Episodes from lives of the Gurus
(Parchian Sewa Das)
Story of the Second Mahal
Episode No. 2
The Key Virtue
Once Bhai Bala Sandhu, a Sikh, came to see Guru Angad ji. Bala Sandhu and Mardana, the rebec-player, had accompanied Guru Baba, the first Mahal, on travels to different parts of the world. Both were witness to the events at all places. Thus Bhai Bala was one of the blessed Sikhs. Guru Baba conferred the ‘guruship’ on Guru Angad, and himself merged with the Supreme Soul. Bhai Bala survived him. On hearing that Guru Angad had succeeded Guru Nanak, Bala came to see him. Guru Angad seated him besides himself with due respect and courtesy. After offering his obeisance, Bhai Bala sought the Guru’s permission to ask some questions, which the Guru was pleased to grant.
“Great Guru, You are a real hero because you won the approbation of the Great Guru. It is indeed difficult to completely win over a man like him. He could take pain as well as pleasure in the same strain, and was not affected by calumny or praise, or lured by gold, treating it as no more than a lump of clay. Pleasing such as him is a rare feat. It is by no means easy. You won his favour. I offer my congratulations. God has blessed you with this marvellous achievement. But be kind and explain to us what particular service or act of devotion was rendered by you, which pleased the Guru so much that he transferred his own spirit unto you. I am very anxious to hear this. Pray, tell me in detail,” asked Bhai Bala.
“It is only His grace that I invoked. I am incapable of making any effort. And whatever effort might have been made, was also due to His grace,” replied Guru Angad.
“O Guru, you utter the truth. This is the cup of the Master’s love. He bestows it on whomso-ever He pleases. This is indeed the correct version. There is, however, always a doer. The initiative and strength to act are granted by the True Guru. Faith is also a gift granted to a Sikh. I want to know the job that led to this great trust. What was the specific act carried out through you for the Guru Baba, which pleased him. Pray, narrate the whole story to me.”
“Bhai Balaji, you were the Guru’s companion. As such you are not different from him. So I must comply. But the number of times the Guru showered his grace on me, if described in detail, will make a very lengthy account. I only make a brief reference to my faith in him. The rest, you can yourself divine.”
Guru Angad then narrated the various acts which had pleased Guru Nanak: “Once I was in his presence. So was Baba Buddha. It was night time. The Guru asked Baba Buddha to go out and see what part of the night had passed, and how much remained. Baba Buddha went outside, and on return said, ‘O, True Master, the night has covered two and a half pahars (one pahar is three hours), leaving one and a half pahars’. This was the time for operating the Persian wheel. Then Guru Baba instructed me to go and find out how much of the night was over and how much remained. Obediently, I went out and looked at the night. Returning to his benign presence, I said, ‘O, True Lord, whatever part of the night you have allowed, has passed. You are all-knowing.’ When I said this, he was pleased with my faith in him.”
Another Sakhi Related
In order to satisfy Bhai Bala Sandhu’s curiosity to know what was the specific job that was executed by him, that had pleased Guru Baba, Guru Angad narrated a number of stories: “Once, it was midnight time, I was alone with him, and none besides. He said, ‘Angad, the day has dawned,’ and I repeated, ‘Yes, O Lord, the day has dawned.’ Then the Guru gave me his clothes to wash which I carried to the pool. There it was mid-day. I washed the clothes, dried them, and brought them back for the Guru to wear. When I returned it was still night. He again asked me if it was day time or night. I replied, ‘O my True Lord, night and day are all your creation. When you will, night comes, and when you will, it is day.’ This demonstration of my faith again brought his pleasure on me.”
Another Sakhi Related
“Once in a village there was a pond filled with black dirty mud. When it rained, filth from the entire village drained into it. Approaching it, the Guru dropped his bowl into it. Both the sons of the Guru were also with him. First, he looked to Sri Chand and said, ‘My son, the bowl has fallen in the pond. Please take it out’. Sri Chand ji replied, ‘My Lord, let us keep going. The bowl can be recovered later at leisure.’ Then the Guru looked towards Lakhmi Chand, saying, ‘My son, will you take out the bowl that has fallen into the pool?’ Lakhmi Chand said, ‘Very well, my Lord. We shall get somebody to take it out.’ Then Guru Baba looked in my direction. I immediately jumped into the pool unmindful of soiling myself and my clothes, took out the bowl, and handed it to him. Then also the Guru was pleased with me for my faith in him.”
Another Sakhi Related
“Once the Guru was camping in the countryside. Even there, many people started gathering around him. One day a group of persons arrived who were all hungry. They prayed for food. The Guru said, ‘Dear congregation, this is a jungle with only kikar (Acacia) trees. Let somebody climb and shake the trees for food.’ The gathering thought that the Guru was joking, because an Acacia tree bears no fruit. After a pahar passed, another Sikh repeated the request, ‘O True Lord, the group is hungry. Pray get them something to eat.’ Again the same words were uttered, ‘Brother, there are the Acacia trees, climb and shake them for food.’ The Sikhs again thought that the Guru was putting them off. The Guru nodded to me saying, ‘Angad, go and shake the Acacia, and feed the congregation.’ At this command, I girded up my loins, climbed up to the top of the tree, and started shaking it. Lo! Sweets like jalebis and patashas, started falling like rain and piled in heaps. Everybody ate to his heart’s content. At that time also it was my faith in the Guru that made him happy.”
Another Sakhi Related
“Once the Guru undertook a long fast. He would neither eat nor drink anything. Several years passed. He would not put even a grain in his mouth. Offerings of money were abundant. Cooks amongst the disciples were instructed to prepare and serve food to the Sikhs for their sustenance. All kinds of food were available which the cooks served to the Sikhs with the permission of the Guru. But the Guru himself would not take anything. There was always a big gathering of people at meal times. As many as twenty thousand people joined in at meal time. The Guru put on the appearance of a lunatic to frighten the people away. He took three or four hounds with him and went to live with the sansis (a tribe of hunters). Anybody approaching the Guru was given blows with sticks, and stones were hurled at him. People left in fright, saying that the Guru had gone mad. All bandoned the Guru. Only I and three other Sikhs stayed. Then the Guru moved into the forest, taking the dogs with him. We followed, keeping out of his sight. There he started singing this hymn:
‘By my side, are a hound and two bitches,
That each morning raise terrible howl.
The dagger of falsehood and robbed carrion with me I carry.
Know Lord-Creator, a low-caste nomad am I. (1)
Neither precept to the good life nor good actions have I adopted.
Foul and frightful is my aspect.
Thy Name alone to the whole world brings liberation.
In that lies my hope; this my prop.
My tongue day and night utters slanders.
Low my caste, house-breaker am I.
Lust and wrath, of the foulest amongst castes, in myself abide.
Lord! thus abide I in low-caste nomad form. (2)
My mind holding lassos; my aspect deceptively gentle.
A robber, robbing the land am I.
Trying to be clever, with sin am I burdened.
Lord! thus abide I in low-caste nomad form. (3)
Ungrateful, I realize not Thy blessing, Lord!
Evil-doer, dishonest – with what face before Thee shall I stand?
Saith Nanak of low actions, after deep contemplation:
Lord! no better than nomad am I in my aspect. (4)’
The Guru Baba was moving about, singing this above shabad in an ecstatic mood. We also kept moving at a distance, keeping him within sight. Then, out of infinite mercy, he called us. We were very happy to get close to him. We were asked, ‘Since you are following me, will you do what I tell you?’ We replied, ‘You are the one to make us obey.’ Then he said, ‘All right, if you want to obey me, go and eat the corpse lying there.’ The body he pointed to, was covered with cloth, but its outline was clearly visible. We said, ‘True is your order.’ We reached the corpse and asked, ‘O, Master, shall we start from the head or the feet?’ He ordered us to eat the feet. Removing the cloth I applied my teeth to the feet, which tasted like sugar. And, in fact, it was sugar and not a corpse.
There were several other similar dramatic situations created by the Guru. But due to his grace, I did not waver in my devotion. My faith remained intact. In every situation, I did the Guru’s bidding without hesitating. The Guru looked at me with kindness and said, ‘O man, you have won the game, I congratulate you.’ His words were extremely sweet. He took me in his embrace leading me to spiritual fulfilment.
He then said, ‘O man, he who obeys you, shall obey me. He who serves you, serves me. You are me and I am you. He who regards you and me as different, will stay separated from the Guru.’ Earlier my name was Lehna. He gave me the new name of ‘Angad’, consecrating me as a part of his own self. He then made an offering of five paise and a coconut, made obeisance to me, and seated me on the throne of guruship in his lifetime. Addressing the sangat (congregation), he ordered ‘Pay obeisance to him, he is your Guru.’” Hearing this account Bhai Bala became very happy and recited the following verse from Gurbani:
‘Those who meditate on Naam get liberated, says Nanak.
Their faces are radiant with Divine Light; many shall find release through them.’
Episode No. 2
In this story, Guru Angad ji explains that what pleased the Master, was complete faith and absolute surrender with utmost humility. Three instances are related in which all the disciples of Guru Nanak, except Bhai Lehna, questioned or entertained doubts regarding the Guru’s judgement. It was only Bhai Lehna whose faith in the Guru never shook, and who obeyed him unquestioningly. The Guru also emphasises that no favour from the Guru can be claimed as a matter of right. It is always an act of grace on the part of the Guru. The Guru also says:
“Eh kinehi dati aapas te jo paiyai,
Nanak sa kramati sahib tuthai jo milai”.
[What one achieves by one’s own effort,
How is it to be called a boon?]
Saith Nanak: Merit lies in what is received by the Master’s pleasure.”
(Guru Granth Sahib; p 475)
This position can be contrasted with the traditional Vaishnav and Yogic views, according to which boons are earned.
The three incidents mentioned in this episode, in fact, bring out the central teaching of Sikhism, which is to accept, abide by, and to carry out the Lord’s Will without questioning (Hukm rajai chalana). This is the mode of worship prescribed in Sikhism to progressively acquire the attributes of God, to completely merge oneself with Him, and thereafter, to live as one committed to His purpose.
The account of the third story narrated to demonstrate complete faith in the Guru is obviously taken from the Janamsakhis.
The word art is perhaps an earlier form of the current word ‘hart’, which means a well with a Persian wheel (a primitive lift irrigation device).
Another point to be noted is the use of the words “Sache Patshah” to address the Guru, which means “The True Emperor”. That points to the Sikh belief that from the very beginning, the real as well as the only legitimate Emperor is the Guru, who rules over the spiritual as well as temporal life of Sikhs.
From this episode, it also seems that “Guru Baba” is the correct mode of address for the Guru, and not mere “Baba” (without the acknowledgement of guruship), as was used by some Minas and Handalis.
To conclude, it may be stated that the purpose of the stories relating to the Second Mahal (Guru Angad) is to illustrate the basic doctrine of Sikh faith, namely, that spiritual merit can be attained only by complete self-surrender.
Sewa Das also quotes the hymn of Guru Nanak “Ek suan doe suani naal.... “ following the Janamsakhi tradition. Reference to hunting and the hounds, etc., has been made metaphorically, and need not be taken literally. The hymn was uttered by the Guru to depict the state of human mind that runs after worldly possessions, like a hunter, aided and abetted by greed, passion and longing.
It is necessary to note the words of Guru Nanak recorded in the last paragraph of this episode: “O Purkh, he who believes in you, believes in me; he who serves you, serves me; you are me, and I am you. He who considers us different, shall stay separated from the Guru.” This pronouncement is very significant, since it comes from Guru Nanak himself, and affirms the unity of all Gurus and their thought.
The episode ends with the famous couplet:
“Jinhi naam dhiaiya, gai musakkat Ghal;
Nanak te mukh ujle keti chhutti nal”.
Apparently, it was uttered by Guru Nanak. This should settle the controversy recently raised by some pseudo-scholars over the authorship of this couplet.
ęCopyright Institute of Sikh Studies, 2010, All