Saturday, February 24, 2007

Sakhi Series: 39 ( Bhai Jodh jee)

glNØI AsI cMgIAw AwcwrI burIAwh ]

gala(n)a ee asee cha(n)geeaa aachaa ree b ureeaa h ||

We are good at talking, but our actions are bad.


mnhu kusuDw kwlIAw bwhir ictvIAwh ]

manah u ku sudhh aa kaa leeaa b aahar chi ttaveeaah ||

Mentally, we are impure and black, but outwardly, we appear white.


rIsw kirh iqnwVIAw jo syvih dru KVIAwh ]

r ee saa kar ih th inaa rreeaa j o sae vehi dhar kharr eeaah ||

We imitate those who stand and serve at the Lord's Door.


nwil KsmY rqIAw mwxih suiK rlIAwh ]

n aa l khasamai ratheeaa m aanehi sukh ral eeaah ||

They are attuned to the Love of their Husband Lord, and they experience the pleasure of His Love.


hodY qwix inqwxIAw rhih inmwnxIAwh ]

h o dhai th aan n ithaa neeaa reheh i ni maanan eeaah ||

They remain powerless, even while they have power; they remain humble and meek.


nwnk jnmu skwrQw jy iqn kY sMig imlwh ]2]

n aa nak janam sakaa rathhaa j ae thi n kai sa(n)g m ilaa h ||2||

O Nanak, our lives become profitable if we associate with them. ||2||

( à Guru granth Sahib ji pg 85 )

Bhai Jodh Jee was a Brahman by caste. He was intellectual and held knowledge. He came to visit Guru Angad Jee's darbaar (court). He experienced happiness, which he never felt before. Everyday Bhai Jodh would listen to Guru's Keertan and sermon and then go to the Langar Hall, where he would wash all the jhoote bhaandey (dirty dishes) of the Sangat.

The GurSikhs saw that Bhai Jodh does a lot of Sewa but he does not sit in Pangat (with the congregation) to eat Langar. It must be because he is a Brahman and thinks he is higher than us that he doesn't eat with rest of Guru's Sangat. The GurSikhs reported this to Guru Angad. "Guru Angad Jee, Bhai Jodh does a lot of Sewa but he does not eat Langar in Pangat". Guru Angad Jee called Bhai Jodh to see him. Bhai Jodh arrived in the presence of the Guru.

Guru Angad Jee asked him, 'Bhai Jodh is it true that you do not eat in the Pangat like the rest of the Sangat?' 'No Maharaj! I do eat in the Sangat,' replied Bhai Jodh. The GurSikhs said, 'see, now he is a liar as well!" The Guru told Bhai Jodh, "you are holding something from me. When do you eat your Langar? Tell me."

Bhai Jodh, now had tears in his eyes and he told the Guru infront of the GurSikhs, 'Maharaj, when I clean the dirty dishes of the Sangat, sometimes people leave jhoot (left overs). I collect the jhoot of the Sangat in a small bowl. When all the Sangat leave, I then eat the left over jhoot.'

The listeners by where shocked to hear this, they thought Bhai Jodh didn't eat the rest because of his pride and ego. But they were wrong, how could a person be so humble and consider themselves so low. Guru Jee asked Bhai Jodh, 'O Sikh, why do eat the left overs of the Sangat. What makes you eat Jhoot?"

Bhai Jodh replied, "Maharaj, when I came to see you for the first time, I had a ego and pride that I was an educated Brahman. But I heard from you Guru Jee, that when we have hankaar (ego) we cannot obtain the happiness. Maharaj I hear from you that you don't like maan (pride) and hankaar (ego)." "I put jhoot in the mouth of hankaar , in the mouth of my Ego, the thing that doesn't let me get happiness", said Bhai Jodh.

"Don't say that Bhai Jodh!" replied the Guru. "Your sins have been washed, the Guru now dwells within you".

The next day, Bhai Jodh sat in the Pangat (congregation) and ate Langar.


Some people come to the Gurdwara just to criticise and pick up faults of people, we see this today . To get happiness (kushiaan) it is hard. You have to endure lots – sewa (selfless service), simran (meditation) as well as criticism as this is the sign of living in Kaljug (era of falsehood).

The GurSikhs who reported Bhai Jodh the day before saw him eating in the Pangat. They told him, "Why are you eating in the Pangat? Has the leftovers (jhoot) finished or something? We knew you were a Pakandee, a fake."

Now the reply Bhai Jodh said was heart moving (in Bairaag). "I ate Jooth before because I had ego and pride within me. But now within me is the Guru (the Guru's teachings were enshrined in his heart). You can put a dirty spoon in the mouth of Ego. Ego used to dwell within me. But when I look within me now, when I contemplate within now, I see only the Guru and only feel the Guru . When I eat I, I eat for the Guru, I feed Guru within. I cannot feed my Guru jhoot so I cannot feed my Guru jhoot which resides within me."

Guru Angad Maharaj Jee over heard this conversation. He hugged and embraced Bhai Jodh Jee.

'jodh rasoeeaa devthaa gur saevaa kar dhuthar thaaree||'
à Jodh, the cook, served the Guru and swam across the world ocean.
(Bhai Gurdas ji vaar 11th Vaar, Pauree 15)

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Sakhi Series :- 38 (Baba Deep Singh Jee )

Baba Deep Singh Jee

à When all peaceful means of settlement are exhausted, it is justified to take up the sword (against tyranny for justice)  – Guru Gobind Singh ji


Baba Deep Singh was a Sikh belonging to the village Pahuwind in the District of Amritsar. He was tall, strong, and uncommonly brave. He had received baptism from the hands of Guru Gobind Singh Jee himself. He was a bold and fearless Sant-Sipahi (saint-warrior).


Besides being a strong and fearless warrior, he was a great scholar and practiced Bani regularly. In fact he was one of the most scholarly Sikhs of his time. Along with Bhai Mani Singh ji, he spent lot of his time preparing copies of Guru Granth Sahib. Some he wrote with his own hands. Others he got written under his direct supervision. Copies of the Guru Grath Sahib ji written by his own hands or issued by him with his approval were accepted as most authentic.
At the time that we are talking of, Ahamad Shah Abdali was in India on his fourth invasion. On his return from Delhi, he stayed for sometime in Lahore. He had experienced a good deal of trouble at the hands of the Sikhs. Hence, while staying at Lahore, he sent out a force to punish the Sikhs at Amritsar. The city was plundered. The sacred places, including Sri Harmandir Sahib, were demolished. The sacred tank (sarovar) was filled up.
The news of what had been done to the holy places at Amritsar soon reached Damdama Sahib. On hearing it, Baba Deep Singh Jee felt as if an arrow had pierced his heart. At once, he decided to go to Amritsar and avenge the insult to the sacred places there. He started immediately.
Many brave Sikhs with whatever weapon they had with them collected at Damdama Sahib.  Baba Deep Singh drew a line on the ground with his double edged Khanda, weighing 18Kgs and addressed the gathered Sikhs, "Only those should cross this line who are prepared to die but not turn back to the enemy in the battlefield

A band of five hundred Sikhs volunteered to accompany him. He announced the coming Diwali festival gathering would be celebrated at Amritsar. Sikhs went on joining him as he went along. By the time he reached Tarn Taran Sahib, he had about five thousand men with him.   

"O Lord, of Thee this boon I ask,

That I never shun a righteous deed.

Let me be fearless when I go into battle,

Give me faith that victory will be mine.

Let one directive guide my mind,

That I may ever sing Thy praise,

And when comes the time to end my life,

I should die heroically fighting on the Battle field."

– Guru Gobind Singh ji

The news of march of these brave Sikhs determined to take revenge for desecration of their holiest shrine and to restore its sanctity, reached the rulers in Lahore.  Jahan Khan commanding an army of 20,000 soldiers proceeded towards Amritsar.  Five miles from Amritsar, the two opposing forces confronted each other. The Sikhs fought with such bravery that soldiers of Jahan Khan's army ran for their lives.  Hundred of soldiers of either side fell dead in the battle field.  Bhai Dayal Singh, companion of Baba Deep Singh leading a posse of 500 Sikhs, attacked Amir Jahan Khan's force and succeeded in cutting Amir Jahan Khan's head.


After this victory, the sikh forces arrived at Ramsar.   By then Atai Khan came with a large army and artillery. His arrival turned the odds against the Sikhs. A fierce battle began. The Sikhs, with Baba Deep Singh Jee at their head, went on fighting and advancing towards Amritsar. Near Ramsar, Baba Deep Singh Jee received a mortal wound in the neck. Baba Deep Singh, more than seventy-five years of age at that time, started to lose his footing under the impact of the blow, when a Sikh reminded   "Baba Jee, you had prayed that you should fall a martyr in the precincts of Sri Harmandir Sahib. But you seem to be departing here."
On hearing this, an inhuman energy suddenly took over and Baba Deep Singh Jee rallied at once. He supported his head with is left hand. With the right hand he went on wielding his heavy khanda cutting down his enemy.
Thus fighting, he reached the precincts of Sri Harmandir Sahib. His vow was fulfilled. He fell there to become a martyr. This happened in the year 1757.
At the place where he was wounded stands a Gurdwara "Shaheed Ganj Baba Deep Singh".

sUrw so pihcwnIAY ju lrY dIn ky hyq ]

s oo raa s o peh i chaa n eeai j lar ai dhee n k ae h ae th ||

He alone is known as a spiritual hero, who fights in defense of religion.


purjw purjw kit mrY kbhU n CwfY Kyqu ]2]2]

p u rajaa p uraj aa katt marai kabeh oo n shh aa ddai kh aeth ||2||2||

He may be cut apart, piece by piece, but he never leaves the field of battle. ||2||2||      ( Guru Granth Sahib ji 1105)




Wednesday, February 14, 2007

SEWA: Neither a Shield, Nor a Sword ( Must read article for us all !!)


Neither a Shield, Nor a Sword
I have noticed that the concept of seva - loosely translated as "selfless, voluntary service" - is nowadays increasingly wielded as a weapon and less as what it is meant to be.

The other day, when a community volunteer was asked why she repeatedly failed to do what she had undertaken to do, why she hadn't met her obligations fully or in a timely fashion, I was flabbergasted by the response I overheard:

"I do seva, bhenji", she protested. "I'm not getting paid for this. I spend so many hours here, while I could easily be doing something else. I don't have to listen to this nonsense: if you don't want me here, say so, and I'm gone!"

It was a deft use of the very essence of seva. As a shield - a shield from criticism and from accountability.
On another occasion, I heard a fellow wield the word somewhat differently, but equally effectively.
He was addressing members of a community group. "I'm the one who can run this organization and ensure that it stays alive . I've done seva for three years ... day and night, and weekends too. And haven't taken a single cent for my time. How can you even think that another person should come over and run it. Others will simply run it to the ground. And, you know, I'm not going to let you do this. I'm not going to let you turn all my seva into nought!"

I felt, as I watched him through this performance, that he was wielding his seva quite deftly... as a weapon. A sword, actually. The parry and thrust was working: you could see it in the wounded look in the eyes of the audience.

Is this what seva is all about?
Am I wrong in thinking that the moment you use seva ... yes, USE it ... for any ulterior purpose, then it instantly ceases to be seva ? If it loses its spiritual core, then all you're left with is ... a clumsy weapon.

The concept of seva, I feel, is simple and uncomplicated in Sikhi .
The very idea of seva begins with a metaphor: that of the milk-pot or vessel. Nanak says:
First, wash the vessel,
Next, disinfect it with incense.
Then, and only then, is it ready to receive the milk.
[GGS, M1, 728:1]
True. What good is the milk once it has been poured into a soiled receptacle? The dirt of the vessel taints everything that is poured into it.

The mind, like the vessel, first needs to be cleansed if one is to prepare it for things spiritual. Otherwise, all effort goes to waste. And this cleansing of the mind, the preparation, is done with the "soap" of humility.

So far, all of this is esoteric and philosophical. But Sikhi brings the exercise down to earth by guiding us how to do it while going about our day-to-day, ordinary lives. In seeking humility, there's no need to blindly wade through religious tomes. No penances, no fasting, no retreats, no masochism of any kind. No feeding of priests, no pilgrimages, no renunciations, no onerous abstentions.

There's a simple, direct and effective way: seva.
No grandiose projects are necessary for this inner cleansing. We don't have to build monuments, or light bonfires on top of mountains, or even go on far-flung crusades fighting for world peace.

Just serving the basic needs of those who are in need puts us on the right path. At home, with the neighbour, around the corner, in the community we live in ... the concentric circles can get as wide or remain as narrow as the situation demands.

Feed the hungry, clothe the destitute, shelter the homeless.
Or even more simple: just wash the dishes at the langar, or serve food, or look after the shoes of those who come to worship.

Anonymity helps. Not wearing a t-shirt or bandana that proclaims SEVADAR, helps.
Doing it without fan-fare, without a shabash or pat on the back, is a definite plus. Doing things that others do not want to, or cannot do, is good. Sweeping the floor, or cleaning the washrooms are therefore bound to be the most rewarding.

One of the most moving sights I have seen in my life is something I witnessed a couple of years ago in Espanola, New Mexico. Singh Sahib Harbhajan Singh Yogi had shed his mortal coil and crowds from around the globe had arrived to celebrate his life. By the thousands. The logistics required to cater to the needs of these visitors from far and wide were stupendous.

And one of them was the need for a platoon of portable toilets which were, I'm sure, leased for the occasion. It would've been terribly easy to have also bought the services of a handful of workers who could've maintained the facilities and kept them clean at all times.

What touched me deep inside was the vision of our hosts who saw it as an unprecedented opportunity to do seva . Any time of the day or night, if you walked into the facilities, you saw a couple of the Sikhs from the Espanola sangat cleaning the toilets and water basins, or down on their hands and knees, cleaning the floor. It was arguably the cleanest spot within the endless acreage roped in for the events of the week.

And, you know, there was not a sign anywhere proclaiming, e.g., "Seva provided by the Sangat of ....."
Nothing. Not a word, not a peep.
That's seva.
It's for the sheer sake of seva. It has no other goal. Even the end result is not important. You don't need a smile or a nod, a pat on the shoulder, or the gratitude of another to validate it. You simply do it, and you do it to the best of your ability, and nothing else matters.

You don't go home and note it in your diary. Or tell your family and friends. Or have it published in a newsletter in the "Acknowledgment" section.

And you don't wave it in the face if you are running for election the next time around.
Here's what I've been taught and what I try to emulate .... though those who know me well could easily cite many a lapse:

Don't let the right hand know what the left hand does ...
It isn't seva if it is for the purpose of getting a tax-deductible receipt.
It isn't seva if your heart and soul aren't in it.
It isn't seva if it isn't done with honesty and integrity.
It isn't seva if you believe that mediocrity is all that is expected of you, and that you needn't do more.
It isn't seva if it's for building your resume.
It isn't seva if it is meant to be a stepping stone to bigger and better things.
It isn't seva if you need to tell others, now or later, that you did it.
It isn't seva if lack of appreciation by others, or their criticism, drives you away.
It isn't seva if you believe that it is your right to do it.
It isn't seva if you have to fight against others to do it.
It isn't seva if you snatch it away from another, to do it.
It isn't seva if you begin to believe you're the best one to do it.
And, it isn't seva if it distresses you that others take credit for what you've done.
Not too long ago, I was blessed with an opportunity to visit the Durbar Sahib in Amritsar, after an absence of more than three decades. There were so many things that added to the joy of being there.

Not the least of it was the timeless sight at all hours of the day or night, literally - even in the cold and dark hours before dawn - of men, women and children behind the counter, tending to the shoes of pilgrims.

Quiet faces, moving in the shadows. Ever-so-slight, barely discernible quivering of the lips, silently accompanying the kirtan playing from the speakers around them. No small-talk. No name-tags. No meeting of the eyes, no searching for acquaintances. Just simple, purposeful, swift, efficient movements ... the queues were long.

There's always a hush around the shoe-stalls outside the main entrance, I've noticed. The only words you hear are "satnam, satnam... " and "waheguru, waheguru..." And a lot of "ji...ji...jee-o...ji ..."

I don't know how they do it. But I see them taking each pair of foot-wear as if it is a house-warming gift. Lovingly, gently, softly ... if you glance back for a split-second, as you turn away, you may even catch one in the shadows wiping the dirt off your shoes as they are placed on the shelves.

I tell you, it is there, standing on the cold wet marble, looking at this scene, that I experienced the first communion with what I had come searching for, after all these years, at the doors of the Harmander.

It is the epitome of seva.
And, it is most magical when - and I borrow from the English Bard - it "is not strain'd"...
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath.
It is twice blest:
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes
May we all, each one of us, be blessed with this gift.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Sakhi Series: 37 ( Bhai Pheru Jee - Humility)

Bhai Pheru Jee - Good Masand

Masands who were appointed by the third Guru, Guru Amardas jee were very chardi kala wale Gursikhs but by the time Guru Gobind Singh jee took the Guruship from Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib, the masands got corrupted very badly.

The masands who were appointed to preach Gursikhee, collect Daswand and provide social, political and religious leadership to the Sikhs who lived in far off lands, totally forgot their duties and started extorting money from people, and did some very bad things etc. They made the people quiet by scaring them with curses and other means. In short they had become scoundrels from saints.

When Guru Gobind Singh jee heard all this he got very upset. He ordered his Khalsa to make the masands appear in front of him. He further ordered his Singhs to bring them holding them by their beards. The Singhs heard this and heeded by dragging and abducting the masands and made them appear before Guru Sahib.

In those days the masand of Lahore was Bhai Pheru jee who apart from being the true masand was a Gursikh of high spritual stages. When the Singhs came to get him they could not dare to put their hands on the beard of such a great Gursikh. At this Bhai Pheru jee begged them to hold him by the beard but the Singhs could not do it. Then Bhai Sahib jee held his beard in his own hand and came in the darbar of king of kings Guru Gobind Singh jee.

When Guru Gobind Singh jee saw Bhai Pheru coming, he got 'bairaag'. He got up from his Singhaasan (throne) and embraced Bhai Pheru jee and said that the order of holding the masands by beard was not for the Gursikhs like you. Such is the humility of Gursikhs. Bhai Pheru jee took amrit and got even more respect now after appearing in the Guru darbar.

Moral : Gursikhs keep humility and never ever show pride in the darbar of Guru. What is the being (aukaat) of a human. If Guru takes away the sight of mercy from an individual, a person becomes dust in two seconds.

"Kabeer, let yourself be a pebble on the path; abandon your egoism.
Such a humble slave will meet God. Kabeer, what good would it be,
to be a pebble? It would only hurt the traveler on the path. Your slave,
O God, is like the dust of the earth. Kabeer, what then, if one could
become dust? It is blown up by the wind, and sticks to the body. The
humble servant of God should be like water, which cleans everything.
Kabeer, what then, if one could become water? It becomes cold, then
hot. The humble servant of God should be just like God"

-   (Guru Granth Sahib -  1372).

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Sakhi Series: 36 ( Gobind Singh in Disguise & Bhai Nand Lal Ji's Langar)

Guru Gobind Singh ji in Disguise

Gobind Singh often sported with his disciples, and had many surprises for them. It was ordained at Anandpur that every disciple should keep a langar of his own to feed the pilgrims and the needy, and the orders were that none should be sent away disappointed.

Very early one day, the Master disguised as a common pilgrim, went round all these langars, asking for bread. The disciples were busy getting the bread ready, so they could not promise anything till they were fully prepared to receive guests. The Master went from door to door till he reached Bhai Nandlal's langar.

Bhai Nandlal welcomed the guest with a beaming face and brought everything that was in the room; butter, half-kneaded flour, half-cooked pulse, and other vegetables; and placed them before the guest.

"This is ready and is all for you, but if you permit me, I will prepare them for you, and serve you in the Name of My Master", said Bhai Nandlal.

Next morning, the Guru told everyone that there was but one Temple of Bread at Anandpur, and that was Bhai Nandlal's.

ieMdR purI lK rwj nIr BrwvxI] lK surg isrqwj glw pIhwvxI]

e i (n)dhr pu r ee lakh r aa j nee r bhar aavan ee || lakh su rag s irath aa j galaa p eeh aa vanee ||

Fetching water for the holy congregation is equal to the kingdom of lacs of Indrapuris.

Grinding of corn (for the holy congregation) is more than the pleasure of myriads of heavens.


irD isD inD lK swj cul JkwvxI] swD grIb invwj grIbI AwvxI]

r i dhh si dhh n idhh lakh s aa j chu l jhak aavan ee || saa dhh gar eeb n i vaa j gar eeb ee aa van ee||

Arranging for and putting in woods into the hearth of langar (free kitchen) for the congregation is equal to the rddhis, siddhis and the nine treasures.

The holy persons are the caretakers of the poor and in their company the humility resides in the heart (of people).


Anhd Sbd AgwjbwxI gwvxI ]ñø]

anehadh shabadh ag aa jabaa n ee g aa vanee ||aa||

Singing of hymns of the Guru is the personification of the unstruck melody.
à Bhai Gurdaas ji Vaars , Pannaa 14