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Recognizing the 12 Forms of our Guru

The real revelation was this was written directly by Guru Gobind Singh.

I love Sikh history. I think I’ve always somehow believed that it’s not just history, the stories that keep us inspired and connected with our Gurus are alive. One of the great beautiful things I find about Sikhi is that I keep finding out how little I know so there is always room to learn. 

This year I had the seva to create an audio story for GurGaddi day. As I started writing the script I thought it wouldn’t take too much time, we all know the basic story: Guru Gobind Singh deems the Granth Sahib to be the next, and eternal Guru. Dasam Pita transcended the idea of what a Guru is and from then on the only Guru of the Sikhs would be the Granth. It turns out this is not, whatsoever, the full picture...

pothia.jpg

I am very blessed to be able to connect with scholars on Sikh history. And of course I wanted to double to check to see if I was being accurate with history as best we know it. So I consulted with Nihang Gurbaaj Singh who initially shared a revelation about this subject and inspired the story in several ways. He is a living encyclopedia of Sikhi knowledge and his contribution is invaluable. Speaking of which I also had the honor to work with Bhai Sukha Singh from the UK on this. He has a depth of knowledge that he takes with him. Literally. At a Sikhi camp I attended he took it upon himself to transport a small library of valuable shteeks and pothis to Canada for a week long camp. He explained that this is his profession and just as anyone who holds a day job will work for 8 hours, he spends that time in researching and reading as well. I got some additional insight from Shanti Kaur Khalsa and a dear friend Yogi Amandeep Singh. 

From consulting with them I came to realize that the story of GurGaddi is much more than I first thought. For this reason it took a lot longer than scheduled so I would like to apologize that the GurGaddi animation was not released this Monday, the day GurGaddi was celebrated. It will be released any day now [side note: animations are costly and SikhNet is in the middle of our yearly fund raiser :) ] Anyways, the first thing that really widened my eyes was reading a text from Guru Gobind Singh that states,

“I have 12 forms” [Ref. 1]

Wait! 

I know of one Sikh leader who stated there are 13 Gurus (including Shabd Guru and Guru Gobind Rai)... but 12 Gurus was news to me. The real revelation wasn't so much the number of Gurus, but the source: This was written directly by Guru Gobind Singh. How have I not heard of this before!? I knew I had to dive deeper! I can’t be going out there saying things like there being 12 Gurus (the ‘Guru Khalsa’ being the 11th) without verifying this solidly. Also I had to confirm whether or not there was more than one GurGaddi ceremony that Guru Gobind Singh performed. Because if there was it HAS TO BE INCLUDED in the GurGaddi story! 

So what follows is my discovery with the great help of scholarly GurSikhs.

dasam writing.jpg

Firstly the teaching about there being 12 forms of the Guru is from the Sarb Loh Granth so let’s address that Granth. Much like many other things in Sikh history there is a variety of views. Some say the Sarab Loh is not authentic at all. Some say it is a valid Granth but is to be held secondary to the Aad Granth and placed on a lower manji. Some say that it's teachings are too advanced for the general public so it is good most don't recognize it. Some say all 3 Granths, Aad Granth, Dasam Granth and Sarb Loh Granth are exactly equal and only when all of them are together can they called the ‘Siri’ Guru Granth. You probably know that there has been a debate about the Dasam Granth that has stirred up by modern thinkers as well. However I’m not sure why. As I found out there is a very well respected historian named Giani Gian Singh who penned the ‘Navin Panth Prakash’. It is a very authoritative text and Giani Gian Singh's writing are not debated for their authenticity. He writes,

“aad guru tai dasam loh granth, panth ki tek”
“The Aad, Dasam and Sarab Loh Granths are the cornerstones for the [Khalsa] Panth”

ad guru tai dasam loh.jpg

Giani Gian Singh cites the 3 Granths many times, it is something of a signature of his. This means that historic and trusted scholars pre-settled a debate which would appear decades later... just someone forgot to let the rest of us know this! So you have it right there. A very authoritative source which states that the 3 Granths are all valid, they are Gurbani, and history doesn't distinguish between them.

Before going deeper into the Sarb Loh Granth I would like to briefly mention that I am sure we can look forward to more verification of the authenticity of the Dasam Granth on top of the great work that has already been done on the subject, like apparently the Bansawali Nama gives an actual date for the composition of the Dasam Granth being 1698, this defies the narrative that the Granth was originally compiled by Bhai Mani Singh after Guru Sahib's Jyoti Jot [Ref. 2]. 

Now back to this revelation of a shabd from Sarb Loh Granth that states the Guru has 12 forms. The shabd, which is very well known among the nihangs, some of whom recite it daily, starts with this:

ਆਪਨਪੌ ਸ਼੍ਰੀ ਖਾਲਸਹਿ ਸੌਪਾਂ, ਦ੍ਵਤਯਿ ਰੂਪ ਸਤਿਗੁਰੂ ਗ੍ਰੰਥਾ ॥

apanpou shree khalseh soumpa, duadas roop satiguru grantha 

“I have merged my form into the Great Khalsa [my first form]. My second form is the Granth”  

11th guru gobind singh khalsa.jpg

Then Guru Gobind Singh's shabd goes on to illustrate that having the darshan of the Khalsa, his first form, is the same as having his own darshan. Reciting Gurbani from the granth, his second form, is the same as speaking with him directly. There always seems to be an equal juxtaposition of the Panth and the Granth, one not weighing heavier than the other. Guru ji ends this shabd with a confirmation about the granth and the panth both being the succeeding Gurus to himself. Amazingly Guru also says, “Just as there are 12 phases of the sun so do I have 12 forms”. [Read the entire shabd in the reference at the end] So it couldn’t be more clear: There were 9 prior Nanaks, Guru Gobind Singh being the 10th. The Guru Khalsa, the Panth, is the 11th Guru. The Guru Granth is the 12th. The 11th and 12th Gurus exist in perpetuity.

Needless to say this is a shock to the system of modern day Sikhi! We often hear that the time of the human Gurus ended with the 10th Guru. Nearly every book, pamphlet or description of Sikhism states that there were 10 Gurus and the Guru Granth Sahib is the one and only presiding Guru in our time. It's not true! We still have a human Guru! For those who are thinking "But I've heard of the 'Guru Granth and Guru Panth' before" just think about how it is really practiced. We don’t normally look to our panj as the leader. In nagar kirtans the panj is reduced to a ceremonial token, a far cry from being the living True Guru. There has been a de-emphasis of the Guru Khalsa.

I was amazed that I hadn’t heard about this particular teaching from Guru Gobind Singh earlier. Also this isn’t very indirect or mysterious. It’s so explicit and overt, there’s nothing left for the imagination to debate. We have 12 Gurus.

I know there are different takes on various subjects from one Sikh group to another, like what color of bana did the panj piare wear or what is the proper method of executing the Amrit ceremony. But this is something much bigger! This is about how many Gurus we have! This is about us actually having a human form of the Guru here today! This is a really, really big deal!

Now let's talk about a shabd that we all know that is recited after a hukamnama: 'aagia bhaee akal ki tabi chalayo panth, sab sikh ko hukam hai guru maniyo granth'. It instructs us to respect the Granth as the Guru. It comes from the Panth Prakash [Ref. 3] which is the earliest source for Sikh history of all the Gurus. However we only recite a section of the shabd. It goes on to mention the Panth as well. Just most of us didn't know that. Moreover I came across a teaching that pre-dates this in the rehitnama written by none other than Bhai Dya Singh himself! I see this as a precursor to the above shabd that we have come to commonly recite.

bhai dya shree akal purkh.jpg

Shree akal purkh ke bachan sio pragatio panth mahaan. Granth panth guru maneai taare sakal kulaan

“By the will of the Deathless One the great Panth was created

Whoever accepts the Granth and the Panth as the Guru, all of their generations are saved”

You will notice the similarity to the 'agaia bhaee akal ki' dohra that we commonly recite. Only Bhai Dya Singh is very clear that the Panth and the Granth are equal Gurus whom we are to accept. 

I asked Bhai Sukha Singh the question, “Guru Gobind Singh tells us there are 12 Gurus… why isn’t this the universal sentiment among us Sikhs?” He said, “We should. We should say there are 12 Gurus. This is the bachan of Guru Gobind Singh.”

piare.jpg

I was awestruck. There was a lot more history to verify this whole subject. There are some that say that though the Khalsa is given a high respect they are not at the level of Guruship as the Siri Guru Granth Sahib because they did not receive the same kind of GurGaddi ceremony. So I checked it out. 

The Suraj Prakash Granth, you may have heard of. It’s one of the first sources to contain the history of all 10 Gurus in one granth. It’s a go-to for scholars, parchariks and storytellers. I went to the Suraj Prakash for two specific incidents: One is Vaisakhi where Guru Sahib officially created the Khalsa, the other is at Chamkour Sahib where the Panj Piare first flexed their muscle as more than just obedient servants. These were the points in history that we can look to verify if an actual GurGaddi ceremony occurred making the Panth an irrefutable Guru.

As it turns out Suraj Prakash does have a GurGaddi ceremony during Vaisakhi [Ref. 4]. In other places the word 'Gurta' is used. But here is more familiar wording for us where the Suraj Prakash directly states that the GurGaddi was given the the Panj. The same as previous Guru made the sangat to bow to the next Guru, so does Guru Gobind Sigh have everyone bow to the 5: 

ref 3 gur gaadi to my sons short.jpg

"[Guru ji] bestowed the GurGaadi to his sons [the Panj] and instructed the sangat to worship them as [the next Guru]." 

Guru Gobind Singh goes to further clarify how this is the same as previous Gurus giving the Guruship to the next in line: 

Ref 3 panj is like guru angad same as me short.jpg

“Just as Guru Angad preserved the seed of Sikhi, The Five has done the same. They are capable of offering salvation to the sangat. Understand them to be Me. There is no difference between Them and Me." 

The Khalsa is the 11th Guru. It’s all there! How did this remain like some kind of fringe theory that a lot of people haven’t heard of and most hadn’t accepted!? History verifies the scripture. Both history and scripture verify that Guru Gobind Singh passed on the GurGaddi to the Panth BEFORE he passed it to the Granth.

panj chamkour.jpg

The next episode in history, Chamkour Sahib, further expands on this truth. After the elder Sahibzade were martyred there were only 5 warriors left. Among them are 2 of the original Panj Piare, Bhai Dya Singh and Bhai Dharam Singh. When they realize that if they, including the Guru, all leave the world at this moment, there won’t be anyone left to spread the Panth. So they petition Guru ji to go against his instinct of fighting to the end. Guru ji must escape now for the sake of the future.

It is very worth noting that this section of history is titled 'panth nu gurta, chamkour vicho nikalna' "The giving of Gurta (GurGaddi) to the Panth, and the escape from Chamkour"

panth nu gurta, 3 parkarma, kalgi short.jpg

“Gurta was given to the 5 Khalsa Singhs. Guru said, ‘In the five I will always be present, when the five meet they are the master of masters’... After offering praise to the Panj Guru  ji did 3 parkarmas around them. Then then dressed them and gave them his personal weapons. He placed his Kalgi on one of them and called out 'Wahiguru ji ka Khalsa, Wahiguru ji ki Fateh'.”

Therefor it has been explicitly written both at Vaisakhi and at Chamkour that the GurGaddi had been given to the next human Guru, the Panth. The giving of the GurGaddi to the Panth was so important Guru Gobind Singh did it twice!

This is why I had to include the Khalsa in the GurGaddi story. To only speak about the Granth would be only half the story! 

guru arjun sheet.jpg

Some of this may not be easy to convey to children. For this I offer an analogy. When Guru Arjun Dev compiled the Aad Granth, the essence of the Shabd Guru, he opted to sleep on the floor while the Guru Granth would take his bed. So the question arises: Who was the Guru; The Granth or Guru Arjun Dev?

Both are the Guru! One is the human form of the Guru. The other is the written form of the Guru. Just as these two forms existed back then, so they exist now. The only difference is instead of the human form being Guru Arjun, it is now in the collective Khalsa.

As I went though the history what really struck me is how many times Guru Gobind Singh re-states that the Khalsa is the exact same as himself. Let us not muffle his emphasis. It is one of the most important teachings he gave us. 

Ref 3 my roop your roop short.jpg

Guru ji says to the Panj,"You have now come into my form, and I have come into your form. You have obtained God consciousness and have reached to the 5th state."

colorful sikhs.jpg

The story will be published as an animation in the next days so stay tuned for that. In the mean time I will leave a final thought from myself:

The current Ardas recited by Sikhs throughout the world was codified by respected Sikh scholars of the 20th century. It features there being 11 Gurus. The scholars started with the writing of Guru Gobind Singh, in Durga Ki Vaar from the Dasam Granth, which lists the preceding 9 Guru by first invoking Bhagouti (pritham bhagout simar kai, guru nanak lae dhiai...). After that the scholars wrote additional lines to "complete" the bani. They seamlessly penned in Guru Gobind Singh (who didn't include himself in his original bani) and the Siri Guru Granth Sahib to the list of the Gurus. Remember, this was only about 100 years ago that Sikhs felt so bold as to write on Gurus Bani. My question is this: When will be the time that the Panth, the Guru Khalsa, is included? When will the 11th Guru take it's proper place in our minds? When will we truly take to heart that today we have 2 Gurus who exist in perpetuity? When will we also be so bold? Whenever we realize we are the Guru Panth and we have the power to return ourselves to Guru ji's direct teachings. After all, it is Guru Ji's bachan. 

ਪ੍ਰਤਯਖ ਕਲਾ ਪਾਰਬ੍ਰਹਮ ਧਣੀਛੈ, ਗ੍ਰੰਥਿ ਪੰਥ ਖਾਲਸ ਵਰਤੰਤਾ ॥

prathyak kala parbrahm dhaneechai, granth panth khalas vartanta 

The power of God is alive in the Guru Granth and Khalsa Panth.

Wahiguru ji ka Khalsa
Wahiguru ji ki Fateh

Editor's note: After publishing this article the audio story and ANIMATION has been released and can be watched here: 

GurGaddi: Panth & Granth

GGS hug.jpg

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Related article: 

What is the Tenth Guru to you? 

References: 

[Ref. 1
ਆਪਨਪੌ ਸ਼੍ਰੀ ਖਾਲਸਹਿ ਸੌਪਾਂ, ਦ੍ਵਤਯਿ ਰੂਪ ਸਤਿਗੁਰੂ ਗ੍ਰੰਥਾ ॥
ਬੋਲਨ ਸਤਿਗੁਰੁ ਸਬਦ-ਸੋਭਾਖਨ, ਨਾਮ ਗੋਬਿੰਦ ਕੀਰਤਨਿ ਸੰਥਾ ॥
ਗੁਨਾਨੁਵਾਦ ਪੁਨਿ ਸਿਫਤਿ ਸਲਾਹਨਿ, ਊਠਤੁ ਬੈਠਤੁ ਸੈਨ ਕਰੰਥਾ ॥
ਪਾਵਨ ਪੰਥ ਖਾਲਸਹਿ ਪ੍ਰਗਟਯੋ, ਚਾਰ ਵਰਨ ਆਸ਼੍ਰਮ ਸੁਭ ਪੰਥਾ ॥੧॥
ਇਨ ਕੇ ਦਰਸ ਸਤਿਗੁਰੁ ਕੋ ਦਰਸਨ, ਬੋਲਨ ਗੁਰੂ ਸਬਦੁ ਗੁਰੁ ਗ੍ਰੰਥਾ ॥
ਦ੍ਵਾਦਸਿ ਰੂਪ ਸਤਿਗੁਰੁ ਏ ਕਹਿਯਤਿ, ਦ੍ਵਾਦਸਿ-ਭਾਨੁ ਪ੍ਰਗਟ ਹਰਿ ਸੰਤਾ ॥
ਪ੍ਰਤਯਖ ਕਲਾ ਪਾਰਬ੍ਰਹਮ ਧਣੀਛੈ, ਗ੍ਰੰਥਿ ਪੰਥ ਖਾਲਸ ਵਰਤੰਤਾ ॥
ਦਾਸ ਗੋਬਿੰਦ ਫਤਹ ਸਤਿਗੁਰੂ ਕੀ, ਖਾਸ ਗ੍ਰੰਥ ਗੁਰੁ ਰੂਪ ਬਦੰਤਾ ॥੨॥ਦੁਪਦ ੧॥
I (Guru Gobind Singh Ji) have passed down (my form) to the Khalsa, the second Form of mine is the Granth
The recitation of the Shabad is the Satiguru's speach to us, whether it be Gods Name , or through singing hymns [keertan], or through studying His Word [santhaa]
By praising the Lord one becomes virtuous, whether standing or sitting
The pure Panth, the Khalsa, has came into being, it contains the four castes [Khatri, Bahman, Sudh, Vaish] and four ashrams [Brahamchari, Grishti, Vaanprasti, Sanyasi]
Having the darshan of the Khalsa is the same as having the darshan of the SatGuru, if you wish to speak to Me then repeat the Bani from the Guru Granth 
Oh Saints of the Hari listen, in twelve forms the Satiguru appears, just as twelve phases of the sun
The visible power of God is manifested in the Khalsa as [the doctrine of the Guru] Granth and [that of the Guru] Panth
The Servant, Gobind  declared victory of the True Guru whos form is now the [Guru] Granth.  ]

[Ref. 2

Ref 5.5 Bansavali nama Dasam starts in 1755 is the younger brother to aad granth.jpeg

]

[Ref 3. 

agia bhaee panth prakash.jpg

]

[Ref 4. Suraj Prakash, 3rd ruth, 18th adhiai called ‘panj piare’ from page 795 of the this PDF ]

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