By Dr. B.S. Bains | OPINION |
Selfless service to Mankind is embedded in every student of The Great Sikh Gurus, right from Guru Nanak’s Three Principle Teachings, Kirat Karo, Vand Shako & Naam Japoo, (Refer to my article: Guru Nanak’s 3 Basic Teachings: The Three Pillar Principles of Sikhism) to the teachings of Guru Gobind Singh Ji and the Present Sri Guru Granth Sahib – The Sikh’s Revered Holy Scripture.
The Sikh community in India and around the world has been instrumental in serving mankind during any catastrophe, may it be natural disaster, pandemics or to urban poverty stricken population.
It was Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji, who accelerated and radiated this spirit into thousands of his Sikhs through just a tap on Bhai Kanhaiya’s shoulder. This spirit has since then dwelled on till date and will go on for generations to come.
Bhai Kanhaiya was born during the time of Guru Teg Bahadur Ji (the Sikh’s 9th Guru), in Wazirabad, Sialkot district of undivided India (today in Pakistan), in the mid-1600’s (17th century) to a rich merchant. It was in his very young age, he had a unique nature in helping the poor laborers.
Initially he would purposefully keep coins in his pocket just for the sake of giving away to the poor people in need. As he grew up, he would help the labor class share to carry their burden of physical work, like transporting heavy materials on their back and walk along with them for any distance, short or long. His mother, however, used to be embarrassed, to what would people say of this rich merchant’s child, seen on the streets helping people at this very young age.
As time passed by, after his father’s death, he took over the business and became a successful merchant himself.
He travelled widely but always spared his earnings to help the destitute, the helpless, the travellers and the sick. During his business travels, he made acquaintance with a person called Bhai Nanua who later became his close friend. Bhai Nanua was a devotee of Guru Teg Bahadur Ji. As Bhai Kanhaiya got closer to Bhai Nanua, he was attracted to his spiritual growth and his daily recital that he would chant and sing. Bhai Nanua would recite all the major verses that he learnt from Guru Teg bahadur Ji. This mesmerized Bhai Kanhaiya and he then requested Bhai Nanua to take him to visit Guru Ji. Upon his first encounter with Guru Ji, Bhai Kanhaiya was immediately spiritually uplifted. With utter reverence, Bhai Kanhaiya became Guru Ji’s greatest devotee and lived with Guru Ji to serve the congregation (sangat) visiting Guru ji with food and water from the Free Kitchen (Langgar).
Bhai Kanhaiya travelled with Guru Teg Bahadur, while in intervals, still went back home to carry out his business obligations. He would return to serve the Guru often and also during the time of distress caused by the Mogul Kings of the time.
At the heights of cruelty, Guru Teg Bahadur Ji was beheaded by the then Mogul ruler Aurengzeb, in Delhi. His son Gobind Rai Ji was barely 9 years of age. Gobind Rai Ji was already a highly elevated Soul. He took on the cosmic divine capacity and his father’s killing with no sense of animosity. He pleaded to the almighty to give him the strength to wither the grief. It was the heaven that came to act, to manifest a phenomenon of divinity, when the little Gobind Rai spoke to the followers of his father with equal wisdom as that of his father. Everyone bowed to the wisdom of Gobind Rai Ji and in humility, as though it was directed by heavens, with collective cosmic consciousness, they all pronounced him their 10th Guru. Gobind Rai Ji would later be named Gobind Singh Ji.
Guru Gobind Singh Ji faced many moments of distress with continuous warfare and attacks from the Mogul kings and the kings of the hilly provinces around Anandpur, a town in the Eastern Punjab.
In the battle field Bhai Kanhaiya would serve water to everyone who was wounded irrespective of the camp they belonged to. During those times, water was scarce, as Anandpur was on dry hilly planes, and every drop was precious and needed to be preserved. But for Bhai Kanhaiya, preserving water only for the use of the Sikhs was not comprehendible. He would empty the barrels of water to serve the wounded at the battle field, even to the enemies. Later he would fill-up the barrels from the nearby wells.
The Sikh soldiers were very upset and angry with this act of Bhai Kanhaiya serving water to the enemies, and they brought this matter to the attention of Guru Gobind Singh Ji. Guru Ji then summoned Bhai Kanhaiya to be brought before him in the presence of a congregation of the Sikhs.
Guru ji then asked Bhai Kanhaiya of the act, as to why he was serving water to the wounded enemies along with the Sikhs who were wounded in the battlefield. Bhai Kanhaiya gave an earnest answer to the Guru Ji with folded hands, that, to him, he saw God in all of them in the battlefield. He said that he saw his Guru Ji in them. For him, he said that everyone was equal. Guru Gobind Singh Ji was so pleased with the answer and told his Congregation that he is the Sikh who has understood the teachings of The Gurus, profoundly. He gave a tap on the shoulder of Bhai Kanhaiya and told him to go ahead, to serve mankind. Bhai Kanhaiya later established many Dharmshala, the first was at Kavha village in the present Attock district of Pakistan which he turned into a Guru’s preaching center. Bhai Kanhaiya died in 1718 listening to Asa Di Waar, the morning Hymns from Sri Guru Granth sahib.
That Magical TAP, on the shoulder of Bhai Kanhaiya was not only meant for him alone, but it was, the tap on the shoulders of all the Sikhs, to-date and for generations to come, to go out there, without fear, without animosity, without bias & selflessly serve every human being coming from any religion, caste or ethnicity during times of distress with food, clothing and shelter.
The Magical TAP of Guru Gobind singh Ji prevails, evergreen and fresh, even today over the shoulders of the Sikhs, to boost and upkeep the Spirit of Langgar (Free Kitchen for all), Spirit of Sewa (Selfless service) and The Spirit of Protection; and that, the Sikhs will uphold this spirit without any reservation serving their neighbors, the society they live in and the country they abide. The tenant of Guru Ji’s teaching is a blueprint of their life.
The teachings of their present Guru Granth Sahib Ji was been personally entrusted to the Sikhs by Guru Gobind Singh Ji himself and to be revered as their 11th and the last Guru, that, all mankind, from every walks and background would seek spiritual guidance to develop their inner and live a just full and honest life.
The Spirit of the Tap on Bhai Kanhaiya’s shoulder Lives on…
Dr Balwant Singh Bains is a Malaysia-based kirtan enthusiast and a practicing physiotherapist with a chain of physiotherapy clinics.
5 things that should always remain a secret… (Asia Samachar, 2 May 2020)
COLLECTIVE CONSCIOUSNESS – The Four Yuggas of Life (Asia Samachar, 19 April 2020)
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