Saadhho Koun Jugath Ab Keejai || Jaa Thae Dhuramath Sagal Binaasai Raam Bhagath Man Bheejai ||1|| Rehaao || Man Maaeiaa Mehi Ourajh Rehiou Hai Boojhai Neh Kashh Giaanaa || Koun Naam Jag Jaa Kai Simarai Paavai Padh Nirabaanaa ||1|| Bheae Dhaeiaal Kirapaal Santh Jan Thab Eih Baath Bathaaee || Sarab Dhharam Maano Thih Keeeae Jih Prabh Keerath Gaaee ||2|| Raam Naam Nar Nis Baasur Mehi Nimakh Eaek Our Dhhaarai || Jam Ko Thraas Mittai Naanak Thih Apuno Janam Savaarai ||3||2||
Pray tell me holy people, now what course should I adopt that helps dissipate my propensities for the profane and subsume my mind with loving devotion of the divine Raam? ||1||Pause|| My mind, deeply entangled in Maya, has no awareness of spiritual wisdom. [Tell me] what is that divine name, Naam, contemplating which, all in this world can attain to the state of Nirvaanaa? ||1|| As kindness and compassion welled up in the saintly persons they told me that if you sing praises of Prabhu you would have performed rituals of any and all the beliefs. ||2|| Says Nanak, the one who enshrines Raam Naam in his heart even for an instant during night and day has his fear of death eradicated and his coming approved and life fulfilled. ||3||2||
I do love this little lyric of love divine composed by Guru Tegh Bahadur, the 9th Sikh Guru. It is set to music in Raag Ramkali and is incorporated on page 902 of Sri Guru Granth Sahib [SGGS], the Sikh scripture.
This is one of thousands of lovely lyrics containing gems of divine wisdom written by Sikh Gurus and some of the saintly persons of other persuasions of that period that constitute the 1430 pages of the SGGS. These compositions, almost all set to music in various Ragas and called shabad in Sikh parlance, are sung by trained musicians in Gurdwaras as central part of Sikh worship.
The language of shabads has a uniquely lyrical quality. The choice of words and imagery is from life and the bounteous nature – joy, sorrow, union, separation, love, fear, anger, charity; the sun, moon, stars, trees, cool breeze, hues of clouds, singing birds – and reaches the inner depth of human feelings and touches the spiritual and holy within. The hymns, truly divine melodies created out of rhyme, rhythm and imagery, help one to transcend the mundane to a state of devotional bhakti and rapturous peace, tranquility and equipoise.
You might be wondering, how and why did I pick on this particular verse? The answer to the how in a way is simple. When I was doing my reading of the SGGS this morning, as I always try to do, this was one of the verses that came up and I felt impelled by an inner urge to share its sublime message.
For the why part, I may have to relate to you a bit of the life of the Guru. He accepted to be publically beheaded under the orders of Emperor Aurangzeb in 1675 in Delhi so that Hindus could continue to enjoy their freedom of worship. This he understood to be his dharma, his creed that all men, without distinction must have this freedom even if it takes him to give up his life to arouse people’s consciousness. His son and successor Guru Gobind Singh wrote in his autobiographical account that ‘in a great event in the Iron Age, Tegh Bahadur protected the forehead mark and sacred thread (of Hindus). For the sake of saints, he laid down his head without even uttering a sigh.’
The text of this verse – given in Gurmukhi first, followed by its transliteration and then my understanding of the shabad in English gives a peep into the catholicity of his beliefs and the persuasion he was advocating. Note the words ‘if you sing praises of Prabhu you would have performed rituals of any and all the beliefs. Says Nanak, the one who enshrines Raam Naam in his heart even for an instant during night and day, his fear of death is eradicated, his coming approved and his life fulfilled.’ Could there be a more universal and inclusive advice to those who came to seek spiritual support and guidance from him?
Gurus prayed for the well being of one and all. Guru Nanak witnessing the suffering of many who had been caught between the warring Lodhis rulers and Mughal invaders expressed his deep anguish: ‘The Creator willed and sent the Mughal as messenger of death [to Hindustan] but does not take the blame. Didn’t Thou feel any compassion hearing the screams of so many tortured and oppressed people?’ Guru Amar Das pleads with God to shower His mercy and save this burning world through whichever door [path] it could be rescued. Guru Ram Das prayed for God’s merciful consideration of his supplication for divine blessings being showered on all beings in the world.
All of us wrestle with our weaknesses, our inadequacies, our inabilities to sift the right from the not so right and wrong and seek ways to tranquility of mind. I do too – may be as much or even more than many. I do not really know. I do know that listening, reading shabads like the one above helps calm me, sometimes even sort out a lingering doubt. So does so much more that I may read, recall or listen to though my mind seems more receptive to shabads now. Is it just another symptom of my growing frailty of body or mind struggling to catch up with age?