June 11, 2022 | By Prof. Puran Singh
THE BooK OF THE DISCIPLES – Arjun Dev conceived the idea of enshrining song as the Deity of the new Sikh temple commenced by Guru Ramdas and completed by Arjun Dev. Accordingly, the Guru collected the hymns composed by his four inspired fore- runners, and composed mdny more of.his own. He called the collection, “Word of the Master”-later Guru Granth- and placed it in the Hari Mandir as the book of the people. He used to chant the life Mantrams everyday, morn and eve, with the tambura accompanying under the touch of his fingers with his heavenly voice, and the disciples gathering and listening to his divine songs, in wonder and enchant- ment. Lovely music flowed from under the dome of Hari Mandir and was absorbed by its walls and the waters of the surrounding lake. To our own time, it echoes and re-ecboes in that sacred place
THE TARN TARAN – Arjun Dev built another great temple some twelve miles away from Amritsar, and called it Tarn Taran. The soil and climate of this place also are so blessed that it has a healing effect on bodily sufferers. Tarn Taran is a name which means the temple “whence people swim across the Sea of Ignorance to save many a drowning soul.”
HARI MANDIR – The colony at Amritsar grew everyday, and became the Sikh centre of spiritual humanity. Akbar had already ordered a large plot of land round the colony to be made revenue-free. The Temple attracted the thinkers of that day; there, mystics like Mian Mir, the unknown spiritual ancestors of Inayat Shah and many others met with the greatest of all, Guru Arjun Dev. A close study of the literature created by Moslem saints like Bulleh Shah (the disciple of Inayat Shah), Shah Hussain, and others, reveals the spiritual influence of that age. The first significant departure made by the Moslem saints was that they began to sing in Punjabi, a practice due to the Guru’s influence alone. With him began a general reRascence, in which the greatest share was taken by Moslem thinkers-so much so that we find Shah Hussain singing his own version of Guru Granth, and the tempestuous song of Bulleh Shah ringing with the music of joy of Hari Mandir. But, behind this literary awakening there was a still deeper awakening of the: divine idea in the life of the Punjab, as distinguished from the mere academic intellectual assent to Truth. As of old, the Hari Mandir (the Golden Temple) is still held in reverence by the seers and mystics of the Punjab, who alone can appreciate fully the effect of this place and its associations. Only the “living ones” know this secret influence of the Temple. A great Vaishnava Faqir came from Bindraban, and was so impressed by the clear spiritual aura of the Golden Temple that his Dhyanam passed from Krishna to the Master of this temple, and he never left it. A Mohammedan adept residing in the Western Punjab can never pass Amrltsar in a railway train without alighting and paying his homage to the Hari Mandir. He says, so wonderful is the link between earth and Heaven here, that even now, after the Guru has been personally absent for hundreds of years from his temple, the place still possesses that old enchantment. The “extinguished ones” are rekindled, the broken made whole, so mighty is the remaining effect. Isolated by a sheet of blue water, with heavenly song
resounding day and night, the Temple seems immune from worldly trouble, whose dust and smoke can never touch its pearly surface. All initiates and disciples here feel a solace unknown elsewhere. The other day the French artist M. Jad spoke to us of the effect of the Golden Temple on him. He said the light seems to corne from within the golden dome of the Temple, and it is this inner light that kindles the whole prospect around it. The sky is its roof and the four cardinal points its doors. The sacred waters wash its walls, which stand so firm on the sea of Maya. There is no doubt that in the days of Arjun Dev, this Temple was the favourite resort of the aspirants to the spiritual life; thither they carne to dip their torches in its light, that they might fill the land and its heart with the gleam that M. Jar! saw. The fresh vigour and inspiration that flooded the land, can only be traced to the heart of the Guru. If history has not shown it yet, it is because it is not old enough. Only when the dry details are forgotten does history begin to find the invisible evidence of the work of its real makers in the songs and sayings of the people.
THE SIKH EPOCH – The Sikh was the creation of the mind of the Sacred Masters; he was wholly new Consequently he was bound to leaven the Hindu and Moslem civilization that lay in ruins before him. He stamped the mind of the age with his image
THE COMPOSITION OF GURU GRANTH – Arjun Dev saw that interested people were passing compositions of their own as those of the Masters. He had already decided to give ~ authentic history of the mind of the Master in his “song. But the manuscripts of the first three Gurus were in the possession of Mohanji, the son of Guru Amardas, who had cut himself off from all society and would see nobody. Bhai Gur Das tried to get the manu- scripts from him but without success; Bhai Budha also was unable to get access to him. As without these manuscripts the task was hopeless, Guru Arjun Dev himself travelled to Goindwal, to endeavour to persuade the recluse. On arriving, he dipped himself in the sacred waters of the river where the great Masters, Amardas and Ramdas, had bathed many times before him and fell into a trance of love as he sat again on the spot where his elders used to sit. In this trance Guru Amardas appeared to him and said, “Blessed is thy purpose of composing Guru Granth. Thy song is powerful to melt the very stones into waters.” Arjun Dev, feeling blessed by the Darshanam of the great teacher, proceeded barefoot, ‘tambura’ in hand, to where Mohan dwelt in self-absorption (“Mohan” means “the inspiring God”). The true king of the people sat in the dust of the street in front of Mohan’s dwelling, and sang these hymnsto the accompaniment of the ‘tambura’:
o Holy One ! Thou hast charmed my soul, Thy palaces rise aloft the shining cities of Celestials
before my eyes !
And at the Palace door stands a whole universe to adore thee. o Love! Thou dwellest beyond thought,
The silence of wonder steals on me, as I see thee appearing suddenly in the assembly of saints singing at thy door!
(This song roused Mohan from his sleep; he opened his window, looked dOwn, said a few bitter words and disappeared again. The Guru sang another hymn.) o Merciful One ! bestow on Thy humble creatures Thy mercy, and bliss them by rolling down floods of Glory on Thy servants!
o Fonnless Beloved! pray, appear before me, and by the beauty of thy countenance fill this moment with Eternity !
Come from everywhere, 0 Fascinating One !and satiate me with love!
Eternal One, beyond all price are Thy words of passion! Blessed, blessed, are the ears that have heard Thy melody!
Honey-sweet, honey-sweet is Thy speech!
o Great Mohan! Thou art renunciation, Thou art samadhi, Thou art bliss.
Thou hast heard God’s word from His lips, thou art the blessed perfection.
The secret of love hides in thy bosom.
1, too, take refuge in His palace at the door whereof all creation awaits His mercy.
o Holy One ! Thou hast made the starry heaven and Thou wrappest Thyself in it
(Mohan was appeased, and came down to receive the Guru. The Guru again touched his ‘tambura, and sang.)
o Beloved! which is the way to Thy presence? All see Thee, but few find the way of thy adoration. They are made immortal whom Thou inspirest with knowlegde of Thyself.
There is Immortality in a single glance of Thine. In Thee is the life everlasting, in Thee is all refuge! When I see Thee, 0 Love! I am all pure.
There is all wisdom for me in Thy fragrance. o Sovereign mine ! reign for ever on the throne of my heart; on me for ever bestow Thy commandment and from me for ever accept service!
(Mohanji delivered the manuscripts to the Guru. The Guru raised the manuscripts to his forehead in deep reverence; then, feeling happy with them in his lap, he again lifted up his voice in song.)
God bless Thee, Mohina ! Mohina ! Mohina ! The race of man is saved !
God’s Word goes to the people, blessing them and bestowing immortality on them.
This is the staff on which the old and the miserable, the starved and sick, shall lean in their distress, and obtain solace.
My house is full of the light of the song of life today! People of God! come, assemble, live in this light; dissolve this song in your soul!
Rejoice anq partake to this immortal feast!
o Beloved the dead shall rise with life, if Thou castest
Thy glance of pleasure on them!
The disciples wonder at the miracle of Thy handicraft
As Thou revealest Thyself to them !
Thus both day and night did Arjun Dev give forth celestial mUSic, and thus did he pour his soul on the joy-astonished land of the Punjab.
The Hari Mandir at Amritsar is his holy shadow.
ARJUN DEV AND HIS PEOPLE – News would come that pilgrims to Hari Mandir were on their way f rom Kabul or Qandhar or other distant places. The Master would ask his noble consort to prepare a simple repast for Guru Nanak’s children that were coming. Dressed like a peasant in a black woolen blanket, the Master would go out of Amritsar barefooted, his wife accompanying him with a basket containing bread and vegetables; and both would wait on the roadside fort he disciples who came along singing the hymns of the Guru, and growing in number as they approached Amritsar. Arjun Dev would welcome them, as the mother distributed bread and water Thus served ,the disciples would say, “Great is Guru Nanak; great is Guru Arjun whose disciples have so much faith in their hearts, and so much service in their hands.”
Akbar came to see the Golden Temple, its architect, and its deity, more than once. It is stated that when Akbar asked the Master, as was his wont, the way to acceptance by God, Arjun said, “The way to Him is through His favour and inspiration. It does not need to pass through the mosque of the Moslem or the shrine of the Hindu. They reach the goal who love.” Akbar wished to make a contribution towards the upkeep of the Golden Temple but the Guru declined the offer, on the ground that the temple must” be supported by the people. As the Emperor insisted on doing
something for the Guru before he left the Golden Temple, Arjun said, “There is a severe famine in the country, and it would be best if thy imperial visit were to be marked by the remission of this year’s land revenue to the poor farmers.” Akbar gave orders accordingly.
ARJUN DEV AS HUSBAND AND FATHER – Arjun Dev, prophet, poet, composer of music, passion- ate lover of the people, architect, saviour, was intensely human. He was a loving husband and an affectionate father. Mata Ganga once in his presence expressed a wish that her son should hasten to her from Heaven, he having already been so long a time upon the way. Arjun Dev said to her, “0 dear one! your son would come, but he is waiting for the call to go forth from Bhai Budha. It is he who will call your child from Heaven to you, at some auspicious moment when he is in a happy mood.” She was to go and ask Bhai Budha to pray for the birth of a son to her. Accordingly, she took offerings and went, attended by a number of female disciples, seated in a bullock cart. As the party approached the abode of Bhai Budha, the ringing of bells, the creaking of cart wheels, and the unusual bustle,. caused a flutter in Bhai Budha’s cloister. His cows took flight, breaking their ropes. Bhai Budha inquired somewhat angrily, who was flying in such haste thither? The old seer was still ruffled when the aspirant to motherhood placed her offerings before him. He said, “0 mother! I am only a grasscutter of the Master’s house. I am a slave of his slaves. How can there be anything so compelling in my word ?” She returned home and related to Arjun Dev what had happened. “It must be so, 0 good lady! one day,” said Arjun Dev, “The ~int has foreseen our flight from Amritsar, and it must come to pass. 0 Good lady! you ought not to have gone to see God’s holy man in that way. Do as I tell you. Prepare a simple meal with your own hands, singing the song of Nanak. First mill the flour in your hand-mill, knead it with honeyed milk of Nam, and then take this sacred song-bread to the disciple. Take no dainty dishes with this bread; just a little salt and a fewonions in the fashion of the Punjab farmers-this will be the homely meal he loves.”
She did so. Bhai Budha, who had received the Divine Gift of Nam from Nanak, was now an old man, with a silver-white flowing beard and all-white locks; but under these snows, his face was still aslow with the Divine, and his deep transparent eyes were brilliant with the fire of Heaven. When the woman appeared with that simple repast for him, the old man began lisping like a child whose
feelings are fresh from Heaven, as he began to eat. “0 Mother ! he said, “thy son will be the Master of Masters. He will bE’ the king of his people. He will break the power of the Moghals as I break these onions under my fist. He will be the temporal king of his people. The people will gather round his throne. He will wear two swords, the sword of Heaven to save his disciples from the arms of death, and the sword of Earth to save his people from the Moghal oppression. Mother! thy son will appear as the sun comes on the dark worlds.”
Arjun Dev was very fond of the child that came thus from Heaven at the blessing of Bhai Budha. The baby was named Har Gobind. The baby came by a prayer, and Arjun prayed when he was born.
Har Gobind fell ill. The Guru had an anxious time; and, as the child recovered, he melted in a song of thankfulness. We read this song in Guru Granth: “Thank God, Har Gobind is well again!” The enemies of the Guru’s house tried to poison the child; but their plan was frustrated, and the child was saved by a fortunate incident. On this occasion again, a hymn was sung by Guru Arjun Dev, as
we read in Guru Granth, expressing his joy at the miracle which saved the child.
The Guru was all prayer. Every little event of his private personal life was the act of Heaven for him. His whole body and soul trembled in his Master’s hands as the Sitar strings trembled with,music in his own. He uttered only living music, whether private or public in life. He poured forth his songs and vitalised all those who came in touch with him by his lyrical power. His inclusion of private hymns, embodying his feelings as a father and a husband, shows how greatly he valued these emotions, esteeming them as divine as any. Nothing in the whole range of the religious literature of India surpasses these simple hymns in their deep sincerity and intense human interest. For the first time a Teacher of Brahma Vidya harmonises the personal and the impersonal in his self-expression.
ARJUN DEV AND HIS BROmER PIRTHI CHAND – There is a story of the strange reply Ramdas made to a disciple’s question as to the nomination of his successor. “He who can, by his presence, melt even wooden hearts shall be my successor,” said the Guru. The disciple went and sat near Pirthi Chand and heard him chant Japji, and he went and sat near Arjun Dev and heard him sing Japji. He returned and said, “0 Master! I pricked the wooden legs of the bedstead on which Pirthi Chand sat reciting Japji with a needle, but the needle broke. Again I pierced with a needle, the wooden legs of the bedstead on which Arjun Dev set reading Japji and this time my needle pierced the wood as if it were wax.”
Pirthi Chand never could forget what he regarded as the injury inflicted on him by his father’s withholding from him the throne of Nanak. He was always on the look out to injure Arjun Dev; and he often succeeded in inflaming the Moslem priests of the neighbourhood to raise a clamour against the composition of Guru Granth. He organized a deputation of the Maulvis to represent to the Emperor Akbar that the book was full of blasphemies against’ both the Hindu religion and the Mohammedan. Of course, the Emperor, who knew Guru Arjun Dev very well, dismissed the suit of the Moslem priests. But this family-jealousy continued smouldering in the breast of Pirthi Chand and his family.
ARJUN DEV AND THE PRINCE KHUSRO – The Emperor Akbar died a few months after his last visit to the Guru, and Jehangir became Emperor of India. This was a period of political tumult. Prince Khusro, who had been many times to see the Guru with his father, came flying for his life from Jehangir and his ministers, to ask the Guru for pecuniary help which might enable him to return to Kabul. Guru Arjun Dev received the prince very kindly, and, moved by his pitiable condition, gave him five thousand rupees, which would take him safely to Kabul. This private act of kindness was interpreted by the Guru’s enemies, headed by Pirthi Chand, as a serious political crime against the then Emperor of India. They informed Chandu, the Hindu Minister of Jehangir, an old enemy of Arjun Dev, who had obeyed the mandate of the people in preference to complying with a request from Chandu that his daughter be accepted as the bride of Har Gobind. It happened thus: Chandu, as it was customary, employed his Brahman priest to find a suitable match for his daughter. The priest came, and offered to betroth her to Har Gobind; but the disciples gathered, and said that the Guru must not consent to this alliance, as Chandu was a traitor.
The Guru saw that his refusal would increase the fire of racial jealousy against his person; but he firmly obeyed the voice of the people, and declined the offer. Chandu, though deeply offended, tried in various ways to make up the difference; but the Guru would not be moved out of his resolve.
Chandu, therefore, stirred up the jealousy of the Court against the Guru. The latest weapon to his hand was supplied by Pirthi Chand and his associates. A friend’s act in helping another friend was exaggerated into serious sedition and rebellion against Jehangir; as if the Guru, with the help of Kh1.lsro, intended to overthrow Jehangir. At last the machinations of Chandu succeeded in inflaming the Emperor; Guru Arjun Dev was summoned, and appeared before Jehangir at Lahore. Before leaving Amritsar, he had installed his son Har Gobind as his successor, and he took
leave of his devoted wife, as if for ever. When the Guru came into the presence of Jehangir, it was evident from his mere appearance that he was no sedition-monger and contemplated no harm. Jehangir, therefore, received him with great consideration. The interviews continued for some days; and Chandu was ceaselessly active, so that at last the Emperor was forced. to ask the Master why he helped Khusro against him ? He replied, “Khusro was in distress; he appealed. for help and the Guru helped. him. It was a man helping a brother-man in trouble, and not an aid to rebellion against you, the king. Khusro was flying to Kabul and he has gone there.” The Emperor ordered. a fine of two lacs to be paid by Arjun, but the Guru firmly said, ”The money I have is not mine. It is collected by the people, for the service of the people, and I have no private money out of which to pay you this fine. But even I had, I would not pay any fine, seeing I have done no wrong.” It is stated. that the composition of Guru Granth formed. the subject of a second charge framed against him, on the grounds already mentioned. Jehangir, therefore, asked. the Guru to alter the hymns so as to bring them into line with orthodox opinion. The Master replied, “I acknowlegde no earthly king in this matter. The true King has inspired these hymns, and they are informed with the Spirit of God. I cannot alter the sacred word. It is destined to stand by itself, and needs no support of any other scriptures. The sacred book contains nothing but the song-ehants of the Glory of
the Highest; at Whose high door wait a million prophets, from Whom all cometh out, and to Whom all return.” Jehangir, it seems, handed over the person of the Guru to Chandu, on the latter’s promise to recover the fine withbut unnecessary molestation. But this promise Chandu never meant to keep.
ARJUN DEV mE POET PROPHET AND PEOPLES KING – The last days of Arjun Dev can be imagined, nQw that the character of his captor has been made clear. He was kept prisoner in Chandu’s own house; where, in strictest secrecy, he was made to suffer unthinkable tortures from day today. Burning sands were poured on his bare body, he was compelled to sit on hot iron sheets. And, as he would take nothing from Chandu’s house and his Sikhs were never allowed to come near him, the Master was starved. In the daily routine of torture, Chandu allowed short intervals when he went and asked the Guru to accept the alliance with his family that had been proposed, and thus to release himself from prison. He made no reply. The Sikhs were eager to pay the ransom aJ..ld to rescue him, but he had forbidden payment of unjust fines. Mian Mir heard the tale of sorrow, and came to see him when it was late. Mian was indignant on seeing the condition of the Master, and wished to move the Emperor for his release. But the Master calmed his mind and asked him to look up. As Mian Mir looked up, he saw the whole Heaven gathered around his head and the Angels forming a canopy over him with their wings. In strong contrast with his anxious disciples, the Guru was calm, undisturbed, full of ineffable peace. Mian Mir bowed down, and left in silence. Arjun had acceptedtortures for his people, who must be made strong to stand for justice, to suffer and to die for truth they love. Mian Mir saw the great idea and kept quiet. At last Chandu made up his mind to kill Arjun Guru by suffocating him in a fresh cow-hide, in which he was to be sewn up, when he asked to have his bath in the river Ravi. He was led out in
prisoner’s clothes to the river, whose waters in those days washed the walls of the Lahore fort. The Sikhs saw the Master; who looked at them, still forbidding all action. “Such is the will of my God; accept it,” said he; “Move not; stand calm in your injury.” The Master never returned to the prison, the body was given to the river Ravi. He left the earth, singing Japji, as crowds of his disciples stood calm but deeply afflicted, looking on.
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