present from him. The Guru replied that he wanted nothing for himself, but he requested that the captives of Saiyidpur might be released, Upon this the Emperor ordered that they should be set free and their property restored to them. The captives, however, refused to depart without the Guru. He was then allowed to go with them, and they went to their homes in the city. They found that all the people who had remained in Saiyidpur had been put to death. Mardana told his master that it had all happened as God had willed it. Upon this the Guru. to the accompaniment of Mardana’s rebeck, sang the following lamentation:–
[1. An account of the saints mentioned in this hymn, with their compositions contained in the Granth Sâhib, will be given in the final volume of this work.]
[1. In India when announcing the death of’ a relation it is usual for the writer to tear the top of the letter. The reference here is to that custom.]
The robes of some were torn from head to foot; the dwellings of others were their places of cremation.
How did they whose husbands came not home pass the night?
The Creator acteth and causeth others to act; to whom shall man complain?
Misery and happiness are according to Thy pleasure; to whom shall we go to cry?
The Commander is pleased issuing His orders; Nanak, man obtaineth what is allotted him.
A propos of the change of circumstances in India the Guru uttered the following:–
2. The Hindus and the Muhammadans agree in believing that there are fourteen worlds, seven above and seven, including the earth itself. below. According to the Hindus these worlds emerged from the mundane egg when divided into two equal parts.
3. The Veds.
4. Nârad the Muni is here understood by the gyanis to mean the human heart. Some further account of Narad will be given.]
The Hindus and the Musalmans who returned to Saiyidpur began to dispose of their dead, and there was weeping and mourning in every house. People said, ‘Such and such was the deceased.’ Upon this
the Guru fell into a trance, and uttered the following hymn:–
As herdsmen stay for a short time in the pasture-ground, so do men stay in this world.
Men by the exercise of falsehood build houses for themselves.
Awake, ye sleepers; lo! the soul the dealer to remain here for ever, then build houses.
The body shall fall and the soul depart, if any one desire to know the truth.
[1. The Muhammadans frequently wear blue clothes, a custom which has descended from the ancient Egyptians.
2. Miân, a title of respect addressed to Muhammadans. In the hill districts, of India it is given to the sons of Râjput princes.
3. Mîr, a lord or master.
4. Simritis, the traditional ceremonial and legal institutes of the Hindus. The principal Simritis are twenty-seven in number.
5. Basant Ashtapadi.
6. This refers to the nomadic life which prevailed around the Guru’s natal village.]
One day Mardana took it into his head to ask the Guru to explain the cause of the Saiyidpur massacre. and said, ‘Sir, some Pathans have done wrong; but why have so many been killed on their account?’ The Guru pointed out a tree, and told Mardana to go and sleep under it. When he awoke, the Guru would give him an answer. Mardana accordingly went and lay down to sleep under the tree. A drop of honey fell on his naked breast. As he slept, ants came to drink it, and the sleeper half unconsciously crushed them to death with his hand. The Guru asked him on awaking what he had done. He replied
[1. Ohi, ohi! There is a pun on the word ohi. It means, Alas! and He (God) is.
2. Âsa Ashtapadi.]
that one insect had bitten him, and so he had killed them all. The Guru replied, ‘It is in that very way the people of Saiyidpur were killed.’ Upon this Mardana fell at his feet, and the remnant of the inhabitants of Saiyidpur became his disciples.
After this the Guru returned to the Emperor’s camp with the object of obtaining another interview with him. He visited the prison and sang hymns for the prisoners whose treatment he deplored. Under the influence of such feelings he composed the following:–
When Babar had heard this hymn, he ordered the Guru to be sent for. When the Guru appeared, the Emperor asked him to sing the hymn again, and
[1. The master of Hindustân at the time was Sultân Ibrâhim Lodi. He only met Bâbar’s force at Pânîpat, where he was defeated.
2 The Pathân dynasty of the Lodis who ruled in India prior to the advent of the Mughal Babar.
the Guru did so. Upon this, it is said, Babar’s brain opened for the reception of spiritual truths. He praised the Guru, and opening his bhang-pouch, offered him some. The Guru replied that he had already taken bhang whose intoxication would never subside. Babar asked what bhang that was. The Guru replied with the following hymn:–
The Emperor was so pleased with the Guru that he asked him to accompany him. The Guru would at first only promise to remain one day with him, but, on being pressed to remain three days, at last consented. The Guru was always distressed as he looked towards the prisoners. For the third time he sang the preceding hymn, and then fell into a trance and became unconscious. The Emperor stood over him, and asked the bystanders what had happened. They replied that the faqir, on beholding God’s wrath, was in suffering, and had fallen into a trance. Babar became alarmed for the Guru’s safety, and asked the people to pray to God for his recovery.
[1. That is, no one despises them.
Upon this the Guru stood up, and there then shone such light as if a thousand suns had arisen. Babar saluted, and asked the Guru to be gracious unto him. The Guru replied, ‘If thou, O Emperor, desire kindness, set all thy captives free.’ He agreed, on one condition-that the Guru should promise that his empire should continue from generation to generation. The Guru replied, ‘Thine empire shall remain for a time.’ The Emperor on this ordered that all his prisoners should be clothed with robes of honour, a matter which gave great pleasure and satisfaction to the Guru. The Emperor asked the Guru for instruction suitable to his position, The Guru said, ‘Deliver just judgements, reverence holy men, forswear wine and gambling. The monarch who indulgeth in these vices shall, if he survive, bewail his misdeeds. Be merciful to the vanquished, and worship God in spirit and in truth.’
At the final parting, the Emperor pressed the Guru to embrace Islam, which recognized only one God, as the Guru himself had been preaching, so he would not have far to go on his spiritual journey and his progress to salvation. Moreover, on embracing Islam he would have the advantage of the mediation of God’s holy and last prophet Muhammad. The Guru replied:–
The Emperor, instead of being incensed at this outspoken language, invited the Guru to ask him
a favour. The Guru replied to the accompaniment of Mardana’s rebeck:–