Guru Gobind Singh (1666-1708)
Guru Gobind Singh was the tenth Master in Sikh Dharma from 1675 to 1708 and embodied the ideal of the “Soldier-Saint”. He said, “Only when all other means have failed is it then righteous to take up the sword.” Even in defending the weak and oppressed, one must never fight out of anger, but only when absolutely necessary.
Guru Gobind Singh was a prolific poet. At the age of 19 he wrote the ecstatic Jaap Sahib, one of the daily prayers that Sikhs read daily. Describing God, he wrote:
“Gobinday Mukunday Udaaray Apaaray Hariang Kariang Nirnamay Akamay”
Sustainer, Liberator, Enlightener, Infinite, Destroyer, Creator, Nameless, Desireless
Yogi Bhajan said, "Besides helping cleanse the subconscious mind, it balances the hemispheres of the brain, bringing compassion and patience to the one who meditates on it."
Guru Gobind Singh formed the “Khalsa” (the pure ones) in 1699, during the annual Baisakhi (spring) celebration. To meet the crisis created by the brutal murder of hundreds of thousands of innocents by the Mughal Emperors, Guru Gobind Singh asked who was ready to sacrifice their lives to defend religious freedom. Five people stepped forward and were “baptized” through the Amrit Ceremony by the Guru. He then humbly bowed down and asked them to baptize him, firmly establishing the spirit of democracy in Sikh Dharma. Men and women, and people of all castes, were equally welcome in the Khalsa. He gave all men the name “Singh” (lion), and all women the middle name “Kaur” (princess).
Guru Gobind Singh was renowned for being a brave and effective warrior and fought many battles for religious freedom and social justice. As a “soldier-saint”, he exemplified maintaining his internal peace and equilibrium even in the face of the most extreme provocation, including the murder of his four sons. This story illustrates the concept of the soldier saint.
Bhai Kanhaiya, one of Guru Gobind Singh’s soldiers, was serving water to the wounded soldiers from the enemy camp. Guru Gobind Singh summoned Bhai Kanhaiya and explained that he had received complaints about his actions on the battlefield. The Guru said, “These brave Sikhs are saying that you go and gave water to the enemy and they recover to fight them again – Is this true?”
Bhai Kanhaiya Ji replied "Yes, my Guru, what they say is true. But I saw no Mughal or Sikh on the battlefield. I only saw human beings. And, they all have the same God’s Spirit. Have you not taught us to treat all God's people as the same? Our Sikh heroes destroy enemies by killing them, but I destroy enmity by giving them water.”
The Guru was very pleased with the reply. Bhai Kanhaiya had understood the deep message of his teachings correctly. The Guru smiled and blessed Bhai Kanhaiya. He said, "Bhai Kanhaiya, You are right. You have truly understood my message". The Guru also gave Bhai Kanhaiya a medical balm saying, “From now on, you should also put this balm on the wounds of all who need it.”'
Guru Gobind Singh gave us the “Five K’s” as reminders of our highest consciousness: Kara or steel bracelet (the Infinite is boundless), Kesh or uncut hair (to live as God made us, and to channel our energy), Kanga or wooden comb (to keep ourselves groomed), Kirpan or sacred sword (to protect the defenseless), and Kachera or long cotton underwear (to keep our sexual energy in balance).
At the end of his life, in 1708, Guru Gobind Singh passed the mantle of the Guruship to the Siri Guru Granth Sahib. This ended the time of the physical masters of the Sikhs. And began the reign of the Shabad Guru, itself, as the Spiritual Light and Guide for the Sikh community. For more about the Siri Guru Granth Sahib, please click here.
Imagine the sovereignty of Guru Gobind Singh, his regal presence and unwavering steadiness of mind, even in the midst of battle. Now imagine those qualities residing in you.