THE SIKH RELIGION
ITS GURUS, SACRED WRITINGS AND AUTHORS
BY MAX ARTHUR MACAULIFFE
GURU NANAK, RAG ASA
WHAT is that grate, what is that mansion where Thou, O God, sittest and watchest over all things?
How many various and countless instruments of Thine are played! How many Thy musicians,
How many Thy musical measures with their consorts, and how many singers sing Thee!
Wind, water, fire sing Thee; Dharmraj singeth at Thy gate;
The recording angels, who know how to write, and on whose record Dharmraj judgeth, sing Thee;
Ishar, Brahma, and Devi, ever beautiful as adorned by Thee, sing Thee;
Indar seated on his throne and the gods at Thy gate sing Thee;
Sidhs in meditation sing Thee; holy men in contemplation sing Thee;
The continent, the true, and the patient sing Thee; unyielding heroes sing Thee.
The Pandits and the supreme Rikhis, reading their Veds, sing Thee in every age.
The lovely celestial maids who beguile the heart in the upper, middle, and nether regions sing Thee.
[1. The Rahirâs is a collection of hymns by Guru Nanak, Guru Amar Das, Guru Ram Das, and Guru Arjan. It is recited by the Sikhs as divine service at sunset.
2 The following hymn is so called because in the original it thus begins.]
The jewels created by Thee with the sixty-eight places of Hindu pilgrimage sing Thee.
Mighty warriors and heroes sing Thee; the four sources of life sing Thee.
The continents, the worlds, and the universe made and supported by Thy hands sing Thee.
O God, the saints who please Thee and who are imbued with Thy love sing Thee.
The many others who sing Thee I cannot remember; how could Nanak recount them?
That God is ever true, He is the true Lord, and the true Name.
He who made this world is, was, and shall be; he shall neither be born nor die.
He who created things of different colours, descriptions, and species,
Beholdeth His handiwork which attesteth His greatness.
He will do what pleaseth Himself; no order may be issued to Him to the contrary.
He is King, the King of kings, O Nanak; all remain subject to His will.
GURU NANAK, RAG ASA
As men have heard so all call Thee great;
But hath any one ever seen how great Thou art?
Thy worth cannot be estimated or described;
They who seek to describe it are absorbed in Thee
O my great Lord, deep and profound, brimful of excellences,
None knoweth the extent of Thine outline.
Though all meditative men were to meet and meditate upon Thee,
Though all appraisers were to meet and appraise Thee–
They who possess divine and spiritual wisdom, priests and high priests–
Yet they could not describe even a small portion of Thy greatness.
All truth, all fervour, all goodness,
The excellences of perfect men,
Cannot be obtained in their perfection without Thee.
If Thy grace be obtained none can be excluded
Of what account is the helpless speaker?
Thy storerooms are filled with Thy praises.
Who can prevail against him to whom Thou givest?
Nanak, the True One arrangeth all.
GURU NANAK, RAG ASA
If I repeat the Name; I live; if I forget it, I die;
It is difficult to repeat the true Name.
If man hunger after the true Name,
His pain shall depart when he satisfieth himself with it.
Then how could I forget it, O my mother?
True is the Lord, true is His name.
Men have grown weary of uttering
Even an iota of His greatness; His worth they have not discovered.
If all men joined and tried to describe Him,
That would not add to or detract from His greatness.
God dieth not, neither is there any mourning for Him
He continueth to give us our daily bread which never faileth.
His praise is–that there neither is,
Nor was, nor shall be any one like unto Him.
As great as Thou art Thyself, O God, so great are Thy gifts.
Thou who madest the day madest also the night
They who forget their Spouse are evil persons
Nanak, without His name they are naught.
GURU RAM DAS, RAG GUJARI
O servants of God and the true Guru, the true Being, offer this supplication unto Him.
We insects and worms seek thy protection, O true Guru; mercifully enlighten us with the Name;
My friend and divine Guru, enlighten me with God’s name.
Under the Guru’s instruction, the Name is the helper of my soul; singing God’s praises is my occupation.
Exceedingly fortunate are the men of God who have faith in Him and thirst for Him:
On obtaining the name of God, they are satisfied; when men meet the company of the saints, God’s attributes are known.
They who obtain not the relish of God’s name are unfortunate, and shall go to the god of death.
Curses on the lives, curses on the hopes of living, of those who enter not the true Guru’s protection and society!
The saints who have obtained the society of the true Guru are those on whose foreheads it was so written from the beginning.
Blest is that true society, Nanak, by meeting which the relish of God is obtained, and the Name manifested.
GURU ARJAN, RAG GUJARI
O my soul, why proposest thou exertion when God Himself is engaged in effort for thee?
He even putteth their food before the insects which He created in rocks and stones.
[1. Also translated–They who enter not the true Guru’s protection and society have lived and shall live accursed.
2. It is said that on one occasion there was scarcity in Guru Arjan’s langar khâna, or supply depôt for holy men and mendicants. When the Guru’s servants were making excessive efforts to collect provisions, he composed the following for the special occasion. It should not be understood from this hymn that the Guru discountenanced labour or exertion. The Guru himself was most active in his ministrations, in his poetical work, and in his compilation in one great volume of the compositions of his predecessors and of the most famous mediaeval Indian saints. He wrote–
O man, by striving and earning enjoy happiness;
Nanak, by meditating on God, meet Him and thine anxieties shall vanish.
So also Guru Nânak–
They who eat the fruit of their labour and bestow some portion,
O Nanak, recognize the right way.
3 Also translated–O man, why feelest thou anxiety?]
O my God, they who meet the society of the saints are saved.
Through the favour of the Guru they obtain the highest rank; though they be as dry wood, they are made green.
No one can rely on mother, father, friends, children, or wives.
God provideth every one with his daily food; why, O man, art thou afraid?
The kulang flieth away hundreds of miles, leaving her young behind her.
Who feedeth them? Who giveth them morsels to peck at? Have you not considered this?
God holdeth in the palm of His hand all treasures and the eighteen supernatural powers.
Nanak is ever a sacrifice unto Thee; O God, Thou hast no end or bounds.
GURU RAM DAS, RAG ASA
That Being is pure, God is the pure Being, God is altogether inaccessible and illimitable.
All meditate on Thee; all meditate on Thee; O God, Thou art the true Creator.
All creatures are Thine; Thou providest for them all.
O saints, meditate on God who causeth all misery to be forgotten.
God Himself is the Lord, God Himself is the worshipper; Nanak, what a helpless creature is man!
Thou, O God, the one Supreme Being, art fully contained in every heart and pervadest everything.
Some men are givers, some beggars; all are Thy wondrous sport.
Thou Thyself art the Giver; Thou art the Enjoyer; I know none beside Thee.
[1. The following hymn is so known as these are its first words.
2. On the principle that God is everywhere and in every creature.]
Thou art the totally infinite Supreme Being; what attributes of Thine shall I recount?
The slave Nanak is a sacrifice unto those who serve Thee, unto those who serve Thee.
They who meditate on Thee, who meditate on Thee, O God, abide in happiness in this age.
They who meditate on God are emancipated, are emancipated, my friend; for them Death’s noose is broken.
All fear hath departed from those who have meditated on the fearless, the fearless God.
They who have worshipped, who have worshipped my God, are absorbed in Him.
Blest, blest are they who have meditated on God; the slave Nanak will become a sacrifice unto them.
O Infinite One, Thine infinite storehouses are filled with Thy worship, Thy worship.
O Infinite One, many are Thy saints, many are Thy saints who praise Thee.
They offer various, various worship to Thee, O God; they practise austerities and repeat Thy name, O endless One.
Various, various saints of Thine read many Simritis and Shastars, perform their daily duties and the six acts prescribed for Brahmans;
But only they are saints, good saints, saith Nanak, who please God, the Omnipotent.
Thou art the primal Being, the illimitable Creator; there is none so great as Thou.
Thou art the same in every age; Thou art ever and ever the same; Thou art the eternal Creator.
What pleaseth Thee prevaileth; what Thou doest cometh to pass.
Thou Thyself didst fashion the whole creation, yet, being created, it shall disappear.
Nanak singeth the praises of the Creator who knoweth all things.
[1. Reading the Veds, expounding them, making sacrifice, assisting others in doing the same, receiving alms and giving them to other Brahmans.
2. Only God Himself is permanent.]
GURU RAM DAS, RAG ASA
Thou art the true Creator, my Lord.
What pleaseth Thee shall come to pass; what Thou givest I shall receive.
Everything is Thine: all meditate on Thee.
They to whom Thou showest kindness, obtain the jewel of Thy name.
The pious have gained, and the perverse have lost it.
Thou Thyself hast separated these and blended those with Thee.
Thou art an ocean: all are contained in Thee.
There is none beside Thee.
All living creatures are Thy play.
When Thou didst desire separation, they who had met Thee were separated from Thee; when Thou didst desire union, Thou didst blend them with Thyself.
That saint whom Thou causest to know Thee shall know Thee,
And ever dwell on Thy praises.
They who have served God have found happiness,
And have become easily absorbed in His name.
Thou Thyself art the Creator; everything that is made is Thine;
There is none beside Thee;
Thou beholdest and knowest Thy handiwork.
The slave Nanak saith, under the Guru’s instruction Thou becomest manifest.
GURU NANAK, RAG ASA
Man hath obtained a dwelling in that tank whose water God hath made as hot as fire.
Man’s feet cannot move in the mire of worldly love; we have seen him drowning therein.
[1. Gurumukh, literally–they who follow the Guru’s instruction.
2. Also translated–Those separated from the saints Thou didst separate from Thee; those united with them Thou didst blend with Thyself.
3. That is, the world.]
O foolish man, thou hast not thought of the one God in thy heart;
Through forgetfulness of Him thy virtues have melted away.
I am not continent, or true, or learned; I was born a stupid fool.
Nanak representeth, he hath sought the shelter of those who forget Thee not, O God.
GURU ARJAN, RAG ASA
Since thou hast now obtained a human body, O man,
It is time for thee to meet God;
All else that thou doest is of no avail
join the company of the saints and only repeat God’s name;
Apply thyself to preparation for crossing the terrible ocean.
Thy life is vainly passing in worldly love
Thou hast not repeated God’s name, performed penance, austerities, or other religious works;
Thou hast not served holy men or known God.
Nanak saith, base have been mine acts;
Preserve mine honour who have taken shelter in Thee.