Sikh Legend Offers Wise Words About Guru Teg Bahadur

Puran Singh’s Century-old Advice To Sikhs.

The digitization of books has created a whole new way for Sikhs to access their history. I’ve stumbled onto a lot of historical Sikh literature that I had never heard of. For example, through Google’s Book Search function, I discovered a tourist guide to Punjab from the 1880’s (here’s an excerpt on visiting Amritsar).

Over the holidays, I found a scanned version of a first edition of The Life and Teachings of Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur. It was written by Puran Singh and published by The Khalsa Agency in Amritsar in 1908. Puran Singh has a way with words like no other Sikh author I’ve ever encountered. His books The Spirit Born People and The Ten Masters are essential readings for anyone interested in Sikhi. In his book on Guru Tegh Bahadur he writes: 

He looks upon the world with that far-seeing vacant eye with which a mariner, having lost his boat, looks upon the broad sea, seated on a rock in the middle dashed by the waves of the angry sea. The world to him is lost in the constant vision of the higher Reality of its soul. There is an intense spirit beating within his heart, which weeps and cries at the sight of a man who is lost in the tempest of passions and remembers not the glorious life of his beyond this little life and the glorious inheritance of his in ideals of God, Love, and Truth.

He is a high abstraction in the love of God, and whenever a single thought of the world lowers his consciousness from those ethereal heights, he at once sings of God-consciousness and soars again.”Remember thy God, remember thy Lord, this is thy one duty, thy only duty,” says he.

However, what I really want to share is his opening introduction. The words are 100 years old, but just as or probably more relevant today.

Sikhism is a wonderful power that has been put in the soil of the Punjab and the flesh and blood of the Punjabis. I raise a warning note, lest the forgetful men may sleep over again on the verities of the sacred faith preached by the Sikh Gurus, and lest they may only apparently continue the babbling of the mere letters in delirium. The time has come that the life of man should be, awakened to its natural position of the Master Witness of Nature, realizing afresh the Law of life, for the good of himself and the whole Society. “My I’d comes when I see the moon,” “They are like dogs and hogs, who live on this earth with heads and eyes and hearts and consecrate them not to God.” “Live in God or do not live at all.” “Know thyself.”

The Gurus have preached this and let us justify them by our daily conduct. Let us justify them and their beautiful teachings and their still more glorious life, by our life of love and dedication. In their honor and memory, let us make this Punjab, by living nobly, the “golden land where no monuments exist to Heroes but in the daily thoughts and deeds of men.” Let all the individuals of the nation be the living and moving temples of God.

All Truth is alike. It is one and the same everywhere. Only men are needed to realize it and bear witness to it in their own soul. Unless, I am alive to Truth, all writings preaching Truth are meaningless to me. Unless I have some sort of the Hero’s character, the life of a Hero has no lesson for me. Therefore, the true act of following any prophet is to evolve another prophet out of myself. It is to travel along the road taken by the prophets and the victory of faith is achieved, when we scale up the same heights as reached by them and see things as they saw, and read things as they road. Rhetoric availeth not, even learning and scholarship toil in vain. It is a simple inner reaction, wrought by acting upon the best and highest in us, that furnishes us with a new standpoint, an original view-point of looking upon things. “To see through God’s eyes is knowledge.” The world of misery, trouble and pain and death is gone and I see God everywhere. I become twice-born then. My father, mother, wife, master, servant, city, home, country, life, death, joy, sorrow, are all resolved into “the Eternal Me,” the God, the One Reality. Nothing but God is.

Men of such high realization and such ample and broad life and experience were our Gurus, the Masters of man. Let us sit at their feet, with respect and veneration, to receive that light from them which may open our eyes and make us fresh and alive to the presence of God.

But friend ! Beware! Our love for them is apt to change into an unhealthy zeal which, while trying to build the magnificent superstructure of love’s and devotion’s external show, digs only the grave of the whole Church of Love within.

Beware! our faith is apt to take the shape of hatred for others beliefs.

Our gratitude to our heroes is apt to degrade into a foolish obedience to the letter of the Truth they lived, when sonship does become idle and bankrupted in the false pride of their fatherhood.

Our missionary zeal is likely to change into a morbid tendency of reforming others instead of ourselves. Instead of vindicating the Truth preached by our masters we mar and jeopardize Truth, because of our non -realization of the Facts which came into their inner spiritual experiences. Instead of Life, we only have mockeries in the form of our prayers, and talks and boastings.

Stop these mockeries and do not talk but live. Do not be anxious to save Sikhism. Rest assured that Sikhism can take care of itself. Your only anxiety should be to save YOURSELF.

Editor's note: This article was originally published on Jan 6th 2009

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