In remembrance of the birthday of Guru Gobind Singh ji Maharaj – The Lord of Radiance.
A story that really touched my heart about the Guru is about the poet laureate of the Tenth Master, Bhai Nand Lal ji. He was a scholar of Persian and Arabic in the Court of the Mughal Emperor, but hearing about the glory of Guru Gobind Singh, and due to the increasing narrow-mindedness of the Emperor, he left for the Court or Darbar of Guru Gobind Singh ji.
As is the custom on meeting a great Spiritual-King like the Guru, gifts would be presented, and Bhai Nand Lal gave to the Guru a story about Hanuman, called the Hanuman Natak. In fact, he presented the original manuscript copy of this work to the Guru. Bhai Nand Lal immediately fell in love with the Guru and began to write Persian poetry in the Court. As his spirituality grew he fell madly in love with the Guru. He found it very hard to contain his feelings as he developed a state called ‘bairag’ or complete detachment from the world and complete immersion into love.
The following poem by mystic Professor Puran Singh expresses the love of Bhai Nand Lal for the Guru.
“They ask me to say something about Guru Gobind Singh;
they ask what is He to me?
I tremble when they ask me, what is He to me?
Unable to say anything in reply,
I burst forth into childlike cries of both joy and pain,
and I faint away,
knowing not what is He to me!
Only I say Guru Glorious! Guru Glorious and I am consoled,
I slumber in His Lap,
soothed by the lullabies of my own sound,
knowing not what is He to me!
Do not ask me to define Him,
Do not ask me to praise Him,
Do not ask me name Him,
Do not ask me to preach Him,
And ask me not to conceal Him,
One who has freed me,-
Me, the self-poisoned,
the down trodden slave in the fragrance of Himself.
Whatever He may be to anyone else,
To me, He is the Creator,
who has cast Himself in the shape of His Song.
And sitting nowhere,
He showers from his eyes a rain of stars in the sky!
Let the Great Ones name Him,
Let the scholars search Him
Let the learned discourse on Him,
Let the martyrs sing Him,
Let the lovers call Him,
Let the maidens garland Him,
and sing Him a welcome!
Let the saints worship Him,
let the devotees kiss the Hem of His Garment,
and anoint their foreheads with the dust under His feet,
Let the children gather round Him,
Whatever He may be to anyone else,
To me He is my sacred friend,
who comes unseen to me in my dark despair,
to wipe a silent tear with the edge of His Kingly Skirt.
And to say to me when I cannot listen even to Him,
choked with my own tears,-
“I am here by your side, the whole of myself when no one is nigh,
I am for you, O sad sinner!
I am exclusively for you and no one else!!”
Let the women say to Him, “I love you,”
let the singer say to Him, “I sing for you,”
Let the dancer say to Him, “I dance for you,”
Let the yogi say to Him, “I lie wrapped up in thought of you,”
Let the pious tell Him, “we obey your law,”
Whatever He may be to anyone else and anybody else to Him,
What can I be?-
I, devoid of all virtue, merit, or light;
I devoid of the sacred vows of piety, silence or poverty;
I a sweeper of the street of the Pleasure of Sense;
I, an aimless chaser of quivering Illusions that fly the trembling colors of the wings of the butterflies that flutter around the Maya of life in full flowers:
What can I, I say to Him?-
I, the old joy-sipper with the everlasting burden of Illusion on my back:
I only cast my head down in shame,
I stand abashed, away from all,
in the corner of my naked body with all its scars and stains;
But behold: He cometh even to me, as the sun goes down,
and the saints leave Him alone.
And as He cometh, I burst forth crying.
And He consoleth me saying: ‘Have I been really too long away from thee?’”
Professor Puran Singh
This need for devotion as the key to all spiritual practices is expressed by Guru Gobind Singh ji writes in his bani called the Sri Akal Ustat, in a verse called the Svaiya:
Listen all I proclaim the Truth, those that love realize the Lord. (Sri Dasam Granth Sahib Ji)
Love is what drove the Guru to fight for the truth on the battlefield. Love is what made the Guru give his own head to the Panj Piare or the Five Beloved Ones. Love is the force that made his own father sacrifice his own life for the Dharma.
As Bhai Nand Lal began to dive deep into this oceanic experience of Divine love, he would go to the Guru’s quarters very early in the morning, and would serenade the Guru. He would sing only two words repeatedly ‘Lailo Dil’ which means take my heart. He would sing this every day for months on end. Finally one day the Guru appeared and said ‘Bhai Nand Lal ji, please tell me what you would like from me’. Bhai Nand Lal replied ‘Master, please take my heart’. The Guru replied ‘Nand Lal, ask for anything else but this’. Bhai Nand Lal replied ‘Master please fulfil this request, I do not want anything else’. Guru Gobind Singh explained that he was willing to give Bhai Nand Lal anything he wanted, wealth, fame, fortune but he could not take his heart. Bhai Nand Lal was adamant that the Guru should take it, and then finally mustered the courage to ask the Guru why he would not take it. The Guru replied ‘Nand Lal! The heart must be pure, only when it is free from all hate, all malice, only then can I take it’. Bhai Nand Lal burst into tears, he said ‘Please bless me that I am able to purify it, what must I do?’ The Guru said ‘Oh Nand Lal, do not despair, serve the Sangat in the langar (free kitchen) of Guru Nanak, and your heart will be purified.’
Bhai Nand Lal took all his money he had been paid by the Guru and opened a langar for the Sangat. Any person he served, he imagined they were a form of the Guru. Night and day he would carry out this service or sewa. One day the Guru dressed as a poor man went to each langar to see if the sewa was performed well. In many langars fabulous foods were made, people served with devotion and did their best to make the Sangat happy. He reached Bhai Nand Lal’s langar late in the night, Bhai Nand Lal tended to the Guru with upmost devotion, in his heart and his mind, this poor man was the Guru. The Guru then revealed who he was, and took Bhai Nand Lal to his chest, and said ‘Oh Nand Lal, it is now I who longs for your heart’. It was at this moment Bhai Nand Lal became a Brahmgiani, or fully enlightened being.
Bhai Nand Lal then went on to continue writing, and the most famous piece is the famous ode to Guru Gobind Singh, known as the Ganjnama. Another one of his works was presented to the Guru, which he had titled Bandaginama – The Epistle of Devotion, due to it being a devotional piece, the Guru renamed it to Zindaginama – The Epistle of Life. The Guru spoke softly to Bhai Nand Lal and said ‘My dear Nand Lal, your devotion has touched my heart, and brought forth new life within it, whosoever reads your work will be blessed with the true way of life. Thus, I have changed the title from Bandaginama to Zinadaginama.’ Guru Gobind Singh was complete in his devotion to the Divine. May we be inspired to have this devotion also, and live this devotion within our families and the Sangat.
Below is the English translation of the Ganjnama, the praise of the Tenth Master, the words in which we have the Divine glimpse or darshan of the Wearer of the Plume, Sri Guru Gobind Singh ji:
Guru Gobind Singh is victorious and assists us to succeed in life; he is accepted by God as His own.
Guru Gobind Singh is the custodian of God’s treasure; he is the bestower of all the gifts.
Guru Gobind Singh knows the ways of God; he is the emperor of emperors.
Guru Gobind Singh rules over both the worlds; he is the destroyer of the enemies.
Guru Gobind Singh illuminates our lives with abundance; he reveals secrets of God.
Guru Gobind Singh is aware of the secrets of the world; he showers his unlimited mercies.
Guru Gobind Singh is the favourite of Waheguru; he is with Him all the time
Guru Gobind Singh bestows life in this world; he is the sea of Waheguru’s blessings
Guru Gobind Singh is loved by God; he is the seeker as well as the sought.
Guru Gobind Singh achieved victories with his sword; he knows the secret of every heart.
Guru Gobind Singh wears the crown of the world; he lives in the shadow of Waheguru.
Guru Gobind Singh controls all the treasures of the world; he is the medicine of all ailments.
Guru Gobind Singh is the master of the world; both the worlds are under his shelter.
Guru Gobind Singh is praised by God Himself; he is bestowed with highest qualities.
Great men are at the feet of Guru Gobind Singh; the angels visit him for audience.
The fortunate ones admire Guru Gobind Singh; he knows everything in our hearts.
The poor kiss the feet of Guru Gobind Singh; the drum of his authority sounds in both the worlds.
Guru Gobind Singh rules over the three worlds; he has the stamp of his authority on the four Vedas
The six shastras are his slaves; he always defeats the enemy.
Pure at heart, Guru Gobind Singh is free from ill will; he is the mirror through whom God reveals Himself.
Guru Gobind Singh meditates on God; he is a mystic and a king at the same time.
Guru Gobind Singh is virtue personified; his gifts to mankind are unending.
Guru Gobind Singh is most generous and forgiver.
Guru Gobind Singh blesses even the benevolent; he bestows gifts even to those who give.
Guru Gobind Singh is eternal; he is auspicious for all.
Guru Gobind Singh is essence of God’s blessings; God Himself radiates through him.
Those who have listened to the name of Guru Gobind Singh have received the gift of seeing God Himself.
Those who sang the praises of Guru Gobind Singh were united with God.
Those who wrote in praise of Guru Gobind Singh received fame the world over with his grace.
Those who had seen the face of Guru Gobind Singh moved in his lanes intoxicated with God’s Name.
Those who kissed the dust under the feet of Guru Gobind Singh were fortunate and were elevated in life.
Guru Gobind Singh is the doer of all that is happening in this world, he is friend of the poor.
Guru Gobind Singh worships (God); he is also worshipped (by the whole creation).He is generous with all the bounties he gives.
Guru Gobind Singh is the chief of all the kings; he occupies the loftiest position.
The ten (Greek) gods are under the command of Guru Gobind Singh and they sing his praises in reverence.
The sacred goddesses of the world are also working for Guru Gobind Singh and they are his servants.
Guru Gobind Singh controls our destinies; still he meditates on God n submission.
The nine gods are like dust of (the feet of) Guru Gobind Singh; They serve him well.
Guru Gobind Singh is above the highest thrones; he moves in the heavens.
Guru Gobind Singh is supreme in all virtues; he is eternal and above everyone else.
Guru Gobind Singh gives light to the world; our hearts and souls blossom because of him.
Guru Gobind Singh’s stature is increasing every day; he is the beauty of all thrones.
Guru Gobind Singh is our guide in both the worlds; he is the sight of every eye.
Guru Gobind Singh commands the whole creation; he is supreme in stature.
Both the worlds are the army of Guru Gobind Singh; all are under his protection.
The most generous Guru Gobind Singh is the conqueror of every battle.
Guru Gobind Singh’s blessings are unending; he is virtue personified.
Guru Gobind Singh is the soul of every one; he is the light of every eye.
Guru Gobind Singh provides sustenance to all; he showers His graces.
The twenty-seven gods are the beggars of Guru Gobind Singh; they are engaged in sweeping his house.
The five elements praise Guru Gobind Singh; the seven worlds admire him.
Guru Gobind Singh has his hand on both the worlds; all the angels are inferior to him.
Nand LaL is the slave dog of Guru Gobind Singh; he carries the stamp of Guru Gobind Singh on him.
Nand Lal is lower than all the dogs of Guru Gobind Singh; he (pecks) at the left overs of his dinner table.
Nand Lal is begging to get the gift of holy dust of Guru Gobind Singh’s feet.
His (Nand Lal’s) life may be sacrificed for Guru Gobind Singh and Nand Lal’s head may always remain at his feet. Bhai Nand Lal, Ganjnama
You can see the original with the Persian at the link below
A beautiful version is sung on guitar by Bhai Sahib Pritpal Singh Khalsa: