Max Arthur Macauliffe, in the book The Sikh Religion, writes: “In the afternoon the Guru used often to gird on his sword, equip himself with his bow and arrows, mount his horse, and then proceed to the chase……The Guru took some of the animals he had obtained from the chase home with him, and freed and protected them in a zoological garden, which he caused to be made for the recreation of his followers.”
Zoological garden? Recreation of his followers? When was the last time any of us felt a sense of thrill and enjoyment going to the natural history museum or the local zoo. When was the last time any Sikh organization or Sikh philanthropist thought of setting up a sanctuary for animals or a museum to celebrate our natural history? Something to think about…
Principal Satbir Singh, in his appropriately titled book (panjabi) on the life of Guru Harrai Sahib – Nirbhao Nirvair – writes that the Guru would sit in the sangat and listen to the recitation of the Guru Granth Sahib and then listen to the rababi style of gurmat sangit kirtan everday. Everyday he would sit in the pangat and partake in langar, but made it a point to earn his living (kirt di kamai).
Everyone must have heard of this one: One day Aurangzeb, in an attempt to ensure that the Mughal throne would be his own, poisoned his elder brother Dara Sikhon with “crushed tiger whiskers”. Dara Sikhon was apparently quite a pious and spiritual man and became very ill because of the poisoning. No hakim (traditional south asian medicine man) was able to find a cure to his illness. However, Guru Harrai Sahib had a very advanced (for its time) dispensary full of exotic medicinal herbs and it became evident that the House of Nanak had the cure to Dara’s illness. Shah Jahan, the emperor and father of Dara Sikhon, had to eventually humbly request the herbs in order to save his son. Guru Sahib, the compassionate, agreed and thus Dara was cured and eventually became a shagird (disciple) of the Guru.
Finally, I learnt from all the sources I read about the Guru’s life that he had a favorite var of Bhai Gurdas ji (the poet laureate and par excellence Sikh theologian) that he would repeat to the Sikhs very often. Guru Sahib’s choice of this var, as a teaching utility of the lifestyle a Sikh of the House of Nanak, really intrigued me. So simple and straightforward to understand, yet so difficult and challenging to follow. It is var 28, pauri 15 and goes like this:
A Sikh awakes in the pre-dawn hour and enshrines the merits of nam and compassion
(A Sikh) speaks civilly, is humble and happily does good to others after having earned with their own hands
(A Sikh), according to the Guru’s instruction, sleeps, eats and speaks moderately.
(A Sikh) toils to earn a living, performs good deeds and does not let success go over the top of the head
(A Sikh) walks for days and nights in search of the company of those that sing the Guru’s word, and sings with them!
(A Sikh) keeps his/her constantly mindful and merged in the sabad and maintains love for the true Guru
(A Sikh) amid hopes and desires, remains detached
Hail to Guru Harrai Sahib, our seventh Master, the seventh embodiment of Guru Nanak’s jot, the compassionate one, the inspiration of the downtrodden, the keeper of the zoological sanctuary, the lover of nature, the lover of things natural and scientific. May his life be a model for us to follow.
Remain in Chardi Kala and Simro Sri Harrai