The Master at a Glance — I : Guru Gobind Singh Ji

The ‘Wonderful Drama’ which began in 1666 A.D. at Patna Sahib, thusclosed at Abchalnagar (Nander) in 1708 A.D. The Great Hero, whocalled himself ‘merely a servant of the Supreme Being, come to witnessthe great drama of the world’, but who is believed by his faithfulfollowers to have been God’s own spirit manifested in human form,thus parted from the scene of his activities, after having played his rolefor a little over forty years. We have seen him in the various situationthrough which he passed. Let us now try to picture the whole of himas he appeared to his contemporaries, and to comprehend, in our limitedway, the irresistible charms of that great personality which compelledeven his foes to bow before him, and urged his followers to obey himwith a constant, unflinching, and unquestioning obedience. The eye isdazzled and the mind is dazed at the brilliance which encompasses theMaster. The marvellous variety and fusion of virtues, qualities, andaccomplishments, that formed his personality, have seldom been exhibited anywhere else in the world.

Guru Gobind Singh’s personality is a wonderfully harmoniouscombination of so many good and manly qualities as have seldombeen found blended together in one person. Consequently, manywriters, who have attempted to measure him with their narrow scales,have been baffled and dazzled. Not finding his parallel anywhere,they have come to the self-consoling conclusion that the stories toldof the Guru’s many-sided talents and accomplishments are but myths.

They have, therefore, presented a very incomplete and highly distortedpicture of the Guru.

To the people, great and small, of subsequent times, Guru GobindSingh has been both a great challenge and a great tiiigma. Unable tohold him within the narrower compass of minds and hearts, andfinding the altitude of his personality beyond the range of their highestambitions or dreams, they grow nervous and lose even the nevercapacity to understend him. The result is that whenever they havetaken up pen to write about, the Guru, this nervousness has swayedand gripped their minds, rendering them incapable of discerningand recording truth. Many of them have in consequence, tried toeclipse him in sundry ways or taken shelter behind hard epithets,in order, very often, to make him look inferior to the “GreatOnes” of their own faith of conception. Some were led to saythat the Guru derived all his power from goddess Durga; somesoothed their agitated and baffled minds by saying that he was”a misguided patriot*’, some said proudly that the Guru sentpetitions for mercy to Aurangzeb, and in obedience to the latter’ssummons, proceeded to the Deccen’to lay his grievances personallybefore him; some declared that the Guru accepted a minor command in Bahadur Shah’s army and went to the Deccan as a servantof the Emperor; some said that in his last days the Guru lost hisbalance of mind and roamed about in a pitiable condition; Somewent to the extent of saying that so tired had he become of hislife, that he exhorted a Pathan to kill him and himself gave himthe dagger for the purpose; Some have dubbed him as ” aninvererate enemy of all Muhammadans” and some have said thathe wanted to found a kingdom and a ruling dynasty.

We have already exposed the utter baselessness of these charge’s.

Let us now look at the Master and try to describe his manifold qualities;for a contemplation of the qualities and virtues ot the great onesgenerates in us the yearning and the power to walk in their footsteps,and to attempt to be like them as much as we may.

A Perfect Man

First and foremost, he was a perfect man. He was endowed with allvirtues, powers, and attributes wliich one should expect to find in anideally perfect human being. He did not call or regard himself asGod-incarnate or the Only Begotten Son of the Great Father. He lived,acted, ventured, enjoyed, and suffered as a perfect man should do. Hewanted to create and leave behind him, for human guidance, suchfootprints as would help his fellow-beings in the days to come to walkhis way and achieve the greatness which was his.

A Perfect Yogi

He was a true and ideal Yogi, combining within himself the prominentfeatures of the various forms of Yoga, or, in the words of a Bengalidevotee-schloar, a sarv-yogi, and living and practising the idealrenunciation as laid down in the Bhagvad Gita. He sacrificed hisfather, sons, family, friends, wealth, rank, power.home, and allcomforts, all at the altar of national welfare. His whole life, fromtender age to the last moment, was one long, vigorous, and persistentstruggle for the uplift and liberation of his vanquished race. He heldback nothing ; he gave all and everything. No sacrifice was to himtoo dear it if led to a furtherance of his lofty and selfless ideal. Hecould have, if he had the liking, spent a life of peace, comfort, andhonour, among his disciples, or carved out a kingdom for himself,but his heart was set the other way. ‘Dwelling in union with thedivine, renouncing attachment, balanced evenly in success and failure,controlling the senses by the mind, having an eye to the welfare ofthe World, 1 like a true yogi, he perfomed ‘righteous action’. Thelure of titles, honours, jagirs, and kingship, thrown in his way bythe Lord of Delhi, affected him as little as the threats and prospectsof severest physical suffering and tortures Even in the midst ofoverwhelming forces of the enemies, he allowed not the current ofNam in his followers to ebb of abate. After evacuating the fort ofAnandpur, and before crossing the flooded Sarsa, unmindful of allearthly consequences.he did what no mere general would or couldever do; he ordered his soldiers to halt and sing. His praises in thewide open place; for it was the usual time to do so. Later, when hewas a fugitive, and exile in the country of his birth, with the Imperialarmies in hot pursuit after him, when he was refused shelter bysome of the very people for whom he had toiled and suffered, whenall his sons and most of his companions had fallen in the struggle,one by one, when he was running or roaming all alone and barefootedthrough thorns and bushes, passing winter nights in the open fieldswith a clod of earth of an earthen water-pot as his pillow, he wasever the same. In the midst of all these agonizing experiences hemaintained the same mental poise, the same uninterruped communionwith the Lord, as in his days of glory and rejoicings at Anandpur.

Such was the spiritual greatness of the Master; such was the Sarv- Yogapractised by Guru Gobind Singh.

1. Bhagwat Gita.

Morally Perfect

He was as great and perfect in moral character as he was high inspiritual life. He taught and practised the highest and noblest form ofmorality in private as well as in public life. Throughout his career noteven once did he stoop to or even countenance unfair means, falsehood,deceit, of lies. In war, as in peace, his policy was the same : truthabove every thing else. When a Muslim Amir’s young bride fell intohis hands during a war, she was treated as a sister and conducted toher home, unmolested and untouched. He taught his Sikhs to be continent,as far as possible; in any case never to go near the bed of another’swife even in dream. 1 They were enjoined to be pure in thought, word,and deed; unflinching practice of Truth in all walks of life was theideal which he placed before himself and his Sikhs.

Firm and Unbending

His perseverance was as wonderful as the firmness of his unbendingresolve. Right from the beginning of his career, no vicissitude of reversesof fortune could shake him, or make him waver in the lofty purposewhich he had placed before himself. He would take no defeat. He neverthought of surrender. A mere faqir, without any regular army, materialof war, of means of income, he had resolved to strike at the root ofone of the greatest powers in the world; and he executed his designwith a persistence which is unparalleled in history. Even when he hadto flee as a fugitive and rebel, the mission on which his heart had beenset, and as a first step towards the accomplishment of which he had,at the tender age of nine, sent his father to Aurangzeb’s court to sacrificehimself for the sake of his Hindu compatriots, left not its wonted ardour,and suffered not any abatement. He was ever firm and unbent. When,in the forest of Machhiwara, his body exhausted with fatigue and hisfeet blistered and bleeding, he laid himself down to take rest of sleep,his hand always grasped his naked sword. After having awakened asense of national unity and the sentiments of patriotism and nationalismin northern India, he decided to proceed southwards and arouse thesame sense and sentiments in the hearts of the people of Rajasthan and1. Like Gum Nanak, [Guru] Gobind Singh attached the utmost importance of purityof life; but on a level with it he placed brave deeds and devotion to the Sikh cause.

There was no higher duty for a Sikh than to die fighting in defence of his faith.’

C.H. Payne, op cit, pp 34-35.

the Deccen. Even from the extreme South, he picked out the man whowas destined to lead the Khalsa army in the Panjab. Up to the lastmoment, he exerted himself to disseminate his ideals and broadcast hismessage to humanity.

Brave and Fearless

He was strong, brave, and fearless as a lion. Finding the dreaded MughalEmperor, the hill-chiefs, and the high-caste Hindus all ranged againsthim, and finding his own devoted Sikhs falling away or being killedin battles, he did not feel perturbed or afraid. No odds, how-so-everheavy, damped his valour and resolve; no personal danger made himshirk his duty. Wounds only stirred him to greater exertion. 1 When heprayed to God it was not for any earthly gifts, but for power andopportunity to do good deeds, to face his foes unflinchingly in battle,and to win a victory over them or die fighting, thrice was he summonedby Aurangzeb to his presence. But not only did he refuse to obey thesummons each time. But he sent to the dreaded Mughal a letter whereinthe wrongs of the government and the perjury of the Emperor and hisagents were fearlessly exposed and condemned.

He vowed to make the sparrow hunt and pluck the falcon, tomake one fight a legion, and to make the poor and destitute becomerulers; and he succeeded marvellously in doing that seemingly impossiblefeat.

While he was strong in mind and spirit, he had a strong andwell-built body. Lions, at whom even renowned warriors and hunterswere afraid to shoot from a good, safe distance, were by him piercedto death with a sword. None could string his bow; he shot arrows tosurprising distances and with wonderful exactness of aim. He had noequal in military skill and fears.

A General and Organizer

He was an able general and efficient organizer, people, the very dregsof society, who had never handled a weapon for ages, were transmutedby him into the sturdiest soldiers that the world has ever seen.

Under his influence,’ men who had never touched a sword ofshouldered a gun became heroes. Confectioners and washermen1 . Jabai ban lagio tabai ros jagio — when the arrow struck, me the war spirit in megot inflamed. (Vachittar Natak).

and barbers became leaders of armies before whom the Rajas quailedand the Nawabs cowered with terror. 1 This low rabble he organizedinto a well-knit community which was able to survive the deadliestcampaign of extermination that has ever been known in the world. Heeffected an organization which was based on the most modern ideasof democracy and sociology. His marvellous capcity as a general isproved by the manner in which he could, with his handful of soldiers,inflict severe defeats on his enemies, and still more, by the stoutresistance which he offered to the Imperial hosts at Chamkaur with butforty soldiers at his side.

Of All-embracing Love

His love embraced not only the whole humanity, but also all livingbeings. His teaching was : —

“Remembering that all living beings are God’s creatures

one should refrain from inflicting pain on them;

For, believe me, O Nand Lai, when His creatures have to

suffer, the creator feels the pang and is displeased.

He received with open arms all who came, making no distinctionbetween high and low, rich and poor, Hindu andMuhammadan. Learnedmen of all creeds, who feared Aurangzeb’s bigotry, found an asylumat his darbar. Some of his shortsighted Sikhs accused Bhai Kanhaiyahelping the enemies by giving water to their wounded soldiers, but theGuru approved his action and encouraged him to persevere in thainoble path of love and service of all without distinction. The Guru hadto engage in war, no doubt, yet it was not for lack of love and regardfor human life, but on account of an abundance of that very love. Hewanted to rescue a downtrodden race from the ravages of ferocioustyrants. He did not kill his enemies by surprise attacks. He never shotat such of the enemy’s soldiers as were not, at the time, actually engagedin the fight. Those who were at the back, taking rest, never receivedany arrow from his bow. Such was he to those who chose to be hisfoes.