Heals the Physician
For some days at a stretch Guru Nanak Dev Ji was kept indoors. His mind was so fixed on God that he would do nothing but sing His praises, repeat his name or meditate on Him. He spoke with none. He ate or drank nothing. His people though that something was wrong with his body so they sent for a physician (doctor of the time vedh or vaid or hakem). The physician by the name Hardial was sent for. As he held Guru Nanak's wrist to feel the pulse, the latter smiled a winsome smile, withdrew his arm and said "What about your my friend?" The physician replied that by feeling his pulse, he was going to diagnose his trouble. He would then prescribe a suitable remedy. The smile on the lips of the divine child waxed more bright. In a sweet, melodious voice he sang:-
"The physician hath been called to prescribe a remedy; he holds my arm to feel my pulse. The simple physician does not know the pain really is in my heart and mind. Physician, go you way, take not my curse with you I am imbued with my Lord; To whom would you administer medicine? Where there is pain, the physician stands by with a store of medicine; My body groans because my soul is crying; Physician give none of your medicines; Physician, go home; few know my malady; The creator himself, who has given my this pain, will remove it, When it pleases Him to do so" - The first 2 lines are found in Guru Granth Sahib Var Malar. The others are not found in gurbani
The physician thereupon said, 'If you think I am incompetent to diagnose your ailment, then describe the symptoms of your trouble. I shall then choose and prescribe a suitable medicine.
The Guru replied,
"First of all there is pain of separation from God; then there is the pang of hunger for contemplation on him. I also fear the pain which Death's powerful messengers may inflict. I feel pain that my body shall one day perish by disease. O ignorant physician, give me no medicine. Such medicine as you have, my friend remove not The pain I feel nor the continued suffering of my body. When man forgets God and indulges in sensual pleasures, The illness befalls his body, The wicked heart is thus punished. O ignorant physician, give me no medicine. As sandal is useful so long as it exhales perfume, So man is useful so long as he has breath in his body. When the breath departs, the body crumbles away and becomes useless; No one takes medicine after that, The body becomes bright like gold and soul is made pure, Provided the essence of pure Name is enshrined in it, Then shall all pain and disease depart, And the person shall be saved, Nanak, by the true Name" - Rag Malar
In this hymn the Guru emphasizes the truth that most of the ailments which afflict man's body are born of wrong ways of living and wrong attitude towards the things of this world; that the diagnosis and cure of bodily disorders are neither so difficult nor so important as the diagnosis and cure of the disorders of the mind and the inner self; the right cure of ailments lies in healing the mind and spirit which control bodily conditions; and the best thing for that purpose is to steep them in Name, to link them with God, to turn them God-wards, towards the unfailing, inexhaustible and ever available source and reservoir of health, strength and happiness. When the mind, inner-self or the soul becomes pure and healthy, the body becomes pure and good as gods name is the cure for all disease.
The following hymn too, was composed by the Guru on the same occasion for the physician's edification and for a further elucidation of his view that Name (naam) could act as an unfailing cure of all ailments:-
"Pain is arsenic which can be turned into an antidote by treating it with Naam. In order to pound it, make content the stone or mortar and charity the pestle; If you take this antidote every day, your body shall not crumble and when the end comes, it will even kill Death on the spot. O ignorant man, take such a medicine As shall cure you of all your sins. Dominions, wealth and youth are all shadows, not substantial things, Their real worth and nature become clear when the sun's chariot ascends forth. Neither body, nor name or fame nor caste is of any worth in the world beyond; For there it is all day, whereas here it is all night. Make tastes or enjoyments your fire wood, cravings or covetousness your clarified butter and oil. Burn them with the first of lust and wrath. Of burnt offerings, sacred feasts and the reading of the Puranas, Only those are acceptable or approvable that are pleasing to God. Let penitence or disciplined life be the paper and Your naam, o Lord the prescription written on. They, for whom this priceless medicine is prescribed, Are seen to be lucky and rich when they reach their final Home. O Nanak, blessed are the mothers who bore them." - Rag Malar
Bhasms and Kushtas (ayurvedic) are prepared to serve as sovereign remedies for pains and ailments. The Guru considers Naam to be the medicine of all medicines. Virtues like contentment and charity are to serve as precautionary measures in the treatment by that elixir. People usually perform havan-yagnas for getting deliverance from pains and afflictions. The Guru tells us of a unique havan-yagna in place of the usual one. In it enjoyments or tastes are to serve as firewood, cravings are to be the clarified butter and oil and lust and wrath are to serve as fire. All these things taken together are to be burnt in this yagna. By doing this one gets the same merit or fruit as form a yagna or from reading the Puranas. Then man becomes totally subservient to His will. Whatever pleases Him is acceptable to Him.
The physician acknowledged the truth of what the Guru had said and admitted that there was nothing wrong with the latter in the matter of health. Nay, he was convinced that the Guru was destined to be a healer of the sundry ailments afflicting humanity but now he took up another aspect of the Guru's conduct and manner of life. He asked the Guru to think of the pain and worry which he was causing to his parents and other relative by his strange ways and appealed to him so to mend his day-to-day life as to assuage their pain and worry. 'After all,' added he, 'you owe some duty to them and they have some just and ample claims on you. You should be a dutiful son.' In reply the Guru uttered the following hymn in Rag Gauri Cheri:
"Since when have I a mother? Since when a father? Whence have we come? Out of the fire of the mothers womb and a water bubble of the father's bodily fluid we sprung: For what purpose were we created? My Lord, who knows your merit? My demerits are beyond count. Numerous are the forms that we have assumed- those shrubs, trees and animals, And those of species of reptiles and winged birds. A man breaks into shops and strong houses in cities and committing theft goes back to his home. He looks before, he looks being but how and where can he hide himself from you? The banks of streams of pilgrimage, the nine regions of the earth, shops, cities and market places have I seen. This trader (man) who has been dragged and pushed through numberless lives, now makes a bold attempt to measure the infinitude of the Infinite Lord. My sins are as innumerable as the drops of water in the oceans and the seas. Be compassionate, extend a little mercy; save me who am like a sinking ston2. My soul burns like fire; my interior is being cut as though with a knife. Nanak prays, he who realizes God's will attain eternal happiness and peace."
In this hymn the Guru emphasized the truth that before assuming his present birth and life a man passed through numerous births, lives and deaths. In each life he had his parents, brothers, sisters and other relatives. With the end of one life, the relatives pertaining to that life were given up for ever and new ones were adopted in the succeeding life. Hence the parents of this life are not to be mans permanent or eternal relations. They will not accompany him in the lives to come. But the soul or spirit of man remains the same all along and its interests have to take precedence over those of the people, associated with embodied soul and any stage. Hence parents should not monopolize mans attentions; he should look to the progress of his soul towards its final goal, which is the eternal union with the Lord.
As the Guru said all this, he fixed his loving, penetrating look into the eyes of the physician. A quiver went through the latter's body. He felt that he and not Guru Nanak, was in need of a remedy. And he had got it. That look and these words had done their work. The physician was healed by the patient. He bowed and went away in silence, musing over the words of the strange youth. He was convinced that the divine youth, for whom he had come to prescribe would heal and render whole the ailing bodies, the aching lacerated hearts and the afflicted souls of his fellowmen. Before going, he said to Mehta Kalu, "Cheer up, good Sir, your son is a great one. He is not ill. He needs no healing. He has come to heal mankind."
- Guru Nanak Dev Life and Teachings- Kartar Singh M.A. 46-50 Chapter 9 Heals the Physician