We as Sikhs are filled with excitement and enthusiasm during this time of the year, as it is the Parkash Ustav (Birth Anniversary) of our founder Guru Nanak Dev Ji. The holy Guru Granth Sahib is not just the repository of the sayings of the Sikh Gurus but also of saints and Bhagats of other faiths. Even the compilation of this Guru Granth Sahib was done by Gurus themselves with their own hands. Thus it makes it a unique repository in the world, but also a true interfaith scripture. Now, on the occasion of the Parkash Ustav let us try to find the first advice of our beloved First Sikh Guru.
When we open the Guru Granth Sahib, the first composition on page one is Jap. Guru Ji starts it with an invocation which is known as Mool Mantra, and as it concludes we see the title, Jap, which has the literal meaning of “to recite”. This composition is considered as the capsule that captures the essence of the complete scripture. It is believed that the entire Guru Granth Sahib can be considered as the exposition of Jap which is affectionately known as Japji Sahib. Guru ji has first defined about whom the recitation is. After the definition, there are 38 stanzas that comprise the composition and then there is a concluding stanza.
Guru Ji starts the composition first by describing the religious practices of the times to become truthful. Then in the concluding line of first stanza, Guru Ji poses the question on how to become truthful. Then he answers it by saying that it is by obeying the Hukam or Universal Order. In the second stanza, Guru Ji has defined what Hukam is. According to Guru Ji, Hukam is the program or laws under which the entire universe operates. In the third stanza, Guru has described how the human mind attempts to figure out Hukam instead of trying to find how to comply with it. In the fourth stanza, Guru Ji defines that love is the language of God. Guru Ji then has posed a question on what we should place before God, and what we should utter so that God will be pleased that we have complied with Hukam. Guru Ji answers that question by saying in the ambrosial hours chant the Naam. Naam is the divine energy that pervades in the entire creation and is the source of creation. It becomes the medium to unite with God. It is the supreme language that will enable us to have conversation with God, a relationship with God and to become one with Him.
In the first four stanzas, Guru Ji has talked about the principles and now in the fifth stanza Guru Ji offers his advice by starting a new Chapter on how to conform to Hukam. Here Guru Ji introduces the aspect of Guru. Then Guru shares with us how Guru helps in learning about Naam and the language of love. Guru Ji declares that Guru is everything that is worth admiring, adoring and emulating. In the concluding line Guru Nanak Dev Ji presents the first concrete advice as:
“Guraa eik daeh bujhaaee.
Sabhanaa jeeaa kaa eik daataa so mai visar n jaaee.” – (SGGS, Pg. No. 2)
Meaning: The Guru has given me this one understanding: there is only the One, the Giver of all souls. May I never forget Him!
So, in essence Guru Ji’s first advice is that God is provider for everyone and that one should not forget Him. Forgetting Him means not being in compliance to His Hukam. Thus Guru Ji’s advice is that all our thoughts and actions should reflect that they are in alignment with plus in compliance to His Hukam. The significance and benefit of complying with Guru Ji’s advice has been clarified by Guru Ji in a line of stanza six as:
"Mut vich rathan javaahar maanik jae eik gur kee sikh sunee.” – (SGGS, Pg. No. 2)
Meaning: Within the mind are gems, jewels and rubies, if you listen to the Guru's Teachings, even once.
Guru Ji has declared that the person who has incorporated this one advice in his/her mind as the one possessing precious gems and jewels in his/her mind. The benefit of having that state of mind and living in compliance with Hukam is summed up by Guru Ji as:
“Dukh parhar sukh ghar lai jaae .” – (SGGS, Pg. No. 2)
Meaning: Your pains and suffering shall be relieved, and happiness and peace shall come to your home.
The lives of Guru Angad and subsequent Gurus are the living testimonials of obeying the Guru’s Hukam in their own lives. Now let us see what Guru Nanak Dev says about not forgetting the Hukam of the Creator. Guru Nanak Dev Ji has said:
“Aakhaa jeevaa visarai mar jaao.” – (SGGS, Pg. No. 9)
Meaning: By remembering it, I live; forgetting it, I die.
Guru Amar Das has Ji clarified what benefits will those reap who have incorporated the advice from the Guru in these words:
“Nanak tinee sah paaeiaa jinee gur kee sikh sunee.” – (SGGS, Pg. No. 785)
Meaning: O Nanak, they alone obtain their Husband Lord, who listens to the Guru's Teachings.
We saw that for Guru Nanak Dev Ji, remembering is an elixir of life without which Guru Ji he feels like dead. We also saw that for Guru Nanak Dev Ji and the subsequent Gurus the remembering of the Creator and obeying the Hukam is paramount. But for us, being preoccupied with various challenges of life, remembering does not come automatically. We have to struggle with it. When we try, our mind takes off on it own and then it comes up with all kind of excuses. We are so swept up with that strong current of thoughts that we do not even step back for a minute to check if the proposed action will conform with the Hukam or not. We do not even check if we are trying to exercise our own judgment and our own thought process. So, on the occasion of Parkash Purab let us make our homage to Guru Ji with words of Guru Arjan Dev Ji as our prayer to God:
“Visar naahee daataar aapanaa naam daeh.” – (SGGS, Pg. No. 762)
Meaning: Never forget me, O Great Giver - please bless me with Your Naam.
We are hopeful that gracious God will listen to our heartfelt prayer and bless us with His remembrance that we never forget Him and all our actions reflect that thought process where conformance to Hukam is the sole criteria. That will be a true homage of a Sikh to the Guru.