The Guru’s Order and Sikh Inspirational Memory

What are the lines we say after we do Ardas? What is their real meaning and who wrote them?

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It is a custom to sing three couplets (dohray - ਦੋਹਰੇ) after the completion of the Sikh prayer (ardaas – ਅਰਦਾਸ) in the congregation of our gurdwaras. These couplets are not the direct revelations through the Guru but rather they are the explications of the Guru’s order (guru- furmaan - ਗੁਰੂ-ਫੁਰਮਾਣ) and a reminder of the Sikh inspirational memory (sikh-yaad - ਸਿਖ-ਯਾਦ.)

All throughout history, and even today, those imbued with the Guru’s word express their love and devotion to the Guru through creative expressions. It is to be noted that the inspiration of this creativity must have come from the individual’s own interpretations and immense desire to express their love and send a message to the community to share that love.

Consider the action of walking forward. When we walk, one foot remains behind on the ground providing firm support to the other foot so that it may move forward. Similarly, to march forward in history as a community, we need the support of these creative yet simple explanations of the Guru’s edicts. The community requires the foundation of these inspirational memories to grow and progress on the path of Sikhi. It is hoped that this short article will provide all of us with a rudimentary understanding of what we recite in our congregations. Who knows, given this understanding we may be inspired and, as a result, may convert our emotions into creative expressions like the Sikhs of the past.

The first piece that is sung in the congregation, which is given below, is from the pen of Giani Gian Singh in his monumental work called Panth Parkaash – ਪੰਥ ਪ੍ਰਕਾਸ਼. This book is a detailed history of the Sikhs in the language of Braj and it is in verse. This work was published in the year 1880. The two couplets taken from this work are:

ਆਗਿਆ ਭਈ ਅਕਾਲ ਕੀ ਤਬੈ ਚਲਾਯੋ ਪੰਥ। ਸਭ ਸਿਖਨ ਕੋ ਹੁਕਮ ਹੈ ਗੁਰੂ ਮਾਨੀਓ ਗ੍ਰੰਥ।

As was ordained by the Timeless, thus was established the path (panth)
To all Sikhs, let this be the order, recognize the Granth as your Guru

ਗੁਰੂ ਗ੍ਰੰਥ ਜੀ ਮਾਨੀਓ ਪ੍ਰਗਟ ਗੁਰਾਂ ਕੀ ਦੇਹ ।

ਜਾ ਕਾ ਹਿਰ ਦਾ ਸੁੱਧ ਹੇ ਖੋਜ ਸਬਦ ਮਹਿ ਲੇਹ ।

The revered Guru Granth is the visible body of the gurus
Those that wish to purify their souls, delve into the Shabad.

The first line affirms the Guru’s order that the inauguration of the Khalsa Panth was a direct result of the Will of Vaaheguru. From the Sarbhloh Granth, that is  attributed to Guru Gobind Singh ji, we hear:

ਖਾਲਸਾ ਅਕਾਲ ਪੁਰਖ ਕੀ ਫੋਜ, ਪ੍ਰਗਟਿਓ ਖਾਲਸਾ ਪ੍ਰਮਾਤਮ ਕੀ ਮੌਜ

khalsa akal purakh kee fauj, pargateeo Khalsa Parmaatam kee moaj

The sovereign community (khalsa) is the army of the Timeless Being, this army has been inaugurated by the will of that Almighty Soul!

The second line reminds all Sikhs to recognize the Guru Granth Sahib as their Guru. It is a solid reminder of Guru Gobind Singh ji’s order in the year 1708 at Nanded in which he bequeathed the reigns of the House of Nanak jointly upon the Guru Granth and the Guru Panth.

The third line, unfortunately, delivers a message that is antithetical to the philosophy of the Gurus.  Rather than the body of all the Guru’s being contained in the Guru Granth Sahib  –  it is the soul or divine light (jotਜੋਤ) of the Gurus that is contained in all its words. This line is easily interpreted to mean that the Guru Granth Sahib is to be considered the body of the Guru and, thus, should be treated as a body. It brings us dangerously closer to becoming idol worshipers rather than keeping us away from it.

Various writings, on the other hand, show us that for a vision of the Guru a Sikh is to seek the presence of the Khalsa. For example, Bhai Prahlad Singh, in his rehatnamey, states: (note the similarity of the couplet with the one we sing  today)

ਗੁਰੂ ਖਾਲਸਾ ਮਾਨੀਅਹਿ ਪਰਗਟ ਗੁਰੂ ਕੀ ਦੇਹ । ਜੋ ਸਿਖ ਮੋ ਮਿਲਬੋ ਚਹਿਹ ਖੋਜ ਇਨਹੁ ਮਹਿ ਲੇਹੁ ।
Recognize the Guru Khalsa as the body of our beloved Gurus  
Those Sikhs that seek the acquaintance of the Guru, search within them.

However, we must understand the context in which Giani Gian Singh wrote the couplet that we sing today in our gurdwaras and homes. The late 1880’s was the beginning of a reawakening within the Sikh community. It was the time in Sikh history when many individuals were claiming themselves to be the Guru of the Sikhs, or at least were demanding special reverence for being direct descendants of the Gurus. In addition, the Hindu Brahmanical practice of idol worship had entered the gurdwaras. In fact, there were idols installed in the Harimander Sahib and the worshipping of idols of Guru Nanak and other Hindu deities was becoming common practice among the masses. Giani Gian Singh, a prolific writer, keertaniya and preacher, thought it necessary to send the message to the Sikh Panth that revelations of the Guru (baani) were to be considered the sole bestower of liberation and the object of reverence and not any individual body (ਦੇਹਧਾਰੀ - dehdhaari) or any idol. It was a short-term solution to a specific contemporary problem, and it worked, to some extent. Today there is no popular worship of idols in our gurdwaras. However, we have lost the focus on the vision of the Tenth Master.  Our focus must once again come back to the holistic Guru – the Granth and the Panth. As per the Tenth Master’s command:

ਆਤਮਾ ਗ੍ਰੰਥ  ਵਿਚ, ਸ਼ਰੀਰ ਪੰਥ ਵਿਚ
The soul resides in the Granth, the body is that of the Panth

The fourth line of Giani Gian Singh’s verse is also misinterpreted and misquoted. In the Panth Parkash – the line reads:

ਜਾ ਕਾ ਹਿਰਦਾ ਸੁੱਧ ਹੇ ਖੋਜ ਸਬਦ ਮਹਿ ਲੇਹ ।
Those that wish to purify their souls, delve into the Shabad.

Whereas we read today in our gurdwaras:ਜੋ ਪ੍ਰਭ ਕੋ ਮਿਲਬੋ ਚਹਿਹ ਖੋਜ  ਸਬਦ ਮਹਿ  ਲੇਹ
Those that seek to meet with Vaaheguru, delve into the Shabad

However, Both these lines have the same message. The goal of every Sikh is to attain a state of oneness with the Almighty Soul.  It is only through the exploration and acceptance of the Shabad that this state of divine union is possible. The key word in these lines is  khoj - ਖੋਜ,  discover, investigate. Today, we see undue stress on recitation and repetition of baani, specific shabads, or even specific words from baani, as a means to solve our spiritual ills.  Although the recitation of Gurbani is necessary, it is the understanding, and further the imbuing of the message of the Shabad into our daily lives that is the goal of all Sikhs.

Now we come to the last couplet that is found in Bhai Nand Lal ji’s work called the Tankhaanamaa – ਤਨਖਾਹਨਾਮਾ. This couplet is attributed to our Tenth Master:

ਰਾਜ ਕਰੇਗਾ ਖਾਲਸਾ ਆਕੀ  ਰਹਿਹ ਨ ਕੋਇ ।

ਖਾਰ ਹੋਇ ਸਭ ਮਿਲੈਂਗੇ ਬਚਹਿ ਸ਼ਰਨ ਜੋ ਹੋਇ ।
The Sikh people shall remain free and sovereign, always, non-challenging this position.  For all shall realize, after bitter frustration, that there is no redemption except in the way of the life that the Khalsa upholds!

According to some historians, the custom of reciting this couplet after ardaas began during the time of Baba Banda Singh Bahadur (1710-16).  As we are all aware, that was a time when not only was there an all-out war with the Mughal armies and the Sikh armies, but there were royal edicts from the emperor(s) of the time asking for the total annihilation of the Sikh community. When they were faced with extreme hardships at the hand of tyrannical rulers and when death and destruction were chasing them in every way, shape and form, then it was this reminder of Bhai Nand Lal ji that gave them sustenance to carry  on and provided them a means to convert their energies into ascending spirits – chardhi kalaa – ਚੜ੍ਹਦੀ ਕਲਾ.

There are no two ways about this. Sovereignty has been bestowed on the Khalsa by Guru Gobind Singh ji. No matter what the contemporary socio-political situation may be, in our hearts and minds we are sovereign.

The power of this couplet has been immense in recent history as well. It was recited frequently during the time of the agitation for the freeing of the gurdwaras from the control

of the mahants and British government appointees and during the Sikh struggle for India’s independence from the British. It was sung by the jailed inmates that  were  on death row to remind them of their sovereignty. Again, during the recent struggle for sovereignty and the fight against the tyranny of the Indian government this couplet has continuously reminded Sikhs of their Guru given claim to sovereignty and justice.

At every step in Sikh history after Guru Gobind Singh ji, this couplet has reminded the Sikhs that tyranny and discrimination is not permanent and that victory of the Khalsa way of life shall prevail. It reminds the Sikh community of their responsibilities, which go hand in hand  with one another, of spiritual upliftment, social activism and political justice.

So, in conclusion there seem to be a few themes that pervade these few lines that we as a community recite today in our congregations.  These lines are a call to arms, yet these lines are also an impetus for a moment of resting and contemplation. These lines are an inspiration to move forward with full force, yet these lines are also a moment to relish our past glory through reflection. Whatever message we may take from these lines, they are a strong reminder of the unique doctrine of the House of Nanak – sevaa simran – miri piri – sant sipahi - granth panth – service reflection – temporality spirituality – saint soldier – scripture panth.

This doctrine, which is not easily described in writing, is not a dichotomy or a duality, it is a fully holistic and unique philosophy that encourages us to be the best humans we possibly can.

ਵਾਹਿਗੁਰੂ ਜੀ ਕਾ ਖਾਲਸਾ
ਵਾਹਿਗੁਰੂ ਜੀ ਕੀ ਫ਼ਤਹ

References

    1. ਅਰਦਾਸ - ਦਰਸ਼ਨ, ਰੂਪ, ਅਭਿਆਸ - Ardaas – Darshan, Roop, Abhiaas - Jaswant Singh Neki, Singh Brothers, Mai Sevaan, Amritsar, Punjab, India
    2. The Sikhs in History, Sangat Singh, Uncommon Books, New Delhi, India
    3. The Encyclopedia of Sikhism, Editor – Harbans Singh, Punjabi University, Patiala, Punjab, India
    4. ਗੁਰੁਮਤ ਮਾਰਤੰਡ – Gurmat Martand – Bhai Kahn Singh Nabha, SGPC, Amritsar, Punjab, India

 

The couplets as recited today in our gurdwaras:

ਆਗਿਆ ਭਈ ਅਕਾਲ ਕੀ ਤਬੈ ਚਲਾਯੋ ਪੰਥ ।

ਸਭ ਸਿਖਨ ਕੋ ਹੁਕਮ ਹੈ ਗੁਰੂ ਮਾਨੀਓ ਗ੍ਰੰਥ ।

As was ordained by the Timeless, thus was established the path (panth)

To all Sikhs, let this be the order, recognize the Granth as your Guru

ਗੁਰੂ ਗ੍ਰੰਥ ਜੀ ਮਾਨੀਓ ਪ੍ਰਗਟ ਗੁਰਾਂ ਕੀ ਦੇਹ ।
ਜੋ ਪ੍ਰਭ ਕੋ ਮਿਲਬੋ ਚਹਿਹ ਖੋਜ ਸਬਦ ਮਹਿ ਲੇਹ ।
The reverend Guru Granth is the visible body of the gurus   Those that seek to meet with Vaaheguru, delve into the Shabad

ਰਾਜ ਕਰੇਗਾ ਖਾਲਸਾ ਆਕੀ  ਰਹਿਹ ਨ ਕੋਇ ।
ਖਾਰ ਹੋਇ ਸਭ ਮਿਲੈਂਗੇ ਬਚਹਿ ਸ਼ਰਨ ਜੋ ਹੋਇ ।
The Sikh people shall remain free and sovereign, always, non-challenging this position. 

For, all shall realize, after bitter frustration, that there is no redemption except in the way of the life that the Khalsa upholds!

Let us focus on the vision of the Tenth Master – Guru is Granth and Panth:

ਆਗਿਆ ਭਈ ਅਕਾਲ ਕੀ ਤਬੈ ਚਲਾਯੋ ਪੰਥ ।
ਸਭ ਸਿਖਨ ਕੋ ਹੁਕਮ ਹੈ ਗੁਰੁ ਮਾਨੀਓ ਗ੍ਰੰਥ ।
As was ordained by the Timeless, thus was established the path (panth) To all Sikhs, let this be the order, recognize the Granth as your Guru

ਗਿਆਨੀ ਗਿਆਨ ਸਿੰਘ : ਪੰਥ ਪ੍ਰਕਾਸ਼, 40, 11

ਗੁਰੂ ਖਾਲਸਾ ਮਾਨੀਅਹਿ ਪਰਗਟ ਗੁਰੂ ਕੀ ਦੇਹ ।
ਜੋ ਸਿਖ ਮੋ ਮਿਲਬੋ ਚਹਿਹ ਖੋਜ ਇਨਹੁ ਮਹਿ ਲੇਹੁ ।
Recognize the Guru Khalsa as the body of our beloved Gurus. Those Sikhs that seek the acquaintance of the Guru, search within them.

ਭਾਈ ਪ੍ਰਹਿਲਾਦ ਸਿੰਘ : ਰਹਿਤਨਾਮੇ, 24

 

ਰਾਜ ਕਰੇਗਾ ਖਾਲਸਾ ਆਕੀ  ਰਹਿਹ ਨ ਕੋਇ  ।

ਖਾਰ ਹੋਇ ਸਭ ਮਿਲੈਂਗੇ ਬਚਹਿ ਸ਼ਰਨ ਜੋ ਹੋਇ ।
The Sikh people shall remain free and sovereign, always, non-challenging this position.  For, all shall realize, after bitter frustration, that there is no redemption except in the way of the life that the Khalsa upholds!

ਭਾਈ ਨੰਦ ਲਾਲ : ਤਨਖਾਹਨਾਮਾ, 36

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