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THE GROWTH OF RESPONSIBILITY IN SIKHISM


GURU AMAR DASS 1479-1574
EQUALITY

Obedience, though extremely useful in the early stages of spiritual training, is not always helpful in bringing a man forward towards the goal of responsibility. When indulged in too indiscriminately, it might do positive harm by making men slavish. Guru Angad himself had realized this danger, when he set down the following ideal of obedience:

Nanak obey him who is worthy to be obeyed (Ramkali ki Var, 11)

He, who acts according to the will of the Lord, receives. His reward, Nanak, he is worthy of homage. (Sarang ki Var, 11)

Obedience is, therefore, dangerous to the spirit of truth, unless it is allied with Discrimination and Fixity of Purpose.

Guru Amar Dass, the third Guru, followed up with an opportune teaching.

Such stories as those of Prema of Talwandi and Paro of Dalla, who would seek the company of the Guru in the face of all difficulties, show that constancy to the fixed ideal had become a common feature of the Sikh character by that time. But more needful was it for the Guru to see that too much was not made of wordly position or religious differences. He, therefore, developed into a regular institution the custom of inter-dining started by Guru Nanak. He would oblige all his visitors, Hindus and Mohammedan alike to partake of his free kitchen before they would consent to see them. Even Akbar and the Raja of Haripur, when they came to see him, had to do the same. All had to sit in a line and eat together, There was no superstition of the chauka. The third Guru says that, even if he were a most learned Pundit of would wide renown, "He would take care to remember that nothing is polluted in the kitchen. All outlined kitchens are false. Only He is pure"(Maru ki Var, III). In this way, the people were made to renounce their social prejudices and look upon each other as brothers.

This feeling was further strengthened in men by their being made to practice virtues that spring out of the sense of brotherliness. The greatest virtue of the third Guru was his self restrain in dealing with others.

When Datu, the son of Guru Angad, attacked Guru Amar Dass and kicked him off his seat, the latter's only reply was, "honoured Sir, pardon me. My old bones must have hurt your tender foot." The same humility and self-restraint he taught others; O Sheikh, restrain thy mind which now wanders towards the four cardinal points the sport of the four winds. Bhai Jetha's and Bibi Bhani's patient service clearly shows how the Sikhs had fully imbibed this spirit. The Mohammedans in those days often annoyed the Sikhs. When they went to take water for the kitchen from a well, the Mohammedans would set upon them and break their earthen pitchers with stones. When the Sikhs complained to the Guru, he told them to use goatskins instead. When these, too, were pierced with arrows' the Guru asked them to use vessels of Brass. But these, too, were not safe against the pellets of the mischief-makers. The Sikhs were driven almost to desperation; but the Guru insisted on patience, and only prayed for the softening of the enemy's hearts. He would not allow his Sikhs to retaliate, because the wrong came from the people and not from the Government; because the Emperor could still be appealed to, and often with much success. At this time patience was the rule. Guru Amar Dass once said to a village headman, "God is patient, and patiently He rewardeth. If any one ill-treats you, bear it. If you bear it three times, God himself will fight for you the fourth time and extirpate your enemies."

But the qualities of forbearance and patience, so needful for acquiring self-control, have often led people, especially in India, to be very careless about the higher duty of self preservation. In the time of the Gurus, many persons would willingly immolate themselves at the alter of Shiva, get themselves sawan alive at banaras or be crushed under the car of Jagannath. The nation as a whole had acquired the spirit of servility and object contenment. It was most necessary for the regeneration of the higher self of India that the Guru should teach the true value and sanctity of human life. Man, who was considered to be a mere wretched vermin crawling on the face of the earth, was declared to be a great manifestation of God's divinity. For this purpose, the belief in particular incarnations of God had to be rejected.

This ideal was amply realized in the time of the next Guru. Read the beautiful story of the conscientious daughter of magistrate Patti. She did her duty by her leper husband even under most trying circumstances. Truly has Bhai Gurdas (1554-1629), the missionary Sikh of the time, said, "From temporal as well as from spiritual point of view, women is man's other half and assists him to salvation. She assuredly brings happiness to the virtuous." Guru Amar Dass was also against the custom of Purdah, as may be seen from his exhortation to the Rani of Haripur.

The effect of all this was that the man, with whom it was usual in troubled times to leave their females to the mercy of the invader, now came forward as defenders of the honour of their homes, women too came to realize their position; and after this we often hear of their making a bold stand for their own defence.




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