Sant Kirpal Singh on the festival of Vaisakhi
Extracts from a lecture in his book “The Night is a Jungle”, Ch. 14
Today is the festival of Vaisakhi (the first day of the Indian month of Vaisakh, corresponding approximately to April 14th), which is celebrated in different ways according to the various religious customs. Nature itself celebrates by sprouting of new buds and leaves, and the new life begins from this season. We should take a lesson from Nature and sprout forth with a new life.
In the Hindu religion there are ten avatars, and certain Hindus celebrate this day as a double event: the birth of Parshuram, and the overcoming of evil by Narsing Avatar. Parshuram was a great yogi. Narsing was the avatar who saved Prince Prahlad and killed the Prince’s father, the tyrant King Hirnaikashya, who while ruling the people with a rod of iron had declared himself God and had made them worship him. By performing severe austerities he had obtained a great boon from the gods: that he would never die by any hand born out of life, nor during the day or night, nor within or without any building, not on earth, nor in the sky, etc. His son Prahlad became a true devotee of the Lord and solemnly declared that God was God and not his father. The King tried to kill the Prince by various methods or torture, but the pure devotion of the child repeatedly drew on the grace of God for salvation, until finally his father ordered that Prahlad should embrace a red-hot iron column. Confronted with such a formidable test, the child at first hesitated, but on seeing an ant crawling up the column he stepped forward with joy and placed his arms around the column. At once the column split asunder and out stepped Narsing Avatar in a form born out of the fiery structure, terrifying to gaze upon. He took the King in his powerful hands, and as the sun went down he stepped into a doorway, neither inside nor outside, and tore the King apart.
I congratulate the Buddhists on this day, for the Lord Buddha was born on Vaisakhi, on Vaisakhi he received enlightenment, and on Vaisakhi he left his body finally – Nirvana. So both religions have good reason for celebration. For us also it can be a great day, for we are constantly lamenting that we should start life anew; so we should start this new day as the beginning of a new life in which the flowers should blossom and the fruit should come forth. There should be so much fruit on each branch that the weight may bow the fruit to the earth.
This is a great day for Sikhs also. In truth, Sikhism is not a cult; this is what I feel. One poet says that the world changes, and a true man is he who changes the world. On this day, some three centuries ago, Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Sikh Guru, started the Khalsa. In those days the people were killing each other in the name of religion, and he started to erase the controversy by forming the Khalsa. A khalsa is a true disciple, and on this day the Guru found five true disciples among his followers and made them leaders of the people.
There was religious enmity during the life of Guru Nanak, who was once asked who he was and replied, I am not Hindu, neither Muslim; the breath of this body is Allah and Ram. He meant that Allah and Ram are one, but they still insisted on further explanation, so he said, “If I say I am Hindu you will kill me, Muslim I am not; Nanak is that invisible Power playing in this puppet of five elements.” They were concerned only with outer labels, and he had no desire to claim the outer form which signifies a Hindu or Muslim. His answer served to show them that man is greater than his outer appearance, for he is truly the power which resides in the physical form. We all stick on labels, sooner or later, entangling ourselves in conformity, but in truth we are just men – just human beings.
On this subject, Guru Gobind Singh Ji says, “The caste of all humanity is one”. We are all born the same way and have been given the same faculties. During the life of Kabir, as an open challenge the Brahmins declared that they had come to the world by direct orders from the mouth of Brahma, but Kabir replied, “O Brahmin, if you came direct from God, why were you not born differently than other men?” Even the outer and inner physical structure of all men is the same: no one has four arms, etc. All have the same privileges, whether born high or low according to their karma. As for these karmas of the past, Tulsi Sahib says, “The great Law of Karma has created the world’s conditions; Each will take the fruit of his actions.” Valmiki was a low-caste untouchable, who became Maharishi Valmiki! Because according to karma from his past, the change was bound to take place. But these days the children of brahmins are called brahmins indiscriminately, and so on in other castes, for as time passes, chains upon chains are added in the name of religion, and the basic oneness of all men is forgotten.
So on this day, five specially selected disciples were chosen, and they were called Panch Piara or the beloved five. The prevailing conditions of India at that time called for such action, but that is past and is not our concern. In those days, whether friends or enemies, men had no respect for each other, and the Guru sought to awaken the life and meaning of true teaching. He made a public announcement, and asked, “Who will offer his head for sacrifice?” Now, it is a simple matter to find hundreds of people who will agree with everything you say, and still more who will willingly bow down in obeisance. There are many also who will give their wealth for a cause. But how many can you find who will give up their lives? After a moment’s pause, one man arose and came forward to the Guru, and then four others, one by one. He did not kill them, but made them his beloved disciples, above all religion – true human beings with the fact accepted. Then he gave them his Light, for from one Light others are kindled. He made the Khalsas – and what is said of the Khalsa?
The Khalsa is my true form; the Khalsa is my abode;
The Khalsa is my full intoxication; the Khalsa is my complete Satguru.
He is one who will never leave me. He takes responsibility for the soul until the end; In that Lord does my mind rejoice. And as further indication: “Think of Him as the Pure One, in whom the effulgent Light is glowing.”
He infused them with the Water of Life. Religion is no consideration; He who takes God’s Name becomes His own. Masters never make people the prisoners of religion. Religions are our schools of thought, of which we have to make the best use. I am Thine, O Lord. May Thy victory be everywhere. The Khalsa has been described as a Living Light. Guru Gobind Singh gave them the Inner Light, and even outwardly bound them unto himself by vows with charged sweetened water given by his own hands. And then he made them offer the same water to himself, showing – that the Guru is the disciple, and the true disciple is the Guru – which is an outer pointer to his greatness.
All Masters made disciples of course, including Lord Buddha, Hazrat Mohammed Sahib, Jesus Christ and others. They made disciples that they should become Buddhas and Christs. They regularly took food with their disciples, though the disciples never actually realized them to be as great as they were. I am speaking very frankly. The tenth Guru Sahib said, I am a Khalsa and saying this, he took the amrit from their hands; and to combat the conditions of the time he formed a volunteer corps. He changed nothing in their religion; they remained Hindus, but willingly sacrificed their lives for the cause of truth and honour. One is reminded of Vali Khan and Nabi Khan Ali Khan who were Muslims, and who also sacrificed their lives for Guru Gobind Singh’s cause. When Nabi Khan Ali Khan was killed, a man went to inform his wife; her first words were not concerning the death of her husband but, “Is my Guru all right?” What sacrifice that was!
When Bhai Nandlal Ji wrote a book of prayer called Bandgi Nama, Guru Gobind Singh gave the book the title of Zindgi Nama, meaning “The Giver of Life.” If you have the opportunity to read it, you will become thoroughly awakened to the true teachings. The tenth Guru said, We are the worshippers of the same Living Light. All Masters pointed out that outer practices are of our own making, meant for the preparation of the ground. Maulana Rumi also said that theists and atheists have the same right to realize the Truth, for the soul is the same in both. All rituals are results of superstition.
First the unity of consciousness in creation was set. There is only one Brahm – there is nothing else – which was later qualified by others according to their own approach. Through God’s Light were all His children created into His play; With the same Light was the whole world created – who is good and who is bad? It is a subject for deep thought. How can you make a Khalsa by merely sticking a label on someone? The greatness of the tenth Guru lies in this: that he himself infused the Light, and then made them as great as himself. Wherever these five beloveds will be, there will I be also. If you sit near an awakened soul, you also will awaken.
The system was excellent, but it was difficult to get constituents. He made one Guru-home in which all were equal. No one need worry what he was going to eat, where his clothing was coming from, how his children were going to be fed. He told everyone to do nishkam seva (selfless service) and to keep the Living Light within alive always. He gave an example: Like sparks jumping from a fire, they fall back to become part of it again. We are the sparks of that Living Light. The soul has an innate desire to return to its own home, but estranged in this foreign land, it has become entangled with the mind and senses and is superficially reluctant to leave.
Guru Gobind Singh Ji broke down the religious narrow-mindedness; it was a great work. It is not an easy task to break old rituals, even though the basic teachings are the same given by Guru Nanak, Kabir, and other Masters. Ravidas Ji says, He cannot be bought, but is attained through true devotion. It is also said, Count the executioner as the purest, if God resides in his mind. Anyone in whom God is manifested is the purest of all. If the system that Guru Gobind Singh Ji Maharaj introduced could be implemented today, all life’s uncertainties would be removed. From the very beginning I have thought that there should be a common kitchen and everyone should eat there. Everyone is subject to the attitude, “this is mine, this is mine,” but it is an obstacle. All are not at the same stage of development, but there is great hope for those who are sincere and willing.
So today we celebrate Vaisakhi, because the Khalsa Panth was started on that date. Many people have the wrong understanding of the word Khalsa – he is the one in whom the Light is manifested. It has even been said that, The Khalsa will reign over all; all those who will sit at his feet will be saved. You will note that those who come to his feet will be saved; not the rest. The Khalsa is not formed from outer appearances, and in the end only the spiritual men will rule. The spiritual person in whom God has manifested Himself is the Khalsa, and those who come to his feet will be saved; others will have to remain in their humiliation. That which man accepts as law through generations of customary habit, is viewed by the Masters from a detached and therefore more accurate angle of vision. They see no value in religious highs and lows. They light the Light within all and reveal that all are one and the same. The so-called gurus remain as gurus and their disciples remain disciples, but the true Masters say “No, we are one and the same.” Our Hazur used to say, “No emperor wants his son to remain an official.” A true Saint desires that his followers also become Saints. All men, from both human and spiritual levels, are one and the same. He who is the Controlling Power is the Giver and the Doer. Even the meaning behind the puja or namaz (Hindu and Muslim devotional practices respectively) is the same. With puja, a lamp is lit and then the puja performed, while the Muslims place their hands on their ears and utter the sound called baang. On the Path of the Masters the initiate is taught how to place the hands on the ears and hear the inner Sound. One should listen to this inner baang (Music of the Spheres), which is spiritually efficacious.
Guru Nanak once went to Shiraz (in Persia), and there he met a Muslim priest named Rooknudin, who asked the Guru, “Have you ever seen the house of the Lord?” Guru Nanak replied, “Yes, and proceeded to describe the physical form: It has twelve minarets, six at each extremity (joints of the arms and legs); fifty-two spires (thirty-two teeth and twenty nails); and two windows (eyes). It is also said, ‘In a lofty special palace, Khuda (God) is giving the baang.’” So one should be able to understand clearly that the true mosque, church or temple is the human form. Mosques are forehead-shaped, church steeples are nose-shaped, temples and gurdwaras are dome – or head-shaped, all model imitations of the true temple of God. This body is the temple of God in which the true Light is seen.
Maulana Rumi tells us that for those whose eyes are not open, mosques are made with clay and water. For the awakened people – the complete Masters – the mosque is this true heart, at the seat of the soul. During my Western tour I told the people many times that God does not reside in temples made with stone, but He Himself made the house in which He resides. But we have forgotten the true temple and respect the man-made outer images of the true house. What tragedy that we go to the imitation temple, leaving the natural mosque to bear the labor. The man-made model was intended to teach us that there is such a thing as inner Light and Sound, and we should have learned to withdraw to experience it; but instead we are worshipping any image, indiscriminately. In sacred solemnity we are clutching the outer skin, oblivious to the fruit that lies within.
In the Upanishads it is written, “What is that, the knowledge of which makes everything else known?” The soul is a conscious entity; as long as it does not merge into the All Consciousness, it will never be at peace. Furthermore, the mind can never be controlled while it remains without contact with the Naam or God Power. When you get the Naam, the mind becomes controlled. In the life of Lord Krishna it is mentioned that deep in the River Yamuna he encountered a thousand-headed serpent, which he overpowered by playing his flute. This serpent represents the mind, which has a thousand ways of poisoning us. With victory over the mind, you have victory over the world. There is no other obstacle between us and the Lord, but the mind. If your heart holds a strong desire to realize God, then put one foot on your mind – to still it – and the next step will take you to the home of the Lord.
In the Koran it is written that if a man can recognize his true self, then he will recognize God. The same teachings are brought by all Masters for all people. A Light appears in the human form, and all religions are enlightened by It, for those who meet him receive the enlightenment. When each enlightened soul leaves, a new religion starts to keep his teachings alive, but without the practical guidance, a decline sets in. Everyone is over-zealous in upholding his own beliefs, and no one is willing to sit on common ground on equal footing to discuss spiritual matters. The true teaching remains the same, age after age – Truth is One, for everyone. God is not different for Hindus, Muslims, Christians and so on; He is the God of the whole world and is not a Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, etc.
Even now a small amusing incident remains in my memory, which happened when I was in Peshawar, studying in the ninth grade. I used to take my books and study in a garden named Shahi Bagh, and one day a man whose name I still remember – Darbari Lal – asked me, “Where is Shahi Bagh?” I told him that he was standing beside that very garden, and he said, “I have come to settle judgement on a dispute, for I have been told that the Hindu God is crying because the Muslim God has beaten him up and broken his leg.” (People gathered in Shahi Bagh specially for discussing different controversies.) Even at that young age I was shocked to discover that people thought each religion had a different God.
Poor understanding is widespread because men do not rise above the worldly· level to see the facts from a more accurate angle of vision. Up to the time of the tenth Guru, no Master had revealed the circumstances of his past births so openly as he did. In the latter part of his life he talked of many strange things, including the “seven-pointed splendor” of Hemkunt, a place of seven hills where he had performed many austerities in a past life, through which he lost individuality· and became one with the Lord. He was there seated in great bliss, but the Lord gave him orders, “Child, go into the world and work.” Guru Gobind Singh Ji recounts that he had no desire to return to the world, but was persuaded, so he said, “What are your orders, my Lord?” The Lord said, “Those who are there and most of those who have been there have encouraged the praise of their own names. Go and tell of My Name – show that there is God.”
When Guru Gobind Singh was asked who he was, he said, I am the servant of the Most High who has come to see the play in the world; Know me as His servant, there is no difference between Him and me. He has also said, They who think of me as God will all go to Hell. God is sending His Water of Life through a vessel, but the vessel should not think of himself as the Doer. No true Master will say, “I am the Guru,” for the ray is of the sun, but through being connected with that ray one can reach the Sun itself. With one single ray of the Lord, the whole world was created. From one source, millions of rivers emerged. What and who exactly is God, no one can know, for man has exhausted himself in attempting to sing His praises. In the Jap Ji, Guru Nanak says:
Some sing of His greatness, but only according to the power bestowed upon them;
Some sing of His bounties, taking them as His signs;
Some sing of Him as incomprehensible;
Some sing of Him as transmitting dust into life, and life into dust again:
Creator and Destroyer, the Giver of Life and its Withdrawer.
Some sing of Him as at once the nearest, and the most remote.
There is no end to His description.
Nothing has been mentioned of God Himself – only the things He created. You cannot know Him by talking, though you may talk for millions of years. Even the Masters have failed in the attempt. Finally, they resort to observing “Neti, neti” – “He is not this, He is not that”. A Muslim prophet says, “Through philosophy, generations have passed in descriptive attempts, but God’s character remains unsaid.”
Today is Vaisakhi and our new life should start. All differences in our hearts should be removed. A man once asked me why it was that no Master has said, “Put your attention on me,” but rather they say, “Put your attention on Him.” I told him that the instructions must be properly understood. Lord Krishna said, “Put your attention on that true form of mine.” The method remains the same, regardless of where the Power is manifesting. Electricity will sometimes heat and sometimes chill. Avatars and Saints are manifestations or phases of the same Lord. Misunderstanding and narrow-mindedness create separation of brother from brother, but God’s intoxication is one and the same. We are all worshippers of the Living Light, regardless of which religion we belong to.
Some Christians came to the Prophet Mohammed and requested him to give them a place where they could build a church, and what did he do? He gave them half the mosque for their church! Would anyone do such a wonderful thing today? Think carefully over his action and what it means. Are we prepared to follow in the footsteps of our elders?
Guru Har Gobind, the sixth Sikh Guru, built mosques and temples as well as gurudwaras side by side whenever necessary. In Amritsar, the foundation stone of the famous Sikh Golden Temple was laid by Hazrat Mian Mir, a Muslim Saint, at the special request of Guru Arjan. To rise above body consciousness means to rise above illusion; then one realizes in truth that there exist no differences – religious, sectarian or other. This is truly the ultimate goal; outer things are merely helping factors leading toward it, and man as a social being must live in some social group, otherwise corruption starts its corroding process.
Once in Lahore, an atheist called people from various religions together to discuss the question, “Is religion necessary?” Each religious leader spoke at length, proving the necessity of the different forms and rituals, etc. I was present, sitting in the front row. Then the atheist stood up to give his proof as to why religion is not necessary, giving various examples. Among these, he stated that when a marriage is to take place it is merely a matter of the priest, pundit or mullah placing his hands on the couple in blessing before a group of witnesses, to join them together, so as to prevent corruption. It does not make any difference if it is performed in one religious way or another. I stood up and said, “Brother, is it not true that if ten or twenty thousand people were of your thought, then a new society or sect would have to be formed? In that society, some rules and regulations would have to be made. You desire to save yourself from organizations, but you are inadvertently creating another. If each man stayed in his own sect and learned how to know his true self or soul and that Power which controls all things, would that not be better?” He was an atheist, but he replied, “What you have said is correct.” For as long as I lived in Lahore we used to meet on very loving terms.
There is a great deal of misunderstanding existing regarding this subject. In holy places only Truth should be discussed – and realized – for Truth is Truth. Keep the company of someone who has realized the Truth and get right understanding. We say “God is One” and even this is not true, but we are finite beings and must therefore use finite terms.
[… Comments on hymns by Guru Gobind Singh and Guru Arjan Dev]
After getting the human form, we should ask for but one thing: that we might have a glimpse of Him. This should be our ideal and our aim in life. Today is Vaisakhi, but do you understand what you are doing? Be the worshipper of the Living Light – become a slave to it. Do not attach yourself to anything else, for everything is changeable. He in whom that Light is manifested gives the Light to the whole world. Truth is One, and although Truth is above all, yet true living is above Truth. Guru Arjan has laid out a wonderful program for us, and in conclusion he says that the month in which we realize the Lord will be truly blessed.