Ruzbeh N. Bharucha
The beauty of Guru Angad, the Second of the Ten Gurus of Sikhs, is not only about His humility, His work, His spiritual mission and the legacy He has left behind for all Sikhs and the world at large, but for me, it is His Love for Guru Nanak Babaji that truly stands out.
The love and devotion He had for Babaji is so sublime and divine that it over shadows miracles, writings, heritage and everything that Guru Angad left behind.
The story of Guru Angad in reality is the story of every true disciple. It is a lineage of all those for whom The Guru and His or Her word was not just the law but went beyond the beyond and The Creator too.
Angad was the name bestowed by Babaji to Bhai Lehna.
Bhai Lehna was a staunch devotee of Goddess Durga. One day in His vision, He saw a Woman, in a red attire (Saree), serving Nanak. He was mesmerized by the ethereal beauty of this Woman. He waited till She finished Her work and walked towards Bhai Lehna. He asked Her who She was? She looked at Him and said, “You have been worshipping Me since ever and You still don’t recognize Me”. Saying this The Goddess showed Her True splendor and Form.
Bhai Lehna stood mesmerized. The Goddess tells Bhai Lehna that once a week She came to serve The Master Nanak.
The vision was important as from His birth, Guru Angad/Bhai Lehna, was devoted to Maa Durga but it was important for Him to have the same love and devotion for Guru Nanak to take forward Nanak’s Word and spread His Vision to all of mankind.
The story goes such that, Guru Angad since a young Lad would organize a yearly pilgrimage to Jawalamukhi, which is in the Himalayas, where there is a Temple of Goddess Durga. It seems Fire emits from the Mountain and thus the name Jawalamukhi and the flames and ashes emitted are worshipped by scores of believers since time immemorial.
Guru Angad would lead the singing and dancing in praise of The Goddess.
One day Guru Angad, back in His hometown Khadur, heard a Sikh, called Jodha, recite the Japji and Asa di Var, prayers and hyms, sung in praise of The Lord, composed by Guru Nanak.
The words, the meaning, the peace that ensued within Bhai Lehna enthralled the young man and He decided that He had to meet Guru Nanak.
Bhai Lehna was torn between His love for The Goddess and the burning fire to meet and spend the rest of His life with Babaji. He left for Kartarpur also known as God’s City. He was on a horse and He arrived at Kartarpur and made enquiries as to the whereabouts of The Guru. He was directed to a field on which many men labored. All the men looked the same. The salt of the Earth makes a King and a pauper appear similar, as for Mother Earth all Her children are special and loved equally.
Bhai Lehna sat on His horse and asked one of the men, to direct Him to the home of Guru Nanak.
Babaji saw this Young Man sitting on the horse and smiled. Yes of course He would direct Bhai Lehna to Guru Nanak’s home. So Guru Nanak took the reins of the horse, made certain Bhai Lehna remained seated on the horse, and slowly The Guru and His blissfully unaware though greatest disciple moved towards the home of Nanak.
Babaji told Bhai Lehna that The Guru would be with Him soon. Bhai Lehna got down from the horse and sat under a tree. His heart raced with the anticipation of beholding Nanak for the first time. When Nanak came out, in clean clothes, all washed and looking like a billion bucks, in all His splendor and radiance, I am sure Bhai Lehna must have nearly passed out.
The Guru had held the saddle strings while He had sat on the horse and The Guru had walked and He had allowed The Guru to lead the way, walking and tired after a full day’s labour. Bhai Lehna could faint with anguish as to how could He have not recognized Nanak and allowed Nanak to walk in the scotching sun while He sat on the darn horse who was now blissfully grazing away, unaware of the blunder which it and Bhai Lehna had committed.
Babaji smiled and asked Bhai Lehna His name. The young Man softly spoke out His name. Babaji smiled and said, “Your Name is Lehna, which means To Take. And You have come here to Take something from Me which is so important that You needed to be seated on the horse and I who have to give You that thing had to hold the saddle strings and lead You gently. If You only give Me now the strings of Your mind and let Me lead You I will take You to The True One’s Home.”
Bhai Lehna I am sure must have not understood the real importance of Babaji’s words. How could a Young Man who had all His life been a Durga Maa devotee ever imagine to be bequeathed the throne on which Nanak resided.
Days passed, and I am sure there must have been a terrific war raging within Bhai Lehna’s very soul. All His life He had been a Goddess worshipper. Now He found Himself being pulled and pulled towards Nanak, mesmerized by the humility, profound wisdom, inherent love but most importantly of all, the Divine essence and compassion that came through Nanak not only for Bhai Lehna but for each and every being, irrespective whether the person acknowledged or was profoundly scatter-brained to embrace the love.
He found Himself moving more and more towards The Master and I am certain the conflict prevented the final surrender to The Master.
Thus He had to be blessed with the vision of The Goddess, as The Goddess is the Universal Mother and who so ever truly has a conflict of the soul, She will intervene and put the conflict to rest. Thus the vision resolved the conflict brewing within Bhai Lehna. When the Goddess Herself told Bhai Lehna that She comes to serve The Master, it could only mean one thing. She too loved Nanak so much that even The Goddess couldn’t help but come to love and serve Him.
Thus, after the vision Bhai Lehna dived head long, with no ifs and buts, and became the foremost disciple of Guru Nanak.
Now, when one is the foremost disciple of a Guru, it means the individual is the main slave and servant of The Guru and Bhai Lehna made it clear to one and all that He was Nanak’s servant and slave.
As usual petty mankind, daft and self destructive, went about ridiculing Bhai Lehna. One must remember that Nanak lived in the community that He set up as a common man. In the morning He would bathe, meditate, preach and when the day truly began He would be in the field working as a labourer. No miracles and no shimmering aura. Hard chore toil is the root mantra for any farmer and labourer and thus through the day Nanak was a common labourer. Once He would reach home, He would bathe, pray and then once again take on the role of A Guru and Master.
Thus, most people who lived with Him, after a while, I am certain treated Babaji with respect but not with reverence. In this world if you want reverence you have to wear heavy duty spiritual attire, quote fancy words, levitate and bring branded duty free, water-proof watches from thin air. Our Babaji did none of the above.
When Babaji’s two sons saw the awe, the love, the reverence Bhai Lehna had for Babaji, they scoffed and ridiculed Him.
Time and again Guru Nanak gave His sons the opportunity to prove worthy of taking on His seat after He left His physical body but I guess the boys were too full of themselves to understand that blood may be thicker than water, but nothing is thicker than pure love, devotion and surrender.
Of course Nanak didn’t make it easy. Once He was walking on a road along with His two sons and Bhai Lehna. It had rained. The mud was wet and there were puddles and muck everywhere. Babaji took a jug or vase that was being carried and threw it into the wet mud. He asked His sons to retrieve the jug and they told Him this was menial work, not meant for The Guru’s children. Bhai Lehna retrieved it, though His clothes were completely soiled in the wet mud, He went to the stream, washed the jug, filled it with water and handed it to The Guru.
Once Babaji told His sons to repair a wall that had been broken and the spiritually challenged boys told The Guru that they wouldn’t do anything of that sort as it was too late in the day. When Nanak looked at Bhai Lehna, He nodded and began to work on the wall. He finished the work and Nanak said that He wasn’t happy with the wall and asked Bhai Lehna to break it down and work on it again. He was made to rebuild the wall thrice. Bhai Lehna did the work with a smile and with complete love. The sons called Bhai Lehna a damn fool. Bhai Lehna looked at the sons and said, “A servant’s hands should be busy doing The Master’s work”.
Nanak asked His two profoundly evolved boys and other followers to lift three bundles of wet grass and carry the bundles home to feed The Master’s cattle. Of course the boys refused, but the followers too did not obey. Babaji asked Bhai Lehna and Lehna carried the wet bundles. When They arrived home, Babaji’s wife told Nanak, as this was no way to treat a guest and make Him carry wet muddied grass as now the clothes were all dirty and wet. Babaji looked at her and said, “This is not mud; it is the saffron of God’s court, which marketh the elect.”
And when Bhai Lehna put the wet, muddy bundles down, His clothes were covered in saffron colour. Thus, Even now, carrying three bundles of grass is considered very auspicious for Sikhs, as each bundle stands for Spiritual work and affairs, Worldly work and affairs and the last bundle stands for Love, Devotion and Surrender to The Guru.
The Guru always rocks. Remember this. Forget everything else but remember The Guru Reigns Supreme. If you can, you don’t need knowledge or gyan, spiritual powers or siddhi’s, you don’t need scriptures, you don’t need a fancy horoscope, you don’t need squat. All you need is your love and surrender for The Guru. Don’t worry about His or Her love for you. The love for The Guru if innocent and without any spiritual bullshit of give and take, will take you, me and Laloo Prasad Yadav and his fourteen buffaloes past the sea of Maya, Karma and Cosmic land mines.
Nanak tested His two sons and Bhai Lehna for a long time before He realised that though blood was thicker than water, in the realm of spirituality, there was no place for blood or DNA, only true love, obedience and surrender.
His final test of Bhai Lehna should make one understand the difference between a disciple and devotee. For a disciple The Guru’s word is the word of God and nothing else matters but The Guru.
One day Guru Nanak told His sons to eat a corpse who lay under a sheet. The sons refused, even reprimanding Their Father that He had lost His senses. Guru Nanak then told Bhai Lehna, who bowed and asked from which side should He eat the corpse? From head first or feet and Nanak told Him from the middle. When Bhai Lehna removed the sheet there was no more a corpse lying down but a plate of sweat delicacies. Bhai Lehna first offered food to Nanak Saheb, then to His two sons, and then He ate what was left over. It was then that Nanak spoke: “Lehna, You were blessed with the sacred food because You could share it with others. If the people use the wealth bestowed on them by God for themselves alone or for treasuring it, it is like a corpse. But if they decide to share it with others, it becomes sacred food. You have known the secret. You are My Image.” (Janamsakhi).
Nanak blessed Lehna with His own hand (anga) and as He blessed Him, He called Bhai Lehna as Angad (which could also mean same image or a part of one’s own body) and thus named Him Guru Angad. Then Nanak placed a coconut and some coins in front of Guru Angad, applied saffron on Guru Angad’s forehead and told Guru Angad to occupy His seat. Thus, making it clear that Guru Angad would take Sikhism forward and also that Baba Nanak’s time to leave His physical body had arrived.
Baba Nanak was aware that His sons would create an issue for Guru Angad, so with the heaviest of hearts He told Guru Angad that He should not stay at Katarpur anymore but go to the village Khadur Sahib, The very thought of leaving Baba Nanak tore into Guru Angad’s very soul. He didn’t want to become A Guru. He always wanted to live as Babaji’s disciple, servant and slave. But Nanak Baba was firm. He knew His sons would create an issue for Guru Angad but Providence had other things in mind. Either Providence saw the love of Guru Angad for Babaji or Nanak Himself couldn’t live without Guru Angad beside Him, a few days later Babaji assembled all His followers, ordered them to henceforth serve Guru Angad as their Guru and that He and Angad were One. Saying this He took Samadhi.
Some researchers says that Guru Nanak first made sure Guru Angad left Him and only then did He take Samadhi while some scholars affirm that Guru Angad was present with Nanak till His last physical breath. Whatever it may be, the fact is that Guru Angad was so heartbroken after Babaji left His physical body that He went into seclusion. For six months nobody knew the whereabouts of Guru Angad. All were aware of His love for Nanak and feared the worst.
Guru Angad had locked Himself in a room near Khadur and for six months except for a jug of milk every day, Guru Angad fasted. He meditated and remembered His Master and never stepped out of the room. He wanted nothing to do with being a Guru as all He wanted was to be with His Guru, as His servant, slave and disciple.
Those loyal to Guru Nanak had taken Guru Angad as their new Guru and they wanted to obey Babaji and make sure Guru Angad took forward Babaji’s mission and vision, thus three of the elders approached Bhai Buddha, who was a truly evolved soul. They pleaded with Buddha to trace Guru Angad. Bhai Buddha focused on Nanak and Guru Angad and through His spiritual love for both, located the house in which Guru Angad had isolated Himself.
The four men, Bhai Buddha, Lalo, Saido and Ajita, eventually went to the house and spoke to the man in charge. The man asked the visitors to wait. He entered the room and told Guru Angad that four men were inquiring about Him and I am sure He must have added that if the Guru didn’t want to be disturbed he could persuade the four men to go about their way, with or without their heads adjoined to their neck and shoulders.
After six months Guru Angad had come to the realisation that there was no way He could disobey Nanak and if Nanak wanted Him to carry forward His Word and Vision and it had to be done by Guru Angad, so be it.
The four men were called inside the room. Guru Angad embraced Bhai Buddha and said, “Cut off the head which boweth not to the Lord, Nanak, take and burn the wretched body which feeleth not the pain of separation”.
Bhai Buddha pleaded with Guru Angad to take up His role as the new Guru and lead the Sikhs as without Him all the work Guru Nanak had done would be destroyed due to the various forces working in society.
Without Guru Angad, the devotees and followers of Nanak would have dispersed. There were various issues in society those days. Most of the followers would have once again been absorbed either into Hinduism, Islam or worse towards Nanak’s son, Siri Chand, who was hopping mad at both his Father Nanak and Angad.
Eventually Guru Angad agreed and said the beautifully words, “He whom you love, die for him. Accursed is the life without the beloved. The head should be sliced that does not bow before the Master. O Nanak! The body should be burnt that suffers not the agony of separation.”
It must be understood that if Guru Angad had not taken on the mantle of the second Guru, if He wasn’t the Man that He was, completely submerged in love and besotted with Baba Nanak, Sikhism as we know it now wouldn’t have existed. In fact it would have led to the end of Sikhism.
It is necessary to understand the importance of this humble Man, this love filled Guru, Angad. He knew Babaji only for seven years but those seven years were lived as though it was seven hundred.
The first thing Guru Angad did was made sure the practice of community living and the Langar, community eating, irrespective of caste, creed, financial standing and religion, begun by His beloved Guru, Nanak, was not only focused on but encouraged and given importance.
Guru Angad’s wife, called by all the followers with love as Mata Khivi played an important role. She would be one of the first ones to begin cooking and working to feed the community and also served food to the community and took care of all those who visited the community or Guru Angad. So much so that Her name and Her love is thus mentioned in the Granth Sahib, the holy books of the Sikh.
Secondly, in the early days, music was sung by professional singers, those days performed by two rock stars called Satta and Balwand. Like all rock stars for some reason their ego’s got the better of them and their demands grew to the point where Guru Angad politely told them to bugger off.
Thus by default started Gurmat Sangeet, and once again His love for Nanak came through. He made sure Nanak’s verses and sayings and preaching were now put to tune and sung. All that one hears in Gurudwara’s, The Temples of Sikhs, the Gurbani’s and the classic tunes to Babaji’s words is all thanks to Guru Angad.
The two temperamental rock stars Satta and Balwand, repented and their words and tunes were later added by Guru Arjan to the Adi Granth, the holy Book of the Sikhs.
Guru Angad lived a life of humility. Though the Guru of all Sikhs, He considered Himself as the safe keeper of the treasure of His Guru, Nanak, and went about life as a disciple rather than A Guru. What a beautiful way to live. Any day the dust beneath the Guru’s feet than wear the crown of A Guru, a crown that Jesus wore and showed what all Guru’s go through.
Guru Angad woke up early in the morning. Meditated, prayed and sang songs written by His Guru, Nanak, mainly the Japji and Asa di Vaar. Then preaching, counseling, initiating new followers into His Guru’s fold.
He introduced a new language and script called the Gurumukhi, which once again means ‘From The Mouth of The Guru’, which He then popularized. Not only did He create the Gurumukhi language and script but His love for Nanak was so profound that He took all the thirty five alphabets and letters of the script from Guru Nanak’s writings.
The introduction of Gurumukhi was very important. Earlier Sanskrit was the language meant for the rich and the Brahmins. It wasn’t meant for one and all. Gurumukhi was for anybody who wanted to learn and grow and speak the language of The Gurus. It also brought about an amazing unity amongst the Sikhs and this further strengthened the community further.
But His mind was always on Nanak and thus He wrote the first biography of Guru Nanak and compiled all of Guru Nanak’s sayings and songs into Gurumukhi. I have a feeling He never really got over Baba Nanak’s passing over. Guru Angad’s teachings and His sixty three hymns in praise of The Guru were later on included in The Granth Sahib by the Fifth Guru, Guru Arjan Dev Ji.
He spent His time in preaching the word of Nanak and created as many as hundred and thirty one centers or Sangats where all those interested in learning about Nanak’s teachings and Sikhism gathered. He also wrote down nine hundred and seventy two hymns composed and spoken by Babaji and supplied them to every community center that was established by Him.
You know it was all about Nanak. If there was a disciple, servant, slave, child of The Master, then standing foremost in that extremely elusive line is Guru Angad.
But all this was His role as A Guru. To keep body and spirit together, Guru Angad earned His living by making strings used for cots. He would twist coarse grass and thus make these strings which later on were used for cots to sit and lie down on. Like Babaji, He too was of the firm opinion that spirituality without work and living in the world had no place in the world of His Guru or Sikhism.
He focused on education and especially for those who came from the financially underprivileged as He was certain that education helped all to stand up for their rights and also improve the lot of themselves and their loved ones. He also focused on physical exercises and building a good physique. He insisted that children should be educated and should focus on making sure that their physical health was taken care of. It is a well known fact that Guru Angad truly loved children and often used to spend time with them playing and hearing them out. He used to encourage wrestling and other physical activity which had the added advantage of having ready warriors, in case somebody was intellectually challenged to attack an entire thriving community of Sikhs.
Guru Angad did a lot for the women movement and He secured the rights of the women in the community. He made them an active part of the community and gave them not only freedom to work and speak but also gave them religious and other rights which they had been denied until now. I feel the bond between Guru Angad and His wife, Khivi made a huge difference for the wellbeing of the women folk in the community.
Guru Angad lived only for another thirteen years in the Body after Babaji left His Body. Guru Angad was only forty seven years of age when He took Samadhi on March 31st, 1552.
A lot of people remember Him for many things. I do for His immense love for His Guru, Baba Nanak.
Like Guru Nanak, His two sons too gave Him a lot of grief as they wanted to succeed Him.
Like His Guru, He too chose the most humble men to succeed Him. The man chosen to take forward the Sikhs was Baba Amar Das. He was an elderly man who loved Guru Angad. He was made The Third Guru when He was seventy years old and lived to the age of ninety five.
But the important thing to note is that Guru Angad was twenty three years younger to Amar Das but still the Latter treated Guru Angad as the ‘be all and end all’ of all existence.
Also though Guru Angad was tenderness personified, He was very stern and firm with Guru Amar Das. Thus for twelve years that Amar Das served Guru Angad, and the world treated the Latter as a Man fit for just menial work, especially carry pitchers of water for The Guru and did all the menial work required for The Guru and here was Guru Angad who had already identified His successor and most importantly The One who would carry the Words and the Vision of His Guru, Nanak Baba, forward.
Amar Das would wake up early, carry a pitcher of water for three miles and this water was used by Guru Angad to bathe. He would pray the Japji and halt mid way to rest as He was an elderly Man. This spot where He used to halt with the pitcher of water is called ‘The Breathing Space’ in English, where a Temple has been built now. Then He would get water for The Guru’s kitchen and clean the kitchen, the dishes and do other menial work. He would never miss anything spoken by Guru Angad and after that He would put Guru Angad to bed and then, here is the best thing, The Third Guru would walk backwards as He did not want His back ever to His Guru. So, for three miles He walked backwards after a hard day’s work, just so that He never showed His back to The Guru.
The Giants have gone. One keeps wondering as to where The Perfect Masters have disappeared. I guess even The Perfect Masters need Perfect Disciples who aren’t around anymore.
Ruzbeh N. Bharucha