The Guru’s call
Thirty years ago, on Christmas Day, which happened to be Guru Gobind Singh’s birthday in 1971, the Guru called me to take AMRIT for which I had been praying since 1970. As I look back on these thirty years, I ponder over the commitments that the Amrit vows involves and how far I have been able to live them. As I was dwelling on these moments of self-introspection, the following shabad of Guru Arjun on page 42 of GGS came to my notice:
Kia toun rata dekh ke putar kalatar sigar……
Under Scrutiny: It seemed that the Guru is always asking these questions of his Sikhs to wake them upon from their slumber of Maya so that not only can he make them his Khaas Roop but also give them his own strength to live the ideals of the Khalsa. I notice that the questions he has put, the details of which I will give presently, were very important for me and if I had not listened to my Guru when the call came, I would have been rotting helplessly. In fact this is the condition of all of us who remain Bemukh, refusing to listen to the Guru’s call and bring him into our lives. let me take up the shabad in parts to bring home to myself – and to my Sikh brothers and sisters – how much we gain by taking Amrit Vows and how much we lose by disregarding them:
Kia toun rata dekh ke putar kalatar sigar ras bhogen khusia karen maney rang apar
Bahaut kare phurmayasi vargeh hoe aphar
Karta chit na avai manmukh andh gawar.
i.e., why are you so beguiled on looking at your children and the make-up of your wife? And you seem to enjoy the pleasures of the senses and glow in ordering special entertainments? How haughty you feel even as you forget your creator and behave like a blinded one obeying your foolish instincts. Why?
When I look back at my life of 40 years before the luck favoured me to acquire Guru’s grace, I find that I was stuck exactly as the Guru says in the ways of the world. I had been well settled in the Foreign Service, I was enjoying diplomatic postings abroad and was, at best, paying lip-service to Guru’s ideals of Sikhi. Except that I had my Kesh and beard in tact. I do not remember that I was listening to the Guru’s word. All that interested me was looking after my wife, bringing up our children and entertaining ourselves with as much worldly pleasures as possible. Once we wandered around many countries of Europe and picked up a souvenir in every village and bedecked our home on return and felt very proud that we were more privileged than others. And, no doubt, we had no thought of remembering the Lord with Whose grace we had our healthy bodies, our faculties, our finances, our wisdom, and we believed that it was I who in my wisdom, had achieved all this. And, today, it really looks that I was behaving like a blinded fool.
When the Guru brought me to his fold in 1970 and prepared me for Amrit in 1971, I was a mental wreck and my two-year depression had left me as an invalid. When I began listening to my Guru, not only was I restored to my normal health but was also graced to live Sikhi and I realised that the central idea of the above shabad in the following verses became alive in my own life :
Mere man Sukhdaata Har soe. Gurparsaadi Payiey, Karam Prapat Hoe. (O my mind, God alone is my comfort-giver. Lord; we can attain You with the grace of our Guru if our deeds and luck are on our side.)
Miracle of Amrit:
This central idea is the basic principle of Amrit. Firstly, Guru Gobind Singh’s Amrit of Vaisakhi of 1699 is a dramatic miracle to rid the disciple of the fear of Death for all times to come. Secondly, all the Gurus have referred to Amrit of Gurbani being the real nectar of life and, if we have to relish it in our life, we have to have Guru’s grace with which we shall attain the Lord who ensures a peaceful happy life for us. This is exactly I found to be true when I accepted Guru Granth Sahib as my Guru and began living my life in accordance with the dictates contained therein. My life became not only free from worry and pain but also produced the capacity and strength to engage myself in Aap Japo Avra Naam Japao without any effort. All that I try to do today is to live Sikhi – and when I fail and fall, the Guru picks me up, again and again, and consoles me. Let us look at the other ways in which Guru called:
Kapar Bhog Laptaiya, soena rupa khaak.
Haiver gaiver bahu range, keeiye rath athak.
Kis hee chit na pavahee bisaria sabh saak Sirjanhaar bhulaya vin nawe napaak.
i.e., you are living in a life of indulgence, ordering costly clothes, attracted by gold and silver. Also elephants and horses of various kinds (like cars of today) and chariots have dominated your mind. You have thus broken all relations with the Lord and consider no one as important to you. But, remember, now that you have forgotten the Creator, you will remain Impure without Naam in your heart.
My personal experience of pre-1970 life is a proof of the truth of Gurbani’s above verses. Indeed, clothes, material things, external personality and a car dominated our thinking, with the belief that we are beter than others. Indeed, with no thought of the Creator, as I now know to my cost, I became Impure and an Invalid, even when – medically and psychiatrically – I was perfectly all right. Two years of depression rendered me helpness and incurable since I responded to no treatment. Only the night-long kirtan – at Gurdwara Bangla Sahib on the night of 10th October, 1970 – restored me to my normalcy with the following hymn:
Je toun mitar asadara ik bhori na vichhor
i.e. it you are my friend, Lord, do not forsake me even for an instant) – (Guru Arjun, SGGS:1094)
I feels now that although my impurities can never be washed, Guru’s grace has hidden them and I look acceptable to the people and am encouraged by my Guru to continue to learn Sikhi. And the Guru continues to ask:
Lainda bad duyae toun, Maya karen ikatt,
Jis nou toun patianda sau sun tujhe anitt ahankar karen ahankaria viapaya man ki matt
tin prabh aap bhulaya na tis jaat na patt.
i.e., you are accursed and alienate divinity, but are engaged in gathering wealth; remember the ones you are trying to please will perish along with yourself. Blinded by conceit, you indulge in unlimited pride and ego. Those who forget the Lord are of no account; their status is of no consequence.
It is true that when man forgets God, he is on Cloud Nine in terms of his own superiority of wisdom and ways and he listens to no one. I have seen, in the case of a friend, that his sons, for whom he left no stone unturned to gather wealth, are not only disrespecful to him but have also squandered away everything because naam was not there. Indeed ego and haughtiness leave no room for listening to the words of wisdom even of well-wishers and one is blinded by one’s own feeling of superiority. Only when Guru’s grace begins to shine in one’s heart, one loses the domination of ego. That is how Guru explains in the concluding portion of the shabad:
Satgur purakh milaya iko sajan soe,
Harjan ka rakha ek hai kya manas haumein roe
Jo Har jan bhawe so kare dar pher na paawe koe
Nanak rata rang Har sab jag mein chanan hoe.
i.e., when I was introduced to my Guru, he assured me that we have only one true friend. The protector of God’s devotees is the one Lord, and what can men’s ego get them except to make them cry? Whatever the devotees want, the Lord listens to them and does what they want. They are then freed from cycle of birth and death. Says Nanak : when one is really dyed in the Lord’s colours and falls in love with HIM, the whole world glows in the Lord’s floodlight.
It is a matter of some satisfaction that our Sikh brethren in the West who have come from different backgrounds, and have freely chosen Sikhi as their ideal, know much more about true way of life and do their best to live it. For the second time, I have seen an article by Sardar Guru Fateh Singh Khalsa (Sikh Review, July 2001) dwelling on the core of Sikh Values, i.e. The Guru, The Sikh and the divine being. Look at his lamentations :
- “Yet what is the reality today? Do we, in all honesty, bow to the Divine dictators of our ever-new Sri Guru Granth? If it hints that we stop slandering, do we do so at once? If it tells us to invest in the “commodity” of the Holy Naam, do we obey forthwith? If it tells us to be at once fearless and kind, do we listen?”
And more poignant is this one:
- “Manne ki gat kahee na jaye: None can tell the greatness of one who acknowledges the authority of the Guru’s Order. What is the situation today, where we now bow our heads in our imposing Gurdwaras ? They are run like shops – one Akhand Path here, two Akhand Paths there, Akhand Paths everywhere, with a lot of ostentation, but little understanding.”
- “Once we went to a Gurmat Camp at a major Gudwara in Ontario. At the end, the supposed ‘president’ was very careful to keep us away from the stage, away from the microphone, lest we say anything that might embarrass him, lest we do anything that might expose his expensive and popular charade. They gave out calculators to the Camp’s hundreds of participants.
Guru Fatha sadly concludes:
A thousand “Akhand Paths” and scores of new Gurdwaras and outpouring of funds won’t fulfill our destiny, or bring back even one lost Gursikh. The Guru knows this. We know it. It is time to put our house in order. It is time to call on our Guru, to reassert its authority and place it once again at the centre of our lives. It is time to claim what is ours. To reclaim what we have lost. It is time, while we have time still to set things straight.”