Episodes From the Lives of Sikh Gurus
Episode No 35
Doctrine of Grace
One day a decent looking Sikh came to the Guru. He was a rich man, charitably disposed. He organised yajnas (religious feasts), and always looked after Brahmins and mendicants. he prayed to the Guru thus. "O True Emperor, you fulfil the desires of everyone. Pray, fulfil my desire also. My desire is to hear some instructive story from the Guru's lips, which I may always keep in my heart as a gurmantra. So kindly oblige."
The Guru then related this story to the Sikh: "Listen, O Sikh, there was a king, who fought several wars, and also arranged several yujnas and acts of charity. He would look after sadhus, mendicants and other visitors. When time came for him to die, God sent him to the Heavens meant for angles. There he enjoyed the luxurious life of the devtas. Vanity entered his mind. He said, "O Lord, I enjoy the luxuries of the Heavens. This is merely the recompense for the good deeds I have done. You are called Merciful and Benevolent as well as Destroyer of sin. Pray shower Thy Grace and give me what I should get as a result of that also. Why has that part been denied to me?" When this thought crossed his mind, he fell from the high position, and came again on the path he had treaded after death. His journey began again. He felt extremely thirsty and asked for water. God told him that it was jam marg where water is rare. You can get a bowl of water, if you forgo the benefit of all the good deeds you have done during your life time. He was so thirsty that he offered them all, and got a bowl of water to drink. God said, "Whatever good deeds you had done, have been exchanged for a bowl of water, which you have drunk. Now you want more water. What will you give in exchange for that?"
'I have nothing with me', replied the king.
'You thought that in the Heavens you were enjoying only the fruits of your own good deeds. The worth of all your good deeds is only one bowl of water. Now you are left with only evil deeds. The result of those evil deeds should have been condemnation to hell. But that was not done. Instead, you were sent to the Heavens. Now try to understand whether the Heavens were the result of your good deeds or My Grace,' said God.
'O Perfect Lord, now I understand that the comforts I enjoyed were the result of your Grace. My pride over my good deeds was false. Pray, forgive me'. When the king realised this, God again made him a devta of the Heavens. Thus, he again enjoyed life in the Heavens.'
The Guru continued, "O Sikh, this is the way everybody should think. Vanity is condemnable. He who boasts of his good deeds, wastes them, just as water that becomes polluted is no longer fit for offering to God. God settles the accounts of the vain and proud. But on those, who are free from pride, and are humble, God showers His Grace. He ignores their sins. So this is the right kind of thinking. Whatever good deeds you do, never boast about them. Only humility and righteous conduct are helpful."
Hearing this story the Sikh was very happy, and said, "O True Emperor, you have told me a story which is like a supreme gurmantra to me. I shall imbibe it in my heart, as it is worth imbibing." (35)
Episode No 35
Through the story narrated by the Guru to one of his Sikhs, Sewa Das is trying to explain the Sikh doctrine of Grace. All blessings of nature, air, water, etc. and even life itself, come as His Grace. Salvation can also come only through His Grace. None of these can be earned or claimed as a matter of right.
Episode No. 36
IDEAL HOUSEHOLDER AND IDEAL ASCETIC
Once a Sikh and his wife came to the Guru. They said, "O True King, we have enough property, all granted by you. But we have only one son, and when we suggest that he should marry, he says, 'If you force me to marry, I shall commit suicide with poison, and will not live.' We have, therefore, come to request you to kindly persuade him to marry. We can be happy only if he agrees to marriage. The Guru said, "Bring your son to me." They brought the son to Guru Baba. "Dear boy, your parents want you to marry. Why don't you do it?" asked the Guru.
"O True King, you have uttered these words in the Anand: 'This family that you see, will not go with you. What will not go with you, why attach yourself with that? Never do anything that you may have to regret later. Listen to the teachings of the Guru, which alone will go with you. Saith Nanak, my dear mind, always keep in your thoughts the Everlasting One.' O True Emperor, when the True Lord forbids attachment with a family, then why go in for marriage? This is the reason why I refuse to marry," said the boy.
"Blessed are you. You have said the right thing," said the Guru, and looked at the parents, "Bhai Sikhs, nobody has misled your son, nor is he under some magic spell. Neither is his thinking perverted. His is the right thinking. The Guru's shabad has inspired non-attachment in him. What the Guru has said is for such persons as he."
"O True Emperor, you are the controller of everything. Pray, give us another son," entreated the parents.
"The Guru has granted you another son. But you should leave this one alone. Stop bothering him. Let him go the way he wants."
"O True King, you have ordered us to stop. We shall never disobey your command."
"He is comitted to the True One," said the Guru, and looking towards the boy he continued, "Listen, youngman, I see the seed of Truth in your heart. So I relate two stories for your benefit. One story is about a houscholder's life. It shows what kind of a householder one should be. The second story is about the ascetic way of life. It shows what kind of an ascetic one should be. You will have to choose one or the other. Which ever path you adopt, will take you to God."
First narrating the story of a householder's path, the Guru said, "In a forest there was a nest of a sparrow and her mate, on a tree. One day during the winter season, when it was raining, an inadequately clothed man came and sat under the tree. 'O sparrow, we have a guest in our house. We should look after him,' said the he-sparrow.
"He is a human being, eating one and a half kilograms of food. What is there with us that we can offer him?' said the sparrow.
"O sparrow, whatever we have, we should offer. First of all I shall give him the warmth of a fire.' So saying, the he-sparrow flew. There was a bonfire in a nearby village. From there he picked in his beak a half-burnt dropping of a goat, and dropped it before the man. Then he threw down their nest for fuel.
"The man lit a fire. There was enough fuelwood lying under the tree. Warmth of fire made him happy. 'Sparrow, although we have nothing, we do have our bodies. I shall drop into the fire. Our guest should not go hungry,' said the he-sparrow.
"After you, I may or may not be able to maintain sanctity of marriage, therefore, I will also become his food,' said the she-sparrow as she dropped into the fire. The man ate her up.
"He is a human and a big eater,' thought the he-sparrow 'the sparrow's meat may not have satisfied his appetite. Hence, I should also become his meal. The rest is left to him.
Whatever we have, we should offer to our guest.' Then the he-sparrow also dropped into the fire. The man ate the he-sparrow also. In case you choose to be a householder, this is your model. In the case of the pair of sparrows, the whole family sacrificed itself for the sake of a guest. Such a householder is liberated. He attains salvation, and is freed from the cycle of birth and death."
The second story related was that of an ascetic. The Guru said, "An ascetic lived outside Village in a hut, undemanding and devoted, believing God to be the cause of all causes, and provider of all. He had complete faith that God will send him food at meal times. He had never knocked anybody's door for food. As a rule, the Lord tests the faith of those whom He loves, to sift the real from the spurious. Once it so happened that the ascetic did not get any food for ten days. The ascetic firmly believed that God is omniscient and nothing is unknown to him. He felt, however, 'God has also given me a body. Sometimes I should put it to use. I should harness this asset. I shall go to the village with my ascetic's bowl in my hand. If someone offers, I shall take food from him, otherwise I shall return to my hut.' And with the bowl in his hand he walked through the village. A marriage was being celebrated in the house of a Khatri, where a large number of beggars had queued up. The ascetic also seated himself on one side. Everybody received food, but nobody noticed the ascetic. So he returned to his hut. God showed the ascetic a vision in which he saw two angels with burning torches in their hands. The ascetic asked, 'Who are you?' They replied that they were angels, and that God had sent them to set fire to the house of the Khatri, because he had not given food to His devotee who has been hungry for ten days. For this reason, their instructions were to burn his house. The ascetic realised that it was because of him that the house was being burnt. He said, Give me a torch. I shall also go with you.' As soon as they handed him a torch, he jumped upon them, saying, 'I shall burn you all, because there is no justice in your house. He, who has sent you, has no justice in His house either. If He does not dwell in their hearts, what can those poor fellows do? You have come to set fire to the house of ignorant people.' At this, the angels disappeared. God was extremely pleased with the utterance of the ascetic. For, 'he had realised that God is the source of all that is good and noble. His vision knew no discrimination. He treated his friends and foes alike. God had tested the ascetic on His touchstone, and found that he was genuine, and not fake. If he were so, he would have welcomed the burning of the Khatri's house, because they had not given him food. In that case, he surely would have been spurious. Since the ascetic was genuine, he did what behoves genuine people. After this, food started reaching the ascetic, as it used to earlier."
The Guru continued, "Listen, my child, if you want lo be an ascetic, you should be such that even in hunger and thirst, you do not curse anybody, regardless of whether they offer you food or not. An ascetic should entertain no rancour in his heart. He should consider everything to be emanating from God. His vision should be above all beings. He should always return good, not only for good, but also for evil. Such an ascetic attains salvation and is loved by God." (36)
As we know, Sewa Das belonged to the ascetic sect of Udasis. He knew that the Gurus rejected the ascetic way of the life as parasitism and escapism. In spite of that he is irresistibly drawn towards the Gurus, particularly Guru Gobind Singh. At the same time, he wants to stick on to his way of life. In this episode, he is trying to resolve his internal conflict and the very poignant dilemma he faces constantly. In the case he builds, he does not say, as perhaps he would like to say, that an ascetic way of life is superior to that of a householder, but he pleads that it is acceptable as an alternative way. Of course, a model in presented for both sides, and the seeker is given the option.
Episode No. 37
PRACTISE WHAT YOU PREACH
Once the rababis (rebeck players) sang a hymn before the Guru. It as a wonderful rendering. Everybody listened with rapt attention. The tune was very sweet. "O True Emperor, they have sung it very nicely," said the Sikh. But the Guru did not say anything. "O True Emperor, the rababis have recited the hymn very nicely," repeated the Sikh.
"The rababis have certainly done a very good rendering. But the shovel is also with them," remarked the Guru.
"O True Emperor, kindly explain the expression, 'The shovel is also with them'," requested the Sikhs.
"'The shovel is with them' is a story, which I will relate for you," said the Guru, and continued, "An official lived in a village. There was a well nearby, fitted with a Persian wheel. Somebody had borrowed his shovel, used for management of water, and had not returned it. The official arranged an announcement at the beat of the drum to get it back. But nobody returned the shovel. Then the official organised a search of every house in the village. Still the shovel was not recovered. Someone suggested that the house of the drummer should also be searched. When the drummer’s house was searched the shovel was recovered. 'Keeping the shovel in your own house, you have been beating the drum to the whole world. You are ten times more guilty than anybody else. Had the shovel been found in anybody else's house, he could plead that he did not hear the announcement. But when the shovel is recovered from the house off the drummer himself, he deserves, a much severer punishment,' said the official, and tore the drum, put it round the neck of the drummer and turned him out of the village. In the same way, the rababis and pundits preach evils of wealth to others, but themselves run after it more and more. Thus, 'The shovel is also with them'." (37)
This story points to a common failing of preachers who preach to the world, but themself do not conduct their lives according to what they preach
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