Episodes From Lives of The Gurus
Story Of The Third Mahal
Episode No. 3
Once when Guru Amar Das was in Goindwal, Sikhs used to bring water for the langar in earthen pitchers. Young Turks (alien Muslims from the ruling class) would break the pitchers with mud-pellets shot from catapults. Those Turks were called Sheikhs. Their parents were aware of this activity. But they would not stop them. Rather, they enjoyed the fun.
“O True Master, kids of the Turks, with pellets from their slings, break our pitchers,” complained the Sikhs. The Guru instructed them to use mashaks (leather bags) to fetch water. The Sikhs started using mashaks. But the young Turks would make holes in them with arrows. “O True Master, they make holes in the mashaks also,” reported the Sikhs.
The Guru advised them’ to use brass vessels, and the Sikhs obeyed. But this did not deter the young Turks who started pelting brick-bats, causing dents in the vessels. In the mean time, a roving band of armed ascetics (sanyasins) arrived and camped there. The boys shot a ball which hit one of them in the eye, and caused grave injury. The victim happened to be the leader of the group. All the sanyasins came out with arms and attacked the Sheikhs with swords, killing several of them. On the following day, a mule carrying State treasure disappeared. This mule was recovered from a house belonging to one of the Sheikhs. So the few Sheikhs who had survived the assault of the sanyasins, were taken as prisoners to Delhi. The Sikhs reported this to the Guru, “O True Master, this is the fate the Sheikhs have met.” “Brothers, they have received what their actions merited, but we did not retaliate,” said the Guru.
In the same connection Guru Baba narrated a sakhi: “A sadhu asked his fellow sadhu, ‘If you do good to somebody and he returns it with evil, how should he be treated?’ ‘You should again do good,’ was the reply. ‘If you again do him good, and he again returns it with evil, then how should we treat him?’ ‘You should again do him good.’ ‘Why so?’ asked the sadhu. The reply given was ‘He will get his reward for evil, while you will get yours for good. If he so firmly sticks to evil, you should stick to good even more firmly. This is the reason.’ The fellow agreed.” The Guru elaborated and said, “If one commits aggression, and the other does not retaliate, God will punish the aggressor. This is His justice. There may be some delay in its dispensation. But when He catches him, he will not be spared, and will suffer blow after blow. So, the Sheikhs have been punished by God. We have no hand in this.”(3)
Episode No. 3
As reports, young songs of the Sheikhs at Goindwal harassed the Sikhs bringing water for the Guru’s langar, breaking their earthen pitchers with sling shots, piercing their leather bags with arrows, and then pelting stones at brass vessels. Guru Amar Das persistently advised the Sikhs against retaliation, preaching the merit of forgiveness and returning good for evil, again and again. In the present case, it was particularly desirable, because the culprits were children.
Forgiveness is a divine virtue, and Sikhs are enjoined upon to practise it in their dealings with others. There are numerous hymns praising khima or khivan as a cardinal virtue. Bhai Vir Singh, the well-known Sikh mystic and theologian writes:
“Bure nal sabh bura karende, mal karan kai siane.
Bure nal phir neki kami, eh Gur Nanak jane.” i.e.,
“Everybody returns evil for evil;
Some wise men forgive. .
But to return good for evil,
Is known to Guru Nanak alone.”
This virtue, however, cannot be considered in isolation. It has to fit into the over-all Sikh ideology preached by the Gurus. Sikhism is not a pacifist religion, believing in infinite tolerance of evil or aggression. Instead, the Gurus have preached activism and a positive approach to life, individual as well as social. Sikhs are enjoined upon not to co-operate with the aggressor, but to resist injustice and oppression with all their might, to bring about the kingdom of God on earth.
To tolerate the continued aggressive attitude of the Sheikhs in the hope of divine intervention, is pacifism, and is sanctioned in the pacifist Udasi cult to which Sewa Das belonged. He is, in a way, expounding the philosophy of his own cult, consciously or unconsciously. For, an offender can be forgiven only if he regrets his action. In the present case, nobody has asked for forgiveness. It cannot be forced upon an unwilling recipient. We must also note that Sewa Das, in fact, does not want the Sheikhs to be forgiven. They are shown to get poetic justice in the form of an attack from a visiting armed squad.
It is also noteworthy that the action of the Sheikhs, at the most, constituted a mischief, which did not merit retaliation or punishment to the extent meted out to them. The Guru was not advocating non-violence or pacifism in the hope of divine intervention.