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Sermons and Discipline

Kartarpur became the Mecca of the pilgrims of the New Faith of Guru Nanak. Men, women and children, seers, scholars and seekers of peace and truth wended their way to this city for enlightenment and to listen to the musical words of Baba Nanak1.

A few years after his arrival here both, his2 father Kalu, and mother Tripta passed away. They spent their last days in joy, peace and glory. Their son was now respected and honoured as the King of kings and their dream of capturing the historic glory of the family was fulfilled. After the fall of Sultanpur under the sway Babur, Bibi Nanaki and Jai Ram are also said to have shifted to Kartarpur. It is a pity that we do not know much about the last days of this great woman Nanaki, who can rightly be called the first disciple of Guru Nanak. She appears to have predeceased Nanak. Rai Bular also passed away and true to his promise his dear Nanak was by his bed side to give him his respectful love and blessings. Rai Bular had been a second father to Nanak, and throughout his life, the Guru respected him much more than a son could have done.

Out of hundreds of disciples from all quarters of the country history has preserved the names of only a few, and the sermons delivered even to these few show Guru Nanak’s psychological approach to persons who sought enlightenment. The child, the illiterate peasant or blacksmith, the musician, the pundit, the sufi, the mystic, all found that Guru Nanak’s Word and Wisdom had for him a complete theoretical philosophy of life, each apparently different but all inherently the same. His message was the message of Light and Love. Light and love can be approached through art, music, poetry, philosophy, theology, charity, service and above all by contemplation of the Word by a clean heart. He tried to bind together all humanity in the golden chains of a spiritual understanding, in which all were to recognise the leadership of the Word, the Truth. In this free state of spiritual brotherhood, all differences were dissolved; all barriers fell, and all passions which divided man from man changed and transfigured into the blessedness of peace and unity. The disciple-consciousness (sikh-sruti) merged into the vast sea of Guru-consciousness (Sabad-sruti or Guru-Sruti) as streams and rivers wend their way only to mingle with the boundless Ocean.

Fear of Death Changes to Love of Life

A boy of hardly ten years, named Taru Popat, one day stepped into the presence of Baba Nanak at Kartarpur and said: “Baba ji, I hear that those who meet the saints get peace of mind. All their sorrows depart. They fear not death and they live a happy life. Bless me with such a life because there is no saint greater than thee.”

“You are quite young, my boy,” said Guru Nanak. “Why should you fear death at such a tender age when you are hale and hearty? Why should you worry about such serious problems which should worry only old people?” What sorrow , oppresses your mind?

“My mother,” said Taru Popat” lights fire in the hearth every day, and when she places firewood in it, I notice a strange thing. The smaller pieces, of firewood catch fire first and the bigger ones later. Death can in the same way swallow a young boy like me more easily than it can overpower older people. Enlighten me, Baba Nanak, about life and death. You cannot trust a friend, how can you trust death.”

Deeply impressed, Guru Nanak said, “My lad, I will tell you how to change your fear of death to love of life. Keep your mind pure. Let no impure thought, act, or deed come near it. Contemplate the Name of God with every breath and live in His remembrance. Learn to live by the sweat of thy brow and give all the surplus to the needy. See the light of God in everyone and serve selflessly anyone who comes to you in need. A king once built a palace. In one wall of the palace he studded the most precious gems and stones. The wall facing this wall was grounded in shining stones and made like a mirror of precious stone. All the precious gems and jewels studded on the opposite wall were reflected in it. In the same way if you clean your mind and make it as pure as a mirror, life will reflect itself in its eternity and you will forget death. This you can achieve through love and service. Go, live such a life, you will save many from the fear of death.”

Forgive in His Name

Mulla Keer, a learned man, once said to Guru Nanak, “Some of the heroes of Mahabharata were considered very pious and holy, yet they gambled and indulged in adultery. Is it possible to live such a life? “Do not try it these days,” said the Guru. This is not the age of Mahabaharta where so much ignorance prevails. Consider all human beings to have been made in the image of the Guru and God and serve them selflessly without seeing their transgressions.

One day a man who pretended to be very devout came to Mulla’s house for a day’s stay. He read the hymns of the Guru very loudly and created an impression that he was very pious and devout. In the middle of the night he stole a casket containing the ornaments of Mulla’s wife and requested him to allow him to go out for answering the call of nature and bath. Mulla insisted that he should not move out of the house in the bitter cold night. He should go to the lavatory at home and he would make arrangement for his bath with hot water at home. But the guest compelled him to open the door. While Mulla was persuading him not to go, the casket of ornaments fell from the thief’s hands. Mulla saw it and knowing full well it was his casket containing the ornaments of his wife he allowed him to go with the stolen ornaments and casket.

Mulla’s wife was about to raise alarm when she saw her casket of ornaments. Stopping her from uttering a word he said: “Be silent and do not worry about your ornaments. I will get you a new set of ornaments. Everyone here knows him to be a pious Sikh of Guru Nanak. What impression will the people have about the Sikhs of the Guru. Let us forgive him. He might change. Perhaps his need was greater than ours.”

When Mulla again met Guru Nanak, the Master blessed him saying “You forgave the sins of a thief in the Name of the Guru, the Guru forgives all your sins and blesses you with divine wisdom for such nobility. Consider the divine Word to be the image of the Guru. In it is Light and Truth.”3

Desire to be Desireless

Two devotees, named Pritha and Kheda came to Kartarpur. The atmosphere in the presence of the Guru was so calm and soothing that they easily acquired concentration of mind and peace of soul. “Ask for any boon, noble visitors,” said Guru Nanak. “We have only one desire Baba Nanak, and that is to be completely desireless. Boundless are thy spiritual treasures. Give us only one gift that we may ever bask in the sunshine of your divine wisdom. We want our life to be completely free from cravings, serene, unperplexed, and fixed in thy faith and love. We want to live in your divine company drinking the blessed amrita of thy sweet words and music with a single-minded faith of true devotees. Linked by no ties to the earth, we want to spend the rest of our lives in steadfast love of Thy presence.” “If you wish to live close to me,” said Guru Nanak, “live close to truth, holiness, and wisdom wherever you find them. The congregation of the seekers of truth is the sanctuary and presence of the Guru. The Word {Sabad) is the eternal Being of the Guru. Contemplate the Word and you will attain desireless peace.”4

Tapasya in the Sikh Way

Prithi Mai Sehgal and Rama Didi came to Guru Nanak and expressed their desire to attain God and be one with Him. They however asked him to show them the easier way as the path of Yoga was too severe. Guru Nanak said: “By self-mortification of the Hatha Toga a man may acquire some occult powers, but nothing more. I will tell you an easier and more ennobling way. Turn your eyes away from lustful things ad concentrate on the scriptures and the Word of God. Turn your ears from the false praise and blame of others and let not your tongue indulge in uttering falsehood, but sing the praise of God and utter the Name of the Lord. Turn your hands away from the evils of stealing, cheating and causing injury to others, and use your hands for the service of others. Let not your feet take you to the dens of evil. Turn away from them. Walk daily in the company of the holy and virtuous. This is the Sikh Way of tapasya (penance).

“Tame your mind patiently as you tame a wild horse. If the rider gets tired of taming the horse he will never be able to tame it and control it. So go on restraining and controlling the mind with persistent efforts. Let your mind rest in the fragrance of the divine Name. The more you let your mind sink in the light and music of the Word the more you will acquire illumination.” They lived such a life and were blessed5.

The Wages of Music and Wisdom

Bhai Mallo and Manga were musicians and learned men. They were the best singers and the best interpreters of the holy word (Gurbani). Guru Nanak blessed them saying, “Great would be the reward of their service of humanity through divine music and imparting Wisdom to the people by correct interpretation of Sikh Scriptures. “But”, said Bhai Mallo, “we are told by the yogis and sanyasins the greater the labour in penance and prayers the greater would be the reward. But Master, you suggest, the easier the way the greater is the reward. We do not quite understand how this is possible.”

“You have seen a woodcutter working all day and carrying fuel to the market and getting hardly enough to live. A shopkeeper who sells provision and does easier work earns more. A cloth merchant who does still easier work earns more than him. A jeweller who works least earns most of all. The wages of divine music and imparting wisdom to people are greater than all the penances of yogis and sannyasis” commented Nanak.

Both of them performed kirtan and interpreted scriptures and so melodious was their music and so inspiring was their katha (interpretation) that every word went home to the listeners. It was because they did so with sincerity and devotion.6

Characteristics of a Devout Sikh

Kalu a disciple of Guru Nanak, asked the Master: “Exalted One, what are the characteristics of a devout Sikh (sanmokh)?” Guru Nanak replied there are four characteristics of a devout Sikh: Firstly, a Sikh should treat all human beings as his friends and should have a feeling for the sorrow and suffering of others as one has for his dearest friend. Like a true friend he should give whatever he has, be it know-ledge, money, food, clothes. He should try to make others happy as one tries to make his friends happy and prosperous. Secondly, a Sikh should be compassionate. He who has lesser knowledge than him, he who has lesser power than him, and he who occupies an inferior position should be looked on with ennobling compassion and treated as an equal. He should be treated as a younger brother who must be affectionately helped to stand on his feet.

Thirdly, a Sikh should have reverence for those who are superior and those who are wiser. He should not be jealous of them but should learn something from them and should respect them as one respects a father or teacher.

The fourth characteristic of a Sikh should be that he should impart the best of his knowledge again and again to him who seeks it and respects it but he should not try to teach obstinate foolhardy fanatics 'who would not listen to reason.

Yoga of Love

Ajita Randhava was the chowdary of Pakho ke Randhave. He had met Guru Nanak when he came to his village. Now he came to the Guru and asked for spiritual instructions. “I have met many saints, Baba Nanak,” said Ajita Randhawa but all show some difficult path or a way that has never satisfied me. Instruct me that I may be united with God and attain peace of mind.”

Guru Nanak said “There is a yoga of self-mortification and there is a yoga of Love.” “But I am a Jat,” interrupted Ajita, it will not be possible for me to practise any self-mortification.” “Then listen to the yoga of Love,” said Guru Nanak. “These are the fundamental principles of this Sahajya Yoga :

  1. Ahimsa. (Non-violence)
  1. Do not wish evil for anyone. This is ahimsa of thought.
  2. Do not speak harshly to anyone. This is the ahimsa of speech.
  3. Do not cause injury to anyone. This is the ahimsa of action.
  1. Know only God to be the ultimate Truth and do not believe in any other gods and goddesses.
  2. Give up stealing and thefts of all types. To take what belongs to others is theft. To exploit the labours of others is theft. To hide your sins and crimes is theft.
  3. Give up lust of all types. To be attracted by the false charms of women is lust. To abandon oneself to sensuousness of all types is lust. To have illicit relations with any woman is lust.
  4. Forgiveness is the greatest virtue. Tolerate false praise and blame with equanimity. This is forgiveness. Endure sorrow and suffering inflicted by others. This is forgiveness.
  5. Patience and fortitude are very essential on the path of Sikhism. Calm endurance and abiding by the Will of God is patience.
  6. Compassion is essential for moral elevation. If you are powerful, pity others and help others. This is compassion. If you are rich help others. This is compassion.
  7. Be tender in heart, soul and mind. Never think evil of any one . Be sensitive to the feelings of others.
  8. Eat little and sleep little.
  9. Bathe your body with water, clean your teeth and wash your clothes. This is keeping clean and pure. But equally important is that you should keep your heart and mind pure and not entertain jealousy anger in it.

“And what may I know is true charity Master? Some say that by charity alone you can attain salvation.” asked Ajita Randhava. “To give charity in the hope of reward is inferior charity. To give charity in the hope of being praised is also not noble charity. To give charity without any hope or desire for reward is the highest charity. To give money or clothes is not the only charity. To render every type of help to lessen human suffering is charity. But the highest type of charity is to impart knowledge to others. Be humble, live in the company of the holy and- contemplate the Word.” This is the Yoga of Love.7

Sheikh Mallo and Ubare Khan

Both Sheikh Mallo and Ubare Khan were devoted friends. Both were learned Sufis of the orthodox order. Ubare Khan was one day surprised to learn that on meeting Guru Nanak Sheikh Mallo had almost become the disciple of Guru Nanak. He wondered how a learned Muslim could submit to one who had rejected both Hinduism and Islam as he understood them. Ubare Khan did not believe that any Hindu could achieve enlightenment.

Urged by Mallo he came to Kartarpur. There he met Nanak and entered into discussion with him. “Why has God created Hindus and Muslims differently if there is no difference between them?’’asked Ubare Khan. ‘ ‘God has revealed unity in diversity in all phases of life. When men are born he is neither Hindu nor Muslim. We make them different by differences of dress, customs beliefs, and rites.” So impressed was Ubare Khan after a long discussion with the Master that he stayed at Kartarpur as long as Guru Nanak lived.8

Notes and References.

  1. S. N. p 31-2; N.P. Ut adh 41
  2. ibid p 33; ibid
  3. ibid p 34; ibid
  4. ibid p 39; ibid
  5. ibid p 45 ibid 43
  6. ibid p 47 ibid
  7. ibln p 53
  8. Kahn Singh in his Mahan Kosh says his real name was Abdul Rahman Khan. He became the Guru’s disciple and lived with him at Kartarpur. All Janam Sakhis mention his story.