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Humility on the Sikh Path | Sunday Discourses

Waheguru Ji ka Khalsa! Waheguru Ji ki Fateh!

It is always a blessing to be able to share about the Sikh Gurus, their stories and their teachings!

The life of a Sikh, and of any person who is attuned to their divine connection with the Cosmic Creation and its essence, wisdom, and energy, is either a humble person or will learn how to become a humble person. A sovereign person will have a strong commitment to working on the self and letting go of what doesn’t serve them in their life, so that they get attune themselves more easily to the Infinite, and to their divine inner spark.

A humble person is one who knows that he or she doesn’t know everything and continues to be a student of life; one who takes time to investigate and research the abundant wisdom that is found in this world. 

We receive that abundance of knowledge through the blessing of many teachers and prophets that have graced our planet earth. And we continue to receive wisdom and knowledge from amazing human beings who are living today. All of us are in many ways teachers as we share what we have learned. So many teachers are present around us. We even learn from the negative aspects of people who show us what we do not wish to become.

Guru Nanak was one of those truly inspired human beings from the moment he was born. He became a very unique teacher, a Guru, one who received the Wisdom that emanates from Ik Ongkaar, so that he could share that Wisdom with others; and so that we, as students, could become like Guru Nanak; so that we could also receive and vibrate the Divine Wisdom and Knowledge from Ik Ongkaar.

Guru Nanak was a most humble person, who came to earth to enlighten people, to enlighten his students who wished to receive divine guidance. All who are inspired by his teachings do become a student of the Guru and learn how to receive the Divine Amrit that opens the door to connecting with All this Is, Was, and shall ever Be.

Bhai Gurdas Ji, the first interpreter of Gurbani and whose writings are considered key to understanding the essence of the Siri Guru Granth Sahib, wrote the following about Guru Nanak:

ਮਾਰਿਆ ਸਿਕਾ ਜਗਤਿ ਵਿਚਿ ਨਾਨਕ ਨਿਰਮਲ ਪੰਥੁ ਚਲਾਇਆ

“Guru Nanak established the authority (of his doctrines) and started a path of humility and purity.”

As we become Guru Nanak’s student, we are guided to live that path of humility and purity.

Bhai Gurdas Ji wrote the following about the one who may be called a humble person. He said: (Full Shabad)

ਉਤਮ ਮਧਮ ਨੀਚ ਲਖ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਨੀਚਹੁ ਨੀਚ ਸਦਾਏ।

ਪੈਰੀ ਪੈ ਪਾਖਾਕ ਹੋਇ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਗੁਰਸਿਖੁ ਆਪੁ ਗਵਾਏ।

ਸਾਧਸੰਗਤਿ ਭਉ ਭਾਉ ਕਰਿ ਸੇਵਕ ਸੇਵਾ ਕਾਰ ਕਮਾਏ।

ਮਿਠਾ ਬੋਲਣ ਨਿਵ ਚਲਣੁ ਹਥਹੁ ਦੇ ਕੈ ਭਲਾ ਮਨਾਏ।

ਸਬਦਿ ਸੁਰਤਿ ਲਿਵਲੀਣੁ ਹੋਇ ਦਰਗਹ ਮਾਣ ਨਿਮਾਣਾ ਪਾਏ

Millions are low, medium and high but Gurmukh calls himself low of the lowly.

He, becoming dust of the feet and Guru’s disciple erases his ego.

Going with love and respect to the holy congregation, he serves there.

He speaks mildly, behaves humbly and even by giving something to somebody wishes good of others.

Absorbing consciousness into the Word that humble person receives honor in the court of the Lord.

In one of my previous talks, I spoke more in depth about the focus of a Gurmukh.

As Sikhs we are inspired by the Guru’s Teachings and the lives of our Gurus who teach us how to live and become the best human beings we possibly can be; and to be the Lord’s humble servants.

In the Siri Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh’s Sacred Texts, we are offered words by the bard Kal Sahar, also known as Kal the bard who wrote about some of the Gurus. 

Kal the bard, speaking about Guru Angad, the second Guru says: p. 1391:

Your Vision is like that of the Lord, Your soul is a fount of spiritual wisdom; You know the unfathomable state of the certified Guru. Wearing the armor of humility, you have overcome Maya.

As we see here, Maya is a topic often mentioned in the Siri Guru Granth Sahib. And here it shares one clue about how to transcend the pitfalls of Maya.

The Guru constantly reminds us to vibrate to the divine frequency, to the Naam; to not let Maya take over our life so that we can live a life without ego, pride, anger, attachment, or lust. When we understand how to live a life without falling into the trap of the five thieves, we live a life of humility, compassion, love, truth, and contentment.

When we allow our ego to come from a divine guidance, rather than our lower ego-self that may tend to aggrandize itself, as a humble person we do not need to be flattered, honored, or revered.

Guru Nanak was a guru, a unique teacher who, since birth, was able to connect to Divine Source, and received Cosmic Wisdom from Divine Source. He was a most humble teacher, who saw himself not only as a teacher but also as a humble student who was asking for guidance from Source. Many Shabads end with Guru Nanak humbly asking to receive the understanding and wisdom that is shared in the Shabad.

Guru Arjun says the following, p. 827:

ਜਨ ਨਾਨਕ ਦਾਸਨਿ ਦਾਸੁ ਕਹੀਅਤ ਹੈ ਮੋਹਿ ਕਰਹੁ ਕ੍ਰਿਪਾ ਠਾਕੁਰ ਅਪੁਨੀ ੨੮੧੧੪ 

jan naanak daasan daas kahee-at hai, mohi karahu kirpaa thaakur apunee. ||4||28||114|| 

Servant Nanak is said to be the slave of His slaves; O my Lord and Master, please bless me with Your Mercy. ||4||28||114||

Further in this talk, I will share more about the concept of being the slave of the Lord’s slaves.

Coming back to Kal the bard, he writes the following about Guru Amar Das, the third Guru, p. 1393:

He is the Warrior Hero of Truth; humility is His Power. His Loving Nature inspires the Congregation with deep and profound understanding; He is absorbed in the Lord, free of hate and vengeance. 

Speaking about Guru Ram Das, the fourth Guru, Kal the Barb says p. 1397:

You abide in the pool of contentment; Your tongue reveals the Ambrosial Essence. Meeting with You, a tranquil peace wells up, and sins run far away. You have attained the Ocean of peace, and You never grow tired on the Lord’s path. The armor of self-restraint, truth, contentment and humility can never be pierced. 

I love this idea of an armor of humility that protects us and prevents maya from piercing that armor.

When we come into the presence of great teachers, we are blessed by an invisible energy that surrounds us and elevates us. And Guru Ram Das was one such person as Kal the bard mentions.

Guru Ram Das was the embodiment of compassion, humility, integrity, and service.

Guru Ram Das used to walk at night in disguise through the streets of Amritsar and wash the feet of poor weary travelers. The travelers coming to have an audience with the Guru during the day were surprised to find the Guru to be the same quiet, humble man who had washed their feet the night before.

Before Guru Ram Das became the fourth Guru, the fourth embodiment of Light, he was tested by Guru Amar Das, the third Guru.

Guru Amar Das asked both his sons-in-laws to each construct a platform for him to sit on. So, Bhai Rama and Bhai Jetha, Guru Ram Das’ original name before becoming the fourth Guru, accepted the task. Both Rama and Jetha had their platform built by the end of the day.

Guru Amar Das then came to inspect the platforms and deemed them to be of poor construction. He asked them to rebuild a new one, and so they proceeded to build another one.

Again, Guru Amar Das came to inspect the newly built platforms and then proceeded to tell them to rebuild another one as they were still of poor quality and design. This went on for seven days; each day having to rebuild a new platform.

On the eighth day, Guru Amar Das was still displeased with Rama’s platform and told him to build a new one. Rama replied, I have prepared this platform according to your instructions. You forget due to your old age. I shall not dismantle and remake this platform.

When Guru Amar Das pointed out Jetha’s platform defects, Jetha replied: Respected Guru, be kind to me. Bestow upon me intelligence and power so that I may construct the platform according to your wishes.

Guru Amar Das’ devotees, who were concerned that the rightful heir to the next Guruship would not be given fairly, were witness to Jetha’s humble request to the Guru and his devotion to the Guru. The devotees then had no doubt that Jetha was fit to be installed as the fourth Guru. He had followed Guru Amar Das’ Hukam, and thus, he became the fourth Guru and was called Ram Das, Guru Ram Das.

A Gursikh, one who turns his face towards the Guru and one who is a humble person, accepts the Guru’s Hukam, accepts God’s decision or guidance in their life.

Let me tell you a story of a very humble Gursikh; one who knew to accept God’s Hukam and wished to humbly serve.

Guru Nanak Dev Ji and Bhai Mardana who often stayed at his side during their travels, came across a humble servant of the lord who had nothing but a little mud hut to live in. 

Guru Nanak and Bhai Mardana Ji decided to grace the humble Gursikh with their presence, agreeing to reside at the mud hut for the night. This humble Gursikh was most pleased. He had little to eat in the house but prepared what little he had for them.

Bhai Mardana Ji felt a little sad, knowing that this humble servant had very little, and yet shared what little he had. Guru Nanak was aware of this and told Bhai Mardana not to worry as we must live in the will of Waheguru. And the Gursikh’s humbleness and love was his everything.

Once they had finished their langar, Guru Nanak was deep in thought. He then asked Bhai Mardana to break the little mud plates they had been eating on. Bhai Mardana looked confused, but agreed to what Guruji was asking. And the humble Gursikh also agreed, saying "I'm your humble slave, whatever you wish, you should do". So, Bhai Mardana proceeded to break the few belongings the Gursikh had.

The following day, Guru Nanak arose and advised the Gursikh that they would need to continue with their travels. The Gursikh could not bear the thought of his Guru leaving his home and asked Guru Nanak if he could walk some distance with them, and at least spend a little more time in their presence. Guru Nanak agreed, and the humble Gursikh followed them on their journey for a very short while.

However, before they left the Gursikh’s home, Guru Nanak, again after some deep thought, asked Bhai Mardana to destroy the little mud hut of the Gursikh. At this point, Bhai Mardana was puzzled and asked the Guru why he should destroy what little this humble slave had?

The Gursikh turned to Bhai Mardana with pleading eyes and said Please, do as my Guru says - whatever Hukam is given to you, just abide by it. Nothing here is mine, it is all Guruji's. His pleading gave permission to Bhai Mardana to grudgingly proceed to destroy the mud hut.

So, after destroying the mud hut, Guru Nanak, Bhai Mardana and the Gursikh started on their journey. As night began to fall Guru Nanak advised the Gursikh that he should now be getting back to what little was left of his hut. The Guru gave him the Hukam to do so and blessed the Gursikh for his seva and hospitality.

As the Gursikh returned to the place where his home used to be, he saw what he considered the blessing of Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji. As he circled what used to be his home, he noticed that a little two-feet tall wall still remained. Thinking that Bhai Mardana did not complete the task thoroughly he began breaking down the last of the wall.

As he broke down the remaining wall bit after bit, he noticed the ground beneath becoming weaker and separating. Beneath the two-foot wall, to the Gursikh’s astonishment, lay a goldmine. This humble servant, amazing humble Gursikh had been living on a goldmine without knowing about it.

Guru Nanak’s blessings came in such a disguise, that far from destroying everything this humble Gursikh had, they in fact gave him more than he ever imagined having in his life.

This is the beauty of our Guru’s blessings - we are all living on goldmines without actually knowing it. If we obey and stand by every one of our Guru’s Hukams, then we too would be rewarded with a goldmine.

Guru Nanak says, p. 437:

ਅਣਮੰਗਿਆ ਦਾਨੁ ਦੀਜੈ ਦਾਤੇ ਤੇਰੀ ਭਗਤਿ ਭਰੇ ਭੰਡਾਰਾ

anmangiaa daan deejai daatay, tayree bhagat bharay bhandaaraa.
ਰਾਮ ਨਾਮ ਬਿਨੁ ਮੁਕਤਿ ਹੋਈ ਨਾਨਕੁ ਕਹੈ ਵੀਚਾਰਾ

raam naam bin mukat na ho-ee, naanak kahai veechaaraa. ||4||2||

You bestow Your gifts, even when we do not ask for them, O Great Giver; devotion to You is a treasure over-flowing.

Without the Lord's Name, there is no liberation; so says Nanak, the meek. ||4||2||

Guru Arjun says, p. 201:

ਥਿਰੁ ਘਰਿ ਬੈਸਹੁ ਹਰਿ ਜਨ ਪਿਆਰੇ

Thir ghar baishu, har jan pi-aaray.
ਸਤਿਗੁਰਿ ਤੁਮਰੇ ਕਾਜ ਸਵਾਰੇ ਰਹਾਉ

Satgur tumray kaaj savaaray. ||1|| rahaa-o.

Remain steady in the home of your own self, O beloved servant of the Lord. The True Guru shall resolve all your affairs.

Humbleness, Seva, and love for God and Guru can lead us to the most amazing riches in the world.

As a humble person or a Gursikh, we humbly receive what life offers. Often times we may be surprised as to what hidden gifts we may receive. At times we may complain about our life and what may happen to us that seems unfair, painful, or unjust. And then much later, we realize what we actually received in exchange of the hardship that we went through.

Being in the company of the holy, sitting within the Divine Frequency, can offer amazing gifts. As we sit in the Gurdwara, meditating, chanting, and vibrating to the Guru’s words, we are transformed and awakened to our Divine Spark.

Guru Ram Das said, p. 10:

Those humble servants of the Lord who have attained the Company of the True Guru, have such pre-ordained destiny inscribed on their foreheads. Blessed, blessed is the Sat Sangat, the True Congregation, where the Lord’s Essence is obtained. Meeting with His humble servant, O Nanak, the Light of the Naam shines forth. || 4 || 4 ||

Although Guru Nanak was wise among the wise, he also humbly asked for guidance. He was a great teacher who through Ik Ongkaar’s Wisdom received and shared Divine Knowledge with others.

Guru Nanak teaches us to be humble servants of God so that we can transcend our limited self’s abilities.

We humbly share what we have learned and have come to understand in life, yet we do so with an awareness that we will receive more information about what we perceive to be true. We can do this as we let go of any arrogant pride. We recognize our imperfections; we recognize that we do not know everything. We do not need to prove anything.

As Sikhs we hope to become God-conscious beings, who are steeped in humility, so that our actions are for the common good.

Guru Arjun says, p. 399:

Take wisdom and humility as your supplies and burn away the poison of pride. True is that shop, and perfect the transaction; deal only in the merchandise of the Naam, the Name of the Lord. || 2 ||

As Sikhs we ask the Lord to bless us with the gift of humility. We ask the Lord to help us renounce our ego, and implant humility within our being. When our mind has become the dust of all men’s feet, and we become the slave of God’s slaves, our self-conceit can be dispelled.

The Guru asks that we act as it pleases God; and asks us to become the lowest of the low, the very least of the tiny, and to speak in utmost humility.

Guru Arjun says, p. 191:

Blessed is that forehead, which bows in humility to the Saints. Sacred are those feet, which walk on the Lord’s Path. || 3 || Says Nanak, auspicious is my karma, which has led me to touch the Feet of the Holy. || 4 || 60 || 129 ||

We are reminded to become the slave of the slaves and to become the dust of the feet of the Lord’s slaves. It is a state of mind, a state of being, a way of living. When we come from that humble stance, there is no need to even state that we humbly do this or that or humbly say this or that. Just be. Be in a state of humbleness. Remember to wear the armor of humility.

A way to achieve humility is to renounce the intellectual cleverness of our lower mind, to let go of our ego, and follow God’s Command, what Sikhs call God’s Hukam, or Guru’s Hukam.

Guru Arjun says, p. 235:

When this mind is filled with pride, then it wanders around like a madman and a lunatic. But when it becomes the dust of all, then it recognizes the Lord in each and every heart. || 1 || The fruit of humility is intuitive peace and pleasure. My True Guru has given me this gift. || 1 || Pause ||

Sikhs are often known as the “Warrior Saints.” As Warrior Saints we are here to wear that armor of humility and conquer our vicious ego. This means that we are strong enough to be centered in our humbleness, even in the most tough and challenging situations. 

A warrior in the Sikh Teachings is described as follows:

Guru Arjun says, p. 1356

The Holy people are an invincible army of spiritual warriors; their bodies are protected by the armor of humility. Their weapons are the Glorious Praises of the Lord which they chant; their Shelter and Shield is the Word of the Guru's Shabad.

The spiritual weapons that we use are: 

being humble, serving God, being attuned to God, being God-conscious, remembering God with every breath, serving others with humility and realizing that God is the doer.

Guru Arjun says, p. 827:

ਮੈ ਨਾਹੀ ਪ੍ਰਭ ਸਭੁ ਕਿਛੁ ਤੇਰਾ  

mai naahee, parabh sabh kichh tayraa. 

I am nothing, God; everything is Yours.

As you may already know, many Hindu and Muslim writers are included in the Sikh Sacred Texts.

Here’s a passage by Shaykh Fareed Jee who says, p. 1384:

What is that word, what is that virtue, and what is that magic mantra? What are those clothes, which I can wear to captivate my Husband Lord? || 126 || 

Humility is the word, forgiveness is the virtue, and sweet speech is the magic mantra. Wear these three robes, O sister, and you will captivate your Husband Lord. || 127 ||

Let us remind ourselves that when we go to the Gurdwara, the Sikh Temple, and come into the presence of the Guru, the Siri Guru Granth Sahib, we bow and bring our forehead to the ground. When we do this our heart is higher than the head, allowing us to come from the heart.

We first humble ourselves when we first come in the presence of the Guru. 

In the Gurdwara, we sing the Guru’s texts, the Guru’s Shabads that are written in musical form. And those who are blessed to chant the words of the Guru will often start with the following phrase that Guru Arjun offers, p. 256:

ਡੰਡਉਤਿ ਬੰਦਨ ਅਨਿਕ ਬਾਰ ਸਰਬ ਕਲਾ ਸਮਰਥ

ਡੋਲਨ ਤੇ ਰਾਖਹੁ ਪ੍ਰਭੂ ਨਾਨਕ ਦੇ ਕਰਿ ਹਥ

Dand▫uṯ banḏan anik bār sarab kalā samrath.

Dolan ṯe rākẖo parabẖū Nānak ḏe kar hath. ||1||

In these few words we say that we bow down, and fall to the ground in humble adoration, countless times, to the All-powerful Lord, who possesses all powers. After speaking these words, we can then humbly offer the Guru’s words with devotion.

Although as Sikhs we follow the specific teachings of our Guru, we deeply respect other faiths and believe that a person has a right to follow their own faith. We acknowledge that the Divine Spark is found in all and thus recognize the Divine in all.

Guru Arjun says, p. 107:

True is that temple, within which one meditates on the True Lord. Blessed is that heart, within which the Lord’s Glorious Praises are sung. Beautiful is that land, where the Lord’s humble servants dwell. I am a sacrifice to the True Name. || 1 || 

We may all have different ways of calling on Source, yet there is only One Source, One Creator, One Divine Essence that flows in our Universe and Galaxy, and Guru Nanak starts by recognizing that One Creative Energy by starting his Japji Sahib with the words “Ik Ongkaar”, One Creator, One Creation.

May we always be guided by that Divine Creative Source that flows through us, so that we can live a life of humility and be the dust of the dust of the Saints – to be that humble devoted servant.

May we be inspired to serve God, to realize God’s Command, to follow God’s Command, and to vibrate to Divine Source in our lives.

May we become God’s soul-bride and dwell in the Lord’s Merciful Divine Heart and Frequency.

May the wonderful stories of our Gurus and the Shabad Guru inspire us to be sourced and nurtured by the Divine Cosmic Frequency that is found in this Universe and Galaxy. And may we always humbly serve humanity!

The pure ones belong to God! Victory belongs to God! Waheguru Ji ka Khalsa! Waheguru Ji ki Fateh!

Please enjoy this added commentary on the subject of humility by Bhai Sahib Bahadur Singh ji:

Humility - Divine Reflections

Here are just a few other passages from the Siri Guru Granth Sahib that talk about humility, that I just could not add in my talk.

Guru Ram Das, p. 41In deep humility, I fall at the Feet of the Perfect True Guru. The Guru is the Honor of the dishonored. The Guru, the True Guru, brings approval and applause. I am never tired of praising the Guru, who unites me with the Lord God. || 2 ||

Guru Ram Das, p. 95 - 96: Blessed, blessed are the humble servants of the Lord, who know the Lord God. I go and ask those humble servants about the Mysteries of the Lord. I wash and massage their feet; joining with the humble servants of the Lord, I drink in the Sublime Essence of the Lord. || 2 || 

Guru Ram Das, p. 731You are the All-powerful, Great, Primal God, my Lord and Master. O Lord, please bless me with the gift of humility. Servant Nanak has found the Naam, the Name of the Lord, and is at peace; I am forever a sacrifice to the Naam. || 4 || 2 ||

Guru Nanak, p. 810: BILAAVAL, FIFTH MEHL: That life, which has no contact with the Holy, is useless. Joining their congregation, all doubts are dispelled, and I am emancipated. || 1 || That day, when I meet with the Holy — I am a sacrifice to that day. Again and again, I sacrifice my body, mind and soul to them. || 1 || Pause || They have helped me renounce this ego and implant this humility within myself. This mind has become the dust of all men’s feet, and my self-conceit has been dispelled. || 2 || In an instant, I burnt away the ideas of slander and ill-will towards others. I see close at hand, the Lord of mercy and compassion; He is not far away at all. || 3 || My body and mind are cooled and soothed, and now, I am liberated from the world. Love, consciousness, the breath of life, wealth and everything, O Nanak, are in the Blessed Vision of the Lord’s Darshan. || 4 || 10 || 40 ||

Guru Arjun, p. 820BILAAVAL, FIFTH MEHL: O Dear God, you are the Support of my breath of life. I bow in humility and reverence to You; so many times, I am a sacrifice. || 1 || Pause || Sitting down, standing up, sleeping and waking, this mind thinks of You. I describe to You my pleasure and pain, and the state of this mind. || 1 || You are my shelter and support, power, intellect and wealth; You are my family. Whatever You do, I know that is good. Gazing upon Your Lotus Feet, Nanak is at peace. || 2 || 2 || 82 ||

Guru Arjun, p. 929: CHHANT: His feet are exalted above all. They eradicate all suffering. They destroy the pains of coming and going. They bring loving devotion to the Lord. Imbued with the Lord’s Love, one is intoxicated with intuitive peace and poise, and does not forget the Lord from his mind, even for an instant. Shedding my self-conceit, I have entered the Sanctuary of His Feet, all virtues rest in the Lord of the Universe. I bow in humility to the Lord of the Universe, the treasure of virtue, the Lord of excellence, our Primal Lord and Master. Prays Nanak, shower me with Your Mercy, Lord; throughout the ages, you take the same form. || 8 || 1 || 6 || 8 ||

Simran Kaur

Simran Kaur

"SimranKaur is a Sikh Dharma minister, yoga teacher, and spiritual counselor. Her love for the Guru’s Teachings has inspired her to expand her knowledge of the Sikh writings and she enjoys all the research she does. When living in California she represented the Sikh community by interacting with many other faith leaders through interfaith work." Website: www.simrankaurkhalsa.com

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