ਬਰ ਦੋ ਆਲਮ ਸ਼ਾਹ ਗੁਰੁ ਗੋਬਿੰਦ ਸਿੰਘ
(Guru Gobind Singh-the King of the two Worlds)
350th birth day celebrations of the tenth Guru are afoot at a large scale all over the globe, especially at Patna Sahib, the birth place of the Guru, where he spent the first seven years of his eventful life. Devotees from all over are making a beeline to Patna Sahib to pay their obeisance to the great Guru. Such celebrations provide us with an opportunity to reflect, to look back, to take stock, and assess how we performed and resolve to do better going forward. This spirit of celebration touches and inspires the common man and lifts him above to enjoy and celebrate the greater presence of Love that connects us all in a brotherhood. This inspiration enlightens and motivates us to find greater understanding, wisdom and solutions to the problems we face. Such events are milestones in a Nation’s history and it is our duty to use such occasions to reflect on the message of the Gurus and to introspect as to how far we have been able to follow the path shown to us.
Sikhs have a rich and inspiring history. But it is only in the twentieth century that they could plan to celebrate the important milestones in their history. In the recent years the Sikhs have celebrated the tercentenary of the birthday of Guru Gobind Singh in 1966, quincentenary of the birthday of Guru Nanak in 1969, tercentenary of the martyrdom of Guru Teg Bahadur Sahib in 1975, quincentenary of Guru Amardas, the third Guru, in 1979, tercentenary of the creation of Khalsa in 1999. Three centenaries were celebrated in the year 2004: quincentenary of the birthday of Sri Guru Angad Dev ji, quadricentenary of the installation of Guru Granth Sahib, and the tercentenary of the martyrdom of the Sahibzadas. In 2008, we celebrated the tercentenary of the installation of Guru Granth Sahib as the eternal Guru at Nander Sahib. Recently Sirhind Fateh Diwas and the third centenary of the martyrdom of Baba Banda Singh Bahadur was commemorated with great enthusiasm.
All these events were celebrated with great fanfare. Big processions and diwans were held. Great monuments and memorials were raised as symbols of inspiring Sikh history. World level seminars and conferences too were organized on these occasions. This gave a boost to research in Sikh Studies. As a result, a number of chairs and departments of Sikh Studies were established in the different universities. All this created an environment where research in Sikh studies and comparative religion was encouraged and many valuable publications were produced. The whole world got curious to know more about the Sikh Faith. People from different religions and from different regions were so fascinated with the universal message of the Sikh Gurus that many of them decided to adopt Sikhism and are leading their lives as devout Sikhs.
But along with all this, there have been many developments which do not bode well for the Sikh community. While the research about Sikh theology, Sikh history, Sikh tradition and other basic tenets of the Sikh Faith was undertaken, many intellectual gymnasts created doubts, some wittingly, others unwittingly, about the basic tenets of Sikhism. This created different kinds of challenges for people engaged in Sikh Studies.
Many Sikh intellectuals rose up to the occasion and accepted the challenge to present the correct image of Sikhism by rebutting the distortions and misrepresentations in Sikh thought. Institute of Sikh Studies is one of the organizations that were formed with this aim. But unfortunately the controversies refuse to die down and every other day new controversies are being raised. The Sikh community needs to be vigilant regarding this and should try to find out whether there is any conspiracy behind all these developments to weaken the community by dividing it on some issues and non issues. No doubt, all this is very unfortunate.
Guru Gobind Singh the tenth Guru is a hero not only for Sikhs and Indians but for the whole humanity. His magnetic personality attracted all, the foe and the friend. That is why among his admirers were people from all communities, Hindus and Muslims. Many of the Muslims fought on his side against the imperial forces risking their own lives and those of their families. Pir Buddhu Shah sacrificed not only himself, but also many of his followers, two of his sons and a brother-in-law in the Guru’s struggle for righteousness. His wife too gave up her life in the process. Nihnag Khan of Ropar gave shelter to the Guru when the imperial forces were after his life. His daughter Mumtaj even though engaged to a suitable young man from her community, refused to get married and spent the rest of her life dedicated to the memory of the Guru and his principles. Begum Zaina, the wife of notorious Wazir Khan, the Nawab of Sirhind, tried hard to dissuade her husband from being unjust to the Sahibzadas. When he did not relent, she stabbed herself in the stomach, in protest against the unjust treatment to the little ones. Gani Khan Nabi Khan the two muslim devotees risked their lives in order to escort the Guru to safety. The land bought by Diwan Todar Mal to perform the last rites of Mata Gujri ji and the Sahibzadas, has been recorded as the costliest land in the world. Moti Ram Mehra sacrificed his whole family just to serve milk to the Mataji and Sahibzadas when they had been kept hungry for days in the severe cold weather. Such was the devotion the Guru enjoyed from his devotees from all faiths.
The secret behind all this is that the Guru Gobind Singh was an embodiment of Love and a great humanitarian who propagated true equality without any distinction of caste, creed or faith:
“ਹਿੰਦੂ ਤੁਰਕ ਕੋਊ ਰਾਫਜ਼ੀ ਇਮਾਮ ਸ਼ਾਫੀ ਮਾਨਸ ਕੀ ਜਾਤ ਸਭੈ ਏਕੈ ਪਹਿਚਾਨਬੋ।”
People from all faiths were ready to sacrifice their all for the love of him. And the Guru too loved his devotees to the extent of sacrificing his all for them. He declares:
“ਮੋ ਗ੍ਰਹਿ ਮੈ ਤਨ ਤੇ ਮਨ ਤੇ, ਸਿਰ ਲੌ ਧਨ ਹੈ ਸਭ ਹੀ ਇਨ ਹੀ ਕੋ।”
And the Guru practiced what he said. He had mortgaged his family, his own self, his mind, his body and all his belongings to his true devotees. He did sacrifice his all, his father, his mother, his sons and his own self for the love of freedom for humanity. Such was the degree of his Love, which he had truly elevated to the highest level. He was a true companion and an extremely popular leader.
While the Guru sacrificed the physical lives of his whole family, even the Gurgaddi that had been bestowed upon him, was transferred to the Khalsa, at the time of baptismal ceremony. He declared himself to be follower of his own devotees, the Khalsa. Indeed, an unparalleled and unique and example of spiritual democracy put into practice. The slogan of ‘Liberty, equality and fraternity, raised during the French Revolution appears an empty slogan in front of what was actually accomplished by Guru Gobind Singh. There was total equality, total identification with the Khalsa when the Guru said, “ਖਾਲਸਾ ਮੇਰੋ ਰੂਪ ਹੈ ਖਾਸ”, and ‘ਹਉ ਖਾਲਸੇ ਕੋ ਖਾਲਸਾ ਮੇਰੋ’. Nay, he went a step further and declared ‘Kwlsw myro siqgur pUrw’. Khalsa was virtue incarnate for him and he was all praise for the Khalsa, “ਰੋਮ ਰੋਮ ਜੇ ਰਸਨਾ ਧਿਆਊਂ । ਤਦਪ ਖਾਲਸਾ ਜਸ ਤਿਹ ਗਾਊਂ [ He was determined to bestow a mental state of kingship, a sovereignty on his humble Sikhs, ‘ਇਨ ਗਰੀਬ ਸਿਖਨ ਕਉ ਦੇਉਂ ਪਾਤਸਾਹੀ।’
Then how could the Khalsa not be prepared to lay down their lives for such a selfless personality completely dedicated to the dignity of human life. His Sikhs were and are ever ready to die in the name of the Guru. An incident in Sikh history demonstrates the same very well. A Sikh had brought a very valuable gun as an offering to the Guru. The Guru wanted a Sikh to come forward and stand before him to become a living target so that he could see how well the gun actually worked. At this, two of his devoted Sikhs came running eager to die at the hands of their beloved Guru. They felt they would be blessed if they could die such a death. The Guru said he wanted not two but only one person to come forward. At this, each argued in favor of his own right to be the target. One argued that since he was the first to reach the place, the other said that he was one to start first from his seat, so it was his right to become the target of the trial. Finally the Guru told both of them to stand in a row and aimed the gun at them with both of them fervently waiting for the blessed death. The Guru pulled the trigger. But lo! The bullet shot over the heads of both of them without even touching them. Both the living targets were blessed with the divine Love of the Guru. ‘Pyara’-the Beloved, was the greatest title that the Sikhs were bestowed upon by the Guru. The five heads that were surrendered to the Guru on the Vaisakhi day of 1699, too were bestowed with the greatest title of being the ‘Five Beloveds’.
The incident related above shows that when Guru declared that everything that belonged to him was of the Khalsa, the Sikhs were too were ever ready to surrender their all before the Guru. And the tradition continues till today. The twentieth century Sikh history stands witness to this. The Sikhs have been laying down their lives in the name of the great Guru even more than three hundred years after his demise from this mortal world. Such is the love of the Guru for the Sikhs and of Sikhs for the Guru. Prof. Puran Singh has the following to say in this regard, “In the Khalsa constitution, people inspired by the natural goodness of humanity, by the spontaneous divinity of the Beautiful and the Good, by the Guru’s mystic presence in all things, are made supreme. They are the embodiment of law and justice filled in the supreme love of the Guru and in His love is filled the love of man. In this Khalsa state, the law of man’s natural goodness is the only law.”
Guru Gobind Singh ensured to preserve this law of man’s natural goodness in all circumstances. Whenever he saw this law being violated he took care to preserve it even if he had to take to arms for the cause. The Guru was Love incarnate and was not in favor of using force as far as possible. But so dear was the cause of Love for the humanity to him that he did not mind picking up the sword in his hand when he saw the human rights being violated by the powerful people. He believed that it was not wrong to pick up the sword when all other means for the righteousness to prevail failed. So when even the sacrifice of his father failed to bring the tyrant to the right path, he decided to take up the sword in his hand. He fought a number of battles, some won and some lost in the worldly sense of the term. But it was his spirit of righteousness that remained invincible. Even the merciless killing of his sons failed to defeat his spirit and he wrote a powerful letter entitled Zafarnama to the emperor telling him to his face all his misdeeds and how he had usurped and exploited the power that the Almighty had made him heir to. Yet, the great Guru exhorted him to have a peep into his own heart wherein did lie a divine spark. In his letter addressed to the Emperor, the Guru said:
ਕਿ ਰੌਸ਼ਨ ਜ਼ਮੀਰ ਅਸਤ ਹੁਸਨਲ ਜਮਾਲ॥
ਖੁਦਾਵੰਦਿ ਬਖਸ਼ਿੰਦਹਏ ਮੁਲਕੋ ਮਾਲ॥
(Your conscience, I am sure, has the divine spark in it. Look at yourself in the light of this spark. Thus will you realize your true worth, for you are something more than a mere conqueror to lands and a hoarder of treasures.)
The Emperor lay sick and bedridden when he received this letter from Guru Gobind Singh. For the first time in his life, he looked inwards. The word ‘conscience’ struck him and he asked himself if he really had a conscience. The Guru’s letter was an attempt to turn the light of conscience on the dying emperor and to awaken the natural goodness of man that was lying dormant in him:
ਕਿ ਬਖ਼ਸ਼ਿਸ਼ ਕਬੀਰ ਅਸਤ ਦਰ ਜੰਗ ਕੋਹ॥
ਮਲਾਯਕ ਜ਼ਿਸ਼ਤ ਚੂੰ ਸੁਰੱਯਾ ਜ਼ਿਕੋਹ॥
(With a heart of stone you stand like a mountain in the battlefield. Yet you are not totally bereft of the angelic qualities of a charitable heart and a gracious soul.)
Reading this, Aurangzeb turned his gaze within and saw his soul as dark as night. Amidst the pitch darkness, he saw a dim faint light, which was enough to reveal to him the dreadful darkness of his misdeeds. He trembled within and in a weak voice wrote a letter to his son: “My darling son, on the eve of my departure from this life, I feel pity for your haplessness. But it is useless to mourn the irrevocable, whatever evil or good that I have done, I am taking along with me. Isn’t it strange that I had come all alone in this world but while leaving it I am accompanied by caravan of my deeds.” He continued, “God Almighty is my only hope. None else can help me. I do not know what is in store for me. I have sinned grievously and heavily shall I pay for my deeds.” According to Wincent Smith, Aurangzeb thus writes in his letter to his son, “I know not who I am, where shall I go and what will happen to this sinner full of sins. My years have gone by profitless, God has been in my heart but my darkened eyes have not recognized his light. There is no help for me in future when I have lost hope in myself.”
Aurangzeb discovered God through the ‘Zafar Nama’- the Epistle of Victory- written in chaste Persian that came from the miraculous pen of Guru Gobind Singh. The Guru had shown many miracles of the sword during his life time. He had performed the miracle of sacrificing his father at the tender age of nine, when odds were heavily against him; he had exhibited the miracle of making forty of his men fight millions of the enemy in the dilapidated fortress of Chamkaur; he had performed the miracle of raising young children who had so much commitment to their beliefs that they could lay down their lives at the altar of Truth at very tender ages.
And this miracle of his pen performed by the Guru, that could change the heart of a tyrant like Aurangzeb is no less profound. This miracle of the pen of a great scholar, a poet prophet, a literary stalwart, proved to be mightier than the sword. A mighty Emperor like Aurangzeb surrendered before this mightier pen and left this mortal world deeply regretting the misdeeds of his life.
A prolific writer himself, the Guru, a great scholar of Persian, Arabic, Sanskrit, and Braj Bhasha and Punjabi was a patron to all the scholars of his time and welcomed the reputed scholars and poets of his time to his court. He patronized them, rewarded them handsomely for the good work done and would give them all facilities so that they could create valuable literature to spread the light of knowledge among his followers. He knew the value of literature in the making of a community and did not leave this aspect unattended. That is why his court had become a refuge for all the scholars who feared persecution.
The Guru produced a lot of creative literature of his own and got many Indian classics translated in the vernacular so that his Sikhs did not lag behind academically, possessed an enlightened mind and the precious gift of learning. He took care to make all the ancient literature of the land available to them. He had given the weapon of ‘Gyan’ to his Sikhs with which they could drive out all cowardice and come out victorious in the battle of life:
ਧੀਰਜ ਧਾਮ ਬਣਾਇ ਇਹੈ ਤਨ ਬੁਧ ਸੁ ਦੀਪਕ ਜਿਉ ਉਜੀਆਰੈ॥
ਗਿਆਨਹਿ ਕੀ ਬਢਨੀ ਮਨੋ ਹਾਥ ਲੈ ਕਾਤਰਤਾ ਕੁਤਵਾਰ ਬੁਹਾਰੈ॥
It is unfortunate that many from within the Sikh community have started casting doubts on the remarkable creative and literary capability of the Guru. Nothing can be sadder than that. We should use this opportunity of celebrating the 350th anniversary of the great Guru’s birth, to bring into focus that one quality of the Guru that has so far remained little known to the common man. Guru today is more popularly known as a wielder of the sword, than as a great wielder of the pen. It is our duty to bring this aspect of the Guru’s personality to the fore and try to make the community an enlightened one that has the potential to win many Nobel Prizes in the coming days.
ęCopyright Institute of Sikh Studies, 2015, All