Guru Govind Singh
Ours is a shallow rationalistic age. Lesser men dare to analyse greater men, reducing them to their own level by giving particular names to their genius and by counting their moral nature bone by bone. When we read such accounts we feel no great man was after all great. It is by describing great men that we artificially make them little, though we make our own descriptions clever enough. The towering personalities who, at different periods of human history, guided the destinies of large masses of humanity shall, however, always remain far above our little analytical reason. The pages of history are limited and its limitations make history a wholly unreliable guide to the inner and the only true lives of great men. Biographies, too, more or less, fall short of truth, unless there is a Goethe to read out his own life to the public in his works. When a great man goes out of our sight, the histories that catalogue only names and events and biographies that analyse their subjects in detail and make and after all poor attempts at synthesis, cannot retain their real portraits. We are not concerned so much with the names and faces that these things describe, as with that wonderful power which made us completely its own when it was here, ruling us without subordinating us in any way. The great men do not live in our histories, they are just burried there with poor epitaphs.
The truly great men have enough realisation of the larger life of love and sacrifice to die in all so as to live in all. The truly great impart themselves to others. The hearts of the truly great beat below the ribs of all mankind. They do not die, for they quit their physical frames only to live in the larger frames of man and nature. In the former they were men, in the latter they are Humanity. Well has Hafiz said: “Hargiz namirad anke zinda shud ba ishq-Sabtast bar jarida e alam dawame ma” –"He who gets the life of love can never die. His immortality is writ large on the pages of the Universe”. That man is really worshipful who moves ordinary men to realise in an extraordinary manner the divine purpose of life, and by this realisation lifts them into a higher and larger life making this world more and more beautiful. When a king amongst the men comes with God-temperament and gives a general feast of his flesh and blood to the whole universe, we discover in him the very centre of human life. Supermen like these bring with themselves their own civilization, a civilization of Pure Rapture in which not the transitory but the eternal interests are looked after. In their kingdom a babe may get a seat of honour and a wise man no entrance. It is the strange realm where illiterate boors may become geniuses and it is possible that accomplished scholars may get nothing. There the accomplishments and cleverness do not avail, innocence and total self-surrender is all.
The palaces and big mansions may be just huge sepulchres of that kingdom and the straw-thatched huts may be its paradises of living beauty.
The small men who realize the large life and impart it to others are the true though unseen makers of human history, what though the latter is apt to flatter the big men who appear and seem so. The great men speak loud enough in their very silence and it is their silent voice that is heard from ages to ages and rings so musically in the concentric eternities of the living.
Not only my soul that contemplates him in rapture within and would like to sit mute and dumb with a pair looking at him, but even my pen that is in the hand outside trembles with a tremour of worship at his name. The enraptured Sikh “brothers” and “sisters” still see him riding past them on his blue horse, in his blue dress. He still sustains their breath of faith by his breath of love, still rescues the faithful from sin and sorrow, still comforts the wretched and the forlorn that believe in him, still bestows himself on his followers. Here was he seen and there was he seen along the jungle path by him and by her, the leader of warrior saints of cosmic consciousness, the Glory-Created Guru Govind Singh. May the following be read in the spirit in which it is written. These words do not aim to be in any way the product of laboured thought, but just a few flowers culled from the bush of my mind and offered to the idol of my heart.
What is that power that transmutes men? At least I do not know its name. To day we lecture on ameliorating the condition of the depressed classes of India and count our success by our registers of rescue cases, by the number of rupees that pour in, by the number of buildings we erect or “educating” the depressed, we cry we shriek, we affect much and accomplish but little in spit of all our sincerity, honesty of purpose. But who can deny that we lack real power? Behold after seeing there was left no depressed class of men in the Punjab! The sweepers whom everybody despised were made men by his touch, nay, to-day they are equal brothers of us all. He touched the weak-hearted, the narrow-minded, the poverty –stricken, the dirty low classes of the Punjab and federated them into a Brotherhood where all distinctions of low and high were forever obliterated. All Sikhs are called Bhais or brothers. The weakness was transmuted into an invulnerable strength. The weak-hearted became heroes who suffered the unmentionable tortures in perfect calmness with the mantram of “Akal”, “Akal”- "the deathless one”, “the deathless one” on their lips. They died when their bodies were being literally minced to death, with faces as bright as stars. By the unknowable and unnameable in the Guru, he made small men really great. He was so great that he made others like himself. The caste was abolished in the Punjab for all without much fuss that characterses our age. Those of the depressed classes became the mighty monarchs, monarchs not of worldly estates but of themselves. It cannot be denied that each Sikh in his time, by his plain living and high thinking made the pomp of kings ridiculous. Each Sikh was himself a saint, a seer whom the world had nothing to give, nothing to tempt with. The Sikh was a giver, not a beggar. The Guru, by making him desireless and at one with the Divine, made the dominion of each Sikh illimitably vast. It seems Guru Govind Singh had bound a Storm of Power by the slender thread of the life-breath of every Sikh, so much so that there seemed a universe behind him. The Guru has himself said that his one Sikh was brave enough to stand against odds of lakhs, that his Sikhs were sparrows who could make food of hawks. How well the dream of Walt Whitman was actually realised in the Punjab.
“O! to struggle against odds, to meet enemies undaunted,
To be entirely alone with them, to find how one can stand,
To look strife, torture, prison, popular odium face to face,
To mount the scaffold, to advance to the muzzles of guns with perfect non-chalance;
To be indeed a God.”
– Walt Whitman.
He was a passionate lover of death, it was as sweet to him as life. Who can love death while living? Those alone who know whither they are going to. If it were known in the real sense of knowledge that those who lose life gain it, who would not welcome death just as life? The ordinary mortals are afraid of death because of the unknown nature of the death because of the unknown nature of the beyond. The dark minds shrink from death. This is the germ of all selfishness, which is the cause of all sin and sorrow. The minds lit by faith know as a fact of their inner experience that death after all is fordable and that the strong swim across it to the opposite shore of the Immortal Life. A glimpse of his great passion for death we catch in the Bushido spirit of Japan, but only in a very small degree. Writing in the ‘Soul of Japan’ on this spirit of Bushido, Dr. Nitobe says that the young men courted and played with death as willingly and affectionately as moths court and play with the flames of light, to seek death was an honourable occupation for them. They readily gave battle of rescuing the innocent, for helping the weaker sex, for saving the family honours or even for the display of their heroism when challenged, and thus, in various ways to die with smiles on their lips was the fulfilment of all their ambitions. But this Bushido spirit smells yet of matter. The ‘Samurais’ and others of the same type belonging to different races, at times courted death to escape personal ignomy or to take revenge on others or on themselves for victory or defeat, with desires of one kind or another. The spirit of Bushido was clannish then and patriotic now, many a time seeking posthumous fame. But the passion for death of Guru Goving Singh was by far more sublime and wholly divine, having no odour of the mundane concerns. Not self-courted death, but death if it visits you in the performance of your duty in doing dis-interested service to others both to friend and foe alike, is the portal to immortality. In the Guru’s scheme patriotism was as bad as selfishness. The only war that he considered holy was the disinterested war by a class of 'Brahma Gianees', an army of saints of cosmic consciousness who loved all equally and who were moved by natural forces to give shelter to the shelterless, to own the despised, to help the depressed and the destitute and thus strike the balance of righteousness in the world. Man, according to him, must dedicate his life to the great Deity of the Cosmic Temple before he is forcibly sacrificed. Man is to live in the immortal spirit, to cast his vesture of the body here, there, everywhere when the spirit may call. He succeeded in infusing himself with his great passions for Death, for Love, for God in his followers, till one day he himself said "I live in them. They are my own body. Those who wish to see me may see me in the Khalsa.” The inner personality or Brahma-consciousness, when the Sikh was in the making, was being transferred from one man to one man from the time of Guru Nanak Dev to Guru Tegh Bahadur, till the one man Guru Govind Singh transferred it to many and thus laid the solid foundations of the Khalsa Brotherhood. It seems out from ruins sprang a new nation.
Guru Govind Singh took his followers, his sons, his family through awe-inspiring scenes of death with songs on their lips here and hereafter. This was the great manifestation of his and his followers being at one with the spirit of the univers. He marched them from darkness to light, from mortality to immortality, from ignorance to knowledge, over their dead selves lying in streaming pools of blood on many a battle-field where they had waged war not to win empires, nor to conquer men, but to champion in the spirit of nonchalance, the cause of the rights of free life for the individual and the society, without any personal motive or interest, and moved only by the forces of nature or in other words, ‘cosmic forces.’ He spent his life in introducing his alter-selves to the larger life through Death-in-Life. To die is nothing, to live is nothing, but to love is all. A wonderful teacher, who taught that it is not the mortal of us but the immortal in us that can really love and realise what that love is which transcends all limits of time and space and in which countless universes live, move and have their being. How did he preach it? Not he, nor his words, but the innocent blood of his four sons cried out thus from the battle-field of Chamkor and the stone-walls of Sirhind. Not he, nor his words, but his flashing sword called out of hundred thousands of Sikhs assembled at Anadpur, the Beloved Five who won a paradise under the shade of swords and through them the whole Sikh Brotherhood became immortal.
He flooded the Punjab with Heroic Impulses. He deluged the Sikh soul with the light of the Invisible Life and thus enraptured the Sikh martyrs to an extent that they actually knew not that they over had bodies or that they were being cut to pieces. Inner illumination came, not to one, two or three but to hundreds of thousands. He produced saints of cosmic consciousness who needed no sitting postures to contemplate on the spirit divine but who were in Samadhi when fighting for the destitute. We get another short glimpse of the spirit of his battles in those of Cromwell and his Iron-sides. The battles fought by Guru Govind Singh look more like the uphaavals of nature rather than anything else. They were so many earth-quakes for which no one seemed responsible. No prophet but he made his God-intoxicated followers fight, as said above, not for winning empires, nor for conquering men, nor even for spreading religion and converting people by force, but without an aim, without any personal wish or motive. In these impersonal wars of this wonderful God-inebriated saintly General, I see a Realisation and a consciousness divine before which trembles and pales and literally hides its face in shame the spiritual ideal of the cowards that seek the darkness of caves, running away from man and the society to get self-illumination from lonely darkness. Guru Govind Singh’s writings are the utterances of an unfathomable soul. A whole age seems to throb in them. In his words we can feel the breath of the Goddess of Power. His words are inextinguishable torches that guide many a wear y traveller through the storm and tempest of the world around to the Haven of Peace. His words that sound like the booming of cannon and clashing of steel, infuse a martial spirit in man, a wonderful martial spirit which is devoid of all carnal desires, of all lowness and meanness. The nobility of blood that flows into human veins through who realises the spirit of the Guru’s genius. He utters himself on different subjects of eternal interest with infinite boldness. He quashes with his glances the superstitions of religion and society and asks man to dare to look at broad day-light for guidance. They alone can realise God who realise love and none else and none else. From his writings we gather that it is Guru Nanak who rides on horse back with an eagle perched on the thumb of his right hand and his bow and quiver swung on his shoulders. Behold ! this Guru Govind Singh is none else but Guru Nanak. He still can be seen by the eye of faith and can always be found by the side of those who look up to him for help.
ęCopyright Institute of Sikh Studies, 2015, All