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Sikh Research and Education Center: Articles:

Compassion - Forgiveness is Divine


Compassion - Forgiveness is Divine

"Where there is Wisdom, there is Righteousness.
Where there is falsehood, there is sin.
Where there is greed, there is Death.
Where there is Forgiveness (Compassion), God Himself is there."
(Sri Kabir Ji, Slok 155, p. 1372, SGGS)
"Myriad people, millions, nay innumerable number of persons have perished, as they did not know FORGIVENESS. One cannot keep their count and also their numberless numbers, who were distressed and bothered, thus destroyed themselves. The one, who knows his God-Spouse, his bonds are loosened; becomes broad minded. Becoming free through the Guruís (Godís Light in Man) Word, he attains to the state of poise and calmness. Becoming immaculate through the Guruís Word, he enters into the Lordís Mansion; thus is spontaneously blessed with the Virtues of Forgiveness and Truth. If one possesses the true wealth (for his expenses) of contemplation of His Name, the Lord Himself will abide in his body. He ever remembers the Lord with his mind, body and mouth. Virtues emerge in his mind, which is calmed (with capacity for utmost tolerance of othersí excesses). In self conceit, one is distracted and ruined. Without God, every thing is Evil. God created the creatures and Himself abides in each of them. The Creator Lord remains Detached and Infinite. (Living with creatures, yet remains Aloof and Detached)."
(Guru Nanak Dev, Oankar, Paurhi 49, Ramkali Rag, page 937, Guru Granth Sahib)
"The Saints are tolerant and sweet tempered. They treat alike the friends and the evil doers. Nanak says: Those who offer them food of many kinds, or those who slander them, or those who are arrayed against them with weapons drawn, to them they all are alike."
(Sri Guru Arjan Dev Ji, Sahaskriti Slok 27, page 1356, Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji)
"O bride, you shall attain union with the Lord, if you adopt the Virtues of Humility, Forgiveness and Sweetness of Tongue, as the Way of Life."
(Sheikh Baba Farid, Slok 127, page 1384, Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji)
We not only ignore the Sublime Sikh Teachings of Forgiveness as given in the Quotations given above, but misrepresent the history to serve our selfish interests. The Spirit of Adjustment and Forgiveness is the cure for resentment, grudges, hostility, anger, revenge and all negative thinking. We have a tendency to allow these bad feelings and thoughts toward others to stack up. Love of God is the anti-thesis of this, which is positive thinking and creates peace in our hearts and mind.

We find revengeful violence in primitive societies, both individual and in groups. This malady took its most dreadful form since the dawn of man's civilization. Despite modern man's great achievements and advancement in knowledge, he remains to be more brute and barbaric than the primitive man in his revengeful violence. Everywhere we today witness all manner of ethnic, religious and nationalist violence, each group of people is out to wash its dirty linen against the other group. In analyzing the irrational nature of this type of violence, we observe that the motive is in inverse proportion to the strength and productiveness of a group or of an individual. Those who feel themselves powerless, have only one recourse to restore their self esteem, which has been shattered by having been injured; to take revenge by any fair or foul means. The powerless ones generally resort to terrorist activities, while those in power, assault the helpless minorities with the backing of civil and military power. This vicious cycle continues ad infinitum. The religion in general becomes cruel and intolerant to the people. Generally the people, even so called religious and the holy, turn villain and incite the people for revenge. Rare are the persons, who truly love God and treat all people alike. They do not take part in this wickedness and try to serve the people who become the victims of such violence. If a truly God loving person has been hurt, insulted, and injured, his genuine faith in God, makes him forget the injury of the past. He sees God Almighty present in all, and considers that all what happened was His Will. His Love for the Creator, makes him creative and productive, which qualities prove to be stronger than the negative wish for revenge. We can easily observe, that generally even an ordinary person reconciles the differences with his adversaries, while the sick neurotic man, mentally somewhat abnormal, is most rigid and destructive. In mass movements, the whole trouble is that the ordinary man is swayed by the crowd mentality, and loses his normalcy. In revengeful violence, the injury has already been done, the violence has no function of defense. It does more harm in creating the endless chain reactions. For those who are not mentally and spiritually matured persons, revenge becomes the dominant aim of their life, since without revenge not only self esteem, but the sense of self and of identity threaten to collapse. It is a natural human tendency to make mistakes; to do or say the wrong thing, to be discourteous, thoughtless and unkind. But forgiveness is not natural. Like love, this virtue has to be cultivated, and like love it should be spontaneous.

The Spirit of Forgiveness gives Peace of Mind, Happiness and resultant Good Health. Anger interferes with the body's normal functions and is the cause of numerous bodily ailments. It causes both mental and physical distress. The persons who cultivate grievances against others cannot enjoy good life. Even when one considers anger to be justified, the result is only bitterness and more frustrations and more violence.

A forgiving heart is a joyful and peaceful heart. One does not pick up fights against others, simply because they hold different views or even they are considered as sinners. Assuming of the Self Righteous Role is the Greatest Sin. He who assumes the Self Righteous Man's Role, is the Greatest Sinner - Aapas ko jo bhalla kahavai, tisai bhalahi nikat na avai (Sri Guru Arjan Dev Ji, Rag Gauri, Sukhmani Sahib) - One sees a mole in another's eye, but is unaware of the beam in his own eye. No one is competent to take law in his own hands against any one. If any one had inflicted an injury to us and we were taken unaware and could not defend ourselves, subsequently we have no right to take law in our hands to avenge the wrong done to us. Taking of revenge by us would complicate the matter and would cause all-round unrest and series of chain re-actions. We are all God's creatures and He resides within every one alike and it is He Who motivates our actions. No actions by any one, Good or Evil, go unnoticed, unaccounted and unrewarded by God. He is Infinite, His Ways are Mysterious, the only Doer and Most Just, Kind and Compassionate. The correct approach should be that man should not worry about settling out his scores with others, but should worry about establishing his own relationship with his Creator, surely, all the problems will be justly solved by Him.

Regarding his coming to this World, Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji stated in his Composition 'Bichitar Natak' as under -

"Ham eh kaaj jagat mo aaye, dharam het gurdev pathaaye. Jahaan tahaan tum dharam bithaaro, dust dokheean pakar pachhaaro (42)
Yaahi kaaj dharaa ham janmung, samaj leho saadhu sabh manmung. Dharam chlaavan sant ubaaran, dust saban ko mool upaaran. (43)"
The literal meaning of the Composition as given by Dr. Gopal Singh is given below -
For this the Lord God sent me into the world; to spread His Religion all
over, and to destroy evil doers and tyrants, root and branch. (42)
Understand this, ye holy men, I assumed human form for this alone; to spread Religion all over, and to destroy evil doers and tyrants, root and branch. (43)
This writer's translation is given below -
The Divine Guru sent me to this world for Religion's sake. Spread Religion every where, seize and destroy the Evil and Sinful tendencies (from the minds of the people). (42)
For this purpose I was born, O holy men, understand this truth clearly. I was born for establishing Religion and uplifting Saintliness and extirpation of Evil (from the minds of the people) root and branch. (43)
Unfortunately all the scholars have translated the above Composition and other such Compositions of the Guru literally, which is apparently incorrect for the following reasons -

(1) Sikh Teachings are basically against taking of the Self Righteous Role, which depicts conceit, stooping to the lowest depth of character. All those who claim themselves to be most powerful are the egocentric and have their fall - Sabh tai aap janai balwant, khin meh hoai jahai bhasmant - The one who considers himself as most powerful, is reduced to ashes instantaneously. (Sri Guru Arjan Dev Ji, Sukhmani Sahib) Both in Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji and in Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji's writings numerous examples have been quoted that Hindu gods Brahma, Shiva, Ram, Krishan and many more, who assumed themselves to be Supreme and wielded power in their self interest, had their fall. Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji taught that it is God alone, Who creates and destroys all, and none of the mortals have such powers. It is all God's Potential in all mortals, and this power is wielded as He directs.

(2) How could the Guru kill all the tyrants and the evil doers of the World? The Guru was talking of his coming to this World and killing of the evil doers. Well, we may consider at least the sphere of his activities. Whom did he kill? He did not kill any of those who opposed him, viz. Emperor Aurangzeb, Governor Wazir Khan, State Minister Sucha Nand, any of the Hill Rajas, not even his Brahmin cook, Ganga Ram. This deceitful cook informed the Mughal authorities at Sirhind about the whereabouts of the Guru's mother and two of his younger sons, got them arrested and who were later executed under the orders of Governor of Sirhind, Wazir Khan in December 1705. At least he could very easily kill this cook. The world has ever been full of evil doers all the times and shall be. Who deals with them? The Guru did never aggress against any one to kill any evil doer, not even he ever retaliated in revenge for the wrongs done to him. He only defended himself when unprovoked armed assaults were made on him and the Sikhs to exterminate them and Sikhism, as the Sikh Teachings of Equality of All were not to the liking of the imperialists, the Special Interests and the caste and dogma ridden idolatrous high caste Hindus. Then which of the evil doers the Guru is referring to and telling the Saints about them? Those are our internal emotional enemies, which are indeed the cause of all human misery and separation from our Creator. Evil passions in humans arise, when they sever their connections with their Creator and run after the material pursuits. Take any passage from Sri Guru Granth Sahib, and it will be observed that the people suffer from this malady and the only cause is their separation from their Creator. Sri Guru Arjan says: "parmesar teh bhulian viapan sabhai rog" - By forgetting God, one is afflicted with all types of diseases and discomforts. (Rag Majh - Baramah). There is no external enemy of ours, as in all God Himself resides and looks after each and every one. It is the evil passions in man, which create his enemies. These enemies can be fought with the Mightiest Sword of God's Name only, not with physical force. Any one may try to annihilate these evil doers with all the force he can muster, and see if he can be successful. He will create more and more of evil doers. The same is true of a group of people, state or nation. No one can reform any one with the use of force. The Gurus laid emphasis on this aspect of their Teachings in a symbolic language. It is most regrettable and horrifying to note that the so called Sikh scholars to have interpreted the Guru's sayings that he had taken birth to kill evil persons in the world. No where the Gurus said that any one was an evil doer and that they were the superior men. On the contrary they said that they were the lowliest of the lowly persons and ever sought for His Grace and Blessings to lead righteous life.

(3) In Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji's Composition 'Bichitar Natak', the Guru also states that God told him about the earlier Prophets (Avtars) and expressed His dis-satisfaction of their performance. The Guru took pains to render the biographical sketches of earlier Hindu Avtars into common spoken language from the original Scriptures in Sanskrit. The Guru made a categorical statement about these Prophets:

"All the previous Prophets were absorbed in self love only, in that they spread their respective names only. They did not kill any of those who were inimical to God, and did not preach the righteous path to the people."
"Jo jo bhaye pehal avtara, tin tin apna nam uchaara. Prabh dokhi koyee na bidaara. Dharam karam kai raah na daara."
It would be interesting to note that in many Hindu Scriptures, details of numerous battles and wars between gods and demons are given, which the Guru himself translated. In Krishna Avtar alone names of over 150 titans against whom Krishna fought are given. The fighting was entirely connected with Hindu gods' self interest. Then what is the meaning of the Guru's emphatic statement that the previous Prophets did not kill the evil doers and also did not show the righteous path and that he (the Guru) had come to extirpate the evil doers?

According to the Sikh Teachings, the evil doers are the enemies within ourselves - the diseased emotions, passions, instincts, impulses, etc. in us. These are, however, God's endowments to man, if these are utilized in a disciplined way under the guidance of Guru - Akalpurkh, they become instrumental in causing union with God. These forces are not actually evil in nature, but are essential for our spiritual growth and union with God. However, when we sever our connections with God and use these forces for our selfish ends and satisfaction of sensual pleasures only, they become our formidable enemies, extremely hard to conquer. The crux of the Sikh Teachings is to transform our Divine Endowments, by His Grace, from foes to friends. Physical force is not to be used on any count, except for self defense, when an unprovoked armed attack has been made. The emphasis is on living a life in union with God to lead a virtuous life. No one is competent to name any other a sinner and himself a pious man. This Truth the Gurus repeatedly state and warn the people of the pitfalls. Always consider God as the Doer and never himself. And God will surely do Justice.

Forgiveness is the Cardinal Principle on which the Edifice of Sikhism has been raised. A Sikh is enjoined to completely ignore the shortcomings and excesses of others. Sikhs daily make supplication to God for grant of Boon of ignoring other's sins. They also seek His Blessings, Mercy and Forgiveness considering themselves as the lowest of the lowly, who err day and night and His Guidance to lift themselves up from the varied pitfalls and temptations. The Lord is Merciful and provides us all comforts of life inspite of our sinful acts as a result of our extreme selfishness. If God were to hold us strictly to account for our misdeeds, hardly any one would deserve to receive His Grace and bounties. He accepts us not because we are nice, but because He loves us, we being His part and parcel.

Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji himself led the offering of congregational prayer on the night of December 7-8, 1705, in the Cultivator's House at Chamkaur, when during the day time out of 40 Sikhs, 29 had lost their lives and his own two older sons had also been martyred in fighting against the invaders, who had besieged the House. Earlier, the Guru with all his family members and 1,500 Sikhs besieged in the Anandgarh Fort, was forced to vacate Anandpur for good, as the teachings of Equality of All Mankind were not to the liking of the Hindu rulers of the state. The Mughals were a subsidiary power, who on demand had come to the aid of the Hindu hill rajas. Both Hindu and Muslim invaders had given the solemn assurances on oaths that if the Guru were to leave the town of Anandpur, safe passage would be given. But when the Guru vacated the town, all assurances were blown to the wind. In the Cultivator's House at Chamkaur, the Guru made supplication to God for grant of love for all and hatred for none and for the strength to ignore the trespasses of others. The Gurus, who preached and practiced a life of love, freedom and equality of All, had to fight for self preservation against the unprovoked armed attacks of the imperialists and of special interests.

When Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji and Emperor Bahadur Shah with their respective armies, were moving from Ajmer to southern India, they halted on the banks of river Narmada. There then arose some quarrel between Sikhs and Muslims. The Guru sent Bhai Mann Singh to make both parties to adjust their differences. While he was on mission of peace, Bhai Mann Singh, one of the surviving heroes of Chamkaur, who had never parted from the Guru, was assassinated by a fanatic Muslim. Bhai Mann Singh was greatly loved by the Guru, who treated him as his own son. The Emperor was much distressed on hearing of Bhai Mann Singh's death. The Emperor ordered that the murderer should be seized and given up to the Guru for punishment. The Guru instantaneously pardoned the assassin and set him free. Sikh Teachings are for reformation of the sinners not by force or coercion, but by imparting proper education on the basis of Equality of all persons, love and freedom. God's Name is Immaculate and All Wisdom. If the sinners are brought near to God by love and persuasion, their minds are cleansed from the filth, they will begin to lead a moral life on their own. It must be very clear to us that the moral education cannot be enforced by any one. Punishment and coercion for leading a moral life will surely lead to diametrical opposite results.

During the last battle of Anandpur, when the combined forces of Hindu hill rajas, Mughal forces and other auxiliary forces made the armed attack on Anandpur in 1705 A.D., Bhai Kanhiya served water to the wounded soldiers, irrespective of their belonging to either side in the conflict. The wounded Hindu, Muslim and Sikh soldiers received equal treatment from Kanhiya. Certain Sikhs complained to Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji about his conduct, who was allegedly helping the enemy. The Guru summoned Kanhiya and asked him to explain his conduct. He stated, "O Gracious Lord! I behold no one other than the Guru himself every where and in every one. I gave water to the Guru and to none else." The Guru was much pleased to hear this. He gave him some ointment to enable him to nurse the wounded ones still further.

Sri Guru Amardas Ji, the 3rd Guru, succeeded Sri Guru Angad Dev Ji, and settled at Goindwal. The growing popularity of Sri Guru Amardas Ji became an eye sore for Datu, the older son of Sri Guru Angad Dev Ji, who had also proclaimed himself as the Guru. Datu was trying to build up his gurudom at Khadur with the support of high caste Hindus, especially the Brahmins, who were deadly opposed to the Sikh Teaching of Equality of All. Datu had issued a proclamation to this effect: "Amru (Sri Guru Amardas Ji) is an old man and is my servant. I am prince of the Guru's line." But no one was fooled by this and with every passing day the number of people visiting him dwindled. The petulant Datu went to Goindwal, saw the Guru sitting on his seat of Guru, kicked him off his seat and remarked in bitterness: "Only yesterday you were a water carrier in our house and today you sit as a Guru." The Guru merely answered: "O Great King, pardon me. You must have hurt your foot." Saying this, the Guru rose and retired to his room. Since Datu decided to stay at Goindwal, the Guru quietly retired to his native place Baserke, giving all facilities to Datu to establish himself as the Guru. But he failed to attract any person at Goindwal and returned to Khadur disappointed.

As the importance of Goindwal grew, a few Muslim families also settled there. Prominent among them were the families of Sheikhs, who belonged to the ranks of Muslim orthodoxy. Being narrow in outlook, they resented the growing popularity of Sri Guru Amardas Ji. They thought of expressing their hatred toward the Guru by instigating some urchins of their community to harass the Sikhs who went to fetch water from the village well for the Guru's kitchen. Their earthen vessels were struck with pellets and clods and quite often broke them to pieces. If any Sikh remonstrated they would even go to the extent of assaulting him physically. Realizing that they were crossing all limits of decency, the Sikhs complained to the Guru about their misbehavior. The Guru advised the Sikhs not to give up patience in any case and asked them to use bags of goat-skin for bringing water instead of earthen vessels. When the Sikhs used to carry water in goat skins, the urchins resorted to piercing the bags with arrows and the harassment continued as before. The Guru then counseled the Sikhs to make use of the brass utensils. Even this did not end their troubles because the vessels were knocked off their heads with bricks and stones. But even then they were advised to remain patient and forgiving under all circumstances. When the Sikhs questioned the Guru as to how long they were to continue to bear this tyranny, he is said to have replied: "As long as you live. It is not proper for saints to take revenge. There is no greater penance than patience, no greater happiness than contentment, no greater evil than greed, no greater virtue than mercy and no more potent weapon than forgiveness. Whatever man sows, he shall reap. If he sows trouble, this shall be his harvest. If a man sows poison, he cannot expect ambrosia." The Sheikhs later involved themselves in the theft of imperial treasures and met their end.

On the demise of Sri Guru Harkrishan Ji, the 8th Guru, Sri Guru Teg Bahadur Ji, youngest son of Sri Guru Hargobind Ji, the 6th Guru, was made the Guru, according to the wishes of the 8th Guru. But Dhir Mal, the older brother of Sri Guru Har Rai Ji, the 7th Guru, made his claim and did not reconcile to the situation. He wanted to snatch the Guruship by force. He observed that the peace loving Sri Guru Teg Bahadur Ji would not be a match to his armed might and money power. He planned to kill the Guru and for this purpose he hired 'Masands', the chief of whom was named Shihan. This masand with a hundred other armed ruffians attacked the house of Sri Guru Teg Bahadur Ji. Shihan aimed a bullet at the Guru and fired point blank. The bullet scratched the surface of his shoulder without causing serious injury. Sri Guru Teg Bahadur Ji stood calm, composed and unmoved. Diwan Dargah Mal, Mati Das, Dayal Das and Kirpal Chand intervened and prevented Shihan to make further attacks. The raiders were repulsed, but carrying with them all that they could get hold of. The whole operation was conducted under the guidance of Dhir Mal, aspiring to be the Guru. When the Sikhs learnt all this, they attacked the house of Dhir Mal, they not only recovered the things plundered from the Guru's house but also carried away some of Dhir Mal's belongings. Besides this, they took possession of original copy of Adi Guru Granth, which had already been in his possession. Dhir Mal and Shihan were hand cuffed. The Guru Forgave them considering forgiveness to be the greatest virtue. The Guru also ordered the Sikhs to return all the articles looted from Dhir Mal's house, including the original copy of Adi Guru Granth.

Forgiveness brings mercy and gratitude to the offender, which completely brings about a healthy change in his attitude. Forgiveness does not change the past, but it certainly alters the future.

Forgiveness brings peace of heart to the individual and harmony to the home. The attitude of rigidity ruins not only the individual's peace of mind but also the peace and harmony of the whole family. No human relationship can endure for long without a great deal of forbearance, or making allowance or putting up with.

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