The Guru: YUKTANAND SINGH
Letter & Spirit - Part 10
Guru Gobind Singh wrote: “Those who call me God shall burn in hell-fire” [Bacchittar Naatak:6.32]. But he also writes: “The Lord and His devotees are one; there is no room for any doubt here.” [BN:6.60].
Are these statements contradictory?
Gurbani also says that Guru and God’s servants are just the same as God himself. This causes consternation among many Sikh teachers. When we cannot grasp the gurmat (Guru’s teaching), we try to reconcile gurbani by distorting its meaning.
But gurbani means exactly what it says. It was not written to confuse us.
Is the Guru equal to God then? We cannot reconcile various gurbani verses regarding the nature of Guru without first comprehending the basic teaching in gurmat, particularly the purpose of the final form of Sikhi: the Khalsa Panth.
Why is the Guru even necessary?
God hides from us, as if the light was hidden within darkness. We cannot see God and thus we are in darkness. The Guru lives in the light. The Guru is able to bridge both worlds. The Guru can bring God’s light into our dark world, but we cannot do so.
We could thus say that the Guru gives us the sight to see that light. But this is possible only when our entire self belongs to the Guru, or when we completely surrender to the Guru.
The sight that we are given is not a physical one, and this is not a singular event but a gift that grows as we grow, and as we keep receiving it. When we doubt the Guru’s perfection or have doubt that God is working through the Guru, we are unable to receive this gift.
This is an eternal law that governs the spiritual relationship between the Guru and Sikh. A complete and unquestioning faith in the Guru is absolutely necessary. We need to see that God and the Guru are one. This is why we read: “There is no difference at all, Guru Arjan is God himself manifest among us.” [GGS:1409.12]
But this faith has also led to a cult-like worship of the Guru. Various prophets and messengers of God who came before Guru Nanak, appear to be interested only in developing a strong following.
They neglected to neutralize the impression of exclusivity that it creates.
Their omission resulted in their followers worshipping them as God, incarnation of God, son of God, an “only” son of God, the last prophet, etc. This has generated clashes and wars when, in fact, the aim of their teaching was to make us love one another.
Guru Nanak addressed this problem headlong; it was his very mission.
The Sikh Gurus could have also displayed their spiritual powers, performed miracles, declared their divine nature and catalogued each exchange with God. This would have resulted in their being followed by the mob, giving them strength of numbers, to create another strong religion and to fight onslaughts against the people of India.
But they opted to suffer in silence in order to establish a solution for the entire world. They did not create another religion, even though some argue that in some ways they did.
* * * * *
There is no doubt, gurbani insists that doubting our Guru’s perfection or regarding the Guru as an ordinary human takes us spiritually backwards. Our progress is restricted if we feel that the Guru is ordinary or weak in any manner. It is proportional to our faith in the Guru’s greatness. For a Sikh there is no room for doubt or confusion in this area.
But the Sikh Gurus’ teaching is unique in several ways. Guru Nanak asserts right in the beginning that teachers can be many but there can be only one true Guru. Through the ages, the true Guru has been always the same, even when the Guru was seen in different schools and was wearing different garbs -- “gur gur aiko ves anek” [GGS:357.16]
Some people interject, “Gurbani says that God is present equally in everyone. How then is the Guru greater than us?” It is true that just as fire is hidden in all wood, God’s light is in everyone. The Guru is akin to the wood that is on fire. We are like the wood that is soaked with water, perhaps the water of fears and desires.
In theory the difference between us and the Guru is the presence of haumai. The true Guru has no haumai separating the Guru from God. Other spiritual teachers retain some haumai, but the true Guru acts perfectly under God’s will. Thus, in theory there is no difference between the true Guru and God, and the true Guru is always the same one.
* * * * *
Before Guru Nanak, a God-realized person, i.e., a sant or a brahmgyani was regarded as the Guru. But in order to abolish the divisions caused by exclusivity and cult-like worship of the Guru, Guru Nanak split the ‘Guru’ into two components. By doing this, Guru Nanak abolished a need to worship the Guru as a physical body.
It is true that spiritual people can see a semblance of God in the Guru’s face. They can feel the God-emotion in the Guru’s heart. This inner perception turns our heart in God’s direction for meditation. But in the end, meeting or seeing the Guru in a physical form is not fruitful unless we also contemplate on the Guru’s words. [GGS:594.11]
The spiritual gift that we receive from the Guru is carried by the Guru’s words, not the physical body. A physical body cannot be a bridge between us and God. Thus, we need to worship the Guru’s words, sing them, contemplate on their meaning, and act on them.
Sant Naranjan Singh ji used to say that the Guru’s word - Guru’s command - is greater than the Guru. This is so because the Guru’s words come from God. They are not from the Guru or from the region of haumai. These words take us to the place of their origin.
Thus, True Guru is always the shabad or gurbani, not the body that spoke those words.
“This tome is God’s abode” [GGS:1226.3]. Gurbani is more than just didactic poetry or love songs. It is a spiritual lifeline. Some people attempt to point at some imaginary flaws. But pointing fingers at any portion severs the spiritual lifeline but these people appear unable to realize this.
Spiritual Sikhs and sants have said that a Sikh is a Sikh only when he sees the spirit of the ten Gurus abiding in gurbani, in each verse of the Guru Granth. The Guru can work on the Sikh only when the Sikh follows the Guru’s word or command to the letter, with no questions and without regarding the Guru with a critical eye.
* * * * *
Upon meeting Guru Angad who was also a gurmukh and a poet, Guru Nanak laid the foundation of the new the discipline of ‘shabad and surat’. [GGS:1406.6]
To accomplish this, all the Sikh Gurus made sure that no one worships them as God. They called themselves lowly servants of God and they always pointed at the sangat (congregation) as the place to find the most exalted beings among us.
But this only shows how great they were. We must not diminish the Gurus in our eyes.
Shabad (word) was now the Guru and surat (inner attention) its disciple. This is written in Guru Granth Sahib. Some scholars say that Guru Gobind Singh appointed gurbani as the Guru. This is wrong. Guru Gobind Singh only finalized what Guru Nanak had started.
* * * * *
To complete this process, Guru Gobind Singh accepted annihilation of his entire family so that there would be no confusion regarding a successor in the physical form.
The Sikhs asked, “How will we see the glorious vision of the Guru when you are gone?”
Poet Sainapat has described this: The Guru said that he will be always present among us in three ways: first, as the formless Waheguru; then as the shabad or Guru Granth Sahib containing gurbani; and thirdly, in the physical form as the Khalsa.
These forms of the Guru were not new. But Guru Gobind Singh made it possible so that we will always have the presence and the sight of the Guru available in all these forms.
But the path is internal. Outer disciplines are the shell. We now call each other “Khalsa” but Khalsa Panth was established with the five gurmukhs who gladly accepted the Guru’s intent to behead them, right then and there in a separate tent. Such love and complete self-surrender had already prepared them for this path. We are not there yet.
The Guru then turned these gurmukhs into himself as his spiritual clones. He gave them articles from his own person as gifts to carry and to cherish as spiritual relics.
The Guru gave these five Sikhs his own appearance. This is not a mere figure of speech. It is said that when they walked out of that tent, the congregation could not tell which one of them was Guru Gobind Singh.
Just as one lamp lights another, the Khalsa multiplies only in this manner. Everyone cannot become Khalsa. The ‘Khalsa’ that we mostly see today is not spiritually enlightened.
* * * * *
At the age of fifteen, when I was searching for enlightenment, I did not even think of going to the gurdwara, but to go to some place in South India. Such is our state today.
Where did we go wrong?
Gurbani teaches practical spirituality but most of us are not spiritually inclined. Its spiritual message is only for those who want to receive it in their heart or their surat (inner attention). This is not for everyone. Most people like to see worldly benefits.
Gurbani’s message is only for those who feel that they are completely ignorant, those who feel that they have no strength of their own. Such individuals are rare.
We now consider ourselves more practical and educated. So, the gurdwara is now a place to collect money, to sell kirtan, to sell recital of gurbani, and for fights and arguments.
We have turned the core concepts into clichés with meaningless repetition, because we cannot escape them. They are repeated in almost each verse in gurbani.
But Sikhi is not just another dead religion from the past. In order to live gurbani’s teaching we need to nurture and cherish friendship with spiritually alive Sikhs.
Gurbani says that we must seek the company of spiritually alive Sikhs. But we now say that ‘Khalsa’ was created to fight the enemy. The hair and turban were meant as a uniform for fighting! Clearly, the purpose of Khalsa is now lost. The spiritual message probably became obscure among the masses when we were too busy fighting for survival.
It is no surprise that some people now resort to yoga as a practice of Sikhi.
The list of our errors is long.
* * * * *
Let us try contemplating on this:
The Gurus shattered the ‘Guru’ pot of sugar, removing the claims to its exclusivity. They spread this sugar into the sand that is represented by the entire congregation. The Guru’s congregation included all religions.
We have lost the faculty of spiritual discernment. Our demise began when we started mistaking the sand for sugar, instead of searching for sugar in the sand. As a result we started broad-brushing the entire sangat and forgot the purpose of gurbani and kirtan.
The commonly seen ‘Khalsa’ is now searching, while the real Khalsa hides from us.
Here is a shabad describing a Sikh's view of the Guru:
"satgur mera bay-muh-taaj"
My true Guru is totally independent.
My Guru is settled in truth.
My Guru is the giver of all.
My Guru is the creator Lord, the writer of destiny. ||1||
There is no deity equal to the Guru.
Someone with bright destiny engages in his service. ||1||Pause||
My true Guru sustains all.
My Guru kills and revives at will.
The greatness of my Guru is manifest everywhere. ||2||
My true Guru is the power of the powerless.
My Guru is my home and court.
I am forever a sacrifice to the Guru.
He has shown me the path. ||3||
One who serves the Guru is not afflicted with fear.
One who serves the Guru does not suffer in pain.
Nanak says, all the scriptures say this.
There is no difference between God and the Guru. ||4|| [GGS:1142.2-8]
Conversation about this article
1: Sri (USA), January 23, 2013, 12:52 AM.