Selections from the sacred writings of the sikhs

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In what cage can the mind rest in peace?

What is it that is everywhere,
With which every mind should be one?
What object of concentration
Can teach the mind to turn wholly to itself?

NANAK ANSWERS

haun haun mai main vicon khovai

From within, from within,


Make the Self as naught as naught;
Root out all feelings of otherness
And become at one with God.
True the world is as hard as Steel,
For the stubborn and the self-willed in their folly
But through the might of the Word
This steel can be digested.
Outside thyself and within thyself
Seek only the knowledge of God.
By the blessings of the true Guru
The flames of desires can be destroyed.

Rag Ramkali, pages 938-47 verses 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10, 17, 18, 43, 44, 45, 46.

43


arbad narbad dhundakara

Through uncountable ages,


Complete darkness brooded
Over utter vacancy;
There were no worlds, no firmaments.
The Will of the Lord was alone pervasive;
There was neither night nor day, nor sun nor moon
But only God in ceaseless trance.

No air and no water,


No utterance, no source of life,
No beginning or ending, no growth or decay,
No continents, no regions under the earth,
No swelling oceans or winding rivers.

The, higher, the middle, the lower planes did not exist,


Eating time did not exist either,
There Was neither heaven nor hell,

Since the cycle of birth and death had not begun


And so there was no upper region of bliss,
No middle region of purgation,
No lowest region of torment.

There were no gods to inhabit the highest heavens


No Brahma, no Vishnu, no Siva;
There was the One, the Eternal and none besides
There was neither male nor female

Neither shaping nor begetting,

There was nothing to experience
Either pleasure or pain.
There were no ascetics and no voluptuaries,
No monks and no hermits,
No religious communities of any sort,
No liturgies, no creeds.
There was no one to think of anyone,
Except God to think of Himself.
God was His own emanation,
He judged His own worth and rejoiced in His own Beauty.

There were not any Vaishvanites, counting their basil beads,


There were no ritual observances or pious forbearances;
Krishna was not, nor were his milkmaids,
Neither were tantras and mantra Saktis and all their humbug,
Nor was there any flute player.

There were no churches, with their creeds and rites,


There was no maya, the veil of illusion,
That makes dark and defiles;
There were no castes, since there were no births,
There was no predestination to drag us through
The mud of the worldly attachment and death and reblrt
And the worship of too many gods.

There were no living bodies and souls,


There was nothing and no one to accept or deny the truth:
The great Gorakh and Machindera did not exist.

There was no subject for contemplation,


No object of knowledge,
Nothing to trace the genesis of,
Nothing to sit judgement on.

There were no divisions of caste or rank, no sectarian

antagonisms, No idols nor temple, nor creeds of particular nations, There were no clashing forms of prayer and worship, Nor any to worship or pray. There were no mullas or qazis or hadjis; No Sufis and no disciples of the Sufis, No proud Kings, nor their subjects, Nor Masters either, nor slaves.

There did not exist either the cult based on adoring worship of

Vishnu, Nor that based on Siva, the passive male, And Sakti, the active female: There was neither friendship nor sexual appetite; God was both creditor and debtor then, Such being His pleasure.

There had not been inscribed the Vedas,

Nor the Scriptures of the Semetics,
None read a gospel at dawn, an epistle at sunset,
Only the Unspeakable spoke of Himself to Himself.
Only the Unknowable of Himself had His knowledge.

When He so willed, He shaped the Universe;


The firmament He spread without a prop to support it.
He created the high gods, Brahma, Vishnu and Siva.
And Maya the goddess, the veil of illusion,
Who maketh Truth dark and increaseth worldly attachment.
To some, to chosen few, the Guru revealeth the Lord’s Word.
The Lord creates and He watcheth His creation;
He made the heavenly bodies,
Our universe in the endless space,
Above below and around it
And out of the Unmanifested, Unmovable ground of His Being,
To us and in us, He made Himself manifest.

None knoweth the Lord’s beginning nor His end


The True Guru revealeth but this secret:
Nanak, those whom the knowledge of the Lord
Maketh to wonder,
Are caught into His Truth,
Since singing His glory,
They become aware of His wonder.

Rag Maru, page 1035

44


haume kari ta tu nahi

Where Self exists,


God is not;
Where God exists,
There is no Self.
Sage, probe this mystery,
Of the immanence of the Lord in all that is,
Without the grace of the Guru
We could not know this essence of truth.
When we encounter the True Teacher,
And when the little Self dies,
Doubt and fear die with it,
And the pains of birth, death and rehirth,
The Guru’s teaching is the highest wisdom
Since it shows us where our Liberator is.
Nanak repeats: ‘I am that. That is I.’
The three worlds are included in that formula.

Rag Maru, Var, page 1092

45 BARAMAHA TUKHARI

(i)

CHET (March-April) chet basant Mala bhavar suhavde


It is the month of Chet, It is spring. All is seemly,

The Beautiful honey-bee can be seen,


In the flower bedecked woodland,
But there is sorrow of separation m my soul,
Longingly I wait for the Lord;
If the husband comes not home, how can a wife
Find peace of mind?

The sorrow of separation wastes away my body,


The Koel calls in the mangoe groves,
Its notes are full of joy,
But there is a sorrow in my soul.
The honey-bee hovers about the blossoming bough,
A messenger of love and hope.
But O Mother of mine, it is like death to me
For there is sorrow in my soul,
How shall I find peace and blessedness?
Spake the Guru: Blessed peace would be attained in Chet, If the Lord comes and meets the wife.

(ii) VAISAKH (April-May)

vaisakh bhala sakha ves kare

Beauteous Vaisakh,


When the bough adorns itself anew,
The wife awaits her Lord;
Her eyes fixed on the door,
‘Come my Love, come have compassion for me,
Thou, my Love, alone can help me cross,
The turbulent waters of life; come home.
Without Thee I am as worthless as a shell,
Cast Thou Thine eyes upon me.
O who can make me worthy of Thee?
Who can make me will Thy love?
Who has seen my Love?
Who can show Him to me?

Spake the Guru: Thou hast not far to go for the Lord, Know Him within thee, thou art His mansion If thy body and soul yearn for the Lord, The Lord shall love thee; And Vaisakh appears beautiful; If thy mind is imbued with the Lord In Vaisakh you will meet the Lord you love.

(iii)

JETH (May-June)



mah jeth Mala pritam kiu bisrai

Pleasant is the month of Jeth,


Why forget the Beloved Lord in such a month.
The lowland shimmers in the heat,
Like a forest on fire.
The wife prays:

Thy virtues I seek, Thy glory I sing

So that I may find favour in Thine eyes O Lord.
In the realm of Truth live Thou O Lord
Free from all attachment.
I can enter Thy mansion
If Thou permit me to be with Thee,
Without Thy grace
How can I, lowly, humble and helpless
Find the haven of rest and peace.

Spake the Guru In the month of Jeth She who knoweth the Lord Becometh like the Lord. She knoweth Him By treading the path of virtue.

(iv) Asad (June-July)

asad, bhala suraj gagan tape

In Asad the sun scorches,
Skies are hot,
The earth burns like an oven,
Waters give up their vapours,
It burns and scorches the earth relentlessly.
In anguish the parched earth pines
Yet it fails not in its patient duty.
The sun’s chariot passes the mountain tops;
Long shadows stretch across the land;
The housewife seeks the cool shades of the evening,
And the Cicadas give a shrill call from the glades;
If the comfort she seeks be in falsehood
There will be sorrow in store for her.
If it be in truth,
Here will be a life of joy.

Spake the Guru: My life and life’s ending are at the will of the Lord To Him have I surrendered my soul.

(v) SAVAN (July-August)

savan sars mana ghan varsai

The season of rain has come;
My heart is full of joy,
My body and soul yearn for the Master,
But the Master is gone abroad.
If He return not, I shall die pining for Him.
The lightning strikes terror in my heart,
I stand all alone in my courtyard
In solitude and sorrow.

Mother of mine, I stand on the brink of death Without the Lord I have no hunger nor no slee. I cannot suffer the clothes on my body.

Spake the Guru: She alone is the true wife, Who loses herself in the Lord.

(vi)

BRADON (August-September)

bhadon bharm bhuli Mar joban pachtani

Lost in the maze of falsehood,

I waste my wanton youth.
River and land are one expanse of water
For it is the monsoon, the season of merry-making.

It rains.


The nights are dark.
The wife knows no peace. Peacocks cry with joy,
The papiha calls... peeoo, peeoo,
The fangs of serpents that crawl,
The stings of mosquitoes that fly Are venomous.
The seas have burst their bounds in the ecstasy
Of fulfilment.
I alone am bereft of joy,
Without the love of the Beloved Lord.

Spake the Guru: Ask the Master who knows the way, Walk on the path which leads to the Lord.

(vii) ASUN (September-October)

asun au pira sadhan jhur mui

O Master come to me,
I waste and will die.
If the Master wills,
I shall meet Him.
If the wills not,
I am drowned as in a deep well.
I strayed on to the paths of falsehood
And the Master forsook me.
Age hath greyed my looks.
I have left many winters behind.
But the fires of hell still lie ahead.
Whither shall I turn?

The bough remaineth ever green.


For the sap that moveth within day and night,
Night and day, reneweth life.
If the Name of the Lord courseth in thy veins,
Life and hope will for ever be green.
That which cooketh slowly cooketh best.

Spake the Guru: It is trysting time O Lord, The True Guru now guides my steps to Thee.

(viii) KATAK (October-November)

katak kirat paiya jo prabh bhae

What pleases the Lord,
Is all I merit.
The lamp of wisdom burneth steadily
If the soil that feeds it
Be reality.

If the oil that feeds the lamp


Be love,
The beloved will meet the Lord and be blessed.

If she dies full of faults


She will not find favour with the Lord.

Death after virtuous life will end her sorrow.

Those who are granted the worship of Thy Nam

Merge in Thee, for Thou art then
Their aim and end in life.
Spake the Guru: O Lord till Thou grant us vision And burst the bonds of superstition One watch of day will drag like half a year.

(ix)


MAGHAR (November-December)
maghar mah bhala harigun ank samava
The month of Maghar is bliss,
For her who is lost in the Lord.
She singeth the songs of joy and fulfilment
Why not love the Lord who is eternal?
He who is eternal, wise, omniscient is also the master of destiny.
The world is agitated because it hath lost faith in Him.
She that hath knowledge and contemplates
Loses herself in Him.
She loveth the Lord, the Lord loveth her.
In song and dance and verse
Let it be the Name of the Lord,
And sorrow will flee away.
Spake the Guru: Only she is loved Who worships the Lord not only outwardly But worships with her soul.
(x)
POKH (December-January)
pokh tuknar pade van trin ras sokhai
As the winter’s snow,
Freezes the sap in the tree and bush,
The absence of the Lord kills the body and the soul.
O Lord why eornest not Thou?
He that gives life to all the world
Him I have realized through the Guru’s Word.
His Light is in all the sources of life:
The egg, the womb, the sweat and the seed.
O Merciful God and Master; Give us Thy vision
That we may find salvation.
Spake the Guru: Only she mingles with Him Who loves the Lord, the giver of life.

(xi)


MAGH (January-February)
magh punit bhai tirath antar janai
The Lord hath entered my being,
I make pilgrimage within myself and am purified,
I met Him.
He found me good
And let me lose myself in Him.
Beloved, if Thou findest me fair,
My pilgrimage is made,
My ablution done,
More than the sacred waters

Of Ganges, Yarnuna and Tribeni mingled at the Sangam.

More than the seven seas.
All these and charity, alms giving and prayer
Is the knowledge of eternity that is the Lord.

Spake the Guru: He that hath worshipped the great giver of life Hath done more than bathe in the sixty and eight places of pilgrimage.

PHALGUN (February-March)

Phalgun man rehsi prem subhae

She whose heart is full of love,
Is ever in full bloom.
Day and night she lives in spiritual exaltation
She is in bliss because she hath no love of self.
Only those that love Thee,
Conquer love of Self.
Come Thou graciously and abide in me.
Many a lovely garment did I wear.
The Master willed not and
His palace doors were barred to me.
When He wanted me I went
With garlands and strings of jewels and raiment of finery.
Spake the Guru: A bride welcomed in the Master’s mansion Hath found her true Lord and Love. Rag Tukhari, pages 1107-10

46


saligram bip puj manavoh sukrit tulsi mala
Brahmin propitiate the saligram (Stone-God):
By chaste conduct, not by telling thy beads.
Repeat ever the Name of God.
This is thy raft to cross life’s unfathomable ocean,
Lord, have mercy upon us.

It is a waste of effort


To water a field of saltpetre;
A wall made of mud must collapse.
Why plaster it with cement?
The water wheel that will lift
From the well of thy soul
Is humility and service.
Water thy soul’s garden,
Then the great Gardener
Shall find thee acceptable.
Root out the choking weeds
Of lust and anger;
Loosening the soil,
The more thou hoest and weedest,
The more lovely grows thy soul;
Love’s labour is never lost;
The gawky crane is transformed
Into the graceful swan

Through the grace of God;

Nanak, lowest of the lowest, prays:
Lord, have mercy upon us.

Rag Basant, page 1171

47
kal hoi kute muhi khaj hoa murdar

In this age of darkness,
Men have become as dogs,
They eat the ill-gotten gains,
And bark out their lies;
Giving no thought to righteousness,
They have no honour in life,
And leave evil name after death.

Rag Sarang, page 1242
48
gyan vihuna gavai git

Some sing hymns without faith and knowledge,


As a Mulla without means
Turns his own home into a mosque,
Or an idle-do-nothing can have his ears pierced,
Join a mendicant Order and lose his dignity;
That man who calls himself a teacher of truth,
But lives by begging, do not pay him homage;
The man who earns his bread by the sweat of his brow,
And gives some of his gains in charity
Knoweth, Nanak, the true way of life.

Var Sarang, page 1245

49


kulhan dinde bavle lainde vade nilaj

Both the fool who confers authority on those that deserve not


And shameless those who accept it;
How can a mouse, dragging a winnowing basket
Tied to his waist behind him enter a hole?
The consecrators are mortal and the consecrated too;
Nanak without submitting to the Will of God,
No man knows whither he goes.
Mortals cannot consecrate or bless:
Our summer harvest is the one Eternal God,
Our winter harvest is the Lord’s Holy Name,
These I reap as by right,
Since the Lord Himself has given me the title-deeds.
Many are the claims to authority that mortals make;
Many also are the beggars who live on scraps,

Many go into shades, having led such lives.


Rag Malar, page 1286

50


mast karon murakh jag kehia

If I keep silent men think me stupid,


If I talk much, how can I meditate on Thee?
Lord, who art the Judge of all I have left undone,
Without Thy Holy Name, there is no true piety.
Wordly men are so enmeshed in falsehood
That I love those who condemn me.
True piety is always condemned by the World,
Through the grace of God, the Word of the Guru,
Alone showeth us the path. He knoweth It
Who in his heart knoweth God as the Ground of all.
I am soiled; the Truth is spotlessly clean,
And alas, by repeating the Word: ‘Excellent’
One does not attain to excellence oneself.
Thoughtlessly the self-centred man consumes poison;
But the man of God exalteth the Holy Name.
For the blind, the deaf, the slow-witted,
For the outcast, the thief and murderer, the wretched,
The love of the Lord’s Name is glory and wealth:
The Holy Name for them is the only gold:
All of the world’s wealth else venom and dust.
Some see goodness in others, some only fault:
Others concentrate entirely on the Word.
All these are God’s gifts, and glory to Him.
All that is excellent, Lord, is Thy gift:
These words of Nanak are inspired by Thee.

Rag Prabhati, page 1330

51


jhad jhakhad ohad

When under a sullen sky,


The strong wind lashed the sea into myriad waves,
Call, then, on the True Guru:
And fear not that thy ship will sink.

Slok Vadhik, page 1410, verse 4

52


so brahmin jo bindai brahm

A true Brahmin is one who grasps Brahm.


Meditation on God and self-control are his daily routine;
His religious observances are right conduct

And an unfretting heart.

He removes the sensual chains that bind the soul,
Such a Brahmin deserves all praise and honour.
Slok Vadhik, 16, page 1411

53


khatri so jo karma ka sur

A true Ksatriya, of the warrior caste, is one whose valour


Shows itself in every detail of his life.
The aim of his life is loving kindness,
Which he gives to the deserving,
And so becomes acceptable to God.
Any man who moved by greed, preaches falsehood,
In the end must pay the penalty for his deeds.
Slok Vadhik, 17, page 1411

54


pabar tu hariavala

O lotus flower, green was thy stalk, and golden thy beauty;


Through what fault of thine art thou now withered and brown?
Saith Nanak, A sickness hath blighted my body,
I am, like the lotus, deprived of the water
That has nourished me all my life.
Slok Vadhik, 30, page 1412

55


raj na kat jivai

No mortal man lives long enough to exhaust his desires


Nor finds the path to his goal excessively long.
But the life everlasting
Is the life of the knowledge of truth.
Seek that within thyself.
For, little by little, in vanity,
Most men lay waste their lives;
Nanak, when death comes, unasked and unexpected
Who shall bear the blame for such a waste?

Slok Vadhik, 31, page 1412

2

HYMNS OF GURU ANGAD DEV (1504-1552)


Guru Angad Dev, whose first name was Lehna, was the Son of a trader. He was an ardent worshipper of Durga before he came under the influence of Guru Nanak. Nanak chose him as successor in preference to his own sons.

Guru Angad was the founder of Gurmukhi Script in which the Adi Granth is written. Sixty-two of his hymns are incorporated in the scripture. He died at the age of forty-eight, bequeathing the Guruship to his aged disciple Amar Das.

1

je sau canda ugvai saraj cadaihazar

Were a thousand moons to arise,
Were a thousand suns to be shining.
All that external brightness
Would leave the world within, in darkness,
Unless it had the benign Guru’s light.

Var Asa, page 463

2

nak nath khasam hath kirt dhake de



The nose-string of life is in the master’s hands:
Our deeds drive us, and the truth is, Nanak,
That men must pasture where the Lord provides.

Var Sorath, page 653

3

milia milya na milai



A union of bodies is no union,
However close it be,
It is only when souls meet
Can we speak of a union true.
Var Suhi, page 791

4

nanak tina basant hai jin ghar vasia kant



For those, O Nanak, it is perpetual spring,
With whom the Beloved dwelleth as in their homes;
But day and night burn with desire
Those whose Beloved is in distant lands.

Var Suhi, page 791

5

so kion andha akhiai



Why call them blind,
Whom nature has robbed of sight;
He that hath not discovered the divine will,
Nanak, he is truly blind.

Var Ramkali, page 954

6

ap upae nanaka ape rakhe vek



He Himself is the Creator;
He Himself for all His creatures,
Sets different places.
Whom should I despise,
Since the one Lord made us all?
There is one Master of all things,
He setteth each man to his task
And watcheth over all men.
Some have great tasks, some little tasks,
No one departeth unrewarded.
Naked man comes into the earth,

Naked he departeth hence;

In between he toils to make a show.
O Nanak, the man who understandeth not the Will of God,
How shall he bear himself on death’s call.

Var Sarang, page 1237

7

katha kahani bedi ani pap pun vicar



The Vedic scholars have handed down to us,
A traditional mythology and have also defined
The doctrines of sin, virtue and retribution.
For what men give they receive.
And for what they receive a gift shall be required of them

And reaping as they have sowed


They are accordingly reborn,
Either in hell or heaven.
According to actions of past lives,
Men they say, are born in high castes and low,
Yet the world wandereth in doubt as to all this.
But the ambrosial Word of the Guru,
Speaketh of that which is real,
And bringeth knowledge of the Divine,
And bringeth the inner pondering of it.
The saints speak of it,
The saints know it.
They who possess divine knowledge
Ponder inwardly over its Light.
God by His Will made the world,
God at His Will controlleth it;




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