Friday, August 30, 2013

Sakhi Series :- 228 (Ram Rai and Aurangzeb)

Ram Rai and Aurangzeb

Like his grandfather, Guru Har Gobind Sahib ji, Guru Har Rai ji was a saint-soldier. He kept a strong army of 2,200 horsemen ready to be used when the need arose. The Guru was otherwise very peace-loving and kind-hearted.

Shah Jahan, the Emperor of Delhi, had four sons. Prince Dara Shikoh, being the eldest, was the heir to the throne. His younger brother, Aurangzeb, was very clever. When Shah Jahan fell ill, a war broke out among his four sons for the throne of Delhi. Aurangzeb arrested his old sick father and imprisoned him at Agra. He defeated prince Dara who fled for his life and was hotly pursued by Aurangzeb's forces. Dara escaped to the Punjab and sought shelter in the Guru's Camp. When some Sikhs asked Guruji if it was wise to protect the prince against Aurangzeb's orders, and thus inviting trouble, Guru Har Rai told them that as per the spiritual scriptures the Guru forgives and embraces whoever comes to him for protection. The Guru's forces put up a brave fight with the pursuing army and thus saved Dara's life. 

Aurangzeb never forgot that the Guru had helped Dara. So, when he became Emperor, he called the Guru to Delhi. The Guru could not find time to go so he sent his son, Ram Rai, on his behalf.

When Ram Rai appeared before Aurangzeb, he was asked many questions about Sikhism. Ram Rai tried to answer them all as best as he could. Aurangzeb then wanted to satisfy himself that there was nothing against Islam written in the Holy Granth (The Sikh Bible). He asked Ram Rai to explain why Guru Nanak had said,

"Mitti Musalman ki, pere pai ghumiar, 
Ghar bhande itan kian, jahdi kale pukar."
"The ashes of Moslems find their way into the potter's clod,
Pots and bricks are made out of them, they cry out as they're fired."

Ram Rai thought for a time and then, forgetting altogether what his father had instructed, he said, "Your Majesty, Guru Nanak wrote 'Mitti Beiman Ki' that is 'The ashes of the faithless,' not 'of the Moslems' fall into the potter's clod. Some ignorant person seems to have copied wrongly from the original text. The scribe seems to have inserted 'Musalman' in place of 'Beiman.' This mischief has given a bad name not only to your religion but also to mine." The Emperor was very pleased at Ram Rai's answer and was fully satisfied with his explanation. He sent Ram Rai away very respectfully.

The Sikhs of Delhi reported the whole incident to the Guru and told him that Ram Rai had changed the text of the Granth and thought himself superior to Guru Nanak Dev ji whose writings no-one had the right to change. When Guru Har Rai ji heard that from fear of death his son Ram Rai had changed the Holy Text and shown weakness, he was extremely angry. The Guru thought that Ram Rai was unable to withstand pressure and understand the true meaning of the text. He had shown no strength of character. So Guru Har Rai ji judged that he was unfit to be Guru. He therefore disowned him and said that he would never see him for the rest of his life. 

"The word of the Guru is inner music; 
The word of the Guru is the highest scripture;
The word of the Guru is all pervading"
(Guru Granth Sahib)

"The Guru gives the word, and the word is the Guru; 
All the sweetness of nectar is in the word.
The Guru's word instructs, and the Sikh follows it:
This is how the word leads to light."
(Guru Granth Sahib)

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Sakhi Series :- 227 ( Faith Moves Mountains )

Faith Moves Mountains

A faithful Sikh and his wife lived in a village. They had no children. One day a group of Sikhs on their way to see Guru Har Gobind ji stayed at their house. Both husband and wife entertained the Sikhs as best they could. When the party was about to leave, the couple asked them to pray that their wish to have a son might be fulfilled. The Sikhs prayed for the gift of a child in the family and advised the couple to meditate on God, work honestly and help the needy. The couple faithfully acted upon the advice of the Sikhs and, by the grace of God, after a time they had a beautiful son. They named him Gurmukh (the Guru's Follower). The devoted parents often told stories about the Guru to the Child as he was growing up. The boy was so intelligent that he not only loved to hear about the Guru but also learned many of the Guru's hymns by heart. When Gurmukh was ten years old, both his parents died within a very short space of time leaving poor Gurmukh alone and friendless.

Gurmukh felt lonely, sad and helpless. He prayed to God in the morning and evening and always asked people about the Guru and his whereabouts. He had learnt from his mother that the Guru was very kind and helped his Sikhs in every way. He had now an intense desire to see the Guru in person and listen to his kind words: One day, a Sikh told him that Guru Har Gobind ji was staying at Amritsar. Gurmukh got up early, repeated the Japji (morning prayer) and set out for Amritsar in order to see the Guru. He had covered a long distance and was near the city of Lahore when a Pathan soldier met him on the way. The soldier asked Gurmukh many questions and, finding he was alone, he forced the poor boy to work for him as a slave. The Pathan made him work very hard indeed. The boy longed to see the Guru but the Pathan would not let him go. No one dared to free him from the Pathan and poor Gurmukh longed for a sight of the Guru's face.

One day, when the boy was working on the Pathan's farm, a Sikh Masand (agent of the Guru) happened to pass by. The boy dared not go with the Sikh. He gave the Masand a paisa (a copper coin), begged him to offer it to the Guru, and to request him to help his young Sikh out of difficulties. The Masand accepted the humble offering, blessed the boy, assured him of the Guru's help and proceeded on his way. When the Masand reached the Guru at Amritsar, he placed Gurmukh's paisa before the Guru and told him the whole story, asking the Guru to help the Sikh boy. The Guru listened to the Masand attentively, smiled and said, "He has sent his Paisa with faith and God will bestow His glory on him. His paisa is more than a hundred thousand rupees to me. As regards helping him, I must say he who has faith needs no help. His faith will help him out very soon. I shall pray for him." Saying this, the Guru stood up and all the Sikhs joined him in praying to God to help the Sikh out of his troubles.

Back in Lahore, the poor boy was expecting help from the Guru day and night. With every rising sun he would pray hopefully, but the setting sun always left him as sad and disappointed as ever.

One day, the Pathan asked Gurmukh to accompany him to a village carrying one of his suitcases, It was summer and the suitcase was so heavy that the boy could hardly walk. Tired by the heat and the journey, they stopped at a well to rest and take a drink. As the Pathan was drawing water from the well, his foot slipped and he tumbled over into it. Gurmukh tried his best to save the Pathan and cried for help, but the Pathan had drowned before anyone could come to help. Gurmukh thought to himself, "If I go back to the Pathan's house and tell the truth, nobody will believe me, and I will be called a murderer. Even if they believe me, they will keep me as a slave forever and make me work hard for life's He did not know what to do. At last he sat down and began to sing the following hymn of the Guru :

"The hot wind (misfortune) does not touch the man who accepts the protection of the Lord. 
Round about me is God's fence so nothing can hurt me.
I have found the true Guru who leads me to God.
He has given me God's name as a medicine and I have fixed my attention on the one God.
The Saviour has saved me and cured all my sickness.
Says Nanak, mercy is shown to me, and God is my helper."

Having repeated the hymn he decided to run away and seek the protection of the Guru. In order to find out what was in the suitcase and whether it was worthwhile carrying it along, he opened it, and found it full of clothes, jewels, ornaments of gold, and two thousand rupees. Gurmukh decided to offer everything to the Guru. He tied them all up and set off for Amritsar. Night overtook him near a village and he asked for a night's lodging in the house of a woman whose husband was away on business. Gurmukh was allowed to sleep in the front room.

The woman felt suspicious about the suitcase. When the boy was sound asleep the woman opened it and was surprised to and so much wealth. She decided to steal it. so she went to a neighbour and promised to give him half of the riches if he would kill the boy and dispose of his body. The neighbour agreed, and at dead of night, he came in and strangled the stranger to death. But, during the night, the woman's husband had come back and, taking the boy to be a beggar, he had turned him out and had gone to sleep in his place and so, it was not Gurmukh who was murdered, but the woman's husband. Next morning Gurmukh came back into the front room to get the suitcase and start on his journey. His hair stood on end with fright when he saw the dead man. At once he picked up the staircase and took to his heels fearing lest he should be arrested for murder. With his mind fixed on the Guru he ran as fast as he could. He did not rest anywhere, and walked day and night. Weary and tired at last he reached Amritsar, where he went to the Guru, placed the suitcase before him and bowed. The Guru at once left his seat and embraced him, and told his Sikhs how firm faith helps those who have it. Gurmukh was asked to buy horses with the money he had brought and in a short time he became an expert horse trader.

"A hundred thousand ways we may earn money, save or spend 
A hundred thousand may come and go through our hands
If these honours are not counted on the day of reckoning
Where shall we escape to?
A hundred thousand sermons from holy books you may hear
A hundred thousand pandits may explain the epics to you
If these honours are not counted on the day of reckoning
Consider them wasted : for they have been rejected by God.
With the True Name comes honour,
The Creator's Name brings grace;
If day and night He lives in our hearts
He will be gracious, says Nanak,
And we shall be saved."
(Rag Asa Guru Granth Sahib)

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Sakhi Series :- 226 ( Do not call the dogs dogs, because they are lions )

What Changed Qazi Noor Mohammad's Mind?
Qazi Noor Mohammad's name is well known in Sikh history due to his eye witness account of Sikhs fighting Abdali and giving him crushing defeat in 1765. He came with Abdali from Afghanistan to India. He was a fanatic Muslim engrossed in religious animosity and bigotry. He hated all non-Muslims and spewed his hatred towards those who opposed the tyrant Muslim rule. He wrote about the Sikhs using most hateful and insulting words he could find in a language. Even then he couldn't keep away from mentioning Sikhs' bravery. He writes:

"When they(Sikhs) take up a musket in hand at the time of battle, they come to the field fiercely springing and roaring like lions and immediately split many a breast and make the blood of many others spill in the dust. You may say that this musket was invented by these dogs (Sikhs). Though guns are possessed in large numbers by others, yet nobody knows them better. These bad-tempered people discharge hundreds of bullets on the enemy on the right and left and in front and on the back. If you disbelieve in what I say, enquire from the brave warriors who will tell you more than what I have said and would have nothing but praise for their art of war. The witness of my statement are those thirsty thousand heroes who fought with them."

In the above quotes, he calls Sikhs "dogs" and doesn't even consider them moral human beings. He also calls them brave because only thirty Sikhs fought against thirty thousand Pathans yet he doesn't show any likeness towards the Sikhs. Then something happens and he writes:

"Do not call the dogs (the Sikhs) dogs, because they are lions (and) are courageous like lions in the battlefield. How can a hero, who roars like a lion be called a dog? (Moreover) like lions they spread terror in the field of battle. If you wish to learn the art of war, come face to face with them in the battlefield. O, Swordsman! if you want to learn the modes of fighting, learn from them how to face the foe like a hero and how to come unscathed from the battle. You may know that their title is Singh and it is injustice to call them dogs. O, youth! If you are ignorant of the Hindi language (I can tell you that) the meaning of Singh is lion."  - Jangnama" - an eye-witness account of Ahmed Shah Durrani's invasion of 1764

One wonders how all of the sudden, the Qazi is praising Sikhs and takes his insulting remarks back. It wasn't simply the bravery of the Sikhs which changed his perspective because he had already witnessed it when he first entered Punjab. What changed his mind was his personal experience with the Sikhs. It happened when the Afghan army was resting at a place and preparing to fight the Sikhs. Qazi Noor Mohammad was taking a walk and wandering just outside the circles of the pitched tents when he noticed that a small group of Sikhs appeared on the scene and were getting ready for a guerilla attack. Qazi Noor Mohammad quickly hid himself in the bushes and started observing the Sikhs. Shouting "Sat Sri Akal" Sikhs withdrew their swords and attacked the first tent. As soon as they entered, all of the Sikhs just froze with their swords still in the air. To their surprise they had entered the tent of Muslim women. All of the women (as described by Qazi) were most beautiful, wearing gold, diamonds and pearls. Qazi thought these "kafirs" (Sikhs) would not spare any woman and their dishonor was a sure thing. On the other hand, the Sikhs put the swords back in the sheaths and their jathedar said, 
"Khalsa Ji, this is the tent for women. Let's go from here and attack the army. No woman is to be touched." Saying this, the Sikhs exited the tent leaving women unharmed and attacked the next tent. In no time, they killed many of the Afghans and took away ammunitions and rations. By the time the rest of the army arrived the Sikhs had disappeared in thick jungle. Everyone was left dumbfounded.

Qazi Noor Mohammad was so impressed by the character and valor of the Sikhs that he showered words of praise about them in his work. He called them true Singhs not "dogs" and considered them the true rulers of Punjab. He is astonished by the fact that there is not a single thief in their group nor is there anyone who commits adultery and takes intoxicants. They have no greed for gold, diamonds and money. They are not appeased by worldly pleasures and they consider no one their "own"(personal) enemy. This shows why Sikhs were praised even by their worst enemy. It was their character, bravery, honesty and most important of all faithfulness to Gurmat (path of the Guru) that earned them the respect. As long as Sikhs live by the principles of Sikhi, they will be praised by the entire world and one day will establish true 'halemi raaj' and guide the humanity to the path of ultimate peace. 
"If you are not acquainted with their religion, I tell you that the Sikhs are the disciples of the Guru - that glorious Guru lived at Chak (Amritsar). The ways and manners of these people were laid down by Nanak who showed these Sikhs a separate path. He was succeeded by Guru Gobind Singh from whom they received the title of Singh. They are not part of the Hindus, who have a separate religion of their own." -  Jangnama - an eye-witness account of Ahmed Shah Durrani's invasion of 1764