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Episodes from lives of the Gurus
(Parchian Sewa Das)

“Parchian Sewa Das’ is rated among the most important primary sources of Sikh history. Sewa Das was a contemporary of Guru Gobind Singh. This is an early appreciation of Sikh doctrines, rahit (code of conduct) and ethics, but has so far not received the attention it deserves. It is one of the rare books written in prose at that time. There are fifty different stories (sakhis) from the lives of the Sikh Gurus in this book.

The purpose to publish the episodes in series in Abstracts of Sikh Studies is to draw the attention of historians, theologians and laymen, interested in Sikh History. This book is translated by Dr Kharak Singh and S Gurtej Singh, and published by the Institute of Sikh Studies in 1995. The translation carries the original text in Gurmukhi as well as notes by the translators. We have the privilege to enlighten our readers by the contents of this primitive source through our Quarterly.

– Editor

Story of the First Mahal
Episode No.1
Guru Nanak’s Guru

Once during his travels Guru Nanak, the First Mahal, reached the Sumer Parbat (mountain) which was the habitat of nine Naths and eighty-four Sidhas, besides six Jatis (celebrated ascetics). Their chief was Guru Gorakh Nath. Guru Nanak called on them and offered his greetings with due courtesy, and invited them to a meeting. The Sidhas reciprocated the salutation in the name of the Adi Purkh, and welcomed him, saying “You have obliged us with your visit. This is indeed kind of you.”

Then followed Guru Nanak’s discourse with Gorakh Nath. The Guru recited Jap ji, the Sidh Gosht, and several other hymns. Gorakh Nath invited the Guru to become a yogi, wear yogi’s dress with earrings, and to adopt a guru, for no one should be without a guru.

“I am not without guru. I have a Guru,” replied Guru Nanak.
“Well, then who is your guru?” asked Gorakh Nath.
“My Guru is the Creator Himself.”
‘What are His attributes?” questioned Gorakh Nath.

In answer to this question Guru Nanak recited the first sloka of the Japu ji. “True in the beginning (Primal Time), True in all ages; True now and ever will He be True.”

After hearing the sloka Gorakh said, “Well, then all the living beings that exist, are also true and eternal. Are they not? Attributes of the Creator and of those created by Him should be the same. Could these be different?”

“Listen, Nath ji, the created beings take birth, and are subject to death. They are subject to pride and attachment. They suffer pain in pursuit of pleasure. They are subject to lust which leads to trouble. Because of their own weakness they are susceptible to vice, and suffer consequences of their deeds, which make them dance like frivolous monkeys. They know no rest or peace. How can such beings be called true or eternal? The Creator alone is Eternal. His star always shines. He is Immanent and Indivisible. Subtle and Abstruse, He is the Source of all bliss. Maya is His maid. He is Omnipotent. (He does whatever He Wills). He is in every form (Immanent), and He is also aloof from all forms (Transcendent). Such a Creator is Eternal, and none else,” replied Guru Nanak.

“Right, if the created beings are not the Creator, they are His sons, and, therefore, must be like Him. There is no difference between a father and his son.”

“Listen Nath ji, what you say is correct. The answer is that all beings are certainly His children. But such sons, as become lunatics, are tied to a pillar, and are given food and water at fixed timings. Son of a king is indeed entitled to throne, but because of lunacy he meets this degrading treatment. His claim to to rule holds only if he is cured by some physician through proper treatment. In the same way, man because of ignorance, remains in a state comparable to lunacy. It is only when he follows the teachings of the Perfect Master, and adopts the medicine of virtues, that he becomes one with Brahman, shedding all superstition and ignorance. The attributes of the Lord Father become part of his own nature.” Thus ended the discussion with the Sidhas.


Episode No. 1

This is a narration of Guru Nanak’s visit to the Sumer Mountain and his discussion with the yogis, led by Gorakh Nath. The account is obviously based on the Janamsakhi tradition, current during the time, particularly the so-called Bala Janamsakhi. There is an allusion to the Sidh Gosht in the details of discussion. While the description is self-explanatory, there are a few points which deserve special notice:

a) Who was Guru Nanak’s Guru? The question has been the subject of a lot of idle speculation arising more from ignorance than any study of the life or bani of Guru Nanak. Ignorance found its height in the suggestion from certain quarters that Kabir was the guru of Guru Nanak, although there is no evidence that they ever met. In fact, there is plenty of evidence that they were not contemporaries. The sidhas knew that Guru Nanak had no earthly guru, when they suggested that the Guru should join their sect and become one having a guru. Guru Nanak replied in unequivocal terms that he was not without a guru and that his Guru was God Himself.

b) God’s Attributes: He is the Ultimate Reality which is True for all times. He is transcendent as well as immanent in His creation. The Guru concedes that the creation is also real, but its transient nature and its being subject to birth and death distinguish it from Him. The Guru further explains that the mere act of being His creation does not confer all His attributes on the created also. One has to practise virtues to be a worthy son of God.

c) Where does the Mul Mantra end? Traditionally, the Mul Mantra starts with ‘Ik Onkar’, and is believed to end at ‘Gurparsad’. Recently, a view has been offered that it includes ‘Adi sach, Jugadi sach, Hai bhi sach, Nanak Hosi bhi sach’ also. This episode appears to settle this issue, by describing the proposed addition as the first sloka of Japu ji, and not as a part of the Mul Mantra.

d) Sewa Das uses the word ‘ucharia’ with reference to the banis ‘Sidh Gosht’ and ‘Japu ji’ in his narration. It would be more accurate to take it or interpret it in the sense of ‘recited’. For, there is evidence to believe that the bani had been revealed earlier.

e) The author uses some words like ‘bamaria’ which had almost gone out of use in the late eighteenth century, indicating that the work is of an earlier period.

f) Original Sin: We should note that there is no reference to anything like original sin in relation to creation.

g) Living Guru is not necessary: The fact that Guru Nanak had no living guru in the human form, is a clear indication that a living guru in human form, as declared essential by certain sects, is not necessary. The word of the Lord is the real guru, and when that word is available, no living guru is required.

h) Sanity is a pre-requisite for title to rule: A king’s son is normally a heir to the throne. But, if he becomes a lunatic, he automatically loses this title, unless his sanity is restored through proper treatment by a qualified physician. This illustration has been used to bring home the point that although man is the creation of God and, as such, is His son, he cannot claim merger with Him, unless he practises virtues and acquires the attributes of God.

i) Selection of the Episode: Although a large number of episodes were available in the Janamsakhis, he gives only one episode from the Guru’s life, which deals with some crucial theological issues, fundamental to Sikh belief. His selection is indeed remarkable.



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