Ruzbeh N. Bharucha
Guru Arjan Dev and Bhai Manjh
This is again a story of a disciple’s love for his Guru but it is also a Guru’s love for The One. I shall start first with the Guru.
Guru Arjan Dev, the fifth Guru of the Sikhs, is very close to my heart. He is the One who has given us the most powerful of prayers called The Sukhmani Paath or Suhkhmani Sahib and He is the first Guru of Sikhs to have been mercilessly tortured.
Guru Arjan Dev very willingly allowed Himself to be tortured but refused to pay a fine of rupees two lakh or alter a word in The Guru Granth Sahib (The Holy Book of Sikhs). His followers were willing to pay the money or make the opposition pay with their lives but He made sure not one Sikh lifted a sword to protect Him. So, He was mercilessly tortured for three days and nights. Thus, He is the first Guru who allowed Himself to be Martyred in The Name of God and His principles.
It is said that apart from not giving The Guru a drop of water, leave aside food, The Guru was forced to sit on a burning hot iron pan while burning sand was poured all over His naked body. He was bathed in boiling water and within a few hours His body was covered with blisters. He was tormented and all the while countless Sikhs gathered outside with swords, ready to sacrifice their lives for their Guru, but they could not, as their Guru had given a firm warning that none would interfere. This was The Will of The One. He had done no wrong and thus He would pay no fine and not a word would change from The Holy Book but violence was not the way to prove one’s point. Also Guru Arjan wanted to send the message across to all His followers that when one believes in something and it involves one’s Master or one’s Faith, then death is a beautiful reward, a gift of divine release.
He not only willingly allowed Himself to be tortured but also prevented His closest friend, Hazrat Mian Mir of Lahore, a Sufi Saint, to intervene spiritually on His behalf. Guru Arjan Dev had made His friend Hazrat Mian Mir lay the foundation stone of The Golden Temple.
Hazrat Mian Mir, who was a spiritual Giant and none dared to mess around with Him, was permitted to see His Friend and Companion in prison. When He saw His friend, a mass of blood and blisters, He cried and pleaded with Guru Arjan to give Him permission to finish Jehangir’s rule and all those who obeyed the king once and for all. A Sufi who was so high in the spiritual order that He had the power to destroy Jehangir’s dynasty, if it would take that to save His friend Guru Arjan Dev, but the Latter prevented His friend to use His spiritual power to help Him and ease the torture meted out to The Guru due to Jehangir’s orders.
Guru Arjan Dev it seems told His friend to look up. Hazrat Mian Mir saw Angels too begging to The Guru to give Them permission to finish the tyrant and his rule to safeguard The Guru. The Guru then softly told His friend, “Mian Mir, You are disturbed too soon. This is The Will of My God and Master and I happily accept and surrender to His Divine and Sweet Will.”
Hazrat Mian Mir begged of The Guru to either allow Him to use His supernatural powers or The Guru Himself use His own powers which He possessed. And Guru Arjan Dev spoke one of the most beautiful sentences uttered, “I simply bear all this torture so that generations of Teachers of the True Name, may never lose patience or get upset with God when in time of pain and misery. The true test of faith is the hour of misery. Without examples to guide them, the minds of people tremble in the midst of suffering. The load of Karma is removed; I am freed there from. From the sea I have reached the shore; The Guru hath done Me this favor.”
Hazrat Mian Mir looked at His Friend, knowing that this was the last time They would meet in the body. Heartbroken, tears streaming down His face, He left.
The practice in those days was to stitch offenders in cowhide so that they suffocate within and die. But on second thought, I have a feeling, that the captors must have wanted to show their power to the Sikhs waiting outside and also to show the devotees that in front of them The Guru was just a mere mortal. It is strange that the Guru has to keep proving His or Her Divinity by miracles. That seems to be the barometer of Spiritual Heights and countless spiritual Giants have abstained on purpose to perform miracles as They want the true lovers to be by Their side. The true lovers do not need to be convinced of their Guru’s Oneness.
So they brought Guru Arjan out, all covered in blood and blisters, to bathe in the cold waters of the River Ravi. The very thought of The Guru screaming in pain when the cold waters would touch His blistered body, appealed to the captors much more than a silent death by suffocation.
When The Guru was brought out, His disciples and devotees, all Sikhs, so you can well imagine, were about to forget even their Guru’s command to them, when Guru Arjan managed to speak these words, “Such is The Will of My God, submit to the Divine Will, move not, stand calm against all woes.”
He walked to the waterbed, looked around. There was a smile in His eyes, His lips moved chanting The Name. He entered the water. People say a bright Light descended or came forth from The Guru.
After a while all realised that The Guru’s body had disappeared too. The body may have disappeared but the Sukhmani Sahib will remain for all of eternity, spreading peace and Oneness.
Now we come to the Guru’s disciple Bhai Manjh. As always there are various accounts of who was Bhai Manjh and his life but all that is not important. What’s important is the humility and the surrender to his Guru’s Will and thus I will stick to the essence.
It seems Bhai Manjh was an affluent man, who owned large tracts of land and he was a follower of Saint Saakhi Sarwar. One day Guru Arjan Dev was passing through and took a halt in that region where Bhai Manjh resided. Guru Arjan Dev gave a talk and that one talk convinced Bhai Manjh that he had met his living Guru.
He approached Guru Arjan Dev and asked Him to be His Lord and Master. Arjan Dev recognised the spiritual potential of Bhai Manjh and agreed on certain conditions. The first being that Bhai Manjh would go home and take down the Temple that contained idols of various Deities. That itself was like asking for the very breath of Bhai Manjh but the latter immediately agreed. He recognised his Guru and the Guru’s words were the law. So he went home and took down the Temple. All from the village warned Bhai Manjh that it meant misfortune for him and his family to bring down the Temple but Bhai Manjh’s wife and family recognising the Guru’s Divinity spoke little but did as they were told.
This was obviously the beginning of a series of tests that awaited Bhai Manjh. Gold needs the intense furnace of fire to bring out all its purity and essence to the fore and the Guru seeing the potential in Bhai Manjh decided that the raging fire was a must. The Guru initiated the disciple with the Holy Name and after a brief talk as to what needed to be done on the Path, the Guru resumed His journey.
In a short period of time Bhai Manjh’s livestock began to die and soon thereafter there was a robbery at home which relieved Bhai Manjh of substantial possessions. The good people around him blamed Bhai Manjh for his losses and insisted that he rebuild the Temple otherwise he and only he would be blamed for bringing forth the wrath of Heaven. Bhai Manjh silently went about his life. In a very short period of time the once wealthy landowner was financially ruined. Soon thereafter he got into debt just to survive and shortly he was forced to leave the village as he wasn’t able to repay his creditors, who I assume took over his land and home.
The few friends that had remained steadfast with Bhai Manjh pleaded with him to rebuild the Temple but he refused, preferring to leave the village than go against the wishes of his Guru.
So he and his wife and daughter left their ancestral village where once he was a respected and an affluent member of society. He had no money and because he had been born wealthy and had been a land owner, he truly did not have any expertise to earn money. He had no knowledge of business and no skill for any trade. They resettled in another village and to support his family he began to earn a little money by cutting grass and selling the grass.
He and his family continued to follow all that Guru Arjan Dev had guided them when they had been initiated and though times were hard the family had a silent stillness within them to withstand the storm of destitution. I guess the Guru must have sensed that the fire needed more feeding and thus one day a representative of the Guru arrived in the village where Bhai Manjh had settled.
Bhai Manjh was ecstatic that his Guru had thought of him and greeted the representative of the Guru who carried a letter for Bhai Manjh from the Guru.
The representative of the Guru then looked at Bhai Manjh in the eye and asked for twenty rupees. Those days twenty rupees was a king’s ransom and the representative made it clear that the Guru had instructed very emphatically that Bhai Manjh should be handed over the letter in exchange of money and if Bhai Manjh did not pay then the letter should not be given at any cost.
Bhai Manjh had no hope of having such a large amount but his wifetold him that she would take the little ornaments that she had kept for herself and their daughter and hopefully it should bring them the required sum. The goldsmith in exchange of all their jewellery handed them exactly twenty rupees.
Okay bear with my ramblings. Please don’t try all this now. The chance of us finding a true One like Guru Arjan Dev is as bright as finding a well fed oxen who is capable of not only assembling a space shuttle but also being able to maneuver it. Go within, give your best to each moment and then with perfect joyful surrender, leave the rest to Goddess, God, Guru, who are seated many light years away watching the fun with a benevolent indulgence.
Any way, let us get back to Bhai Manjh who was getting the most profound white washing and cleansing of his dear life. It is said that when Bhai Manjh held the letter from his Guru he first kissed the letter and then placed the letter to his heart and that very moment he went into what some say a trance and some say a state of Divine Stillness or even Samadhi. That is not the point. What matters is the surrender. The rest is immaterial. How does it matter whether Bhai Manjh went into a trance or just felt an overwhelming love from and for his Guru?
A few days later another disciple came and met Bhai Manjh and told him that the Guru had asked him and his family to come and live in the ashram. The family left everything and rushed to their Guru. In the ashram they worked in the community kitchen and Bhai Manjh was also entrusted in bringing the wood, cutting it, for use in the ashram. A few days or weeks passed and Bhai Manjh was in bliss. He could ask for nothing more than being in the same space where his Guru resided and toiled. But the gold needed to be purified and tested further. So one day Guru Arjan Dev inquired as to where did Bhai Manjh have his meals. Obviously the Guru knew about this but He had to do the final amputation. He was told that Bhai Manjh gets his meals just like the other devotees from the community kitchen. So the Guru wondered aloud that Bhai Manjh was thus not doing true seva, as real seva was offered like bhog and was done with no expectation of any kind or wages but by him eating food which was provided from the community kitchen Bhai Manjh was being paid in kind for his service which amounted to doing any job anywhere. The food was like money being charged.
Bhai Manjh’s wife heard about this and she informed her husband who said that henceforth they would not eat from the community kitchen as the Guru was right. True love sought nothing in return and he had already been blessed with the greatest gift in the form of the Holy Naam or Mantra or Chant given by the Guru to him and his family. He would hence forth work out a way where he and his family worked in the ashram but did not eat the food provided to all.
Next day he did all his work and in the night went to the forest to cut wood for the ashram and another lot to be sold in the market at whatever price anybody cared to offer and thus bought food for the family.
This continued for a while and one night when Bhai Manjh went into the forest to cut wood, but this time solely for the ashram, the sky was already over cast and instead of rain a ferocious wind storm commenced and the powerful wind storm flung him into a well.
Some say that it was that very instance when Guru Arjan Dev realised this and some say that it was in the morning that Guru Arjan Dev told his devotees to collect a thick rope and rush to the forest. Once again it means nothing. He could have realised it and decided to further cleanse the gold? It truly doesn’t matter. The fact is that He entered the forest and approached the well. He informed those who were with Him that Bhai Manjh was in the well and that they were to call out to him, and that they would pull him out with the rope attached to a wooden plank. Bhai Manjh could hold the plank and thus be rescued. He then spoke to a close disciple in private who was supposed to call out to Bhai Manjh. The disciple approached the well and called out to Bhai Manjh and said that he was going to be rescued but why did he continue to love a Guru who could not even provide him and his family with basic food for all the devotion and hard work. Why didn’t he just get on with his life and think about his daughter who was to be married and he and his wife’s old age and all this would happen if he let go of his love for the Guru and got on with his life. Bhai Manjh replied from below that life without the Guru was any way no life; it was like a cloud that was pregnant with water, food without salt, sugar without sweetness, a smile without happiness. He requested the disciple never to speak a word against the Guru ever in front of him. What he and his family had to go through also was in the hands of the Guru.
The board was sent down and he was told to hang on to the plank which was attached to the rope. Bhai Manjh shouted from below that he would first send the wood that was for the Guru’s kitchen. The disciple seemed puzzled. Bhai Manjh was in the well. The well was deep and filled with water. What good was wood if it was wet. Bhai Manjh replied that the wood was dry. There was no way he was going to allow wood cut for the Guru’s kitchen to be wet. Which meant that even though he was blown into the well Bhai Manjh held on to the wood above his head and made sure that the wood remained dry. No amount of talking convinced Bhai Manjh out of leaving the wood in the well, eventually first the wood was brought out and then Bhai Manjh was pulled out. He got out of the well and to his great happiness he saw his love, his heart beat, his very breath standing in front of him. The Guru had come so late in the night, into the forest, with a wind storm on, for him. The Guru looked at Bhai Manjh with tears in His eyes. He approached Bhai Manjh and held his hands. “I have put you through a lot of tests and ordeals and you have gone through all of them with love, faith, and complete surrender to My Will. Ask of Me whatever you want and I shall give that to you Bhai Manjh, My brother.”Bhai Manjh fell on his knees and holding his Master’s hand, tears streaming down his cheeks he whispered. “If You want to give me something my Master, then bless me that I am blessed with You. I want nothing else but You. That is all I seek.”
Guru Arjan Dev gently embraced Bhai Manjh and said the famous words, “Manjh is the darling of his Guru and the Guru is Manjh’s only love. Manjh like the Guru, now is a ship that carries people safely across the ocean of life and death.”
We may not have a living Guru in the body now. But each one of us has the power and free will to walk the path and give our best and leave the rest to The One. I know it is not for the faint hearted. As Avatar Meher Baba often said, that this path is for the brave and the courageous not for the weak and escapists. All that we have in our hands is to give our best selflessly without conditions.
This is not about Bhai Manjh. This is about all of us. As mentioned, we may not have a living Perfect Master but if we make each moment an offering to The One, giving our very best and accept whatever is in store for us as Their Prasad then each one of us is walking the path of Bhai Manjh along with all those disciples who lived with supreme contentment as the dust beneath the feet of their Goddess, God, Guru.
Yes, we need to understand that the Guru is not here to solve our problems but to help us, encourage us, motivate us, cleanse us to calmly go about life courageously and with silent calm acceptance that The One knows Best. Thus earlier the Guru helped one in the cleansing process and gave strength and support during trying times. The Guru gave the devotee the strength by just His or Her spiritual presence (not necessarily the physical presence) to carry the Karmic weight, which the Guru does even now and will always continue to do so. The disciples lived in gratitude that no matter what, during their strife the Guru held their hand and though need not be there in the physical body to hold their hand, S(H)E walked along with them on the journey of life. Not just this life but all, past, present, future and beyond the beyond. That realisation was enough for the followers to go about their life with dignity.
Now, the issue is that we want our Guru to solve our problems, remove our hardships, perform miracles and basically to go through and carry our Karmic burden, in fact carry or erase the entire Karmic debt owed to the Cosmos. Many of us have it in our subconscious mind that if we have a Master, logic dictates that the Master should do all to make our lives comfortable and without a worry. In fact many of us sub consciously feel that our Guru owes it to us to get us out of every problem, have a solution for all issues and do as bided. We feel obligated that the Guru has to take upon Himself or Herself the ramifications of our actions, thoughts, words, intentions and our stench and innate stupidity. It is as though for us, Karma and ramifications be damned, how dare we have to go through any hardship. What is the Guru for, if we have to any way go through angst and Karmic cleansing.
Life is going to have moments that shall make us go through our share of cleansing. Baba Sai in channeling often says Karma Ki Bhati sey Shri Ram Bhi Na Bach Sakay or for my readers from Denmark, Even Lord Ramma could not escape the fire of Karmic balancing. Who are we to complain? Let us not insult who ever we believe in by thrusting our faith, prayers, charity as a good reason to be pardoned or avoid the blazing wheels of the laws of cause and effect. Let’s just go through the ups and downs with dignity, humility, and yes, a very good quantum of humour.
Be blessed always.
Ruzbeh N. Bharucha