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THE GROWTH OF RESPONSIBILITY IN SIKHISM


GURU GOBIND SINGH 1666-1708
DEVOLUTION OF FULL RESPONSIBILITY

The purity of judgement was further intensified and made perfect by Guru Gobind Singh. The Sikhs in the course of continuous discipline had found themselves, and had learned to find their leaders. Their admiration for their leader was so great they would stick at no sacrifice, if they could only please him. Once a new musket was brought to the Guru as a present. He wanted to try it as he humorously said at somebody's forehead. Several people were forthcoming, thinking it a great fortune to meet death at his hand. The danger of such a personal devotion is that it may warp the judgment of the admirers.

Their vision, which is clear enough for finding fault with themselves or others, is dazzled when it meets the brilliance of glory with which the loved person is invested, as long as that was the case the government of self was not complete and the granting of full responsibility would have been dangerous. The tenth Guru's task, therefore, was to so train the judgment of his followers that they might never be deceived by appearances, and might find our evil, even if it be lurking in the most sanctified of places.

He began by raising their Self-respect; for it is there that the true and independent judgment begins. The Sikhs were freed from the demeaning influence of the Masands. It was made clear that the Guru also was human, and to pay divine honors to him was the greatest blasphemy.

The ceremony of initiation was modified to suit the changed circumstances. The water used in baptism, instead to being stirred with the Guru's toe, was to be stirred with a dagger, and the Sikhs thus initiated, were to be called Singhs or lions. The mode of salutation also changed. Instead of touching one another's feet, as was the customs before, the Sikhs were to fold their hands and hail each other as "the Purified Ones of the wonderful Lord, who is always victorious."

The Khalsa was inspired by a sense of divine mission to right the wrongs of the world; and in the discharge of his duties, no fear of earthly power was to stand in the way, such was his confidence in the strength of the righteous cause that each Sikh called himself a unit of a one lakh and a quarter. Even now one might occasionally meet a Sikh who would announce his arrival as the advent of a host of one and a quarter lakh of the Khalsa.

The Guru himself recognized the worth and dignity of his nation, and would always refer to the assembly of Sikhs with great respect and admiration. It was in these terms he once spoke of his followers : "It is through them that I have gained my experience; with their help have I subdued my enemies; through their favour am I exalted; otherwise there are millions of ordinary men like myself, whose lives are of no account." Though a leader, he yet considered himself as the servent of his people : "To serve them pleases my heart, no other service is so dear to my soul" "All the substance in my house, and my soul and body are at their disposal." The readers of history know how literally this declaration was fulfilled by him. He sacrificed all his sons, his parents, and lastly, himself at the altar of his country's service.

This raising of the Indian spirit from the lowness and servility, which had dominated it for centuries, brought about a great change in the tone of the national character, Even those people who had been considered as the dregs of humanity were changed. As if by magic, into something rich and strange, the like of which India had never seen before, the sweepers, barbers and confectioners who had never so much as touched the sword, and whose whole generations had lived as groveling slaves of the socalled higher classes, became, under the stimulating leadership of Guru Gobind Singh, doughty warriors, who never shrank from fear, and who were ever ready to shed their own blood where the safety of a least creature of God was in danger. Even their outward appearance underwent a marvelous change. They come to be regarded as the models of physical beauty and stateliness of manner as much as they were respected for the truth and honesty of character.

There is another feature of their character which the Sikhs acquired at that time and which we often forget to notice. In the face of desperate circumstances, they often put on a fine brag, -- that Hannibal or Sir Walter Raleigh might have envied - and literally shouted over a difficulty. Once a small straggling detachment of Sikhs was hemmed in by a numerous force of the enemy. Their friends were far off, and there was no hope of their coming in time to save them. Yet they did not lose heart. They took off their bread while chaddars (Sheets) and spread them over the neighboring bushes to make them look like tents from the distance. All the while they kept up shouting every fifteen minutes the famous national cry of Sat Sri Akal, The enemy thought that the Sikhs were receiving so many instalments of help, and did not dare to come forward.

As a result of this rave spirit, there was growing up among the Sikhs a peculiar slang, which was called the Vocabulary of Heroes. In it the things connected with the difficulties of life were expressed in terms of such cheerfulness and bravado. As if, for the Sikhs, pain and suffering had lost all meaning. Death was familiarly called an expedition of the Khalsa into the next world. A man with an empty stomach would call himself mad with prosperity. Grams were almonds and onions were silver pieces, while rupees were nothing but empty crusts. A blind man was called a wide-awake hero, and a half-blind man an argus-eyed lion. A deaf man was said to be a man in the upper storey. A baptised Sikh was called a brother of the Golden Cup, which by the way, was only an iron vessel. To be fined by the community for some fault was called getting one's salary. The big stick was called a lawyer or the store of wisdom; and to speak was to roar.

There is a superb humour in all this, which breathes a full and healthy spirit. It shows that our ancestors knew-how much better than we do at present- that religion is not incompatible with brightness and vigour, Nay, explain it how we will, true humour always goes with ripeness of wisdom, and long-faced seriousness, at much as frivolity is a sign of immaturity. Without the sense of humour alone that can keep our sympathies well-regulated and in good trim. It is a fine corrective force in character, and works like an instinct against all excess. Without it, a man's character is always underdone or done on one side only.



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