Akbar was a famous king of India. He was a kind and good king and respected the Sikh Gurus for their teachings. In the year 1569, Akbar came to the Punjab and wanted to see the Guru. So he sent a message to Guru Amar Das ji that he was coming to visit him. The Sikhs were very happy at the news. Some Sikhs thought that special arrangements should be made to welcome the king. But the Guru said, "Akbar is as much a human being as others are. The Guru's place is open to all. The king and his subjects, the Hindus and the Muslims, the rich and the poor are all equal here. So Akbar will be welcomed like all other visitors to the Guru's place and special arrangements need not be made."
"Caste has no power in the next world; Only the humble are exalted there. It is only the good who are honoured for good acts." ( Guru Amar Das in GGS ji – 469 )
The king, along with the Rajah of Haripur, arrived in Goindwal where the Guru lived. The Guru and a few Sikhs received them warmly. They were shown round the place. Akbar was interested to know how the Guru's Langar was run. Simple food was served to all in the Guru's Langar. It remained open day and night. Travellers, beggars, and strangers, as well as the followers of the Guru, were all served with food. Whatever was left was thrown to the cattle and birds so that nothing was wasted. The Guru had given an order that all persons coming to visit his place must have their food in the Langar(when hungry). There they were to sit in rows (Pangat) as equals and were to be served simple food in turn.
Akbar and the Rajah of Haripur took their meals in the Guru's Langar. They sat among the common people in a row and the Sikhs served them food. They enjoyed the simple food and were very happy. Akbar liked the working of the Guru's Langar very much. Before leaving, Akbar said to the Guru, "I like Guru Nanak's religion very much and I respect you for your teachings. I want to make a grant of land for running the Langar. Would you mind it!"
"Dear Akbar," said the Guru, "I am very glad you like the path of Baba Nanak. I am also grateful to you for your offer of a grant of land for the Langar, but I am sorry I cannot accept it because the Guru likes all to work hard to earn (Kirt Karni) and to share their honest earnings (Wand Chakna) with others, by giving something to the Langar from their honest earnings to help others. As such, the Guru's langar is the people's (Sangat's) Langar and it must be run on people's free gifts and not on a royal grant. That is why all share equally in the Guru's Langar and no one is looked upon as an outsider. In the Guru's Langar, each gives as much as we can spare and takes as much as he/she needs. Here, there is no difference between kings and beggars. All sit together; and eat simple food served with loving care." Akbar liked the Guru's idea very much.
Once a king in India went to Guru Nanak Dev Ji and asked: "O Guru! As you told us , God Himself supports His true worshiper, but God has so many apostles, why does He support Himself? Why does He not send His apostles to help the worshiper?" As he said this, his own son who was playing on the bank of a river nearby slipped in the river. The king did not wait for a second and jumped in the river as well to save his child. After saving his child he returned to the Guru. The Guru asked : " My dear friend, you were sitting here with me a minute ago and why did you jump in the river? The king explained that his son had slipped into the river and he went to save him. Then the Guru asked : "Dear friend, you have so many servants , why did you jump in the river yourself? Why did not you send your servants to save him?" The king said : "By the time I would have asked my servants, he would have drowned. I love my child very much and do not want to lose him at any cost. " Then Guru said: "My dear friend, God loves His worshipers the same way as you love your son. That is why He Himself saves His true worshiper. "
Such a worshipper was Naamdev. For all of his life, Naamdev had worshipped God and had faith in Him for each and every moment. He did not worship anyone else but the one immortal God. He says :
"O my tongue, other occupations are false. The stateof Nirvaanaa comes only through the Lord's Name. ||2|| The performance of countless millions of other devotions is not even equal to one devotion to the Name of God" (Guru Granth Sahib, 1163).
The materialistic things would not deter Naamdev jis spiritual path to meet God. Once while sewing , he wrote:
"My needle is of gold and my thread is very expensive but my mind is attached to God (Guru Granth Sahib, 485).
He cared neither for gold nor silver; he was in love with God. Even though as a result of his true worship he had become a highly spiritual person, he was still completely devoid of pride (or ego). Naamdev knew that God does care for the person who recites His name and remembers Him all the time.
Once Naamdev went to Avandanagnath Temple situated in the state of Maharashtra , India. The Hindu priests of that temple believed in the caste system. After reaching the temple, Naamdev sat and started worshipping God but the Hindu priests grabbed his arm and drove him out of the temple. The priests said that Naamdev could not visit the temple because he was of a low class. Naamdev was deeply hurt so he went to the back of the temple and started worshipping God. In his prayer he said:
"Joyfully, I came to Your Temple, O Lord. While Naamdev was worshipping, he was driven out. I am of a low social class, O Lord; why was I born into a family of fabric dyers? I picked up my blanket and went back, to sit behind the temple" (Guru Granth Sahib, 1164).
Naamdev also said:
"O Lord, please do not forget me because if You forget me then where should I go. There is nowhere else to go and no one else to believe in except You'.
He further prayed:
"Please do not forget me, do not forget me, please do not forget me, O Lord. The temple priests have doubts about this, and everyone is furious with me. Calling me low-caste and untouchable, they beat me and drove me out; what should I do now, O Beloved Father Lord? If You give me salvation after I am dead, no one will know that I attained salvation. These Priests, these religious scholars, call me low-born; when they say this, they tarnish Your honour as well. You are called kind and compassionate; the power of Your Arm is absolutely unrivalled" (Guru Granth Sahib, 1292).
"As Naamdev uttered the Glorious Praises of the Lord, the temple turned around to face the Lord's humble devotee " (Guru Granth Sahib, 1164).
"The Lord turned the temple around to face Naamdev and its back to the Priests" (Guru Granth Sahib, 1292).
That temple is still rotated. This is the symbol of the true love of God towards His true worshiper.
Masands who were appointed by the third Guru, Guru Amardas jee were very chardi kala wale Gursikhs but by the time Guru Gobind Singh jee took the Guruship from Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib, the masands got corrupted very badly.
The masands who were appointed to preach Gursikhee, collect Daswand and provide social, political and religious leadership to the Sikhs who lived in far off lands, totally forgot their duties and started extorting money from people, and did some very bad things etc. They made the people quiet by scaring them with curses and other means. In short they had become scoundrels from saints.
When Guru Gobind Singh jee heard all this he got very upset. He ordered his Khalsa to make the masands appear in front of him. He further ordered his Singhs to bring them holding them by their beards. The Singhs heard this and heeded by dragging and abducting the masands and made them appear before Guru Sahib.
In those days the masand of Lahore was Bhai Pheru jee who apart from being the true masand was a Gursikh of high spritual stages. When the Singhs came to get him they could not dare to put their hands on the beard of such a great Gursikh. At this Bhai Pheru jee begged them to hold him by the beard but the Singhs could not do it. Then Bhai Sahib jee held his beard in his own hand and came in the darbar of king of kings Guru Gobind Singh jee.
When Guru Gobind Singh jee saw Bhai Pheru coming, he got 'bairaag'. He got up from his Singhaasan (throne) and embraced Bhai Pheru jee and said that the order of holding the masands by beard was not for the Gursikhs like you. Such is the humility of Gursikhs. Bhai Pheru jee took amrit and got even more respect now after appearing in the Guru darbar.
Moral : Gursikhs keep humility and never ever show pride in the darbar of Guru. What is the being (aukaat) of a human. If Guru takes away the sight of mercy from an individual, a person becomes dust in two seconds.
"Kabeer, let yourself be a pebble on the path; abandon your egoism.
Such a humble slave will meet God. Kabeer, what good would it be,
to be a pebble? It would only hurt the traveler on the path. Your slave,
O God, is like the dust of the earth. Kabeer, what then, if one could
become dust? It is blown up by the wind, and sticks to the body. The
humble servant of God should be like water, which cleans everything.
Kabeer, what then, if one could become water? It becomes cold, then
hot. The humble servant of God should be just like God"
Gobind Singh often sported with his disciples, and had many surprises for them. It was ordained at Anandpur that every disciple should keep a langar of his own to feed the pilgrims and the needy, and the orders were that none should be sent away disappointed.
Very early one day, the Master disguised as a common pilgrim, went round all these langars, asking for bread. The disciples were busy getting the bread ready, so they could not promise anything till they were fully prepared to receive guests. The Master went from door to door till he reached Bhai Nandlal's langar.
Bhai Nandlal welcomed the guest with a beaming face and brought everything that was in the room; butter, half-kneaded flour, half-cooked pulse, and other vegetables; and placed them before the guest.
"This is ready and is all for you, but if you permit me, I will prepare them for you, and serve you in the Name of My Master", said Bhai Nandlal.
Next morning, the Guru told everyone that there was but one Temple of Bread at Anandpur, and that was Bhai Nandlal's.
ieMdR purI lK rwj nIr BrwvxI] lK surg isrqwj glw pIhwvxI]
e i (n)dhr pu r ee lakh r aa j nee r bhar aavan ee || lakh su rag s irath aa j galaa p eeh aa vanee ||
Fetching water for the holy congregation is equal to the kingdom of lacs of Indrapuris.
Grinding of corn (for the holy congregation) is more than the pleasure of myriads of heavens.
irD isD inD lK swj cul JkwvxI] swD grIb invwj grIbI AwvxI]
r i dhh si dhh n idhh lakh s aa j chu l jhak aavan ee || saa dhh gar eeb n i vaa j gar eeb ee aa van ee||
Arranging for and putting in woods into the hearth of langar (free kitchen) for the congregation is equal to the rddhis, siddhis and the nine treasures.
The holy persons are the caretakers of the poor and in their company the humility resides in the heart (of people).
Anhd Sbd AgwjbwxI gwvxI ]ñø]
anehadh shabadh ag aa jabaa n ee g aa vanee ||aa||
Singing of hymns of the Guru is the personification of the unstruck melody.
EXCELLENT ARTICLE !!!
Neither a Shield, Nor a Sword
by T. SHER SINGH
I have noticed that the concept of seva - loosely translated as "selfless, voluntary service" - is nowadays increasingly wielded as a weapon and less as what it is meant to be.
The other day, when a community volunteer was asked why she repeatedly failed to do what she had undertaken to do, why she hadn't met her obligations fully or in a timely fashion, I was flabbergasted by the response I overheard:
"I do seva, bhenji", she protested. "I'm not getting paid for this. I spend so many hours here, while I could easily be doing something else. I don't have to listen to this nonsense: if you don't want me here, say so, and I'm gone!"
It was a deft use of the very essence of seva. As a shield - a shield from criticism and from accountability.
On another occasion, I heard a fellow wield the word somewhat differently, but equally effectively.
He was addressing members of a community group. "I'm the one who can run this organization and ensure that it stays alive . I've done seva for three years ... day and night, and weekends too. And haven't taken a single cent for my time. How can you even think that another person should come over and run it. Others will simply run it to the ground. And, you know, I'm not going to let you do this. I'm not going to let you turn all my seva into nought!"
I felt, as I watched him through this performance, that he was wielding his seva quite deftly... as a weapon. A sword, actually. The parry and thrust was working: you could see it in the wounded look in the eyes of the audience.
Is this what seva is all about?
Am I wrong in thinking that the moment you use seva ... yes, USE it ... for any ulterior purpose, then it instantly ceases to be seva ? If it loses its spiritual core, then all you're left with is ... a clumsy weapon.
The concept of seva, I feel, is simple and uncomplicated in Sikhi .
The very idea of seva begins with a metaphor: that of the milk-pot or vessel. Nanak says:
First, wash the vessel,
Next, disinfect it with incense.
Then, and only then, is it ready to receive the milk.
[GGS, M1, 728:1]
True. What good is the milk once it has been poured into a soiled receptacle? The dirt of the vessel taints everything that is poured into it.
The mind, like the vessel, first needs to be cleansed if one is to prepare it for things spiritual. Otherwise, all effort goes to waste. And this cleansing of the mind, the preparation, is done with the "soap" of humility.
So far, all of this is esoteric and philosophical. But Sikhi brings the exercise down to earth by guiding us how to do it while going about our day-to-day, ordinary lives. In seeking humility, there's no need to blindly wade through religious tomes. No penances, no fasting, no retreats, no masochism of any kind. No feeding of priests, no pilgrimages, no renunciations, no onerous abstentions.
There's a simple, direct and effective way: seva.
No grandiose projects are necessary for this inner cleansing. We don't have to build monuments, or light bonfires on top of mountains, or even go on far-flung crusades fighting for world peace.
Just serving the basic needs of those who are in need puts us on the right path. At home, with the neighbour, around the corner, in the community we live in ... the concentric circles can get as wide or remain as narrow as the situation demands.
Feed the hungry, clothe the destitute, shelter the homeless.
Or even more simple: just wash the dishes at the langar, or serve food, or look after the shoes of those who come to worship.
Anonymity helps. Not wearing a t-shirt or bandana that proclaims SEVADAR, helps.
Doing it without fan-fare, without a shabash or pat on the back, is a definite plus. Doing things that others do not want to, or cannot do, is good. Sweeping the floor, or cleaning the washrooms are therefore bound to be the most rewarding.
One of the most moving sights I have seen in my life is something I witnessed a couple of years ago in Espanola, New Mexico. Singh Sahib Harbhajan Singh Yogi had shed his mortal coil and crowds from around the globe had arrived to celebrate his life. By the thousands. The logistics required to cater to the needs of these visitors from far and wide were stupendous.
And one of them was the need for a platoon of portable toilets which were, I'm sure, leased for the occasion. It would've been terribly easy to have also bought the services of a handful of workers who could've maintained the facilities and kept them clean at all times.
What touched me deep inside was the vision of our hosts who saw it as an unprecedented opportunity to do seva . Any time of the day or night, if you walked into the facilities, you saw a couple of the Sikhs from the Espanola sangat cleaning the toilets and water basins, or down on their hands and knees, cleaning the floor. It was arguably the cleanest spot within the endless acreage roped in for the events of the week.
And, you know, there was not a sign anywhere proclaiming, e.g., "Seva provided by the Sangat of ....."
Nothing. Not a word, not a peep.
It's for the sheer sake of seva. It has no other goal. Even the end result is not important. You don't need a smile or a nod, a pat on the shoulder, or the gratitude of another to validate it. You simply do it, and you do it to the best of your ability, and nothing else matters.
You don't go home and note it in your diary. Or tell your family and friends. Or have it published in a newsletter in the "Acknowledgment" section.
And you don't wave it in the face if you are running for election the next time around.
Here's what I've been taught and what I try to emulate .... though those who know me well could easily cite many a lapse:
Don't let the right hand know what the left hand does ...
It isn't seva if it is for the purpose of getting a tax-deductible receipt.
It isn't seva if your heart and soul aren't in it.
It isn't seva if it isn't done with honesty and integrity.
It isn't seva if you believe that mediocrity is all that is expected of you, and that you needn't do more.
It isn't seva if it's for building your resume.
It isn't seva if it is meant to be a stepping stone to bigger and better things.
It isn't seva if you need to tell others, now or later, that you did it.
It isn't seva if lack of appreciation by others, or their criticism, drives you away.
It isn't seva if you believe that it is your right to do it.
It isn't seva if you have to fight against others to do it.
It isn't seva if you snatch it away from another, to do it.
It isn't seva if you begin to believe you're the best one to do it.
And, it isn't seva if it distresses you that others take credit for what you've done.
Not too long ago, I was blessed with an opportunity to visit the Durbar Sahib in Amritsar, after an absence of more than three decades. There were so many things that added to the joy of being there.
Not the least of it was the timeless sight at all hours of the day or night, literally - even in the cold and dark hours before dawn - of men, women and children behind the counter, tending to the shoes of pilgrims.
Quiet faces, moving in the shadows. Ever-so-slight, barely discernible quivering of the lips, silently accompanying the kirtan playing from the speakers around them. No small-talk. No name-tags. No meeting of the eyes, no searching for acquaintances. Just simple, purposeful, swift, efficient movements ... the queues were long.
There's always a hush around the shoe-stalls outside the main entrance, I've noticed. The only words you hear are "satnam, satnam... " and "waheguru, waheguru..." And a lot of "ji...ji...jee-o...ji ..."
I don't know how they do it. But I see them taking each pair of foot-wear as if it is a house-warming gift. Lovingly, gently, softly ... if you glance back for a split-second, as you turn away, you may even catch one in the shadows wiping the dirt off your shoes as they are placed on the shelves.
I tell you, it is there, standing on the cold wet marble, looking at this scene, that I experienced the first communion with what I had come searching for, after all these years, at the doors of the Harmander.
It is the epitome of seva.
And, it is most magical when - and I borrow from the English Bard - it "is not strain'd"...
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath.
It is twice blest:
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes .
May we all, each one of us, be blessed with this gift.