CONCEPT OF DISCIPLINE AND DISCIPLE AS ENUNCIATED BY GURU NANAK DEV JI
In this paper we will take-up the concept of disciple, discipline, service and guru-chela relationship in the light of Gurbani.
Solid and positive learning requires a sustained effort on the part of the learner. And this positive learning is possible only when one leads a well ordered and disciplined life. According to T. H. Green, “That man is free who is conscious of himself as the author of the law which he obeys.” When we look around and study the present day situation seriously, we come to the conclusion that the concept of discipline has, accordingly, undergone a great change with modern developments in the sphere of psychology. Discipline is concerned not merely with outward behavior but with the inner motive of conduct also. According to T. P. Nunn, “Discipline is involved in the control of emotions and powers and it is through it that we get the ability to work. The aim of the discipline is the creation of virtues and development of personality.” Modern educationists now recommend that an effort be made to help the disciple to inculcate discipline in his daily life for all jobs. Thus, self discipline is considered to be more important than the discipline imposed by external orders.
Discipline which Guru Nanak propounded for the transformation of a disciple from a Manmukh (self- willed) to a Gurmukh (Guru’s disciple), from an agyani (ignorant) to a gyani (scholar) is neither mechanical nor of an external order. It is rather concerned with inner awakening, enlightenment and self discovery. It may be termed as inner discipline or self disciplines if it is to be realized by the disciple by living a disciplined life.
Guru Nanak has attached great importance to such discipline. By doing so, the secrets of all the seen and unseen world are revealed. Discipline of mind or inner discipline is accepted to be the ultimate goal to achieve the final destination of life; union with God. This goal can be achieved only through Sadhna (practical discipline).
The Guru has also used the words Hukam (divine ordinance), rehat (discipline of life), bhau (fear of God), santokh (contentment), sanjam (self control) as synynoms of the word discipline, The following verses will help us to understand this:
ਮਨੁ ਮਾਰੇ ਜੀਵਤ ਮਰਿ ਜਾਣੁ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਨਦਰੀ ਨਦਰਿ ਪਛਾਣੁ ॥
By true disciplined life, eternal peace is attained
– Sri Guru Granth Sahib, p. 1343
ਹਿਰਦੈ ਸਚੁ ਏਹ ਕਰਣੀ ਸਾਰੁ ॥ ਹੋਰੁ ਸਭੁ ਪਾਖੰਡੁ ਪੂਜ ਖੁਆਰੁ ॥
Stilling one’s ego, one is deemed to have practiced worship, penance and self- mortification.– Sri Guru Granth Sahib, p. 1343
ਨਾਨਕ ਜਿਨ@ ਮਨਿ ਭਉ ਤਿਨ@ਾ ਮਨਿ ਭਾਉ ॥
Saith Nanak: those that bear fear of God in mind, alone have love in their hearts. – Sri Guru Granth Sahib, p. 465
ਸੇਵ ਕੀਤੀ ਸੰਤੋਖੀeਂØੀ ਜਿਨ@ੀ ਸਚੋ ਸਚੁ ਧਿਆਇਆ ॥
ਓਨ@ੀ ਮੰਦੈ ਪੈਰੁ ਨ ਰਖਿਓ ਕਰਿ ਸੁਕ੍ਰਿਤੁ ਧਰਮੁ ਕਮਾਇਆ ॥
Those who have attained contentment, alone have rendered services; on truth and truth alone have they meditated. – Sri Guru Granth Sahib, p. 466
In Japuji Guru Nanak raises the intrinsic questions:
ਕਿਵ ਸਚਿਆਰਾ ਹੋਈਐ ਕਿਵ ਕੂੜੈ ਤੁਟੈ ਪਾਲਿ ॥
How to become true? How to demolish the wall of illusion?– Sri Guru Granth Sahib, p. 1
He answers these questions himself, in the following words:
ਹੁਕਮਿ ਰਜਾਈ ਚਲਣਾ ਨਾਨਕ ਲਿਖਿਆ ਨਾਲਿ ॥
Through obedience to His ordinance and will. Saith Nanak, but His blessing too is pre- ordained. – Sri Guru Granth Sahib, p. 1
When Guru Nanak looked at the discipline in the universe, he felt wonder struck. He went on repeating his feelings of wonder (vismad) about all things i.e., speech, scriptures, creatures, forms, colours, wind, water, fire, movements of planets, wilderness, happiness, attachment, union, separation, hunger, repletion, nearness and remoteness. He declared:
To see such marvels with wonder am I struck. Saith Nanak: by supreme good fortune only is this mystery resolved.
– Sri Guru Granth Sahib, p. 464
The discipline of Guru Nanak’s conception has four aspects- mental, physical, moral and spiritual. Discipline of mind and body will bring out the essential goodness inherent in the discipline. In Asa Di Var, Guru Nanak beautifully describes a disciplined person’s attributes and attitudes,
Those who are disciplined do the real service. They meditate on holy truth alone. They never take a step towards evil. They practice righteousness and do good deeds. They burst the worldly ties and live on a little food and water.
Thus we may conclude that the discipline recommended by Guru Nanak is the discipline of inner self or self discipline. Here, the learner is made fully conscious of duties towards his own self as well as towards his society. According to Simone De Beouvior, “We hold that man is free but his freedom is real and concrete only to the degree that it is committed to something.”
A true seeker or disciple has a continuous quest to acquire knowledge and get education. He sets out in search of a genuine Guru (i. e. a true Guru). After meeting a true Guru his darkness is dispelled. The disciple of Guru gains and apostate loses.
The Guru describes the general position of a disciple who spends a lot for getting worldly education, but does not care for devotional study. The Guru says:
ਧਨੁ ਗਇਆ ਤਾ ਜਾਣ ਦੇਹਿ ਜੇ ਰਾਚਹਿ ਰੰਗਿ ਏਕ ॥
ਮਨੁ ਦੀਜੈ ਸਿਰੁ ਸਉਪੀਐ ਭੀ ਕਰਤੇ ਕੀ ਟੇਕ ॥
Reck not loss of wealth, shouldst thou in devotion to the soul lord be engaged.
Even with dedication of heart and sacrifice of head,
With the Creator seek shelter. – Sri Guru Granth Sahib, p. 934
The seeker becomes a disciple of the true Guru and reposes full confidence in the Guru and offers him his full devotion in a spirit of self surrender and obedience. He always takes the Guru to be his perpetual guide who can transform him from an ordinary person to an enlightened person. Guru Nanak says:
ਬਲਿਹਾਰੀ ਗੁਰ ਆਪਣੇ ਦਿਉਹਾੜੀ ਸਦ ਵਾਰ ॥
ਜਿਨਿ ਮਾਣਸ ਤੇ ਦੇਵਤੇ ਕੀਏ ਕਰਤ ਨ ਲਾਗੀ ਵਾਰ ॥
A hundred times each day am I a sacrifice to my master, who into gods has turned mere men, without a moment’s delay. – Sri Guru Granth Sahib, pp. 462-63
In others words we can say that he desires transformation and believes that the Guru knows what kind of change is required and can bring it about. The devotee accepts the Guru’s benevolence and pays for it with self surrender.
He does his work with complete dedication and full concentration, and acts on Guru’s instruction and is imbued with the True Name, which is the highest achievement. Guru Nanak says:
ਐਸੀ ਸੇਵਕੁ ਸੇਵਾ ਕਰੈ ॥ ਜਿਸ ਕਾ ਜੀਉ ਤਿਸੁ ਆਗੈ ਧਰੈ ॥
ਸਾਹਿਬ ਭਾਵੈ ਸੋ ਪਰਵਾਣੁ ॥ ਸੋ ਸੇਵਕੁ ਦਰਗਹ ਪਾਵੈ ਮਾਣੁ ॥
Such service the disciple renders, that he surrenders the soul to him to whom it belongs.
He who is pleasing the master, becomes acceptable.
Such a disciple obtains honour in the Master’s court. -
Sri Guru Granth Sahib, p. 661
Guru Nanak began a systematic trial of his disciples. These trials show that the first and foremast quality of a disciple of the Guru was that he should posses an implicit obedience and unconditional surrender to the Guru. Guru Nanak tried Bhai Lehna ji and found him pure and fit as he was totally obedient and remained so throughout his life.
Guru Nanak puts a question to himself, “If somebody (i. e. the Guru) tells you about the Master, O’ Nanak what will you pay to him?” and replies himself, “After cutting my head, I shall make it a seat and offer him to occupy and shall serve him without head.” Guru Nanak, in another instance, asks his disciples, “If thou desire to play the game of love with me, then come thou in my lane, placing thy head on the palm of thy hand. Put thou thy feet on this road. Lay down thou thy head and mind not the public criticism.” (p. 1412) It is clear from these statements that Guru Nanak was of the opinion that disciple must be ready for any kind of sacrifice for his Master.
A devout Sikh, i.e., a disciple should serve his Guru with faith and seek not help from others. Guru Nanak says, “The disciple who works for the guru and serves not others; he finds way to slay his adversaries, O’ Nanak.” Such a disciple attains an honourable status in the eyes of the Guru, so much so that he widens the scope of his relationship with his Guru to the extent that he comes and goes at his own will and pleasure without any shyness to the Master. Evidently his Master receives him at all hours with affection. By such noble association with the Guru he secures his inner development and observes self control. Here the true education starts from within and later expands outside. When he gets the knowledge of soul or mind, he remains steady and serene in all situations.
By regular sadhna and firm faith, a disciple overcomes the evils, and then he can easily discipline his mind. According to Guru Nanak,
“If the disciple overcomes his lust and wrath and self conceit, slays, five vices through the Guru’s word and armed with the sword of wisdom, grapples with the mind, then his desires are nipped within his very mind.”
There ought to be sweetness in the speech of a devout Sikh. In this respect Guru Nanak’s saying, “The disciple of Guru makes sweet his unrefined speech”, is worth noting. The expression of such a disciple through his speech and action always creates a deep impression on others because he then knows the difference between right and wrong, and he does not incline towards falsehood, he is dyed in truth, to truth attached. Guru Nanak wants his disciples to overcome evil impulses like enmity and envy.
A true disciple believes in the concept that Almighty God is the giver to all, irrespective of caste, creed or sex. “He alone is the Provider of all.” With this conviction the disciple develops his individual personality to keep in harmony with the moral frame work of the colleagues, in other words the sadh-sangat. Such a disciple who jointly works for the society with the help of sadh-sangat strives for an efficient social set up. A really devout disciple develops such a harmonious and impressive personality and plays a decent role in the society. He himself enjoys eternal bliss and makes other associates happy. Such a person loves one and all. He cannot tolerate any enslavement or bondage. He stands for his own freedom and freedom of all. Not only that he enjoys liberation himself, but many shall find liberation through him.
A true disciple realizes that he is a part of the universe and that there are many others living in the world besides him. He possesses wisdom by means of which he can find the ways for self realisation. Guru Nanak says, “The disciple of the Guru crosses beyond the ocean of existence”. Thus he is sensitive to the larger spiritual order and he thinks and links himself as part of an organism and inquires about the meaning of human existence, which he realises at the end.
The Guru, being a fully illumined mind, free of all preconceived notions and impressions, and one who can bare the contents of his mind at will, can make detached observations. Having experienced inner liberty himself, he is not in conflict with himself. He can see the inner struggles of his students, and through guidance dispels their avidya [ignorance], and imparts knowledge, wisdom and insight to his students. He conveys to his pupils that the problem lies not in the external world but in one’s own thoughts, feelings and motivation. The true Guru just teaches, and trains his pupils by imparting the great disciplines of perserverance and silent enquiry. He helps the disciple to formulate proper questions. He often asks rather than answers questions. He often leaves the learner to self- devised efforts, even persuades him to act upon his own delusions. He teaches not mere explanations but by pointing out new ways of acting on false assumptions, until the learner comes to realize what is true and genuine.
A true Guru is the one, who can immediately evaluate the level of his disciples. He can see through the student’s eyes and hear through his ears and understand through his mind. In short, he transfers his soul to the disciple’s soul. The Guru doesn’t teach in the ordinary style; he rather creates such situations as would teach the learner in a natural way. As Dr. T. S. Sodhi says, “An educated man can contribute to society only if he is practical in his life. Mechanical repetition is of no use, unless one acts upon it”. He doesn’t tell you “stop worrying”, nor does he counsel you to “accept your fears.” He practically demonstrates so. He teaches by a different kind of precept. One, who knows no fear doesn’t have to preach against fear. It is through the process of discipline that the true Guru enables his disciple to attain the state of positive freedom. The guru does not check the freedom of the mind of his disciple, but guides him so that he gains in his mental freedom and is able to stand on his own legs. In the great battle ground within, the Guru accompanies the disciple as his charioteer and urges him on to slash the bonds of false attachment. Pain and death will take care of themselves if the disciple takes care of his own mind, for “conquering thus thyself, mayst thou conquest of the world.
The Guru sees to the growth of the chela[taught] through the special process of the “counter- questioning”. The chela asks questions and the Guru, by posing counter questions, brings home to him absurdity of his questions. And the guru continues this process until the question has been formulated properly. This entails, for the chela, a progress towards, “oneness” with the guru. Dr. Ajit Singh Sikka describes the same. “the only difference between the Sikh [disciple] and the Guru is that Guru has achieved the object which the Sikh is seeking still and Guru can guide the Sikh to the object or the goal[ultimate goal] through the knowledge gained by experience. Ultimately, a Sikh following Guru’s instruction will reach the same spiritual stage as that of a Guru. For example, Guru Angad Dev was first a Sikh of Guru Nanak and then was elevated to the high office of guruship after following the Guru’s instruction. Thus the “unequal” end up and “the co-equal” relation comes into practice.
It is to be emphasized that the Guru-Chela relationship does not represent another worldly relationship such as parent-child relationship. It is a relationship sui-generis i.e. relationship between the soul of the chela and the soul of the guru. Thus, when the chela comes in contact with the impersonal personality of the guru, in the inner realm of his soul, then his inner self bursts forth into a new universe of blossoms.
If we observe the Guru-Chela relationship from the time of scriptures till date then we realize that initially Guru was a prophet, and then became a preacher, then a teacher in the class room, then a facilitator. Similarly, the Chela was a disciple in the initial stage, and then become a supporter, and then a student studying in the class room.
If we want to manifest the human values in future generations then we have to re-establish the Guru-Chela relationship to its old concept. To inculcate human values there is a need to establish the human touch in Guru-Chela relationship. It is possible only if a Chela goes to school to learn from the Guru and not just for enjoying the various modern facilities in the schools. Just as spring is to the trees, so is the advent of the Guru, an inspiration to the human race. It’s time to change the role of both Guru and chela. Only then this relationship with a super HUMAN TOUCH will surely propagate the values like discipline in a spontaneous way.
Over the last few decades, the standards of discipline are fast deteriorating in the school environment too. School is just not what it used to be as very few schools are able to maintain the same standards of behavior. May be the teachers’ do not have that same confidence and commanding personality as they used to have. Or maybe work pressures have increased to such a degree that all the teachers can think of is completing the curriculum on schedule. Quite obviously, most of them seem to lack the dedication to go beyond the call of duty and the syllabus and contribute to the all-round development of the child.
In the present system, it’s the duty of managements or the governments to find such teachers as are devoted to the cause of education.
– Sri Guru Granth Sahib, SGPC, Amritsar.
– Clarence. O. Mc Mullen, 1976: The Nature of Guruship, The Christian Institute of Sikh Studies, Batala.
– Neki, J.S., October 1973, Guru Chela Relationship (The Possibility of a Therapeutic Paradigm), Amer. J. Orthopsychiat, 43(5).
– Nabha, Bhai Kahan Singh, 1974: Mahan Kosh, Language Deptt. Punjab, Patiala.
– Giani, Gian Singh, Twareekh Sri Amritsar, Amritsar.
– Meharban Singh, 2009: Sikh Model of Education for Complete Living (Role of Gurdwara), Singh Brothers, Amritsar.
– Kartar Singh, 1967: On Sikh Education (A First Person Account); Souvenir (48th All India Sikh Educational Conference, Calcutta), Amritsar.
– Gaskell,G.A.; Dictionay of Scripture and Myth; Dorest Press, New York,1988.
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