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Guru Arjan (1563-1606)

Guru Arjan was the fifth Sikh Guru from 1581 to 1606, and the youngest son of Guru Ram Das.  He was a prolific and accomplished poet and the first Sikh martyr.


Guru Arjan’s brother, Prithi Chand, wanted to become the Guru, but lacked the spiritual depth.  He was intensely jealous of his younger brother’s relationship with their father, Guru Ram Das.  There is a famous story in which Guru Arjan (known as Arjan Mal at the time) was sent away to attend a family wedding.  He wrote four beautiful letters to his father, expressing both his personal, intimate love for his father, and his longing for the divine.  These letters are known as “Shabd Hazare” (“Mere Man Lochai”).  (Prithi Chand hid the letters but was eventually exposed.) It is said that whoever recites it will never be separated from the Guru or from those they love. It begins:

“My mind longs for the sight of the Guru.

It cries out like the pied cuckoo.

This thirst is not quenched and peace does not come,

Without the sight of the beloved saint Guru.

I am devoted and I have offered myself as a sacrifice,

To the blessed vision of the beloved saint Guru.”


He became the Guru at age 18 and began construction of the Golden Temple.  He compiled the Sikh scriptures to preserve the verbatim writings of the Sikh Gurus, and also included the writings of other saints including: Muslims, Hindus, a weaver, a farmer, a shoemaker…people of all castes who shared a level of divine consciousness. These scriptures eventually became the Siri Guru Granth Sahib, the “Eleventh Sikh Guru” when Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Guru, finalized it by adding writings from his father Guru Tegh Bahadur.


Guru Arjan wrote, “He did not take my accounts into account; such is His forgiving nature. He gave me His hand and saved me and made me His own; forever and ever, I enjoy His Love.  The True Lord and Master is forever merciful and forgiving. My Perfect Guru has bound me to Him, and now, I am in absolute ecstasy. The One who fashioned the body and placed the soul within, who gives you clothing and nourishment – He Himself preserves the honor of His slaves.  Nanak is forever a sacrifice to Him.”  He also authored “Sukhmani Sahib” that describes the consciousness of a saint.


Guru Arjan’s spirituality and popularity came to the attention of the brutal Mughal emperor Jehangir who summoned Guru Arjan to his court to forcibly convert him  to Islam.  After Guru Arjan refused, he was imprisoned and tortured for five days before his death. A disciple, Pir Mian Mir, asked the Guru why he didn’t use his yogic powers to stop the torture.  The Guru told him to close his eyes.  When Mian Mir did, he had a vision and saw the Guru being tortured, but he also saw the Guru as the ones administering the torture, and immediately realized that it was the Guru’s destiny.  The Guru said, “Thy will is sweet to me. O Lord.  Nanak craves for the wealth of God’s name.”


Imagineyour heart melting in the devotion the Guru Arjan describes as you surrender to the reality that everything is God’s will, even at challenging moments.

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