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The Guru in Sikhism
The Guru in the Sikh
The Guru in the Panth
Such a creative personality must be perfect, because ‘men take after whom they serve.’ If the ideal person is imperfect, the society and its individuals following him will also get imperfect development. But ‘those who serve the saved ones will be saved.’
The Sikh Gurus were perfect, and are described as such in the Sikh Scriptures. Guru Nanak himself says in Sri Rag: “Everybody else is subject to error, only the Guru and God are free from error.” Guru Arjun says in Bhairon: “Whoever you meet suffers from vices; without any defect is my true Guru, the Yogi.” The state of perfection attained by the Gurus is lucidly described in the eighth and the eighteenth octaves of Guru Arjan’s Sukhmani.
The same Guru says in Asa:
“God does not die, nor do I fear death,The Guru is sinless. In order, however, to be really effective in saving man, he must not be above man’s capacity to imitate, as he would be if he were a supernatural being. His humanity must be real and not feigned. He should have a nature subject to the same laws as operate in the ordinary human nature, and should have attained his perfection through the same Grace as is available to all men and through perfect obedience to God’s Will. The Sikh Gurus had fought with sin and had overcome it. Some of them had lived for a long time in error, until Grace touched them and they were perfected through a constant discipline of knowledge, love and experience in the association of their Gurus. When they had been completely attuned to the Will divine and were sanctified as Gurus, there remained no defect in them and they became perfect and holy. Thereafter sins did come to tamp them, but they never gave way and were always able to overcome them. It is only thus that they became perfect exemplars of men and transformed those who came under their influence to veritable angelic beings.
He does not perish, nor do I grieve.
He is not poor, nor do I have hunger.
He has no pain, nor have I any trouble.
There is no destroyer but God,
Who is my life and who gives me life.
He has no bond, nor have I got any.
He has no entanglement, nor have I any care.
As He is happy, so am I always rejoicing.
He has no anxiety, nor have I any concern.
As He is not defiled, so am I not polluted.
As He has no craving, so do I covet nothing.
He is pure and I too suit Him in this.
I am nothing: He alone is everything.
All around is the same He.
Nanak, the Guru has destroyed all my superstition and defects,
And I have become uniformly one with Him.”
This feeling of incorporation with the Guru makes the Sikh strong beyond his ordinary powers and in times of emergency comes to his rescue long before he can remember anything relevant to the occasion recorded in history or scripture. Bhai Joga Singh’s case is just in point. He was a devoted Sikh of Guru Gobind Singh, and had received Amrit from the hands of the Guru himself. He was so loyal that when he received an urgent call from the Guru to proceed to Anandpur , he hastened from Peshawar without a moment’s delay, not waiting even to see his own marriage through. And yet in a moment of weakness, this paragon of Sikh purity was going to fall, fall at the door of a public woman of Hoshiarpur. Who saved him in that emergency? It was the vision of Guru Gobind Singh, re-establishing the personal contact by pointing out the signs of personation worn on his body, and reminding him that he was carved in the Guru’s own image.
Guru Nanak had, therefore, begun with two things in his religious work: the holy Word and the organized Fellowship. This organized fellowship is called Sangat or holy Fellowship led to the establishment of local assemblies led by authorized leaders, called Masands. Every Sikh was supposed to be a member of one or other of such organizations. The Guru was the central unifying personality and, in spite of changes in succession, was held to be one and the same as his predecessors. The love existing between the Guru and the Sikhs was more intense than has every existed between the most romantic lovers of the world. But the homage paid to the Guru was made impersonal by creating a mystic unity between the Sikh and the Guru on the one hand and the Guru and the Word on the other. Greatest respect began to be paid to the incorporated Word, even the Guru choosing for himself a seat lower than that of the Scripture. The only form of worship was the meditation on and the singing of the Word. The Sikh assemblies also acquired great sanctity, owing to the belief that the spirit of the Guru lived and moved among them. They began to assume higher and higher authority, until collectively the whole body, called the Panth, came to be regarded as an embodiment of the Guru. Guru Gobind Singh himself received Amrit from the Sikhs initiated by himself. After him the Sikhs ceased to have any personal Guru.
The Guru, as mentioned above, worked with two things: the personal association and the Word. Now after the death of Guru Gobind Singh the personality and the Word were separated. The Panth was invested with the personality of the Guru, and the incorporated Word became the Gyan Guru. That is, in simple words, the Khalsa panth was to be the guru in future, not in super session of the previous Gurus, but al authorized to work in their name; and it was invariably to guide itself by the teachings of the Gurus as found in the Holy Granth. So that the Sikhs came to name Guru Nanak and the Guru Panth in the same breath.
Amrit, (sometimes incorrectly mentioned as Sikh baptism) made, the basis of this holy organization. There was no room left for any wavering on the border-line. All who wanted to serve humanity through Sikhism must join it seriously as regular members, and receive its Amrit as the initial step. All must have the same creed, which should be well-defined and should not be confused with the belief and practices of the neighboring religions. The Guru ordered that --
“The Khalsa should be distinct from the Hindu and the Muslim.Such a Khalsa was to embody in himself the highest ideal of manhood, as described by Guru Gobind Singh in his unpublished book, called Sarb Loh. Although the Khalsa was designed by the Guru himself, yet the Guru was so charmed by the look of his own creation that he saluted it, as his own ideal and master. The Khalsa was thought fit enough to administer Amrit of the new order to the Guru, and was consecrated as the Guru incarnate. As a sign that the Guru had placed himself eternally in his Sikhs, it was declared by him that--
He who keeps alight the unquenchable torch of truth, and never swerves from the
thought of one God;
He who has full love and confidence in God, and does no put his faith, even by
mistake, in fasting or the graves of Muslim saints, Hindu crematoriums, of Jogis’
places of sepulcher;
He who only recognizes the one God and no pilgrimages, non-destruction of life,
penances, or austerities;
And in whose heart the light of the Perfect Once shines,--
he is to be recognized as a pure member of the Khalsa.”
“If anybody wishes to see me, let him go to an assembly of Sikhs,In the ranks of the Khalsa, all were equal, the lowest with the highest, in race as in creed, in political rights as in religious hopes. Women were to be initiated in the same way as men and were to enjoy the same rights. The “Sarbat Khalsa,” or the whole people, met once at the Akal Takht, Amritsar, the highest seat of Panthic authority, on the occasion of Dewali or Baisakhi, and felt that they were one. All questions affecting the welfare of the community were referred to the Sangats, which would decide them in the form of resolutions called Gurmata duly passed was supposed to have received the sanction of the Guru, and any attempt made afterwards to contravene it was taken as a sacrilegious act.
and approach them with faith and reverence; he will surely see me amongst them.”
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