Guru Tegh Bahadur’s Bani: Spiritual and Ethical Teaching
Dr Jodh Singh
59 "Padas" and 57 "Slokas" of Guru Tegh Bahadur are included in the holy Guru Granth Sahib, in various measures as mentioned below: (i) Gauri 9, (ii) Asa 1, (iii) Devgandhari 3, (iv) Bihagra 1, (v) Sorathi 12, (vi) Dhanasri 4, (vii) Jaitsari 3, (viii) Todi 1, (ix) Tilang 3, (x) Bilawal 3, (xi) Ramkali 3, (xii) Maru 3, (xiii) Basant 5, (xiv) Sarang 4, (xv) Jaijawanti 4
It is generally believed that the bani of the Ninth Guru was incorporated in the Holy volume under the various musical measures at Talwandi Sabo, now called Damdama Sahib, by Guru Gobind Singh when he stayed there for some months, after the battle of Chamkaur, in 1705. But modern research has brought to light some manuscript copies of the Holy volume transcribed much before that. Sardar G.B. Singh, the author of "Puratan Biran" (old volumes) in Punjabi mentions on page 215 that he found in "Dacca Sangat" a "Bir" (volume) which was finished on Aghan Vadi 7 Samvat 1732, 17 days after the martyrdom of Guru Tegh Bahadur at Delhi. Copying must have begun much before that, most probably before the Ninth Guru left Anandpur. This volume contains all the slokas composed when the Guru was imprisoned at Delhi. It is surmised that these slokas were brought to Anandpur along with the head of the Ninth Guru and entered in the "Dacca Sangat" manuscript at the proper place. He also found some copies in which the whole bani of the Ninth Guru is given at the end after adding new blank pages to the Bir.
Professor Gurbachan Singh Talib in his book jointly written with Dr. Fauja Singh of the History Department of the Punjabi University, also gives details of a Bir no. 97 in the Reference Library of the Shiromani Gurudwara Committee, on page 119: "This bears on the Colophon the year 1739 (Bikram Era) which would work out to be 1682 of the Christian Era. This copy purports to be made at Damdama Sahib one of the Gurudwaras at Anandpur Sahib". These facts show that the hymns of the Ninth Guru were circulated among the several sangats much before 1762 AD.
The Sikhs believe that the five successors of Guru Nanak, whose Bani is included in Guru Granth Sahib further clarified and emphasized what the first Guru had taught. Professor S. Radhakrishnan in his book, "Religion and Literature", published by Hind Pocket Books (P) Ltd., Delhi-32, has summarised the teachings of Guru Nanak on several topics in a chapter entitled, "Adi Granth and the Sikh Religion". About Gurbani he says:
"The word of the Guru is the music which the Sikhs hear in their moment of ecstasy; the word of the Guru is the highest scripture. By communion with the Word we attain the vision unattainable" i.e. we realise Him pervading His creation. "Guru Arjan says about the Holy Granth: The Book is the abode of God." The hymns are set in music. We find in the Adi Granth a wide range of mystical emotion, intimate expression of personal realisation of God and rapturous hymns of Divine Love."
When we analyse the teachings of the Ninth Guru we shall find the same teachings, but with emphasis on different aspects suiting the circumstances he found himself.
When Guru Tegh Bahadur assumed the leadership of the Sikh faith, Emperor Aurangzeb reigned in Delhi. As we have previously seen, he had imprisoned and starved his own brothers – Dara Shukoh and Murad – and disgraced his eldest son Muazzam, who afterwards succeeded the throne as Bahadur Shah. On account of his crimes he was heartily disliked even by his own co-religionists. He then sent for his priests and asked them what he was to do to regain the sympathy of Muslims. His counsellors felt that it could be done by converting Hindus to Islam. He should send more money and other prsents to Mecca. All this being done, he was to issue proclamations throughout the empire that the hindus should embrace Islam, and that those who did should receive "jagirs", State service and all immunities granted to royal favourites.
"The experiment of conversion was first tried in Kashmir. There were two reasons for it. In the first place, the Kashmiri pundits were supposed to be educated, and it was thought that if they were converted, the inhabitants of Hindustan would readily follow their example; secondly Peshawar and Kabul, Muslim countries were near, and if the Kashmiris offered any resistance to their conversion, the mohammadans might declare a religious war and over power them. It was also believed by the emperor, without foundation to it, as it afterwards turned out, that the Kashmiris might be tempted by promises of money and government appointments, because the beggary and meanness of the inhabitants of that country was proverbial."
Throughout the teachings of the Ninth Guru, therefore, love of mammon and worldly goods is strongly deprecated, so that for their sake the inhabitants of Hindustan be not tempted to change their religion. If the bulk of the hindu majority changed their religion in fear or greed, there was a great danger of the Sikh minority being persecuted and crushed.
"O Man, hold firmly to this truth in thy mind; The whole world is like a dream and like a dream will soon be no more. A man may elaborately build a wall of sand, but it will not last even for a short while. Similarly transient are pleasures of Maya (mammon) why art thou entangled in them, O ignorant man." (Sorathi 8)
( A God-illuminated person is not one who wisely talks about gnosis, but a person knowing his soul to be immortal). He does not fear anyone nor does he terrorize others. (Sloka 16) Guru Amardas proclaimed: "Man, thou art an image of light, realise thy source." The Ninth Guru emphasized this truth: "Good men, know this body to be mortal. Recognize God that dwells in it alone to be everlasting." (1 Basant)
In Gurbani terms such as "maya" and "prakriti", used in "Sankhya" and "Vedantic" literature have been employed, but their connotation is different. Sankara says maya is neither real nor unreal, it is "anirvachani" i.e. inexpressible in words. It is some power outside Brahmin and when it envelopes Brahmin, it limits Brahmin into "jiva". But in Gurbani, "Maya is a slave of the Lord, it serves those in constant communion with Him". Maya functions to hide the reality. "Maya makes us forget God, creates delusion and makes man love the other." Gurbani does not picture the universe as a creation of Prakriti of Maya. "The world comes into existence by His decree ("Hukam"), but Hukam cannot be described in words. By His decree jivas come into being." Liberation does not come through knowledge, but by the destruction of egoism by being in tune with the Infinite. The jiva does not become brahmin when his ignorance is destroyed. "The rivers and streams fall into the ocean, but do not know its extent."
In the Mul-Mantra i.e. the basic creed of Sikhism, God has been described as "Ajuni", which means that he does not take birth. He is unborn. The Gurus were opposed to the Hindu doctrine of "avtarvaad", but in their hymns you find that they used names for God which the masses used for incarnations of Vishnu, e.g. Rama and Krishna. Guru Arjan in the "Bhairon" measure condemns those who on the birthday of Sri Krishna place the idols in a cradle and sing, lullabies rocking the supposed new-born child to sleep:
"Those who sing lullabies commit a grievous sin. May that mouth burn which says the Lord enters the womb. He is neither born nor does He die; Neither comes He nor goes. The Lord of Nanak pervades everywhere." (4.1)
But in the "majh" he addresses God as ‘Murari’. In "Sabad Hazare" of Guru Gobind Singh we find the same. In the 4th Sabad he calls God ‘Nilkanth’ (a name of Siva), Madho, Murari (the names of Krishna), but in the next sabad in "Kalyan", he says:
"Put your faith only in the Creator and not in His creation. Consider Him to be the Supreme Lord, who is from the beginning, is never born, who is unconquerable and indestructable."
All this implies that having explained to the masses that the Formless one does not come to the world they used all the names that Hindus or Muslims were using to denote the object of their worship.
Another fact that may puzzle some scholars is the use of analogies from the "Pauranic" lore. The stories of the liberation of the Courtesan, of Ajamal, the elephant, the Hunter and Draupadi, the wife of the Pandavas were current among the Hindu masses and the Gurus used these to emphasize the efficacy of the Name. Says Bhai Gurdas:
"If the nurse Putana was saved, it does not mean that poisoning others is a good act. If Ajamal was saved, men should not soil their souls by committing adultry."
And to emphasize this he says:
"If someone in a fall from a date-palm tree did not break his limbs, don’t you climb a date-palm tree and let yourself fall in the belief that you too would be unhurt."
Analogy is an illustration, not a logical reasoning. The Gurus used these old stories to emphasize the efficacy of the Name in saving such great sinners and exhorted his listeners to enshrine the Name in their hearts to save themselves.
During the times of the Gurus it was a general custom amongst those who wanted to work for their spiritual progress to retire to the mountains, caves and forests. This practice had continued from the time of the Upanishadas. Swami Vivekanand on page 182 of his english translation of the Yoga of Patanjli, called Raj-Yoga gives the following quotation from Svetasvatra Upanishad:
"In (lonely) places, as mountain caves, where the floor is ever free of pebbles or sand, where there are no disturbing noises, from men or waterfalls, in places helpful to the mind and pleasing to the eyes, yoga is to be practiced (mind is to be joined)." 11.10
When the practice of Hatha-Yoga started then too similar directions were laid down for its practice. In Chapter II, Sloka 12 of "Hathayoga Pradipka" by Sri Atmaram Swami it has been laid down:
"The place where hatha yoga is to be practiced should have the following qualificationsThe practitioner of Hatha yoga should live above in a small "matha" or monastery, situated in a place free from rocks, water and fire, of the extent of the bow’s length, in a country where begging is easy and which is ruled over by a virtuous king where there is no disturbance."
Though the social and political conditions in the country underwent great change by the invasion of the foreign hordes and their establishing themselves as the rulers of the country, the yogins went on following the old directions irrespective of the fact that the religion of the invaders who became rulers was opposed to their own. This escapist tendency was harmful for society.
Guru Nanak admonished the Siddhas on the Golden Mountain for this. Says Bhai Gurdas:
"Ths Siddhas asked Nanak how the residents of the plains below fared."
Guru Nanak replied:
"Naths, the moon of truth is invisible in the darkness of falsehood. The ignorant yogins only know how to cover their bodies with ashes everyday. The Siddhas have hidden themselves in the mountains, who will lead the masses to cross the stream of samsara?"
The Gurus, therefore, preached against this tendency. Says the Ninth Guru:
"Why go to search forests (to find Him). He who dwells in all hearts but remains ever pure, pervades thy heart also. Just as fragrance fills the rose and reflection the mirror, the Lord pervades all without a break; search Him inside thee. The Guru hath revealed this knowledge that the Oam pervades inside and outside. Saith Nanak, without knowing thyself the scum of doubt will not be removed."
All schools of Indian philosophy have laid salvation or freedom from transmigration as the goal for the individual, but they differ in the description of this final achievement. The "Nyaya" and "Vaisesika" scholars believe that the soul (atman) is an eternal and all-pervading substance. The qualities of the soul are cognition, desire, aversion, pleasure, pain etc. These cannot belong to any physical substance. So, there must be an immaterial substance called ‘soul’ of which they are the qualities. The soul is different and distinct from the body. The senses, the mind and the stream of consciousness."with the attainment of liberation through the knowledge of the reality, the soul becomes free from its connection with the body and has no experience of pleasure and pain or consciousness of any kind.
The "sankhya" and the "yoga" schools consider Purusa and Prakriti as two coeval entities. Rishi Patanjli points to a God, but he is not the creator of Purusas (souls) or Prakriti. The nature of the soul is pure consciousness unchanging and abiding. "The bondage of the self is affected by its identification with the ‘buddhi’ and egoity. And this identification is due to the reflection of the pure spirit in the buddhi and the consequent failure on the part of the spirit to distinguish itself from the former. This non-discrimination results in the identification of the two, which further leads to the identification of the pure selfwith the successive series of the evolutes. It is for this reason that the pure spirit which by its intrinsic nature is free and pure, risen above pain and sin and moral and intellectual defects, comes to feel its subjection to all these limitations.
It is, however, the prescence of pain, which sums up all the limitations and defects, that compels the spirit to think about the means of delivery from its meshes. Hence the necessity of philosophical knowledge. It is the theoretical and practical conviction that the subject as pure spirit is by its very nature free from all contamination of pain and misery that ultimately leads to its emancipation. The emancipation is achieved by the discriminative knowledge that the self is entirely different from the unaffected by the not-self. This, however, is not easy to achieve. The theoretical conviction must mature in direct realization of the truth." The cessation of pain is what a saved soul gains. There is no mention of bliss which the Vedanties assert.
The "Purav Mimansa" deals with Dharma which produces prosperity like heaven. Jainism, Saharswamin and Prabhakra have not spoken of "moksa". Kumarila and Saliknatha and their followers could not ignore it, since the system would not be complete or perfect without it. Kumarila understands it as freedom from rebirth, the cause of pain and suffering. For the past "karman" should be exhausted through experience without any residue to produce a body. The seeker for liberation should not perform any prohibited action or any action for reward, since both these would generate new bondages. He should do both compulsory and conditional ("nitya" and "naimittika") the ommission of which would produce sin and suffering.
What the Vedant philosophy of Samkara says on this subject has already been touched upon briefly. When through knowledge a jivatma realises truth "I am Brahm", the shackles of maya break and it regains the bliss natural to it.
But the conception of the Supreme Reality in Gurbani differs from all Six Schools of Philosophy. The God of Guru Nanak is "Karta Purakhu". Unlike the Purusha of Samkhaya, He is not a mere witness of the show that Prakriti displays. He is both efficient and material cause of the universe, unlike the God of Nyaya and Vaisesaka schools. The Gurus rejected the Karma-kand or the ritual portion of the Vedas which the Purva Mimamsa lays stress on. He is not "Tatastha" like the Brahmin of Samkara. He Himself creates, sustains and destroys the universe. All animate and inanimate substances in the world have been created by Him. So, the jivatma is to realise these facts and try to be in tune with the Infinite. By destroying its egoism it achieves the supreme object of its life.
"By singing His praises thy impurity will be removed and the poison of Haumain (egoism) spread all over will be destroyed."
To the question, "What present should we offer to have a vision of His court? What words should we utter to win His love?", Guru Nanak replies in Pauri iv of Japu:
"Meditation on His name and His glory in the ambrosial hours of the morning. Our actions procure us this vesture (body), but the door of liberation is opened through His grace."
Our meditation should be so intense "That we may realize His prescence everywhere." In Pauri xx of Japu the first Guru proclaims:
"If the hands, feet, or body are covered with dust, they are cleansed by washing them with water. if clothes are made unclean, by use of soap they are washed of impurity. If the buddhi (intellect) is defined by sin, love of the Name will purify it."
In the light of these teachings we shall now analyze the hymns of the Ninth Guru.
"The person who has given up his egoism (haumai) by recognising God as the creator, shall get deliverance; be sure of this truth, O my mind." (Sloka 19)
"Consider the man, who meditates God day and night as His image. Between God and His servant there is no dissimilarity – recognize this to be true." (Sloka 29)
"Sing the praises of God, good men; You have got the priceless human birth: why waste it? Take refuge with God who purifies sinners and the support of the holy. Why forget Him, by whose rememberance the Elephant got rid of his fear." (Gauri 2.5)
But a man cannot serve God and mammon both. Hence the Guru says:
"Give up pride and attachment to mammon, and devote your heart to the worship of God. Saith Nanak, this is the way to salvation – through the teachings of the Guru find it." (Gauri 2.4)
Of the use of mere study of religious books:
Religion is a matter of experience. You have to realise the truth, which the religious scriptures point out.
"Good men, rest comes only when a man seeks and finds the asylum of Hari. The study of Vedas and Puranas should result in the rememberance of God’s Name. The person whom greed, delusion, wealth, sense of possession and indulgence in sensual pleasures do not attract and for whom pleasure and pain are alike, is the image of God."
So is he who considers hell and heaven, nectar and poison and gold and copper alike.
"For whom praise and dispraise are the same, and on whom greed and attachment have no effect. Consider him only enlightened whom pain and pleasure do not entrap. Nanal; conside such a person saved." (Gauri 2.7)
For purifying the heart and getting rid of inclinations towards sin, rememberance of the Name is the only remedy. Washing the body in the water of sacred rivers may remove dirt of the body, but such bathing does not remove the foulness of the mind.
"Without the Name of Hari man is subject to sorrows; Without devotion doubt is not removed – the Guru has revealsed this secret. Bathing at sacred places and fasts are of no avail, if one does not take refuge in God. Yoga and sacrifices will bring no reward to him who neglects to praise Him. Forsaking pride and attachment to worldly pleasures, one should sing the praises of God. Says Nanak, the mortal who acts thus will be a jiwan mukta i.e. is saved whilst alive." (Bilawal 2.2)
Without devotion to God life is wasted:
"He who does not devote himself to God, has wasted his life bear this in mind. He who has not his mind under control will not get any reward from pilgrimages and fasts, this truth I proclaim. Just as a stone placed in water is not pierced by it, Regard the man who has no devotion in Him to be hard-hearted in the same way. In this Kali-age liberation is obtained through the Name, the Guru has revealed this secret. Saith Nanak, that man is great who sings the praises of the Lord." (Bilawal 2.3)
Guru Arjan has proclaimed in Sukhmani, Sloka and Pauri I of Ashatpadi ix that the entire character of him who enshrines God’s Name in his heart is changed:
"He, who enshrines the Name in his heart see God pervading all beings. Every second he worships the Lord. Nanak, he becomes an Apars (untouched by Maya) and he saves all. Falsehood does not touch his tongue. His heart longs for the vision of the Impeccable. He does not cast an evil eye on the womenfolk of others. He loves the company and service of good men, He has controlled his senses and is free of the five evils. Nanak, amongst millions there is one such apars."
The Ninth Guru in measure Basant says:
"Mother, I have obtained the wealth of the God’s Name. My mind is rid of running hither and thither – It has found its rest. Illusion and desire of possession have departed from my body – the pure knowledge of God has dawned. Greed and delusion do not touch me now. I have grasped firmly devotion to God. The doubt about birth and death is no more. Now that I have obtained the jewel of the Name, All desire has been removed from my mind: It is now absorbed in bliss. He alone sings the praises of Hari, on whom the ocean of Grace showers His compassion. Saith Nanak, such wealth is found rarely by some through the Guru’s Word." (Basant 3.3)
For purifying the mind in order that it may contain the Name, ethical conduct is indispensable. In the very first hymn of the Gauri, Guru Tegh Bahadur has emphasized this point:
"Good men: discard pride of mind. Flee day and night lust, wrath and the company of evil men. He who regards pleasure and pain, honour and dishonour as alike. And rises above joy and sorrow – Such a one knows the Truth. He renounces praise and obloquy and seeks to achieve the state that is inexpressible. Nanak, this way is hard – Only the rare God-oriented man knows it." (Gauri 2.1)
"Do not think that the yogi knows the right way in whose mind you see avarice, attachment to wealth and worldly possessions. Rcognise him only as a yogi who engages neither in praise nor in obloquy of others and to whom gold and iron are alike, and who has risen above pleasure and sorrow. Such a man, who has stablized his restless mind that was running in all the ten directions, is to be regarded as emancipated, saith Nanak." (Dhanasari 2.3)
Liberation is attained by him:
"Who in pain is not affected by it, Who has no attachment to pleasure and is fearless, and who thinks of gold as a clod of earth. Neither does he indulge in praise nor cavalling at others. And has no greed, delusion of pride in him. He remains aloof from happiness and sorrow and cares not for honour or dishonour. He gives up all hope and desire, and has no desire. Him lust and wrath do not touch. In the heart of such a man does Brahmin abide. A man who the Master favours follows this way of life and he is absorbed in the Lord, just as water merges into water." (Sorathi 2.11)
Transcience of worldly things must be recognized by a person who seeks spiritual progress. While performing the worldly duties he must not forget his duty to God. Our relationship with wife, children, brothers, sisters, friends and companions ends with death. The Guru reminds us that even our body which accompanied us when we were born, is left behind when we depart. The Guru wants man to ponder upon these truth and not neglect his spiritual life.
"Wake up, O mind, wake up: why dost thou sleep negligently? The body that was born with thee will not accompany thee when thou shalt depart. Mother, father, progeny and other relations, to whom thou remainst attached, Will consign thy body to flames when life departs from it. Know that thy affairs with the world last only as long as thou art alive. At thy death the whole thing will pass off like a dream; so sing the praises of Hari." (Tilang 2.2)
"O mortal, remember Him night and day. Every moment thy life is passing away like water from cracked pitcher. Why dost thou not sing the praises of Hari, thou ignorant fool: Thou hast forgotten death, entangled in false covetousness. Even now if you chant the praises of Hari, nothing is lost. Saith Nanak, by devotion to Hari thou shalt attain the state of fearlessness." (Tilang 2.1)
Every creed has some external forms. "While the meaning is alive in these they are not only harmless but pregnant and life-giving. When we come to think that they possess in themselves material and magical virtues, then the purpose which they serve is to hide God from us and make us practically into aetheists." At the time of the advent of Guru Nanak split-eared yogins who followed Gorakh Nath had a large following among the masses of Punjab. They admitted both Hindus and Muslims to their sect. They laid great stress on outer forms. Guru Nanak in measure Suhi, hymn 7 drew their attention to this aspect of their practice.
"Yoga does not consist in the patched coat nor in the staff and rubbing ashes on the body. Nor does yoga consist in ear-rings nor in close-cropping the hair. It does not consist in sounding the horn. The way to yoga is found when we remain in tune with the Impeccable amidst worldly temptations. Mere talk cannot turn a man into a yogi. He who considers all men equal is alone to be called a yogi."
The Ninth Guru says on this theme:
"Man, thou didst not embrace the teachings of the Guru: of what avail is the shaving of thy head or doning ochre-coloured robes; Thou has forsaken truth and adopted falsehood; thus hast thou lost the goal of life. Thou hast filled thy belly by deceitful methods and slept like a beast. The way to devotion to God thou didst not learn and didst sell thyself to mammon. Thou didst entangle thyself with sensual pleasures and forget the Jewel of the Name. Thou didst remain ignorant and didst not remember God; thy life was wasted. Saith Nanak: Lord! exercise thy own virtue of forgiveness. The mortal always errs." (Sorathi 1.10)
It has been mentioned earlier in this script that in the "Jaijwanti" measure we find only the four hymns of Guru Tegh Bahadur. In these he has emphasized the transitoriness of worldly pleasures and possessions and urges man to devote himself to the Name and thus attain the goal of life. We may in the end reproduce what is stated in these four hymns.
"Remember Rama, remember Him. It will stand thee in good stead. Forsake following the illusion and take shelter with Consider the pleasures of the world transitory; this whole paraphernalia is short-lived. Wealth of which thou art so proud will pass of like a dream; The empire of the whole world is a wall of sand. The servant of God, Nanak says, the body will perish. Moment by moment passed yesterday, Today is also passing similarly." (2.1)
"Worship, O worship God, thy life is fast passing. What shall I tell thee again and again? Thou understand not, thou ignorant man: Thy body shall melt like a hailstone before long, Give up all doubts and meditate on the Name of God. In the end this alone will accompany thee. Give up like poison the sensual pleasures, and enshrine the praise of Hari in thy heart. Nanak, the servant of God, reminds thee – Thy opportunity is slipping." (2.2)
"O man, what shall be thy lot? To the Name of God didst thou not lend thy ear in this world, and remained totally engrossed in sensual pleasures and didst not turn away thy mind from these.
Thou wast born a man, but didst not remember God even for an instant. Thou hast become a slave to gratification of lust and hast got thy feet shackled.
Nanak, the servant of God warns thee – this world is like a dream. Why dost thou not remember God, slave mammon is?" (2.3)
"Thy life is passing in vain Day and night thou dost listen to religious books yet thou dost not understand the truth, ignorant man. Death is approaching and thou hast nowhere to flee from it. Thy, body, which thou regardest as permanent shall return to dust; why dost thou not remember God, O thou who are without shame and ignorant? Nanak, the servant of God tells thee to give up pride in thy heart and devote thyself to God and thus live thy life in this world." (2.4)
NOTES & REFERENCES: