By Gurnam Singh | OPINION |
I came across the following fable about an encounter Guru Gobind Singh ji had with a Muslim chief, which is recounted in the Suraj Parkash Granth of Kavi Santokh Singh. Ayan 1 Chapter 48.
As is the case with all poetry, the meaning is often more important than any empirical truths. And so, though I have no solid evidence if this encounter ever took place, I am still impressed with the message. Many thanks to Jvala Singh for sharing on his Twitter feed, which I have reproduced below along with some of my own thoughts on the moral of the story.
When Guru Gobind Singh arrived in Agra, he was aggressively questioned by a Muslim sayyid if he possessed any abilities to perform miracles. Guru playfully described 3 types of miracles: The Political, The Financial and The Martial.
The Guru replied that miracles exist on the tongue of the Emperor, who can make a poor man into a great leader and who can command thousands of people by their word. The Sayyid wasn’t happy with this answer and asked again, “Ok, but I asked about you, what miracles do you possess?”
The Guru then put his hand in his pocket and took out several gold coins, “Look, this is the second type of miracle.” He explained how people with wealth can do what they want. The Sayyid, now really frustrated, asked for the third time, “What about you, show me a miracle that you possess?”
At this point Guru Gobind Singh quickly unsheathed his sword which was glistening brightly – the Sayyid got scared and lowered his head. The Guru then said, “This too is a miracle. Should I show you how it works and take off your head?”
One can no doubt interpret this story in many ways, but I like to compare the power of miracles with power that we may possess as human beings. Hence, if miracles are assumed to be extraordinarily acts of goodness, like, for example, bringing the dead back to life, then for me the moral of this story is to understand that power – whether political, economic or physical – can be a force for good or evil.
I think this is precisely what Guru Ramdas means in the following lines from Sorath Raag: “The nine treasures and the eighteen spiritual powers of the Siddhas follow him, who keeps the Lord enshrined in his heart. Without the True Guru, the Name is not found; understand this, and reflect upon it.” (GGS p649). In other words, though you may possess supreme power, this is nothing if there is no goodness in the heart. But if your intentions are good then go out and exercise the miracle of political, economic and personal power.
A good example is this way if understanding miracle powers of a surgeon who, through his craft, skill, knowledge and ethics, can literally save somebodies life. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic where millions of lives will be lost, who can deny that the person who discovers the vaccine has not in some senses performs a miracle? On a different scale, perhaps, one could argue that a writer, singer, artist, teacher, poet or simply a fellow human being, cannot, through their passion, creativity and craft, help to transforms the lives of others.
In this regard, miracles are performed by all kinds of people all the time, not to forget the miracle of nature itself.
Those people who claim miracle powers and perform all kinds of tricks, which they claim to be magic, we all know are charlatans seeking to prey on the minds of the vulnerable. Such people deploy psychological trickery are not just the fake Godmen that the Gurus condemned, but in today’s modern technological age, can be found in marketing and advertising agencies, offering to solve any range of problems, from poor physical and or mental health, negative body image, lack of money etc, with any number of dubious products, therapies and methods.
So, for me, the greatest miracle in life is life itself and the knowledge that everything in the universe is connected in some sense. When we realise that we are all divine, not just because we are all unique, but because we are a part of the bigger cosmos, of the oneness or ‘1 owankaar’, then we will avoid those who trade in fake miracles. And the great gift of human existence is that we actually have the capacity to perceive this sense of ‘all is one’, of connectedness and when we achieve this stage of awareness, we become liberated from a desire for mere material satisfaction and instant gratification.
[Gurnam Singh is an academic activist dedicated to human rights, liberty, equality, social and environmental justice. He is an Associate Professor of Sociology at University of Warwick, UK. He can be contacted at Gurnam.firstname.lastname@example.org]
* This is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Asia Samachar.
Miracles and Godmen (Asia Samachar, 31 July 2020)
Science, religion and the Covid-19 crisis (Asia Samachar, 3 May 2020)
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