Guru Ji's Sickness

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The Parents of Baba Nanak Call a Physician, B-40 Janamsakhi, 1733 AD

Do you remember your visits to the doctor? There's nothing unusual to remember you'll say. However in this story things were different. For one thing the doctors in those times didn't have stethoscopes. They would measure the heartbeats with their hands. They could even tell what food the patient had eaten. Guru Nanak ji stopped taking lessons from his teacher Maulvi Kutubdin at a young age. He started meeting saints and hermits. When the saints and hermits were busy; he would stay at home and keep to himself. If anybody came to the house, he would behave as if they had just met. He use to forget to eat his meals. His strange behavior, worried his parents.

Seeing Guru Nanak grow thinner from not eating, people would say, "Money is dear to Mehta Kalu (father) than his son. He is saving money and not giving his only son proper treatment."

Hearing the people talk like this, Mehta Kalu called Haridas, the village doctor, to treat Guru Nanak his son.

When Haridas arrived, he held Guru ji’s wrist to feel the pulse. Young Guru Nanak pulled away his arm " why do you hold my arm?" He asked. The doctor explained "I'm trying to take your pulse so that I can find out what is wrong with you. Then I can give you medicine to feel better."

Guru Nanak Dev ji laughed and uttered the following verses:

(Malaar Ki Var)

Salok Mahala 1, p.1279 SGGS Read at SikhiToTheMax

The physician is sent for to prescribe a remedy; he taketh my hand and feeleth my pulse.

The ignorant physician knoweth not that it is in my mind the pain is.

Physician, go home; take not my curse with thee.

I am imbued with my Lord; to whom givest thou medicine?

When there is pain, the physician standeth ready with a store of medicine:

The body is weeping, the soul crieth out, 'Physician, give none of thy medicine.'

Physician, go home, few know my malady.

The Creator who gave me this pain, will remove it.


The physician then asked Nanak what he himself thought the illness was, to which Nanak replied:

Raag Malaar, Mahala 1, p.1255 SGGS Read at SikhiToTheMax

I first feel the pain of separation from God, then a pang of hunger for contemplation on Him.

I also fear the pain which Death's powerful myrmidons may inflict.

I feel pain that my body shall perish by disease.

O ignorant physician, give me no medicine.

Such medicine as thou hast, my friend, removeth not

The pain I feel or the continued suffering of my body.

I forgot God and devoted myself to pleasure

Then this bodily illness befell me.

The wicked heart is punished.

Ignorant physician, give me no medicine.

As sandal is useful when it exhaleth perfume,

As man is useful as long as he hath breath in his body,

So when the breath departeth, the body crumbleth away and becometh useless:

No one taketh medicine after that.

When man shall possess the Name of the Bright and Radiant One,

His body shall become like gold and his soul be made pure;

All his pain and disease shall be dispelled,

And he shall be saved, Nanak, by the true Name.

Doctor Haridas knew only to cure a sick body, not the mind. However he understood what Guru Nanak had said. He took leave of Mehta Kalu saying, "Nanak has no physical ailment. He is immersed in the love of God. So stop worrying about your son. He does not need any medicine from a doctor." The doctor then worshipped Nanak and took his leave.


References

  • Macauliffe, M.A (1909). The Sikh Religion: Its Gurus Sacred Writings and Authors. Low Price Publications. ISBN 8175361328.
  • (XXXX). B-40 Janamsakhi - Guru Baba Nanak Paintings. Guru Nanak Dev University. ISBN 8177700111.
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