A SCHOOL OF PARABLES.
FORGIVENESS IS ALL
Man is weak. He is, when sincere, but a pilgrim to the Golden Temple. And the path of the pilgrim is full of difficulties. Sometimes hunger, thirst, and nakedness, and sometimes incontinent desires dim his faith and bend it beyond the limits of elasticity. The faith breaks, the vision is lost, the nectar of repeating His name is spilled. Heavy darkness settles on his eyes, his limbs grow weary, his heart faints. And disciple is as if dead.
The Sikhs, besieged along with Guru Gobind Singh in the fort of Anandpur would not obey him, for the siege of the enemy was long and unbreakable, and the Master desired to hold on till the last. In his desire was victory. But the disciples would not obey him. They deserted Him. Had they obeyed Him, all would have been different. But the great devotion for the Master was flaming in the peasant mud-huts of the Punjab. More than men, the Sikh women were in the same passionate love with Him, even as the Maries and Marthas of Palestine were in love with the Messiah in the olden times. Doors were closed against the deserters. There was no love for them after they had left Him at Anandpur. All loving hearts were shut against them. But this act of the noble Sikh women kindled the extinguished hearts of the confused and weak disciples. The forty martyrs of our history shall forever stand peerless in the glory of self-sacrifice for Him. You remember, when the sun went down, he went amongst the wounded and blessed them. One of the dying disciples asked not for life, asked not for kingdoms, but only begged that all his brothers who had deserted Him and given it in writing to Him might be soul-knitted with the Guru, with the Glory of the Infinite, and that the document might be torn up. Guru Gobind Singh tore up the document and forgave all; “Retie the broken ties” is one of our most stirring national songs.
THE BLESSED FIVE
Guru Gobind Singh fixed a day for the gathering of all his disciples at Anandpur. When they had gathered from all parts of the country, he rose with a naked sword in his hand and called for a life to be offered to his steel from among their number, if they wished to continue as his disciples. This call caused terror in the assembly, for they had already forgotten the ways of Guru Nanak. This was indeed not the first time in the Sikh history that some such call had been made. Guru Nanak had called in the same awful tone, and only Angad had come forward, the others being afraid. Moreover, the disciples knew their present Master only in his loving and sustaining mood; it is not surprising that they were unable even to guess the meaning of the Master for whom this was a climacteric moment in which centuries throbbed to new life. The Master called again, “Does any disciple wish to die under my steel?” Only one rose and came forward with his head bent in deep reverence, saying, “Thine it is forever, Master; under the keen edge of thy steel is the highest bliss.” A tent was pitched on a little mound nearby, and the blessed disciple followed the Master into it. The Master came out again, flashing the sword, saying “One more disciple to die today.” So did he call five times in all, and five Sikhs stepped forward to die. After a while, out of the tent came the Beloved Five, decked in saffron-dyed garments and saffron turbans; altogether a new type, with the Master in their midst looking strangely as one of them. The Beloved Five by his favour had the same dress, the same physical appearance, and the same Divine glow as he, Gobind Rai, proceeded to dissolve the Song of the Master in the water. He prepared the Nectar of Knowledge Absolute in which he had resolved to give himself away to the children of Guru Nanak. The Nectar was ready. He had just finished the chanting of his Mantram, when the Mother of his disciples came with sugar crystals and stood waiting below the Master. “Welcome, good lady!” said he, “Power without the sweetness of soul means little. Put the gift into the Nectar so that our disciples may be blessed not only with power, but with the grace of a woman’s sweet soul.” And the Mother thereupon sweetened the Nectar. The Blessed Five were as fully-armed soldiers in appearance, with the tresses of each tied in a knot of disciple’s dharma gathered on the crown of the head and covered by a graceful turban and they wore a kind of half-trousers. From within the Master’s tent came out a new incarnation of the disciple, a new face of the saint-soldier who had accepted death in love. It was a moment of creation whose full fructification requires the lapse of aeons. He stood up, with the sacred Nectar contained in a steel vessel, to give away the blessed abundance of God-in-Man. The Disciple from Bir-Aman, kneeling on his left knee, looked up to the Master to receive his eternal light. The Master gazed upon the Nectar and called to him aloud with each shower to sing the Mantram composed by the Master for the occasion, “Wah Guru Ji Ka Khalsa, Sri Wah Guru Ji Ki Fateh.” “The chosen ones, the King’s servants, or the Khalsa, belong to the Glorious Master, all triumph be to His Name! He is Truth, and Truth triumphs ever and anon.” He repeated it three times. The knot of the disciple’s dharma which the Master had just gathered in his own hand was then anointed by him with same Nectar. Thenceforward every hair of the disciple’s head was filled with Nectar; every hair was a tongue which was to sing the Song of the Master. Every hair of the disciple is thus sacred for all time. Thus were the Five Beloved anointed by the Master, and they were asked to drink the Nectar from the same steel cup in deep draughts of brotherly love. “You are the Sons of Nanak, the Creator’s own, the chosen ones. Ye shall be the saviours of man. Ye shall own no property, but all shall be for the Master. Ye shall love man as man, making no distinction of caste or creed. Ye shall keep forever this flame of holy life lit in you, unflickering, in deep meditation on the One Deathless Being. Ye shall bow your heads down to your Master only. Ye shall never worship sticks and stones, idols, tombs. Ye shall always pray in the dhyanam of your Master. Remember always in times of danger or difficulty the holy names of the Masters- Nanak, Angad, Amardas, Ramdas, Arjun Dev, Hargobind, Har Rai, Har Krishnan, Tegh Bahadur. I make ye a Rosary of these names and ye shall not pray for himself, but for the whole Khalsa. In each of your, the whole brotherhood shall be incarnated. Ye are my sons, both in flesh and in spirit.”
THE GAME OF LOVE.
SAYAD Khan, the Mughal General, besieging the fort of Anandpur, like the intellectuals and curious sentimentalists of all times, people who make of spirituality a clay toy of their own mind, doubted how Guru Gobind Singh could be as spiritual as Guru Nanak. And Said Khan was still doubting when along comes Guru Gobind Singh riding direct towards him on his purple steed. And Said Khan points his rifle at the Guru, but the bullet misses. And Guru Gobind Singh addresses him thus: “Come, Said Khan, what are the doubts you have?” “Teach me about Thyself,” replied Said Khan. “If that is the game and not war, then put your head on my stirrup,” said the Guru. Said Khan alighted from his horse and as he lay at the feet of Guru Gobind Singh, the Soldier, Guru touched him with the sharp edge of his spear. That touch was enough. Said Khan was converted. And Said Khan went towards the Himalayas renouncing all to cultivate the spiritual art of Guru’s Simrin. And thousands were so touched by the Guru’s arrow and made sufficient. Guru Gobind Singh made not only men, but high spiritual geniuses. He was in love’s high ecstasy when he rode.
THE IMMORTAL QUARTET.
During these vicissitudes, the Master halted once in the Lakhi jungle where the disciples gathered ‘round him again in hundreds and thousands. There he composed a very pathetic song which, even now brings tears to the eyes of his poor disciples:
O when they heard the call of the Beloved,
They came crying to Him,
So will the scattered herd of buffaloes fly to the long-absent Master on hearing his voice, dropping the half-chewn grass from their mouths as they hasten back to Him.
Then he went on with the concourse of his singing disciples and halted at a place called Damdama. He was still dressed in the indigo-dyed garments. One day, a fire was lit and he tore his indigo garments into shreds and burnt them shred by shred in the fire. Thus was the Mughal Empire burnt by him, shred by shred.
It was at Damdama that the Khalsa came together again, and Anandpur was reproduced there. The Mother of the Khalsa joined the Master. When she arrived, he was sitting in the full assembly of the disciples, who were singing Gurus’ immortal songs. Addressing him, she said, “Where are my Four, Sire? Where are my Four?”
He replied, “What of thy Four, O Mother? What of thy Four? When lives the whole people, the Khalsa, here? Gone, gone are thy Four as sacrifice for the lives of these thousands more, all thy sons. O Mother! What if they Four are gone?”
THE MASTER TURNED DISCIPLE.
After the initiation ceremony, the Guru asked his Five Beloved Disciples to prepare again the Nectar in the same way. It was the Master himself who offered first of all to drink the Amritam from the hands of the Beloved Five. From Guru Gobind Rai his name was changed to Guru Gobind Singh. Thereupon, the heavens resounded with the joyous ejaculation, “Sat Sri Akal” – “The only Reality is He- the Deathless, the Timeless Glory!” Thousands of Sikhs were anointed on that day with the sacred Word, the Amritam of the Master. It was this Amritam that changed the docile, poor, and timid disciples into the leonine men of the new Khalsa, saint-soldiers, who were taught to salute the Master with a naked sword swung high in the air, and to practice the Mantram of Wah-Guru. Arms were thenceforward the symbol of a disciple’s fervour of his soul.
This great miracle of creation, wrought by Gobind Singh, transmuted Anandpur into the centre of a new Saviour Nation. A contagious spirit in independence arose and spread, and the face of the country changed. Where love is supreme, the heart in which it resides must be clothed in the splendour of the steel; the flashing sword of love must be expression, in this dark world, of the light of the sun.
THE NUPTIALS OF LOVE.
Hansa, a religious teacher of the Jains, came to the Master seeking the “hidden light” that illumines the path of life from within. He was a Pandit, a great painter and a leading monk. He brought an offering of a painting of the sunrise for Guru Gobind Singh. But the orders were that he should not have an audience with the Master. After a few days, some of the disciples close to Hansa set up his painting in such a place in the garden that the Guru, a great patron of all kinds of fine art might see it. Gobind saw it and said, “The painting is full of light, but the painter’s heart is all dark. He is cruel, very cruel.” Saying this, he wasn’t away and said nothing more, indicating thereby to his disciples that he could not grant an audience to Hansa. This remark from the Master astonished the disciples who had thought well of Hansa. Meanwhile, the disciples and Hansa had many discussions in the garden on grave points of philosophy; the Guru’s coldness remained unexplained. Then one day a palanquin came to Anandpur, borne by the Guru’s disciples and containing what was little more than a living skeleton, though not long before, a handsome young man. He was lying in a helpless condition in pursuance of his vow of self-purification and the Guru had sent for him. This young man, now half-dead with the performance of his vows was once in the same convent with Hansa, as a Jain in Brahmachari. Near the same convent, there was a young girl, almost a child, whose parents had presented her to the Jain temple as an offering. She and the young man belonged to the same town, where they had played together from their childhood upwards. Both loved each other at an age when they hardly knew what love was, but their guardians had separated them, putting the boy in the temple and the girl in the convent. Hansa was in charge of the temple. For years the young people did not see each other. Then, while gathering flowers in the forest, they met for a moment and conversed. This was a great sin according to the rules of the convent and the nunnery. The girl was punished by having her eyes put out. The boy was sent to the hills for a prolonged penance.
Hansa was responsible for all this. As to the girl, only Hansa knew her whereabouts and he was asked to bring her to Anandpur. After a long search, the blind girl was brought by him to Anandpur. By this time, the great love of the Master and the nursing of the disciples had brought the young Jain Brahmachari to full health again. He was sitting in the assembly, and the music of praise was in full swing as the blind girl entered. The Master looked at her, and she faced the Master. Gobind Singh blessed her and initiated her into the Raja Yoga of Nam. It is written that she recovered her sight and that her face shone with celestial light. The Master’s was great and he ordered that the nuptials of these two disciples be celebrated then and there. Great were the rejoicings and festivities of the disciples. Hansa was initiated the same day, and made a “Singh” of the true faith.
THE YOUNG MARTYRS.
Chamkor had a small fortress, which Guru Gobind Singh occupied. He had then with him about forty disciples, and his two elder sons, Ajit Singh and Jujhar Singh- the former being fifteen years old and the latter thirteen. But soon the Imperial army, which was in hot pursuit, besieged this fortress also, and there was not way out but to fight and die one by one. The disciples held the fortress a long time, baffling the calculations of the enemy, as the Master kept up an incessant shower of his gold-tipped arrows. The disciples, one by one, would sally out, waving their swords in the midst of the enemy, and die. Ajit Singh entreated his father to let him also go and die, as his brothers were dying before his eyes. “O Father! I feel an intense desire for this death, and the feeling rises supreme in my breast that I must go and fight and share this last honour with my brothers.”
The father lovingly embraced the boy, decorated him with a sword and shield, dressed him fully as a soldier, and kissed him. “Go, my child! Akal Purkh so wills.” Ajit Singh rode a horse into the thick of the battle, and, waving his sword and crying, “Sat Sri Akal, Sat Sri Akal,” departed for the true Kartarpur of Guru Nanak. Gobind Singh saw him go, closed his eyes in prayer, and accompanied the soul of Ajit Singh for a little distance beyond death’s door, till the boy was among the celestials. As the father opened his eyes, he saw the little Jujhar Singh standing before him with folded hands with the same entreaty on his lips. “Father, I, too, wish to go where my brother has gone.”
“You are too young to fight,” said the father.
“What is age, father? Have I not drunk my mother’s milk, and have I not tasted the sacred Amritam? Bless me, father, and let me go.”
Gobind Singh took the little one in his lap, washed his face, dressed him in a beautiful velvet suit embroidered with gold and silver, put a small belt ‘round his little waist, and gave him a miniature sword. He wound a turban on his head, decorated it with a little crest, and kissed him. “My child,” said he, “we do not belong to this earth. Our ancestors live with the Akal Purkh. You are now going; go and wait for me there.”
The child had gone but a little distance when he returned and said he was feeling thirsty. Gobind Singh again said, “Go, my child! There is no water for you on this earth. See yonder, there is the cup of Nectar for you where your brother lies.” This child then rode the way his brother had gone.
THUS HE SPAKE.
“I am Thine, death is nothing to me. I wear arms not to kill, but to dazzle with their flash the eyes of cowardly kings, and to blazon in letters of fire the supreme majesty of love over all. I need no kingdoms on this earth; I lust not for shining gold, nor for the beauty of women. I own nothing. All belong to Him, the Lord! If He has chosen to adorn my smile of Knowledge Absolute with the flash of His cleaving sword, it is His pleasure. My Religion, then, is of His Sword.
“Do not misunderstand me. I know the Truth. I am made of it. I am in the safe-keeping of the Beloved. His pleasure is my salvation. I have no need to act, for all action has ended for me in His Love. But so He wills, and I take the body of the flesh to the altar of sacrifice for the sake of suffering humanity, and, rising out of the Master’s heart still half-asleep, I go forward and die for others. With my blood, I will buy them in this world of trade and money-getting, a moral and physical relief. I covet nothing else than to die repeating His name with His song on my lips and His Nectar flowing out of my mind. I therefore pray I may die, not in solitude, but in the battle-field, and not for my glory, but for the glory of the Song o the Word that is deathless.
WALLED UP IN ETERNITY.
The Brahman cook, Gangu, who took Mata Gujri and her two grandsons, Fateh Singh and Zorawar Singh, to his village on their flight from Anandpur, turned traitor and handed them over to the Nawab of Sirhind. The grandmother was kept in a prison cell, separate from her infant charges. The little ones, pale and livid with many days’ privation, were produced in the Nawab’s courts as princes with absurd theatricality. The Nawab made a speech in which he asked them to embrace Islam or die. In the former case, he promised them all kinds of honours and joys and riches and comforts. The pale faces of the two princes blushed red at the insult offered. Fateh Singh, the elder, asked the younger to remain quiet when he himself replied, “We are the sons of the Master, Gobind Singh, and the grandsons of Tegh Bahadur. The joys of the sense are for dogs and asses; sacred Death, good Death, for us.” Day after day they were harassed with similar temptations in the court, the Nawab trying to be kind to them, if they would accept Islam. When nothing availed, and the little heroes stood firm as a rock, the Nawab called two Pathan youths whose father had been killed in a battle by the arrows of the Guru and wished to hand the two boys over to them for any vengeance they might like to have. But the Pathan youths declined to do any injury to the two kids, saying, “No, sir, we will fight the enemy in the battlefield, but will not, like cowards, slay these two innocents.”
After many days, a very cruel form of execution was devised by the Nawab. The wall of Sirhind was thrown down for about three yards; these young ones of the Master were made to stand a yard apart from each other, and the order was given to build the wall little by little on their tender limbs; repeating, at every foot and a half foot of construction the same alternative: death or Islam? The Princes stood with their eyes turned upward, seeing their heavenly ancestors come to bear them away, and remained calm and speechless until the cruel wall entirely covered them.
Mother Gujri expired in the prison on hearing of the tragic end of her two beloved grandsons. Gobind Singh heard of this heartbreaking tragedy as he was passing across the country near Sirhind. He closed his eyes and sent to heaven the prayer embodied in his famous hymn, ‘The Message of us, the disciples, to the Beloved.’
Give Him, the Beloved, the news of us, the disciples!
Without Thee, O Beloved, the luxury of soft raiment and sweet rest is, for us, all pain,
And these high palaces creep towards us like serpents,
The lips of the wine-cup cut us like thin-edged poniards,
And dry as dust this jug of wine when Thou art not with us!
The pallet made of pale straw is heaven for us, if Thou be there!
Burnt be the high palaces, if Thou be not there.
The Master had four sons, and they were all gone in the will of the Lord.
REPUBLIC OF THE SOUL.
A HISTORY HEWN.
Sikh history will ever be in the uncut, uncouth, wild, burning words of poet-labourers and artisan-singers. The names of the Ten Gurus inspire us with life and love, and we sing their praise and live and die in a sweet, soft, continuous inebriation. God brought us here. He takes us away. Pain and pleasure are His gifts, dispensations of His love. Thinking of Him we pass. When called by Him, we give up our lives. We know not what is good, what is bad. What pleases our God is the best. The act of the Guru is the truly moral act. He is beautiful. he is truth and He fascinates our souls. We live remembering Him and ploughing and sweating and labouring and toiling as He told us. This is for us the only way to transcend the physical and be spiritual. Such is His will, such is His pleasure. The Guru is verily, verily our personal God. This indeed is the motif of Sikh history, poetry, life and death. And the Guru has saved us from the horrors of mere man-worship because his vision is of the infinite and his association is of the living God of invisible spiritual realms.
If you wish to know a Sikh, love him. There is a gleam under the shack of hay that Moses saw at Sinai. The Sikh bodypolitic is a heap of immense matter in which still scintillates the spirit.
“Profound, O Vachha, is this doctrine; recondite and difficult of comprehension, excellent and not to be reached by mere reasoning, subtle and intelligent only to the wise, it is a hard doctrine to learn for you who belong to another sect, another faith, another persuasion, another discipline and sit at the feet of another teacher.” (Quotation from Buddha and the Gospel of Buddhism)
The idealism of the Khalsa is broadly based on the magic realism of the Creator. Their joy is the blossoming of their infinite pain in sympathy with life. Their pure and easy breathing of the Spirit of God is their religion. It is the life of a well-blown flower living in the great expanse of the sunlight or moonlight, elevated above all pain of goodness. The Guru-man is the personal God ‘round whom humanity is to revolve from life to life, from god to god, from mystery to mystery. The study of the Word and the lives of the Gurus, therefore, cannot but be essential for all the seekers of creative originality of human thought.
In the realm of the soul, each is to have his own measure of the Guru’s joy and sorrow and love and feeling and spiritual delight, according to his individual capacity. This will constitute the measure of the real aristocracy of each one’s genius; but bread and raiment, the barest necessities of the physical bodies, shall, in this kingdom of human love for the guru, never be denied to anyone. In the Guru’s ideal state, no one will thenceforward die of hunger and nakedness. Death can not be prevented, the difference cannot be destroyed, but physical privation will be prevented here on this earth by man himself. Let mountains be high, flowers small and grass low, but all shall be clothed with the beauty of God and fed with His abundance.
A SILENT REVOLUTION.
A SILENT REVOLUTION
Our Master, Guru Gobind Singh, called us to death and extinction, for he felt that it was no use living at all without the sense of liberty aglow in us. He gave such a vital and martial timbre even to our prayers that we, for the first time in the history of India, saw that the great love to which our Master was calling was not a prayer of the crushed people, but a prayer of the victorious. Guru Nanak, the first True King, had called us not to love the beautiful God-Persons of Nature and creation only, but to be so beautiful as to be loved by Him. The Bhakti feelings of our devotion to God are not of the miserable man who in his utter smallness dares to evolve systems by which to perfect himself as a lover, as a saint, as a seer, but we wait in intense activity to be loved by Him. Few understand this silent revolution of ideals. To the terrified slaves of this country, Guru Gobind Singh said, “Rise and fight and die fighting on horseback.” This is an oceanic burst of the same glow of life and this too is of Him. It is more glorious to die than to live as miserable wretches. He poured into our veins that life which could not live without song and freedom. We rose as individuals and as masses shouting for liberty and victory. He gave us freedom of the soul and we cried for the freedom of our life. We cried for the freedom of our life. We died for it. Touched by his inspiration we could no more remain slaves.
Here is almost a new race created by the Guru, imbibing a tradition of fire and steel sacrifice and death. Every page of Sikh history burns with a hundred star-like names; one name is enough to thrill a whole life with the noblest of spiritual heroism. The names of Guru Arjan Dev, Guru Teg Bahadur, Guru Gobind Singh, his Four Sons and the Five Beloved Disciples, and of the Sikh martyrs and devotees of the heroes of war and peace, provide the Sikh with an inexhaustible and intense past which no other race with centuries of history behind it can match in its life-giving, death-despising, self-sacrificing powers of inspiration.
Assuredly, the Sikh’s is not the Mughal Padshahi, but a state representing an uncrystallised constitution of some future society. And only the future perfection of the state will make clear the significance of the Guru’s Khalsa. There is a distinct Utopian and prophetic strain in these prefigurations. The Khalsa is verily a great tree whose roots are deep in the bowels of the earth, but whose branches touch the skies above.
BAPTISM OF THE SWORD.
The Khalsa was literally baptized in the shadow of the sword. He lived poised on its sharp edge, and he died kissing its cold steel. Indeed iron had gone into his soul at his nativity. But it would be a great mistake to associate the Khalsa with wanton wars and bloodshed. He took to the sword because of a crisis of conscience.
I find such a crisis even in Walt Whitman. It is my faith, he is the Guru’s Sikh born in America to plant his Khalsa ideal in the modern mind. John Bailey in sketching the spiritual change that the declaration of war in America wrought upon Walt Whitman tells us how his poetry thereafter acquired a deeper majesty and an unspeakable serenity. The poet of peace rose one morning and found himself the poet of war. “No soldier,” writes Mr. Bailey, “who fought in the ranks showed more than Whitman of these greatest gifts of war, and the war, taught him not only how to do his chosen work in the hospitals but how to give shape to his thoughts and experiences in some of the noblest war poems which have been written. Certainly there are none in the world which are closer to the actual facts. Only a few of those written in the Great War can compare with them in beauty which is afraid of no truth and the truth which in all its nakedness is yet seen to be beauty.” Again, “all genius has inconsistencies which to the measures of mere logic make it appear untrue to itself. Literature partakes of the rarity and fluidity of life, whereas logic and science have a rigid fixity, which, however necessary, seems like death to the freed eyes of art.” So here in these Drum-Taps, we have Whitman returning boldly upon himself. He who had ridiculed war as the forgotten and superceded theme of the poets of the old world, sounds is trumpet call with a note of the most uncompromising insistence:
Beat! beat! drums! –blow! bugles!
Through the windows-through the doors-burst like a ruthless force,
Into the solemn church, and scatter the congregation,
Into the school where the scholar is studying;
Leave not the bridegroom quiet-no happiness must he have now with his bride,
Nor the peaceful farmer any peace, ploughing his field or gathering his grain,
So fierce you whirr and pound you drums-so shrill you bugles blow.
I see in the poems of war by Whitman a poetic history of the Great Revolution of the spirit in the Punjab caused by Guru Gobind Singh’s spiritual genius.
On the banks of the Five Rivers in the Punjab were planted comrades thick as forests, making the poetic ambition of Whitman an ocularly visible fact centuries earlier. A great poetic experiment of socializing the great truth of soul was performed with success by the Gurus, and Whitman is calling the Khalsa out of the prairies and churches and cities of America. The songs of peace adorning the Guru Granth were being sung as usual at Anandpur, the seat of the Master, but he had a large drum especially made to sound forth his Song of the Sword. He called it the Ranjit, the Victory Drum. It was of an enormous size.
So did the Master declare the armed age even as Whitman did in “Eighteen Sixty-one” :
Arm’d year-year of the struggle,
No dainty rhymes or sentimental love verses for you terrible year,
Not you as some pale poetling seated at a desk lisping cadenzas piano,
But as a strong man erect, clothed in blue clothes, advancing, carrying a rifle on your shoulder,
With well-gristled body and sunburnt face and hands, with a knife in the belt at your side,
As I heard you shouting loud, your sonorous voice ringing across the continent,
Your masculine voice, O year, as rising amid the great cities.
At Anandpur stood Guru Gobind Singh by the side of his drum, contemplating the liberty of his people. There is a complete change of colour and shape in the gathering of the disciples around Him. A new nation had arrived. The Sikh history shows how the Khalsa fought, but it was all a poetic action. It was waged in the songs of the Great Guru to inspirit his people. The war had commenced in the Guru’s poems. His impassioned lyrics of war, “the Battle of Bhangani,” in Chandi-Charitra sound in our ears still. Life rooted in the Truth was allowed by Guru Gobind Singh to take the new course of the flood and the storm. The war-like tones and that clash of the steel and that spiritual impatience to die which we find in the pages of our history have a true correspondence in Whitman’s poems. Surely, no historical accounts show us the poetic genius of Guru Gobind Singhmanifested and enlarged in those wars which were waged insensately on him by the enemies of his thought and ideals. The pint-sized Hindu princess and the mighty Mughals could not endure Guru Gobind Singh being hailed as the “True King” of the people. Their attitude towards him reminds us of the causeless jealousy of the Jews towards the Son of God. Crucifixion of the Christ is seen here in our history as the crucifixion of the multitudes. In those poetic wars of Guru Gobind Singh, even the saints enlisted themselves as ordinary soldiers in love of Him. And our saints who chanted songs were the first in the world to organize a society similar in purposes to the present-day Red Cross Society. They visited the camps of friend and foe alike serving the wounded with water and victuals.
Guru Gobind Singh saw that there was no other way to breathe life into the dead masses of the Punjab, but by arming them and beating drums, and by flashing sabers in the glare of the sun. Dead ye are, rise to die, perchance to catch the spark of life in the battle-field! Earlier, Guru Har Gobind had roamed as the sun did set on the battle-field of Amritsar, wiping blood from the faces of his wounded disciples, nursing them and pouring into their soul his comfort and blessing. And now Guru Gobind Singh flashed upon the Muktsar battle-field like the divine father of his children, giving them his soul.
BIRTH OF A STAR.
A new-comer, fresh from the white eternity into the world, the eyes of the Khalsa glow with the vision of the Invisible. The whispering millions on the other side of the River of Life mingle their voices and the Khalsa is truly one in many. On the bed of thorns, he lies as if on roses. What matters for him is not the husk or the shell, but the seed or the kernel within. The Khalsa looks at the world from a supreme height, blessing all, helping all, loving all. He has found the common Centre of Life and enshrined God in the temple of his heart.
This world with all its gay gardens is to the Khalsa but a camping ground. He holds the present life to be but a journey and an interlude. Death has no sting for him, nor extinction any terror. If a child is born, he is a “Guru’s soldier come,” if he dies, it is a “Guru’s soldier gone.” The Khalsa sees life as a whole and believes all is good, nothing is amiss. It is, therefore, that when he prays, he utters himself in accents of steel, flint, fire and lightning that move the heavens with him.
The tent of the Khalsa is a temple. The Khalsa is the Dharamshala for all. He gives a drink, and a hymn of the Guru to all who pass by. He has evolved a language whose flaming words reflect the inner glory of national realization, and that of joy which is supreme in its conquest over the sorrows of the world. In fact, the idiom of the Khalsa is as opulent and vast as the amplitude of his soul.
CHANTS OF LIBERTY.
The Khalsa verily issued from the head of Guru Gobind Singh, as Minerva from Jupiter. We, the Sikhs, had our Resurrection en masse at the Master’s word sung in our ears in the battle-fields. War gave us the fiery baptism of God’s warm blood. We died. And that is how our Master said we should live. There is no other door to everlasting life but through death, like this, through love, and obedience like this. Very little life is in the ego of man; all is there in the shining sun of His soul. He knew all about the after-death. He led us on.
Those who lay too much stress on peace and non-violence have yet not got rid of the ignorance which shuts them away from the Realities of the Unseen beyond the wall of Death. Their ethics are not cosmic and “spherical,” but only “geometrical” and hence mere artificial and conceptual ethics, which have no relation with life, its growth and destiny. These miserable ethics of the “geometrical” conceptual minds like those of the hair-splitting moralists and philosophers of yore are but lifeless rules and regulations, so made to soothe the excited intellects of those who are gods to themselves, and who wish to cast the cosmic processes of the universe in their own thinking. Our Guru, in communion with the cosmic processes, concentrated his consciousness on the problem of making man alive, natural and free. “I announce natural persons to rise; I announce the justification of candour and pride.” It is not the so-called ethical conduct that shall be counted, but the character of life that shall be formed by passing through a thousand fires and waters and hells of vice and heavens of virtue. Small and miserable are those conceptualists who conceive the moral law in terms of their likes and dislikes, their oughts and ought-nots. The moral law is cosmic, and it prevails in spite of our wars and peace, in spite of our vice and virtue. Seeds are scattered here by the winds and the blossoms burst forth on the tree of life in the Unseen. Those who know of this and that side of death do not take any account of the man-made artificial ethics, for these all partake of human ignorance.
We Sikhs- the soldiers of the Master- are already on the march on the open road and we feel the war poems of Walt Whitman indistinguishably mingle with the chants of our Master. It is difficult to translate our chants, what with their rousing sounds and martial rhythms. The one below seeks to capture the poetry of arms:
Khag, Khand, bihandang khal dal khandung,
Ati run mandang barbandang,
Bhujdand akhandang teg parchandang
Jot amandangang bhan prabhang
Sukh santang karang durmat darning,
Kil bith harang, as saranang
Jai jai jag karnang srista ubarang
Mum pratiparang jai tegung
Thou art the Destroyer, the Annihilator
of the hosts of ignorance and evil,
the Embellisher of the battlefield.
Thy punishment is stern and inexorable,
They aspect refulgent, thy glory and splendour
dazzle even the sun.
Thou bring’st happiness to the holy,
Thou crush’st the wicked and scatter’st sinners,
I seek thy refuge.
Glory, O Glory to thee, O Sword,
The Primordial Promoter, Guardian
of the Universe, my Protector and Sustainer.
In the chants of our Master, the cannon boom, the arrows fly, the swords clash. And the very repetition of his chants makes us fly like flames, crying liberty, liberty, liberty
THE KHALSA COMMUNE.
The true vindication of the Khalsa Commune and its ideals, as announced by Guru Gobind Singh, has yet to materialize in the daily life of the Guru’s labourers. The modern world is, however, busy evolving the Guru’s Khalsa state out of social chaos. This much be said at once, that the Khalsa state is more than a mere republic of votes and ballots. It is more than the [former] Soviet, which aims at the ideal of equal distribution through a change in political environment and law. Without the transmutation of the animal-substance of man, there can be no true Soviets. The Guru Khalsa state is based on the essential goodness of humanity which longs to share the mystery and secret of the Creator, and longs to love the Beautiful One living in His creation. the Guru thus admits man to an inner kingdom of the soul where each and every one receives so much richness of pleasure and the beauty of His love that selfishness dies of itself. Inspiration of higher life drives out the lower. Each one, according to his worth and capacity to contain, has enough of the inner rapture of the beauty of God in him, so that he lives, quite happy and contented, without interfering in anyone’s affairs. This endless self-sacrifice in utter gladness of a new realization is the sign and symptom of the true Nam culture of the Guru. The Guru has inspired him with His ownself, and however small the spark of that life, man sees that the “otherness” and “selfishness” are two most ugly specters that cannot survive n that wholly moral and spiritual aroma of delight. The “I” that has ceased to be “I” continues in its new life of spiritual delight, pride and candour. No one can be a member of a truly human and great society who has not obtained this spark divine and who has not imbibed a heavenly nobility that urges him to leave everything alone and gaze at the Lord with unending rapture and renunciation. Man needs to be a divine aristocrat within to be truly democratic without.
THE SACRED SOVEREIGNTY.
In the constitution of the Khalsa State, the greatest act of genius was when the Guru transferred the divine sovereignty vested in him to his chosen people, the Khalsa. The Guru speaks for the people whose personality is transmuted into divine personality of selfless being. As the chemist talks of pure elements occurring in nature, the Guru refers to pure people of the cosmic spirit, not as they are found in their blind animal instincts. In this one act lies our history and the future history of human progress.
At Chamkor, when all was lost, he made His Five Disciples the symbol of the Guru, and gave them his insignia of Guruship and saluted them. The constitution of the Khalsa was thus built on the heart-shrines of humanity inspired with the love of God on the God-Consciousness of disciples, not on law books. Guru Gobind Singh would have died fighting n the battlefield even, as awhile before, his two young sons had obtained the merit of the death of a Sikh soldier. But these “Five Enthroned” asked him to go and yet do for the people, the Khalsa, what only he, Guru Gobind Singh, could do. So he went. And here the Guru’s benign submission to the will of the Khalsa was complete and unconditional. To obey, to continue to live instead of fighting and dying, even in that hour of great personal affliction when his sons and his dear disciple-soldiers lay slain before him; yea, to go and live for them, as bidden by them, is the supreme self-sacrifice of God for man, out of whose red streams of blood is born this Khalsa with his mysterious destiny.
Guru Gobind Singh’s polity is to transfer the sovereignty of the soul of a True King to a whole people. In the Khalsa constitution, the people inspired by the natural goodness of humanity, by the spontaneous Divinity of the Beautiful and the Good, by the Guru’s mystic presence in all things, are made supreme. They are the embodiment of Law and Justice fulfilled in the supreme love of the Guru, and in His love is filled even the love of man. In this Khalsa State, the law of man’s natural goodness is the only law.
THE TRESS KNOT FRATERNITY.
The Brotherhood of the Tress-knot was inaugurated by Guru Gobind Singh. It is the Brotherhood of Knights of Honour who live the inward life of Nam and Simrin. They are those whose presence sheds the nectar of peace all around. They desire neither crowns here nor paradise hereafter, they only yearn for His love, His mercy. They desire neither the mystic joys of Yoga, nor the sensual pleasures of Bhoga, they only long to be filled with the Nectar of His Love, their little chalice of heart brimming over with the dew of His psalms. They are full of the philosophic sorrow of life, and they cry and fly as rain-birds to catch the auspicious drop of Heaven with which to quench their thirst, and the thirst of all those who suffer. It is by the repetition of the Beloved’s name that they can maintain their spiritual state, and as their thirst for it is infinite, their repetition, like the songs of birds, incessant.
The inspired personality of this Brotherhood is song-struck, love-strung, strong and gentle, fearless, death-despising, even death-courting, seeking no rewards for perpetual self-sacrifice in the name of the Master, dying like moths round the lamps, living like heroes, shining like orbs intoxicated, sweetly exhilarated ever moment of life, elevated above sorry details of things, wishing well to the whole universe of life, and desiring nothing but the lyrical repetition of His Name.
As the Guru says, the modus operandi of realizing such a dynamic personality, all so impersonal like one of God, is by keeping the lamp of Nam burning forever in the shrine of one’s heart. “He who has the light of life burning for twenty-four hours in the shrine of the heart is the pure Khalsa.”
The symbolic representation of that light is the repetition of the Name. The breath of man is to resound with it, his pores to flow with its nectarian bliss. The eyes go themselves half-upward under the upper lids, the forehead seems to be filled with Nectar as if it were a fountain, and a thousand crystal streams flow down from this Himalaya, fertilizing not one person, but all those who come under the influence of such a one.
He is in union, by the impersonal nature of his holy unselfishness, with the soul of Nature. He is as the mountain, the river, the cloud, the flower. Wherever there is a rose, it must scent the surroundings. The Brother must fill the corner of the earth he is in with the sweetness of his soul, but also with active sympathy. He is always the Prince of Compassion.
In fact, sympathy and compassion are the warp and woof of Sikh life. Guru Amar Das could not bear the weeping of a widow on the death of her husband, nor of a mother on the death of her son. And it so happened that the whole Govindwal, the Master’s seat, had no such sorrow during his lifetime. Such a strange uniqueness bespeaks unearthly genius. Guru Teg Bahadur could not endure human suffering; his hymns are full of tears, of infinite renunciation, if thereby the creature man could be happy and free. Guru Gobind Singh’s renunciation out of compassion for the miserable slaves of India is infinite. He sacrifices even his God for the amelioration of suffering humanity.
Consistent with the spiritual ancestry of the Ten Gurus and their disciples, the Brother keeps the torch of inspiration burning, not in pursuance of any vows, not for the sake of any gain, but as so ordains Guru Gobind Singh, and so constrains without constraining and so restrains without restraining. The Brother is the vehicle of His Spirit. As the lamps of Simrin burn out, the Sikh dies. As the tree blossoms, so the Sikh blossoms with the joy of Nam and Simrin. As the tree offers its best to the roving winds, so the Sikh offers his all to all.
And so I am the Guru’s Sikh- his covenanted soldier and disciple. For my ethical conduct, not I, but He is responsible, who produces the shoots of trees in the spring, who makes the stars shine. I have learnt the secret of life, and I let myself be but as a piece of cloud, raining when He bids me, and flashing lightning when He so desires. My acts are in consonance with my feelings- such is His pleasure. All events to me are also set in the same dreamy rhythm- such is His pleasure.
My Brotherhood is scattered in the history of man enshrined in rare persons. It is scattered in wind and water, in fire and cloud, in the sun and the star. I hear a greeting of this sacred secret Brotherhood from the petals of flowers, from the musical, sculptured shapes of natural scenery. The river is my brother, and the wind my sister. The cloud sympathises with me. And the sun’s love for me is limitless and unconditional. There is glory in the crowds of men and women- a rare gleam that is not seen in mere individuals, a flash that like the gathering of clouds comes out of the gathering of men. In all these are the gleams of the shining crest that the Master of this Brotherhood wears, and rides past on His fiery purple steed by the door of the Brothers, by the door of the Faithful.
All those who call themselves Brothers but are not inwardly, spiritually, intentionally, intuitionally, and sub-consciously of the Guru, are struck off the rolls. All those who attain the Khalsa state of the life of the spirit find entrance into the Court of Guru Gobind Singh and they are of us.
Come, then, ye the Sikh youth of the Punjab, hold aloft the Flag of the Guru, renouncing all in His name! Let us be Brothers of the Tress-Knot of Guru Gobind Singh and refuse to belong to any mushroom growth of orders or societies, or clubs of street prophets that are like weeds in this forest of life. The Brothers that have gone before us live on the other side of death. They come to us to aid us if we just turn our face towards them and desire their aid. We are innumerable if we raise our souls and renounce the bodies, keeping them as mere vehicles. As that Great Brother of this Sangha, the Christ, said of his body, it was but the vehicle of the “Spirit of the Father.”
When the Guru’s Sikh is seen,
I fall down, I fall down at his feet,
Great is the idea of Brotherhood,
Indescribable is the pitch of life in which,
The brothers gather, the brothers gather.
WEDDING GIFTS FROM THE BRIDEGROOM.
THE IRON RING.
I heard a stupid Sikh preacher the other day, trying to convince a mass gathering of his compatriots that the iron ring of the Guru worn off the wrist was a protection against lightning. He said, as large buildings were made safe against lightning by a rod of iron, so the Guru had saved man from the stroke of lightning. He was hopelessly flinging his arms up and down to gather some straw of a reason to prove the rationale of the iron ring, the Guru gave us as a gift. Coming to us from our personal God, dearer to us than our mother, father, sister or sweetheart, it comes to us as His gift, as His blessing. Fie onus that we argue over and over about it. He touched my hair, and I keep it; when I toss my arm up in the air and the iron ring shines, I am reminded of His wrist that wore it - one exactly like this. Is this arm, by some stray gleam of the iron ring on my wrist, His? Other religions live in an elaborated symbolism, I, the Sikh, have no religion. He loved me, He made me His own. The sword is the mind where the Guru lives. The iron ring is the sign of His remembrance.
THE MYSTIC HAIR.
When the Guru touched my hair and blessed me, how could I bear my hair being shorn? I nestle the fragrance of His touch in my tresses. I am the bride. They, of the modern era, have bobbed the bride, but the Sacred Braids of the Christ still remain the most beautiful adornment of man’s or woman’s head. The lighting spark is concealed in the wool of the wandering cloud in the sky, and the life-spark of the Guru is hidden in this sheaf of hair. The tresses of hair are as clouds round a showy peak. They always gather, gather, they always rain, rain. In my sacred tresses flows the trinity of the Ganga, the Jamna and the Godavri.
They say, it is troublesome to carry it. But more troublesome is a life of no inspiration. The body itself is not less troublesome. The daily toilet, powder and puff and rouge and the arranging of ear drops and shingles are in no way less troublesome. And when one is reconciled to such a thing as human body, to such a thing a this impossible life, it is emptiness of soul, it is bankruptcy of love for God and for the Guru to think of the riddance of hair, the spiritual crown of humanity. The modern woman has lost most of her soul by shingling her hair and putting an odorous reed in her rosebud-like lips.
The Guru has buried the disciples under heaps of grass. He has concealed His handicraft in thanks of hair. Very irrational, they say. Possibly, very superstitious. Ay! but, I love the Guru’s superstition, the Guru’s myth. These preserve the life-sparks more effectively than the reason of man. In the fleecy clouds is the lightning. In those hanks of hair, there is the truth of His burning bosom divine. The Christ in his bridebraids is certainly more beautiful even as a man, as a woman-born, than any clean-shaven modem face. This machine-like man is far removed from His self, the Great Guru of love.
This seeming superstition of the Guru, in ordering the disciples to preserve their hair unshorn, has in its frailness an abiding depth of truth, giving men some deeper concerns of soul. Thereby, He has precluded the chances of men and women living only for the futile foppishness of sartorial arts or barber-made civilizations. The hair seems redundant to the modem man, but to Guru Gobind Singh, it (the Keshas) was essential for protecting and continuing the antique worthiness of man, and for bringing on of a great moral and religious civilization. His chosen shape of man in the image of the forest and the river and the sky, is like clothing God in the mystery of human form. This shape mellows down the harshness of naked flesh; it limns human life with a divine number by preaching the comely face of the moon. And it is foolish also to preach “hair”. We have to preach by our presence if we have cultivated a superior presence. If not, the hair is mere grass, as bones are mere lime. Some people want the Sikhs to shed their identity, but the world would be the poorer for such a thing. A great gift would be denied, a great heritage dishonored.
The working people of the Punjab - the low castes, the sweepers, the labourers, the masons and the farmers - were the first to realise the revolutionary significance of the Guru’s injunction. In obeying him, they achieved a new dignity of manhood; they found freedom, they found their lost soul; they realised themselves. By the Guru’s touch they became great, noble, alive; and it is they who found that if such a liberator, who has turned the butcher’s knife into gold, pure gold, knows what he is saying, the preservation of their personal love for him means that they must wear their hair as the lion his mane. My body is of no consequence to me, I have to live looking at the moon of His face. Those who think of the body are not of the spirit.
Assuredly, without the hair-idea of Guru Gobind Singh, there would have been no Sikh song and life today, except that the Guru Granth would possibly have been another Purana of the Hindus. Taking away the Sikh’s hair is to put him off from his intensely reactive inspiration which has been so far a source of strength to the Hindu also. The long hair makes him distinctive; it does not alienate him. The spirit itself would have died without this unkempt exterior. The disappearance of the Sikh as such means the loss of a great national asset of power and inspiration for the Hindu himself. If the disciples of Guru Gobind Singh wish to become great as a political race, great as Walt Whitman says America seemed to be, then they may what they will, but they cease to be His disciples. So the tresses of the Sikhs have preserved in them the Sikh history which everybody else in the Punjab has already forgotten. They are always a source of inspiration to a Sikh. They are an aspect of his deep, soundless gratitude to a Guru who staked his life; nay, his very religion to revive a dead people.
Don’t you know these tresses are the wandering waves of the Sea of Illusion? Guru Gobind Singh gathered the waves of the Ocean of Consciousness as the mother gathers the hair of the child. What is man but an Ocean of Consciousness. The Master washed them, combed them and bound them into a knot as the vow of the future manhood which shall know no caste, no distinction between man and man, and which shall work for the peace and amity of all mankind. He who wears His knot of hair is a brother of all men, freed of the ill-feeling of selfishness. He is to be on the point of bayonet, to be of no separatist creed, nor of any national combine of men bent upon loot and plunder and tyranny.
Those who do not yet understand the Law of Love cannot and should not wear the Master’s knot of the Sacred tresses, and those who do, should wear it as a token of spiritual isolation from the herd. So did Guru Gobind Singh command. And obedience to him is life. There is no life outside that Great Love.
The aim of the Brothers of the Tress-Knot of Guru Gobind Singh is different, different the direction, different their persuasion. Each Sikh wears the hair and the beard of Guru Gobind Singh. We are moulded in His own image.
We do not concern ourselves the conditions of life. We grow like flowers in the thorny bed, as also in the bed of velvet moss, for facing the Master and living in Him and breathing Him is our life. And all who desire to be the Brothers of the Tress-Knot of Guru Gobind Singh must live the life of love and not of any other truth. All other truths are of no concern to us. We are now the Sangha of the Tress-Knot of Guru Gobind Singh; our purposes are as inscrutable as those of the God of Destiny.
Such are the dialectics of the Lord-given life! Our truth, unlike that of the old Brahman, is not any mathematical balance of an endless denying of things. Our truth is not a problem solved. Our truth is but a lotus and the bee buzzing about, the cloud and the rain-bird crying for that pearl-like drop of life, the swan and the lake, the child and the mother, the cow and the calf. Our hymns center on these metaphors and all human suffering is vindicated in a moment, even if it be after ages. Meeting the Guru dispels all sorrow, but it is all sorrow without Him. But His absence is also as holy as His presence.
THE SACRED SWORD.
THE SACRED SWORD
Every Sikh is to wear the Master’s Sword. Not his own. Kirpan is a gift from the Guru. It is not an instrument of offence or defence. It is mind made intense by the love of the Guru. The Sikh is to have a sword-like mind. It is the visible sign of an intensely sensitive soul.
The sword cuts rapidly, the mind can do so much in an instant. That common-herd mentality with its drolly dullness, with utter incapacity too fly like the Eagles of Heaven cannot live together with the sword of Guru Gobind Singh. It is but the symbol of the myriad personality of the Guru’s Sikh that knows no defeat, no disappointment, the personality that is unconquerable in its hope, in its spiritual radiance. Guru Gobind Singh says: “I will make my one dominate over a lakh and a quarter.” This dominion is of the illumined mind. The highly intensified and developed intellect naturally becomes overpowering, so much so that it becomes fascinating and attractive in a physical sense.• It gathers its own moths like the intense flame of a night lamp. The presence of a great spiritual man overpowers millions. What is mind if it has not the flash of the lightning and of the sword? All conquests in the battle-field of life are mental and moral: physical conquests are no conquests.
I think he, who wears the Guru’s sword, is a spontaneous man fully grown in His spirit. This is to say a great deal. The herd mentality wearing the Guru’s sword is as great a mockery as the lightning of oil-lamps in brass-plates before the stone idol of Jagan Nath, against which Guru Nanak sang His famous Aarti. It is no use wearing His sword, if one has not become wholly spiritual, and the animal in man has not shrunk to a petty pet, or, as St. Francis said, ‘his ass”.
Have I got the Guru’s gifts? I may have lost them. But I cannot lose my tresses, I cannot lose my iron ring. I cannot lose my sword. Because, you remember how the Fifth Master called back His disciple, Bhai Gurdas from Benaras. The disciples went as bidden and brought him back with his hands bound with a strung. Once the call of the Master was answered thus. Each one of us is called. We are of His spiritual militia. We have to wear His gifts and we are the prisoners of infinite love. These are the fetters of love, the price of our freedom.
Those who do not have that great personal love for the Guru are still out of court. But our freedom is in Him and not anywhere without Him. Do not talk to us in that strain of the Sikh preacher. These are not the symbols of a religion, not essential rites of any religious discipline. They are the signs of our being “wedded women” They are the wedding gifts from our Master, the bridegroom. He gave all these to us, and they are sacred. Superstitious? Yes, ‘but which love hath not and where at all hath love not, its own superstitions?
A SIKH FAQIR.
What are your gifts?
Your eyes are red with the wine that
Sparkles in the cup of the sky!
And your face is crimsoned with the
Unfading rose that no one yet has seen.
I cannot even write my name,
I am an unlettered farmer of the Punjab,
A poor Sikh who knows naught of your quest ions,
But do not be too familiar with me,
I am terrible when agitated;
I bite and none can be healed of my venom.
I take in my hand and tear the dynasties of
tyrants like pieces of rotten paper.
I found new dynasties who will be
kind to the poor children of man.
In my sigh are countless clouds that rain
upon the earth!
And in my tears are great rivers that
water a thousand generations of man.
I cannot even write my name,
I am an unlettered farmer of the Punjab,
A poor Sikh who knows naught of your questions!
But do not be too familiar with me,
I am terrible when agitated!
I bite and none can be healed of my venom.
But do not be afraid of. me,
I am as gentle as the mother with her ‘child,
and forgiving as the babe is to its mother,
As good as water to the unclean body,
I have that larger white love that is in the
heart of the sun,
And I love you as the sun loves the flowers of
You have not seen me kissing you, but when
have you seen yourself?
I can not even write my name,
I am an unlettered farmer of the Punjab,
A poor Sikh who knows naught of your questions.
I have no language, nor have the stars for the sky,
Nor can I reply.
Come, I will show you what is hidden in me;
Behind the veils you and I are one,
Have you seen yourself? There in my heart
are you, there in my eyes are you.
But do not be afraid of me,
Come I will press your tired limbs,
I will cool you with the shades that are in my eyes.
Come, I’ will stroke your tresses and comfort
your weary soul.
I am unlettered farmer of the Punjab,
I cannot even write my name,
A poor Sikh who knows naught of your questions,
I have no language, nor has the cloud, nor
the river, nor the forest that dwells by the
Come, I will show you the fountains that have burst in me,
And take you to the loveliest solitudes,
where the green leaf and the white ray hold quiet converse.
Come, I will take you to a cave inside me where you shall see what will make you speechless in joy and wonder,
Where the whole starry sky is gathered in cave.
There where God dwells in beautiful crowds but is never seen by any mortal eye!
They ask me to say something about Guru Gobind Singh; they ask me what he is to me. I tremble when they ask me, what he is to me.
Unable to say anything in reply, I burst forth into child-like cries of both joy and pain, and I faint away, knowing not what is He to me!
Only I say. Guru Glorious, Guru Glorious, Guru Obvious and I am consoled. I slumber in His Lap, soothed by the lullabies of my own sound, knowing not what He is to me!
Do not ask me to define Him,
Do not ask me to praise Him,
Do not ask me to name Him,
Do not ask me to preach Him;
And ask me not to conceal Him,
One who has freed me,
– Me the self-poisoned, the downtrodden slave in the. fragrance of Himself.
Whatever He may be to anyone else,
To me, He is the Creator who has cast
Himself in the shape of His Song.
And sitting nowhere, He showers
from His eyes a rain of stars in the sky!
Let the Great Ones repeat His name,
Let the scholars search Him,
Let the learned discourse on Him,
Let the martyrs sing Him,
Let the lovers call Him,
Let the maidens garland Him, and sing
Him a welcome!
Let the saints worship Him,
Let the devotees kiss the Hem of His
Garment, and anoint their foreheads with
the dust under His feet,
Let the children gather round Him,
Whatever He may be to anyone else,
To me, He is my secret Friends who comes unseen
to me in my dark despair,
to wipe a silent tear with the edge of
His Kingly Skirt,
And says to me when I cannot listen even to Him,
choked with my own tears,—
– “I am here by your side, the whole
of myself when no one is nigh,
I am for you. O sad sinner!
I am exclusively for you and for
no one else!!
Let the woman say to Him, “I love you”,
Let the singer say to Him, “I sing for you”,
Let the dancer say to Him, “I dance for you”,
Let the yogi say to Him, “I lie wrapped
up in thought of you”,
Let the pious tell Him, “We obey. your jaw”,
Whatever He may be to anybody else.
and anybody else to Him,
What can I be?—
– I, devoid of all virtue, merit, or
light; I, devoid of the sacred vows of piety,
silence or poverty;
I, a sweeper of the street of the
Pleasure of Sense;
I, an aimless chaser of quivering
Illusions that fly in the trembling
colours of the wings of the butterflies
that flutter round the Maya
of life in full flowers.
What can I, I say to Him?
– I, the old joy-sipper with the everlasting burden
of Illusion on my back:
I only cast my head down in shame,
I stand abashed, away from all, in the
corner of my own naked body with all
its scars and stains;
But behold, He cometh even to me,
as the sun goes down, and the saints
leave Him alone,
And as He cometh, I burst forth crying,
And He consoleth me saying: “have I
been really too long away from thee?”
THE SIKH CHANT.
They came and cut a Sikh like a log of wood in two;
The sikh –chant-”glory to the guru”
Came like soft music ,as they cut
Him in two like a log of wood!
A mere man could not endure such pain and sing
The song of peace when so torchured.
The sikh –chant-“glory to the guru”-came like
Soft music as they cut him in two
Like a log of wood.
The robbers bound a sikh ,hand and foot ,
They dug a pit and put him in,
Throwing loose earth up to his knees.
They fled away with their booty,
The sikh thanked them ,
Guru be praised,friends,
I would not rest,
Here is peace in this restraint,
For I can chant”glory to the guru”
Undisturbed by the untiring agility of
My own limbs.
THE SONG OF THE SIKH.
Ah!well let my hair grow long,
And long the chant of the guru’s song.
And let my breath burn with his name.
And if I sing, I am the brother of man,
A silent craftsman that builds a Sikh out of his clay,
I would fain be a disciple diffused through the ages.
My clay is not yet shaded so well,
My ray has not yet its sway of love,
Yet a brother of man, a man,
A slave who merges in the master,
A slave and the master in the slave,
My body is his temple and palace,
A poor mud house yet a temple, a palace and kingdom,
I would fain be a disciple diffused through the ages,
I am a Punjabi, but not a Punjabi withal,
The men and woman of all the earth have my hands and feet,
And the dwellers of heaven the same,
And both have my silence and tears and the same is the speech of love,
I can not forget the knot he tied on my head,
It is sacred, it is remembrance;
The master has bathed me in the light of suns not yet seen,
There is eternity bound in the tender fragile knot,
I touch the raven sky when I touch my hair,
And a thousand stars twinkle through the night,
I would fain be a disciple diffused through the ages,
I may be uncouth and hairy,
But have you seen my heart?
It longs, it queivers,it lives, it dies, it burns, it glows, it hopes,
It is heart of humanity,
It is the soul of creations’ mystery,
The forests and rivers are images of me,
And the very snowy peaks have my grey locks of age,
I would fain be a disciple diffused through the ages.
I do not say this is master’s religion,
I do not say the hair is any more than grass,
Human bones are but pieces of lime,
Yet a single hair is dear remembrance,
A trust, a pledge, a love, a vow, an inspiration.
My form is but a statute of dumb gratitude for the knot,
Of friendship tied by those kings of eternity, the gurus who came to the Punjab,
The saviors who condescend to love me and made,
Me a home in the realms of the beautiful ones,
I know I shall go there to them, to those fare off
And palaces of kings of love,
And there new robes wait for me, and great noble loves!
I would fain be a disciple diffused through the ages.
I have taken the vow of life to live for him;
I have taken the vow of death to die for him;
But all my vows are the rambling notes of the
Song of his pleasure, the know not their
Own aims, nor their fulfillment.
I do what he does when he comes in to me to possess me.
When his call comes, I wash my hands,
Snapping all ties with the
Sudden stroke of the sword of death.
I have taken the vow of love and wait on the
Road side for him, with tears in my eyes.
I break all my vows when he comes to me ,for the
Joy of meeting him takes me out of myself.!
THE SACRED SUCCESSOR.
THE LAST WORD.
The following words were addressed by Guru Gobind Singh to the Sikhs at Nander on the day of his departure from this planet:
Wherefore always abide in cheerfulness and never give way to mourning. God is ever the same. He is neither young nor old. He is not born, nor does He die. He deals neither in pain nor poverty. Know that the true Guru abides as He. His creatures that are steeped in bodily pride are very unhappy, and night and day subject to love and hate. Ever entangled and involved in the deadly sins, they perish by mutual enmity and at last find their abode in hell. Yet for the love of such creatures, the Guru assumes birth to deliver them. He has instructed them in the true Name and very fortunate are they who have received and treasured His instruction, By it, they are enabled to save themselves and others from the perils of worlds ocean. And, when after drought, rain falls and there is abundance, the Guru seeing human beings suffering and yearning for happiness, comes to bestow it on them and remove their sorrows by his teachings. And as the rain remains where it falls, so the Gurus instruction ever abides with His disciples.
‘The Sikhs who love the true Guru are in turn loved by Him.’
‘O Khalsa! Remember the true Name. The Guru has arrayed you in arms to procure you the sovereignty of the earth. Those who have died in battle have gone to an abode of bliss. I have attached you to the skirt of the Immortal God and entrusted you to Him. Read the Granth Sahib or listen to it, so shall your minds receive consolation and shall undoubtedly obtain an abode in the Guru’s heaven. They who remember the true Name render their lives profitable, and when they depart enter the mansions of eternal happiness.
‘I have entrusted you to the Immortal God. Ever remain under His protection and trust none besides. Wherever there are five Sikhs assembled who abide by the Guru’s teachings, know, that I am in the midst of them. He who serves them shall obtain the reward there of the fulfillment of all his heart’s desires.
‘Read the history of your Gurus from the time of Guru Nanak.’
‘Henceforth, the Guru shall be the Khalsa and Khalsa the Guru. I have infused my mental bodily spirit into the Granth Sahib and the Khalsa’.
He then put on a muslin waist-band, hung his on his bow on his shoulder and took his musket in his hand. He opened the Granth Sahib and placing a coconut before it, solemnly bowed to it as his successor. Then uttering Wahe Guru Ji Ka Khalsa, Wahl Guru JI Ki Fateh he circumambulated the sacred volume and said, O Beloved Khalsa ! Let him who desires to behold me, behold the Granth Sahib, and obey the Granth Sahib. It is the visible body of the Guru. And let him, who desires to meet me, diligently search its hymns. And lastly, keep my kitchen ever open and receive offerings for its maintenance.
THE SACRED SUCCESSOR.
The Guru Granth of the Sikhs is the most authen¬tic account of the Gurus’ minds.
There is no other way to convey the passion of repeating the “Name of the Beloved” as in the Guru Grand?. This repetition is tiring to those who are not aching with that love with that love which, in its acute pang and pain, needs the sound of the “Name of the Be¬loved”, some news of Him for its cure. Such as these do not feel relieved by any philosophy, but by a bird-like piping of “His Name”. Only the “Love ¬afflicted” can understand the significance of the repetition of the love lyrics in the Guru Granth.
The Gurus are the poet-prophets, friend-guides arid man-makers of the whole world of man. The Gurus adore “an indescribable state of life where life begets life.” They describe a cosmic process the elevation of men en masse, and of man the individual; and, as such, they have promulgated no so-called “religion”, but a living faith in the Universal Divine Spirit of things. In essence, all things and all life are spiritual. The Guru’s religion is a lyrical condition of the soul, induced by the sight of the Guru-God, and through the Guru, revealed and realised.
The Guru Granth is one and mighty paean celebrating the miracle of life. Its soulful chants have turned pragmatic creatures into men of trans¬parent spontaneity, as the very rivers in flow. They now love the creation because their hearts have been changed by the Guru to love the Kartar or the Creator. They take nature (including man) as a poem of God. They are poets who drink the beauty of the sun and the moon, of the earth and forest and the dry desert, and they feel so satisfied in their souls that, in their turn, they flood Nature with the rapture of their life and song. Thus do they go on fertilising the soul of a whole people and making the humble earth blossom with virgin beauty in joyous pride. They are intensely lyrical, and their soul quivers with the uncrushable spirit of delight, and with the beauty of being. The Gurus feel in the depths of their soul-consciousness the unfading joy-emanations of creation as the flower feels in the sun’s rays. Difference vanishes in that vibrant radiation. And in the Union of man and God are lost all questions and complaints. In that intense state, all philosophies find their unique interpretations, not one excepted. Every thing in man and nature grows to be symbolic to them. The poetry and the music of the Gurus, therefore, need translation through the spirit of poets; dead words can never translate the poetry of these prophets. Scholars toil in vain, to catch “the rainbows of the sky” in their hands. The Guru reveals himself in a beautiful innocence of the soul; he will always be misunderstood by the learned, for they learn by analy¬sis. Beauty of any kind, more so the Guru’s tran¬scendental realism and realistic transcendentalism, would really be beyond analysis.
The Guru Granth is the history of the Sikh soul and its translation is to come through the social reconstruction of human society as the Khalsa, where man shall reign in love, and not in hatred. It is a society founded on the highest verity of love informed by the inspiration of God-like men who symbolise truth, as personalities are images of the personalities in the Unseen. Giving ourselves in infinite self-sacrifice in the name of God, washing away the selfishness of man in the supreme love of the Guru, is the simple, but extremely difficult path of discipleship and its greatest humanity.
Without the Word of the Guru, there is no key to the heart of Guru Nanak and to his anthems For the liberation of man. Its interpretation lies in the human soul, in the meanings of this life creation. Mere intellect is husk; the soul wakens to great noble acts. The destruction by the Guru of the brahrnanical citadels of lie and superstition ~as in Guru Nanak’s Asa Di Var or in the Sawayias of the Tenth Guru, Guru Gobind Singh, or in the Vars of Bhai Gurdas, the great apostle of Sikh ideals), is symbolic of the destruction of all tin on which human society might be wrongly founded, Guru Nanak is universal, but he is mostly the prophet of the future. The Guru exalts in the souls of a whole people love of com¬rades and human fellowship (stretching its arms all round the globe, full of power and helpful living, and radiating soul-consciousness in every home, in little acts of kindness to each other, to animals and birds) as the essences of all divinities. Freedom of the human mind and the soul is the Guru’s passion.
Guru Gobind Singh, the Tenth Guru says:
Sun leo sabhe
Jin prem kio
Tin hi Prabh payo
I say verily
Unto you all,
He who loves,
Alone finds the Lord.
Again in his conversations with Bhai Nand Lal, his beloved scholar and poet-disciple, the Guru says:
Khaliq khdliq Ki Jan Ke
Klzaliq dukhawe nak
Khaliq dukhai Nandlaiji
Khaliq kopai tahan
Know, the people are of God,
Hurt not the people,
If the people are hurt, O Nandlal,
It provok’th the Lord into anger.
His love of the people becomes tearful in the follow¬ing saying:
“I am of them as of none other,
By them I am what I am.
In the Guru’s words, there is holy war, the axe strike, the swords clash, the arrows fly, destroying
ghosts of darkness. These words of his gave a new glimpse of the fire of life that tingled in his bipod, of a new tradition that occupied his mind.
It is significant that none of the Gurus ever wrote a line of prose. What they said is poetry, music. Their whole lives are ten long continuous songs. The people they created are the poems, the epic des¬cription of their inner state, giving a glimpse of their Immense personality. The Gurus wrote more in the characters of men made by them than in words. The Guru’s spirituality is watching the blacksmith at work, the carpenter making a wooden cage, the farmer sowing and reaping the harvests of wheat and maize.
THE MAN AND THE POET.
The poet in the East has traditionally been regarded as a person possessed. He is the odd man abroad, spinning on a precarious pivot, tending to shoot off the tangent into oblique fantasies and ambivalent uttering. In more acute cases, his quest ends up in a kind of “divine frenzy”, and thereafter his signatures become almost cabbalistic. He achieves a supra-rational state of mind wherein the singer striving becomes the song.
Such a species is not extinct in the West, though a Blake or a Whitman is becoming more and more archetypal image no longer holds or satisfies, and the difficult to come by. Even here in the East, the poet is more likely to look like a suburban commuter, or a confidential clerk hammering away his heart -beats between chores over a muffled typewriter. But fortunately, the Oriental reservoirs are not quite spent, and time and again, the mystic East throws up a poet who operates more on the vertical than on 4 the horizontal beams. In the highest state, like a-Kabul Gibran or a Bhai Vir Singh, he becomes the logos, the Word incarnate.
Puran Singh unreservedly belongs with such a spiritual fraternity. Both his life and work issued frown that vital and mysterious energy which informs the suns and the stars, which rock the oceans and the continents into being. He had from the beginning an unmistakable sign in his aspect and stance. A strikingly handsome person, he overwhelmed the people with his presence. Both as child and man, he created an aura of fragrance and charm around him¬self. No wonder, in the plenitude of his youth, his face shone like a diamond. Even in his declining years, with his flowing locks and patriarchal beard, he was a face to reckon with. There was a degree of sovereignty about his person which compelled notice and adoration.
In her “Reminiscences”, his wife, Maya Devi, speaks of many an apocalyptic story from his crowded life, but I think none of these is more revealing of the man and the poet than the simple facts relating to his spontaneity and humanity. He was often seen embracing trees and shrubs, strangers and outcasts, birds and beasts. At times, he would roll naked on green velvety lawns and munch blades of grass like the goats browsing around. He felt a long, deep, primordial calling within his bowels which tied him to all animate beings. In the final analysis, man and animal, fruit and flowery became an indivisible entity for him. In one of his poems, called ‘The Grazing Cattle”, Puran Singh writes:
Dekh dekh mur mur lochan,
Main mur pashu theen noon,
Admi ban ban thakeya!
Seeing them graze, I long
To be an animal again.
I am tired of donning man’s mantle!
This is not to say that the poet was alienated from mankind – nothing could warrant such a conclusion – only he felt keenly the loss of communication and empathy in modern life where the intellect of man tended to insulate him from the unitary springs of being.
Again, it was typical of the man to care nothing for money or fame or position. In fact, he consider¬ed “the accretion of lucre as the accretion of muck”, if it served no better purpose than self-advancement and creature comforts. He would dispense largesse like a prince. Nothing ever stopped that open and large hand. A man who could walk out 6n a feudal Maharaja in an open court telling him roundly what he thought of him, was certainly not looking for earthly honors!
It would appear odd to think of Puran Singh in the role of a scientist, and yet for the better part of his life, he was experimenting with one thing or another. His interests comprehended a variety of things such as the Rosa grass farms, pharmaceuti¬cal industry, sugar technology, etc. And in each of these fields, he left the imprint of his genius behind. Wordsworth, who came close to his heart. And bosom, has defined poetry as “the impassioned expression which is in the countenance of all science”. I am inclined to think, Puran Singh fully realized the truth of it in his own life. For him, poetry and science were not the two opposite poles of reality as is often believed; he saw the inner identity which eludes the critical eye.
Puran Singh’s thought was shaped by three climactic events in his life, and these were his Japanese experiences, his discipleship of Swami Ram Tirath, and his meeting with Bhai Vir Singh: Each of these had something to do with his pilgrimage and arrival. Together, they formed the human and temporal basis of his spiritual Odyssey.
As a student in Japan, he imbibed the ethos of a beautiful people, wholly charmed by their ritual and ceremony, their industry and integrity, their innocence and insouciance. Flower-symbolism in his poetry may owe a great deal to that period, when his youthful imagination came into contact with the delicate cunning and tracery of Japanese life and art. In any case, the openness of their nature and the holiness of their hearts’ responses made him for ever a worshipper of life’s largeness and generosities.
It was again in Japan that he came under the powerful spell of Swami Ram Tirath. It was in fact not a meeting, but a realization and a homecoming. The two spirits had indeed been struck out of the same flint. No wonder, till the end, Swami Ram Tirath regarded Puran Singh as an echo or image of his own self. The poet turned monk now roamed abroad, robed in saffron and steeped in the Vedanta. This interlude was to last for more than a decade, and though eventually he graduated to the discipline of Sikhism, this was much too traumatic an experience to be washed out of his consciousness; He subsumed it in the dialectics of his Guru’s creed.
The meeting with the great Sikh poet and savant, Bhal Vir Singh, took place in 1912 at Sialkot, and this was the final turn of the wheel which had come ful1 circle. He was never the same man again. A touch on the head put him on the pristine path again, and he could never bear to have it touched by anyone else again. The great hymn to the mystic lair with which the present volume opens is a direct evidence of the soulful change wrought in him. He had strayed only to return with greater vigor and conviction. And he lived on for another 19 years or so to attain to the status of the complete Sikh. His poetry in the interval suffused with Gurbani or the Guru’s word acquired fresh dimensions and wide horizons. In short, Puran Singh, the poet of Guru-Consciousness and of the peasant-Punjab had arrived.
To direct our attention to Puran Singh’s poetry per se would perhaps amount to some kind of a criti¬cal heresy. The very first line of his famous book, The Spirit of Oriental Poetry (Kegan Paul, London, 1926) enjoins on the reader to look for the soul of. The poet, not for his artefact alone. We love our poet rather than his poetry, our artist rather than his bit.” Obviously, the poet here is the privileged being taking his place with “the Guru, the Master, the Buddha, and the Christ.” To our modern minds attuned to what has come to be called “the New Criticism” in America and elsewhere the primacy of the poet is something suspect. The poet’s perso¬nality is neither here nor there; all we should be interested in is the end-product. It is certainly a helpful corrective to the excesses of the old historic-romantic criticism, but the writ does not quite run in the domain of Bhakti and Sufi or devotional and mystic poetry. There the poet is all or nothing; His whole being is distilled in verse till the scented lines begin to glow with his presence. The fragrance could, in short, scarcely exist without the rose. Thus the poetry of Puran Singh is nothing but a vessel for his spirit, a house for his soul. To read it is to evoke overtures to his wide and warm embrace. Inevitably, every line here leads back to the great dreaming heart. It helps construct the spiritual graph.
And yet paradoxically, this type of poetry is also the least individualistic in as much as the poet is not a sovereign voice, complete unto himself, but an echo of the cosmic consciousness, an infinitesimally small link in the chain, a moment in the eternal continuum. In the widest sense, his work ensures “a continual extinction of personality”, though not in the manner T.S. Eliot understood the phrase.
This sort of confusion occurs because of the two separate approaches to poetry. Much of modem poetry seeks to be cerebral and ratiocinative, courting ambiguities and complexities, it is mocking and ironical in tone, troubled and torn in spirit, It is a poetry of doubt and protest, of interrogation and indirection. But a great deal of Eastern Poetry has been poetry of respect and integrity, poetry of synthesis and realization. It seeks to reach the inner truth of this though self-surrender and sacrifice. What interest it is not the appearance but the energy behind it. In short, it is poetry of acceptance, of the big yea. Puran Siugh’s poetry, like that of Walt Whitman who fertilized his mind and ‘provoked him into song time, and again, is fundamentally and finally the poetry of man’s soul. Here, the act of creation proceeds from an inner certitude. The imponderables of life are resolved through a process of spiritual alchemy.
A poetry such as Puran Singh’s would chafe under tags and labels; being free as the winds of the skies, but if there is one word that comes nearest to expressing it, it is amplitude. I can think of no other poet, Eastern or Western, except, of course, Walt Whitman, who is so much taken up with the vastness¬es and richness of life. Puran Singh rejects all that existence, all that causes a clausmophobic c feeling in the mind. The titles of his collection of verse, Khule Maidan, Khule Ghund, Khule Asmani Rang, are all bound by the leit-motif, Khule, which in the Punjabi language means “open” or “Vvide”. The breathless miracle of life—its terrors as well as its ecstasies—fascinates him endlessly. There is a Lawrentian readiness in his salute to life. It is no accident that almost all hi. Poetry is written in’ vers libre.
Great poets achieve universality when they transcend frontiers of self, home and state. They become cosmic citizens, owing allegiance only to vaster and higher truths. Puran Singh’s Poetry is assuredly in tune with these eternal harmonies which make him an organ of oceanic consciousness. How ever, despite this transcendence, he remains ineluctably a regional poet, rooted in the rhythm of his native soil. It is difficult to imagine a poet more spiritually bound to a geographical entity than Puran Singh. Since Waris Shah who composed the immortal Punjabi love-epic, Heer KinjIia, around 1766, no poet has orchestrated so soulfully the wash and swing, the quick and plume, of Punjabi life as Puran Singh has done. The element of nostalgia for the sights and smells of the Punjab is almost overwhelming in ‘its quality and pervasiveness.
But finally, Puran Singh’s’ work becomes an unceasing hymn in praise of the Ten Sikh Gurus, more particularly of Guru Gobind Singh whose revolutionary Weltanschauung or world-view was wholly in consonance with the compulsions of his psyche. Thereafter, its dynamics and metaphysic stem from one homing centre on which all the flights of fancy converge. The highest Point is reached when the poet’s consciousness merges in “Guru Consciousness” and the Guru’s Word is all.
In these Reflection and Offerings, one finds a most emphatic avowal of Puran Singh’s surrender to and intoxication with the Giru’s Personality. His whole being is now an aching emptiness yearning to be filled with “nectar Iain’ ruin, In Guru Gobind Singh’s creed of the hawk and the sword, he fluids a vision of he Ultimate Principle. The armed, puissant and covenanted race which the Guru raised at Anandpur the City of Bliss became for him an embodiment of the Essential Man. And hissings thus :
In the Name of God did fashion.
Anandpur and the New Order,
The Khalsa is verily the E** of the Lard!
How deeply Puran Singh felt the truth of this convict ion can be gauged from the brie of the lyric intensity of his feeling for the Guru-given tresses. The hair, he avers, puts the Sikhs on the side of elemental forces of nature. Thus the images invoked are those of the swaying trees and forests of the gathering storms and clouds, of the majestic eagles and lions. This is not to say, the “unkempt exterior” proclaims an untamed or uncultivated heart; it is only a symbol of the mystic compact with the Master and the Lora. Otherwise compassion is very nearly the highest virtue in Sikh ethics. And as Purai1 Singh knew, only the Strong and the brave were of capable of tempering justice with mercy’.
In culling the hair, the iron ring and the sword “wedding-gifts from the bride is only using the traditional Indian concept of the Lord’s consort. The devotee in Sikh scriptures is often cast in the image of a woman supplicating to her lord, and surrendering herself wholly to his enticements and embraces. In fact, there is a feminine and sensuous apprehension of reality in much of Puran Singh’s work. The Creative Force is seen here as the male principle, whereas the human variant is seen as the female principle. Thus the “wedding¬ gifts” become a token of the married state; their violation would amount to spousal infidelity. It is difficult for the Occidental mind to realize fully the spiritual inebriation of the Eastern bride, and thus the intensity of the sentiment may strike it as some¬thing whipped-up and overblown. The luxuriance or opulence of the idiom, however, is simply a sign of the enchanted heart. Here, even the excess is not enough!
And this brings me finally to the language of Puran Singh. He catches superbly the unique sounds and inflections of the Punjabi tongue–its lilt and flow, its sinewy and muscled strength, its ruggedness and resilience, its built-in rhythms and undulations. Something of this can even be felt’ in his English prose style. The language becomes highly metaphorical and evocative. When in passion – and it’s nearly always so– it become a river in flood. The imagery inevitably turns symbolical. ‘Puran Sinah could seldom achieve urbanity or even elegance, or restraint, simply because his, terms of reference were different and wider. It is a style that spends itself in giving; it does not with - hold its hand. It swells up to the condition of music to preserve the integrity of vision. Of course, there is always ‘a danger here of the language taking the bit in its mouth, and sheering off in precipitate flight–the feeling of vapidity and amorphousness lingers in some of Puran Singh’s compositions–but there will be a greater risk in breaking it to discipline.
For in the latter event, the spell would be broken and the riches spilt. No arid or lean’ idiom could ever describe the splendor of things. And Puran Singh above all was concerned with the dizzy heights and reaches of life. If the words glow and sparkle dance and leap, it’s because Puran Singh was a “Pilgrim of Eternity!”
THE STAR OVER PATNA.
In world of religious and spiritual phenomena, one occasionally comes across certain ambivalent and teasing correspondences which seem to connect disparate and distant events in history. It is difficult to account for them in terms of reason of argument, and one is inevitably driven to the world of signs and symbols. Such occurrences could perhaps be regarded as mystic metaphors operating through occult links, in any case, they seem to indicate the archetypal nature of inner reality even takes centuries to endorse the correspondence. Or else hoe explain the striking resemblance between two widely separated Nativities? The magi who were drawn to Bethlehem with offerings for the infant Christ had seen a beckoning star. So had perhaps a renowned Muslim saint, Syed Bhikan Shah, who came to patna in A.D. to bless the day-old Gobind Rai and pronounce him divine. The Mark of Divinity in either case was compelling. It required ordained scribes of the Lord to break the code and see hidden credentials.
That the Patna birth was in the nature of a Command Performance may be judged from the account given by Guru Gobind Singh himself in his Vachitar Natak or “The Wondrous Tale”- a spiritual autobiography, written in the fullness of his poetic and mystic powers. After sketching the lineal and temporal graph, the Guru goes on to speak of his pre-natal existence, when his disembodied self was already a part of the Divine Consciousness, free from the coils of mortality. However, at the behest of the Great God of Creation, he came into the world again to fulfil his destiny. Such orders are received by the elect whenever the Lord’s name no longer remains a spiritual tender. In a long colloquy, God told him how the prophets and Messiahs created by Him from time to time “Struck out their several paths”, and thus denied Him in the effect. And He concluded thus :
“I have cherished thee as My son,
And created thee to extend My religion.
Go and spread My religion there,
And restrain the world from senseless acts.”
The modern mind perhaps will find it difficult to accept the story-every religion , in fact, has its own share of charisma-and may relate it to the Saviour idea. But as the events in the crowded and climactic life of the Guru will show, his entire being was attuned to the received Command, and issued forth in action like a volley of grape-shot from the mouth of a cannon. It was indeed the Word turned deed!
More significantly, it was not an isolated splinter, or even the sovereign birth, but the final commandment in the decaloge, or the last link in the apostolic chain. For Gobind Singh, the Tenth Guru, was only the spirit of Guru Nanak journeying through nine houses to be finally diffused in the commonality of the Khalsa. All this would reveal-the grand design underlying the divine scheme of things. The Mark will always be showing!
His childhood spent at patna and in the Punjab countryside is characterized by an intense quest for readiness. Handsome in his aspect and stance, lithe and lissome of limb, he wrought his frame into an instrument of supreme will till the body itself grew luminous with thought. As a child, he is known to have been fond of fun and frolic, of riding and hunting, of archery and falconry; but all these exercises were only a prelude to the martial theme of his existential raison d’etre . They were a kind of warming-up for the battles he was destined to fight. A commissioned soul was busy at the outset equipping itself with all the weapons needed to assault the forces of evil and darkness. Viewed thus, the little acts of gallantry, compassion and piety associated with the young Guru fall into their proper places and proportions. “The figure in the carpet” begins to emerge.
This was also the period of his scholastic education when he imbibed the ancient lore and wisdom of his ancestors only to retain the essential grain or pith of things. Learning came to him easily and naturally like one born to it, but he never allowed it to become a mill-stone around his neck. He was indeed contemptuous of cold and abstract philosophy, brahminical logic-chopping and dry dialectics. His mind responded and music of life, and shrank from the sight and sound of bleached bones. For such a youth, all real education was in the experience-fields of life. And to this purpose, he bent his great energies and his great talents.
One is not, therefore, surprised to find him elevated to the pontificate at the age of nine, when his father, Guru Teg Bahadur invested him with authority on the eve of his martyrdom at Delhi. It was no ordinaty pffice, but Gobind Rai was no ordinary mortal either. As the seventh Guru, Har Rai, had once told his son, Ram Rai-an aspirant to the gaddi: “TheGuruship is like tiger’s milk, and can only be held in a golden cup.” It was obvious to all around that the young Master was destined to climb the highest reaches. In fact, he had proved his worthiness in asking the Ninth Guru to offer himself as a sacrifice to save dharma. Such powers are vouchsafed only to the lords of life and death.
Thereafter, the Guru’s thought is governed by two powerful urges-to vindicate his father’s martyrdom and to redress his country’s wrongs. The personal and the national cause meet now to become a universal cause. Henceforth, tyranny in all its forms was to be faced and annihilated. And there was to be no respite, no weakening of the hand till he had proved himself in action. As he pleads passionately with the Lord:
“Now be pleased to grant me the boon I crave with clasped hands,
That when the end of my life cometh, I may die fighting in a mighty battle”.
Thus all his earlier days were in the nature of a challenge and a grand rehearsal. The call could not be denied.
Before long, the moment of choice arrived. It was also the moment of truth. The pack of hill princes, princelings amd Mughal satraps grown green with jealousy at the Guru’s phenomenal success and popularity was soon baying at his heels. All types of cohorts, marauders and desperadoes were pressed into service to stem rising tide. However there was no stopping the revolutionary spirit which now swept the Punjab. The skirmishes and frays around Anandpur- the Master’s seat-soon developed into cruel, desperate and long engagements. No quarter was given or expected. The battles of Bhangani and Nadaun wherein the enemy hosts lay utterly petrified, mauled and beaten despite their superiority in numbers and arms served notice on the Mughal rulers that the youthful and valiant Guru meant business. This made even the Emperor campaigning in the Deccan sit up and think.
Aurangzeb, a most bigoted, fanatical and obscurantist monarch, however, failed to see that the kinetic power of the Word and of the idea was more than a match for the massed might of princes and potentates. And when the Word also happened to be armed in the steel- the only language tyranny understood and respected – it was a fateful marriage of spirit and sword. There was nothing in the Mughal text-book to counter such a challenge.
Though Guru Gobind Singh’s name was beginning to tell, all was not well with the Sikh house itself. The whole edifice with loving care and industry by the preceding Gurus needed a face-lift. The original impulse had weakened ever so slightly in the interval. Such tremors are perhaps inevitable in a growing organism, and are in the end only a means of the furtherance of the dream. Schismatic sects, family feuds and the institution of the parasitical priestly order called the “Masands” were no more than hair-cracks in the splendid house reared by Guru Nanak. The Sikh Organisation was never at any time in danger of losing its pristine image or its identity. There is, in fact, no difference between the ideals followed by earlier Gurus and those followed by Guru Gobind Singh. A discerning eye could at once see the oceanic wash underlying the surface ripples. The fundamental continuity remained unaffected. The end was the same; only the means had to be new in the changed context.
Though his predecessors had continued to build and replenish the spiritual reservoirs of the Sikhs, most of them were by nature God-intoxicated divines believing in resignation and quietism. It was left to the Tenth Guru to orientate the organization in new directions, whilst keeping the heritage securely in view. The decision to evolve a new race of soldier-saints who were to immerse fully in “the destructive element” , to use a Conradian phrase, was the highest moment of a mind in search of absolutes.
Thus the summoning of the great Congress of the Sikhs in the year 1699 at Anandpur whre Guru Gobind Singh formally initiated the Order of the Khalsa amidst symbolic sacrifices and ceremonies was an event that was destined to have far-reaching consequences. A purely religious body was now charged with political duties as well, and invested with insignia and authority. The politicizing of the creed was to prove that in the Sikh graph, politics and religion intersected at the apex. The Sikhs was never a recluse, but a heartly participant in the drama of life. He was to partake of its riches and splendour, its glories and ecstasies, its trials and terrors. His estate had been enlarged to encompass all that goes to make the spangled panorama of creation.
It was also at this great congregation that a martial edge was given to the creed, and the doctrine of the sword proclaimed in tones of thunder and prophecy. A fiery baptism ensued. It is a point often misunderstood and misinterpreted , and, therefore, needs to be placed in its proper perspective. The Guru was not advocating militarism as such, or apotheocising violence. A soul in torment at the miseries and sufferings of its compatriots could never excuse, let alone, celebrate arms, and glorify gratuitous bloodshed. However, it could not lie unmoved “inside the whale” and allow the storms to blow overhead. It was the Guru’s mandate from Heaven to shake the empire of loot, larceny and lies. And even here, he restored to force only when all other means-appeal, advice, argument and persuasion-had no avail. As he wrote in Zafarnama or “The Epistle of Victory” addressed to aurangzeb :
When all else hast failed thee,
Thou shalt rightfully lift the sword.
No wonder, in the scheme of things, he enunciated a philosophy of instant and purposive action. There was to be no hiatus between the hand and the heart. The generosity and aristocracy of the impulse were to be respected. There was no room here for prevarication, casuistry, “doublethink” and procrastination. Only a divided and uncertain mind sought refuge in abstractions and ambiguities. A committed soul could not but be a partisan of truth. And truth is strife. He moves away from the traditional Hindu idea of passivity and inaction. This is not to say that he also moves away from the still centre; only he finds it inside, at the heart of tempest.
Thus he sang full-throatedly the Song of the Sabre, for he relayed steel and action to the primordial and ultimate Principle of Creation. He identified the sword with the Lord, and thus waged wars in His Name. He submits himself to the power and law of the Sword-Lord.
“All-Steel, I am thy slave.
Deeming me Thine own, preserve me;
Think of mine honour, whose arm Thou hast taken.
Deeming me Thine own, cherish me,
Single out and destroy mine enemies.
May both my kitchen and my sword prevail in the world.”
The idea of the langar or the kitchen inevitably brings to kind the concept of democracy and socialism associated with the Guru. The Beloved Five who had offered their heads to his flashing sword on the Initiation Day were not drawn from the elite but from the different stratified varnas or castes. The Sikh portals were thrown wide open to all the disinherited and the dispossessed of the world. In the context of the conditions then prevailing in India, it was such a shattering proclamation that the stricken and moribund society of the day insulated by blood-walls was subjected to the severest strains. The Guru’s word released the dormant energies of all the lower orders comprising the peasant, the potter, the artisan, the sweeper , the scavenger and the like. They now brike bread with the master himself, and were honoured and equal citizens of a spiritual commonwealth. In fact, the Guru had restored them their dignity and their manhood, their powers of assertion and dream. Cowardice was destroyed root and branch, and the new entrants were named Singhs or lions. This miraculous transformation was effected both through exhortation and deed. A congeries of serfs and slaves was soon galvanized into action, and licked into a community of heroes and martyrs. The leonine aspect was symbolized in the rough exterior. The sparrow could now look at the hawk in the eye.
But nothing great is ever born without pain and travail. It is the immutable law of life. There is pain even as a child or a star is born, even as the rose-bud silently explodes into the flower. No wonder the Khalsa was born amidst an ecstasy of pain. Few peoples in the world have known such sovereignty of suffering. The Guru taught them to wear pain as the garment of lord. Tempered in the smithy of the soul, pain turned into ineffable joy till the two were facets of the same reality. The concept of sacrifice was enshrined in the heart.
It is this ideal which runs like a purple thread in the tapestry of Guru Gobind Singh’s life. He had cultivated it as a child, and brooded over it in his period of contemplation and study. He knew the hour would strike ineluctably, and he had to answer the Summons. Thus alone can we unders6tand the supreme spirit of faith and hope which inspired him even in the darkest days of his creature existence. The long and cruel siege of Anandpur and Battle of Chamkaur were only a proving ground for his mettle. The world knows of no saga of sacrifice as great and astonishing as the one which was now to unfold itself. He watched astonishingly the sufferings of his soldiers trapped inside the fort. He contemplated the disclaimer signed in panic and distress by his forty followers. And he debated the issue within the fastness of his own mind. The answer was clear and unequivocal. Even as the enemy troops were swarming all over the place, and the famished file of his Sikhs was being slaughtered before his eyes, he blessed his two elder sons, aged seventeen and fourteen, laced them with arms, and sent them forth to the battlefield to die for the cause which had brought him into the world. It was not long before the younger two, tender of age but stout of heart, were sepulchered alive by the Mughal Governor of Sirhind when they scornfully rejected all offers of clemency that sought to undermine their faith. A father and four sons had been offered as sacrifices to the Mughal Moloch. That was perhaps the only way left to exorcize the monster. His own death in 1708 at the hands of a Pathan assassin when the guru had settled down at nander in the Deccan after a compact with the new emperor, Bahadur shah, thus completed the picture. A whole family had borne the Cross one by one. The wheel of sacrifice had come full circle.
The dying Guru addressed himself to the sorrowing Sikhs;
“I have entrusted you to the Immortal God. Ever remain under His protection, and trust to none besides. Wherever there are five Sikhs assembled who abide by the Guru’s teachings, know that I am in the midst of them. He who serveth them shall obtain the reward thereof- the fulfillment of all his heart’s desires. Read the history of your Guru’s from the time of Guru Nanak. Henceforth, the Guru shall be the Khalsa and the Khalsa the Guru. I have infused my mental and bodily spirit into Granth Sahib and the Khalsa.”
And the voice was stilled, but not the Word. The word abides.
Guru Gobind singh was a rare amalgam of divinity, action and poetry. In a way, all that he did was poetic in spirit, for poetry is the inner and vital soul of things. However, he was also a great poet, and a profound scholar in his own right. Vastly read in Sanskrit, Hindi and Persian literatutes, he brought a classical and cosmopolitan awareness to bear upon his own splendid compositions. First at Paonta, where he presided over a court of 52 poets,
GURU GOBIND SINGH THE REDEEMER.
There He comes, He who bursts open the closed buds of souls and mocks at the long wise face of me! And with a smile unravels all knots of the mind, rock-sealed so long in self-deception! And makes the old skip like fresh new children in the air, and whirls the crowds in the magic ring of His Presence, and makes them dance in a joy undisturbed with care. In his movement is what the dreamers dreamt, the seekers sought, and those with gifts wrought in word and deed. There stands He, the Unseen, Yet even near- Guru Gobind Singh, the Redeemer. Life lingers still on the meadows and the grass. The evening draws down its veil, the morning lifts it up! The housewife wakes to grind the corn, to draw water from the well, to the day’s labor. The ploughman goes with his plough and pair to till the ancient soil, to sow, to reap and to fill the home of God: The mason builds, and the carpenter shape wood, the maidens sing and spin the white cotton flakes.
All eyes rise to a vision of Him Who fought to free them, and the eternal bustle behind is alive with His Unseen resolves to love and die for all, He is Guru Gobind Singh, the Redeemer.