It is the 400th Prakash Purab anniversary of Guru Teghbahadar Sahib. I need to mark this momentous occasion, fully knowing that I will not be on planet Earth for the 450th celebration. Therefore, I tried to study the Sabads (Infinite Wisdom) of the Guru and internalize them.
Guru Teghbahadar Sahib’s Sabads, though slender in volume, blaze intensely. The Sabads are concise, requiring little adornment. The Guru applies a simple poetic structure to convey the message, which is both immediate and direct. The thrust of the Guru’s Sabads is neither mystical nor metaphysical. They are persistently principled. The Sabads focus on releasing one from bondage to oneself and connecting oneself to the mission of discovering one’s integrity. This is done by pulling oneself out from the fragmented universe of one’s fears and linking oneself from within to a nobler purpose. Only when one is so connected can one discover one’s humanity and attain the fullest human stature. The Sabads present well-defined choices: the choice between a purposeful living and an animal existence; between moral courage and individual pursuit; between bondage to aging, disease, and death, and freedom from these bondages.
Each Sabad of Guru Teghbahadar Sahib has a distinctive invocation style and mostly begins with “votaries,” “Mother,” or “O my mind.” This form of invocation gives the Sabads a melancholic resonance. These lyrical outpourings are of Guru in bliss; therefore, even the gravest of them reveal profound compassion. These outpourings seem to be flowing intuitively from an inner calmness and gracefulness. The longing for the Divine is intensely passionate, signifying zeal and piety.
In the Guru’s compositions, we see elements of vairag or bairag. Vairag is a compound word; the first constituents “vai” meaning “without,” and the second part is “rag” meaning love, harmony, delight, attraction, etc. Therefore, vairag has been translated as detachment, indifference, aloofness and interpreted as rejecting worldly-quests, wealth and power, and indifference towards worldly objects.
However, according to Gurmat (The Guru’s Way), vairag is an attitude of the mind and not an act of renunciation for complete devotion. It is a worldly life that rules out any condescension for the reality of life, material objects, or environment. It is a self-sacrifice mindset emanating from “The Vastness” for humanity’s well-being and the individual’s spiritual development to experience Divine Reality.
Guru Teghbahadar Sahib clarifies vairag, which, in essence, is the opposite of attachment. Attachment is considered to be devotion to the things of senses, to the objects of affection, and the fruits of one’s actions. The Guru advises detachment from the things of the senses, objects of affection, and fruits of one’s actions, simultaneously pointing towards the higher purpose of connecting with the Divine.
The Guru’s vairag is of living unblemished amidst the impurities of life; it is the vairag of self-sacrifice for justice, faith, and freedom for humanity, and it is the vairag of self-transcendence. Self-transcendence lies not in hoping that aggression disappears; it lies in the determination to overlook and rise above it. The Guru emphasizes that self-transcendence be the unwavering quest of the being.
Vairag is fundamental to Sikhi. Therefore, one needs to understand this emotion’s profoundness. Before the stage of vairag, is the stage of birha. Birha is when one senses a separation. When this separation becomes unbearable, the yearning for a meeting intensifies. In this intensity, one is prepared to do anything and everything to meet one’s love. This intense yearning and the readiness to do what it takes to meet is the stage of vairag.
I found myself drifting. Therefore, I chose to focus on Guru Teghbahadar Sahib’s three Sabads in Rag Devgandhari. Scholarly work on this rag is pending. We currently know that Devgandhari is a rare ancient North Indian rag and forms part of the Guru Granth Sahib. It is the ninth rag in the thirty-one-rag series that is part of the Guru Granth Sahib composition. This rag first appears on page 728. There are forty-seven Sabads composed in this rag, of which Guru Arjan Sahib composed thirty-eight, Guru Ramdas Sahib composed six, and Guru Teghbahadar Sahib composed three.
Rag Devgandhari has a softness and is sung in rich curves and with a slow tempo in the morning. It expresses emotions of elevation and invokes feelings of union and self-realization.
I share the three Rag Devgandhari Sabads that I transcreated. What is transcreation? Transcreation is “translating” and “recreating” the original text in a new language while assuring it is still appropriate in the context for which it is intended. For the transcreation to resonate with the intended audience, the trans-creator takes liberties as I have done. I have tried to stay as close as possible to the literal meaning. However, I have added a few words for clarity or enhancement. There can never be only one correct translation, for Sabad is Infinite; we are finite. This is my understanding at the moment, which was different yesterday and may evolve tomorrow, as I deepen my relationship with the Sabad.
1 creative and pervasive Force experienced through True Guru’s Grace!¹
Revealed by Guru Teghbahadar Sahib in the musical measure of Rag Devgandhari
This mind does not follow the slightest instruction.
I keep instructing, guiding; it does not forsake its ignorant thinking.1. Reflect.
Madly intoxicated in the world-play, it does not sing the virtues of the All-Pervading.
Indulging in pretenses cheats the world; fills own belly.1.
As a dog’s tail does not straighten, the mind does not hear the instruction.
Says Nanak: Intently, incessantly, remember Charmer-Divine’s Nam, by which life-objective is realized.2.1.
- Guru Granth Sahib 536
The Guru invokes his mind to share profound teaching on how to realize one’s life objective. It is an intimate and non-threatening way of conveying something sensitive and life-altering. Using the commoner’s language and through everyday examples, the Guru describes the mind’s nature by invoking his mind. The Guru says that the mind is not listening to him for even a moment. He has instructed the mind repeatedly, yet it refuses to listen. There is a tiredness, a sense of exhaustion that is being expressed. The mind has become tainted and intoxicated with the worldly razzle-dazzle. A different way of thinking has entered the mind, so how can it even remember to sing the virtues of the Divine. Deception has also entered, and the mind is absorbed in devious ways to increase its worth. The Guru then equates the mind to the dog’s tail that does not straighten. Implying, how can the mind listen intently to anything? In the last line, the Guru instructs the mind in no uncertain terms. The mind needs to intentionally and willfully remember the virtues, the attributes of the Charmer-Divine to attain the real life-objective.
In this Sabad, the condition of the mind is laid out. One can give it all kinds of instructions, but it is not going to change. The intoxication of illusion is so enticing that the mind has embraced this habit and has hardened. The way to break the pattern and change the mind is by consciously remembering the Divine’s qualities. The Sabad began with a question to the mind, and the last line answered that question.
Revealed by Guru Teghbahadar Sahib in the musical measure Rag Devgandhari²
Every relationship functions when one is alive.
With mother, father, brother, son, relatives, then even the wife.1 Reflect
When breath separates from the body, all witnessing scream “ghost.”
No one keeps the body for even a moment; sends it out from home.1.
O Mind! Having reflected within the heart and observed, this creation of the world is like a deer’s thirst-illusion.
Says Nanak: Intently, incessantly remember Charmer-Divine’s Nam, with it comes freedom.2.2.
- Guru Granth Sahib 536
In the second Sabad, the Guru again invokes his mind and lists the familial relatives and “even” the wife. Then there are those with whom we establish bonds through gatherings and the exchange of gifts. These are considered to be close relationships. However, they only exist when we are alive. When the breath leaves the body, everyone in these relationships calls the body a “ghost” and hurries to get it out of the house. The heart is being asked to reflect on these temporary relationships. These temporary relationships are like the mirage the deer encounters in the desert. The deer sees the water-like mirage ahead; runs towards the illusory water to quench its thirst, only to realize that it has gone past the water. So, it runs back and forth trying to get to this imaginary water and is ultimately exhausted. In the last line, the Guru instructs the mind to intentionally and willfully remember the Charmer-Divine attributes’ virtues, for that will bring freedom.
In this Sabad, familial and close relationships are symbolized as mirages. Those we consider as ours are not willing to keep us for even a moment when life leaves us. This distorted perception entangles us and brings pain. The Guru urges us to develop an insightfulness to appreciate the nature of these relationships, not through the lens of detachment that requires renunciation, but with an awareness that these relationships are not ours. The only way to rise and free ourselves is by consciously and incessantly remembering the Divine’s qualities.
Revealed by Guru Teghbahadar Sahib in the musical measure of Rag Devgandhari³
I have seen false love in the world.
All are involved only in their own comfort, whether wife or friend.1. Reflect.
Everyone says, “mine, mine”; consciousness entangled in the attachment.
At the final moment, no one is a companion; this is the astonishing societal norm.1.
Foolish mind still does not understand, tired of incessantly teaching it.
Nanak: Those who sing songs of the Divine; they cross over the world-ocean.188.8.131.52.
- Guru Granth Sahib 536
In the third Sabad, the Guru addresses the people. The Guru articulates that he has seen that the love in the world is deceptive. The question arises: “Which love?” In the earlier two Sabads and this one, it is the love that emanates from the closest relationships. The Guru reveals that the wife and friends are after their own comfort. Everyone’s consciousness is entwined in the “mine, mine” bondage. Yet, there is no companion at the final breath, and this is the astonishing model of society. The Guru further states that in spite of the mind being taught this repeatedly, the ignorant mind does not understand this norm. And in the last line, the Guru declares that the one who sings the Divine songs frees oneself and lives a realized life.
In this Sabad, love, attachment, bondage, and freedom are striking. The intoxication of this illusory love is ingrained and blinding. How do we overcome this habitual intoxication? The answer is there. It is through singing the songs of Divine – a conscious and physical action. When we sing, we remember, we understand, we identify with Divine virtues. When this deliberate action becomes a part of our being, it weakens habitual intoxication, and gradually, one begins one’s journey towards living a realized life.
These three Sabads reveal the reason why the mind refuses to listen in recognizing its life-objective. They also reveal the way the mind can transcend and recognize its life-objective. The reason for the separation: The mind intoxicated in illusion is unwilling to listen to its life objective. Thereby performing all actions stemming from this deception. The way to transcend is through the conscious and willful effort of remembering Divine virtues. Remembering begins externally before moving internally. At first, it is a conscious remembrance, and then it starts to resound within, transcending the mind effortlessly.
What is the objective of remembering? It is to feel the Presence. For when we feel the Presence, we have encountered the Source, the One, the Beautiful.
Living in remembrance is the glorification of life, where one can appreciate the physical attributes and beauty of life and experience the metaphysical.
A universal being emerges, accepting pain and pleasure, praise and criticism, family and adversary, wealth and absence in the same manner. The only distinction for this transcendent being is between transient and eternal.
Guru Teghbahadar Sahib’s compositions primarily focus on strengthening individuals, thereby enabling them to experience their fullest human potential while living in this world. This is transcendence, liberation, and the ultimate freedom.
ੴ ਸਤਿਗੁਰ ਪ੍ਰਸਾਦਿ ॥
ਰਾਗੁ ਦੇਵਗੰਧਾਰੀ ਮਹਲਾ ੯ ॥
ਯਹ ਮਨੁ ਨੈਕ ਨ ਕਹਿਓ ਕਰੈ ॥
ਸੀਖ ਸਿਖਾਇ ਰਹਿਓ ਅਪਨੀ ਸੀ ਦੁਰਮਤਿ ਤੇ ਨ ਟਰੈ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥
ਮਦਿ ਮਾਇਆ ਕੈ ਭਇਓ ਬਾਵਰੋ ਹਰਿ ਜਸੁ ਨਹਿ ਉਚਰੈ ॥
ਕਰਿ ਪਰਪੰਚੁ ਜਗਤ ਕਉ ਡਹਕੈ ਅਪਨੋ ਉਦਰੁ ਭਰੈ ॥੧॥
ਸੁਆਨ ਪੂਛ ਜਿਉ ਹੋਇ ਨ ਸੂਧੋ ਕਹਿਓ ਨ ਕਾਨ ਧਰੈ ॥
ਕਹੁ ਨਾਨਕ ਭਜੁ ਰਾਮ ਨਾਮ ਨਿਤ ਜਾ ਤੇ ਕਾਜੁ ਸਰੈ ॥੨॥੧॥
ਦੇਵਗੰਧਾਰੀ ਮਹਲਾ ੯ ॥
ਸਭ ਕਿਛੁ ਜੀਵਤ ਕੋ ਬਿਵਹਾਰ ॥
ਮਾਤ ਪਿਤਾ ਭਾਈ ਸੁਤ ਬੰਧਪ ਅਰੁ ਫੁਨਿ ਗ੍ਰਿਹ ਕੀ ਨਾਰਿ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥
ਤਨ ਤੇ ਪ੍ਰਾਨ ਹੋਤ ਜਬ ਨਿਆਰੇ ਟੇਰਤ ਪ੍ਰੇਤਿ ਪੁਕਾਰਿ ॥
ਆਧ ਘਰੀ ਕੋਊ ਨਹਿ ਰਾਖੈ ਘਰ ਤੇ ਦੇਤ ਨਿਕਾਰਿ ॥੧॥
ਮ੍ਰਿਗ ਤ੍ਰਿਸਨਾ ਜਿਉ ਜਗ ਰਚਨਾ ਯਹ ਦੇਖਹੁ ਰਿਦੈ ਬਿਚਾਰਿ ॥
ਕਹੁ ਨਾਨਕ ਭਜੁ ਰਾਮ ਨਾਮ ਨਿਤ ਜਾ ਤੇ ਹੋਤ ਉਧਾਰ ॥੨॥੨॥
ਦੇਵਗੰਧਾਰੀ ਮਹਲਾ ੯ ॥
ਜਗਤ ਮੈ ਝੂਠੀ ਦੇਖੀ ਪ੍ਰੀਤਿ ॥
ਅਪਨੇ ਹੀ ਸੁਖ ਸਿਉ ਸਭ ਲਾਗੇ ਕਿਆ ਦਾਰਾ ਕਿਆ ਮੀਤ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥
ਮੇਰਉ ਮੇਰਉ ਸਭੈ ਕਹਤ ਹੈ ਹਿਤ ਸਿਉ ਬਾਧਿਓ ਚੀਤ ॥
ਅੰਤਿ ਕਾਲਿ ਸੰਗੀ ਨਹ ਕੋਊ ਇਹ ਅਚਰਜ ਹੈ ਰੀਤਿ ॥੧॥
ਮਨ ਮੂਰਖ ਅਜਹੂ ਨਹ ਸਮਝਤ ਸਿਖ ਦੈ ਹਾਰਿਓ ਨੀਤ ॥
ਨਾਨਕ ਭਉਜਲੁ ਪਾਰਿ ਪਰੈ ਜਉ ਗਾਵੈ ਪ੍ਰਭ ਕੇ ਗੀਤ ॥੨॥੩॥੬॥੩੮॥੪੭॥