Guru Nanak and the Vaishno ascetic

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Guru Nanak Dev ji, in 1508 set out to propagate his mission. This odyssey was particularly aimed at visiting Hindu places of pilgrimage. During this mission when Guru ji reached Hardwar from Kurukshetra, he camped on the bank of the river Ganga. It was the first day of Baisakh, close to the second month of the Indian calendar, considered sacred according to Hindu belief. A Vaishno Sadhu, who attracted many admirers, was also camping nearby. People would come from far off places and keep his company. He was representing himself as a very religious person.

Guru ji knew that he was only pretending to be a Holy mendicant. Therefore, Guru Nanak Dev Ji had camped there to expose the man's deceit. Early in the next morning, the hermit took a bath in the river and commenced the process of preparing his meals. He plastered a patch of ground with cowdung to sanctify it for using it as a ‘Chaunka’ (a cooking place open to the sky; "Chaunka" literally means a "square" or a "compound"). He washed the pieces of firewood to purify them and then drew a line around the ‘Chaunka’ and lit the fire. Guru ji sent Bhai Mardana to him to get some burning embers to light their own fire. When Bhai Mardana approached near his ‘Chaunka’, the hermit suddenly flushed with anger and started abusing him, saying, “you have defiled my Chaunka”. In his anger, he took a burning piece of wood from the hearth and ran after Bhai Mardana. Bhai Mardana reached Guru ji with the hermit close on his heels. Guru ji asked the hermit why he was so furious, when he had asked only for a small amount of fire to light their own hearth. The hermit replied that the shadow of this ‘Mirasi’ (a bard; a derogatory term) had fallen on his ‘Chaunka’ which had thus become desecrated. Mardana being both a Muslim and a bard was considered by the supposed Holy man a ‘Shudra’ of so low a varna (caste) that even his shadow could defile his life.

“How can it be, said Guru ji, when he (Bhai Mardana) is also a human being ?” ‘No, he is not a human being, he is a ‘Shudra’ ’, said the hermit. Guru ji impressed upon the hermit that God was never pleased by these externalities, those who depicted outward piety. God's abode was in the heart of all human beings.

‘If the heart has cruelty, hatred, slander and anger for others, God, certainly would not be residing in such a malicious mind. Look for Him in the whole of mankind. Don’t hate a person believing him to be of low caste. Just despise the bad deeds.

The arguments which were being exchanged loudly, particularly from the hermit, caused many other people to gather around and ask each other what the dispute was all about. The hermit kept making noise accusing and maligning Bhai Mardana in utter anger. He was saying that that the ‘Shudra’ had defiled his ‘Chaunka’ with his shadow, and how would he prepare his meal now? Hearing the hermit’s affliction, Guru Nanak Dev ji sung the following shabad:


SGGS Page 91 Full Shabad
ਸਲੋਕ ਮਃ ੧ ॥

Salok mehlĝ 1.
Shalok, First Mehl:

ਕ੝ਬ੝ਧਿ ਡੂਮਣੀ ਕ੝ਦਇਆ ਕਸਾਇਣਿ ਪਰ ਨਿੰਦਾ ਘਟ ਚੂਹੜੀ ਮ੝ਠੀ ਕ੝ਰੋਧਿ ਚੰਡਾਲਿ ॥
Kubuḝẖ dūmṇī kuḝ­i­ĝ kasĝ­iṇ par ninḝĝ gẖat cẖūhṛī muṯẖī kroḝẖ cẖandĝl.
False-mindedness is the drummer-woman; cruelty is the butcheress; slander of others in one's heart is the cleaning-woman, and deceitful anger is the outcast-woman.

ਕਾਰੀ ਕਢੀ ਕਿਆ ਥੀਝ ਜਾਂ ਚਾਰੇ ਬੈਠੀਆ ਨਾਲਿ ॥
Kĝrī kadẖī ki­ĝ thī­ai jĝʼn cẖĝrė baiṯẖī­ĝ nĝl.
What good are the ceremonial lines drawn around your kitchen, when these four are seated there with you?

ਸਚ੝ ਸੰਜਮ੝ ਕਰਣੀ ਕਾਰਾਂ ਨਾਵਣ੝ ਨਾਉ ਜਪੇਹੀ ॥
Sacẖ sanjam karṇī kĝrĝʼn nĝvaṇ nĝ­o japėhī.
Make Truth your self-discipline, and make good deeds the lines you draw; make chanting the Name your cleansing bath.

ਨਾਨਕ ਅਗੈ ਊਤਮ ਸੇਈ ਜਿ ਪਾਪਾਂ ਪੰਦਿ ਨ ਦੇਹੀ ॥੧॥
Nĝnak agai ūṯam sė­ī je pĝpĝʼn panḝ na ḝėhī. ॥1॥
O Nanak, those who do not walk in the ways of sin, shall be exalted in the world hereafter. ॥1॥

After completion of the shabad, all present sat around Guru ji to listen to his sermons and new ideas. The vaishno hermit also realized how full he was with evil thoughts. How could he then call himself holy? The words of wisdom spoken by Guru Nanak impressed the hermit so much that he along with many others become a devout Sikh of the Guru and accepted this true way of life.

Many fake hermits and mendicants, gianis (learned people), Yogis and preachers wearing the garb of holy man and displaying externalities are duping the gullible seekers of the truth. They themselves are totally in the grip of worldly desires and Maya (mammon). Their minds are soiled with lust, anger, greed, attachments and false pride beside other ill traits. Sikhs must be cautious of such impostors. They must strive to understand and grasp the philosophy of Sikhism as propounded by Guru Nanak Dev Ji Maharaj.

See also

Sakhis of Guru Nanak
Bhai Lalo's honesty Darshan The Guru always blesses all Durga worshipper from Khadur Sahib
Dukh Sukh Duni Chand Establishment of Kartarpur Nanak in Sikkim,Ladakh & Tibet
First Udasi Second Udasi Third Udasi The Udasis of Guru Nanak
Fourth Udasi Fifth Udasi Guru Ji's Sickness Guru Nanak and the Vaishno ascetic
Guru Nanak Grazing Buffaloes Guru Nanak and Duni Chand Guru Nanak and Moola Sacha Souda
Guru Nanak and the Sacred Thread Guru Nanak and two students Guru Nanak at Hassan Abdal Sajan the Robber
Guru Nanak at School Guru Nanak at Shikarpur Guru Nanak in Baghdad The Birth of the Guru
Guru Nanak in Mecca Guru Nanak in Nepal Mian Mitha The Two Villages
Guru Nanak in Tibet Guru Nanak in Tibet Quotes Guru Nanak's history Guru Nanak & The Doctor
Iron Clad Soldiers One God for the rich and... Janam Sakhis There is no Hindu and no Musalman
Janamsakhis Kauda the cannibal Mardana and the ants Three Days in the River
Mardana and the stone Mardana gives away clothes and food Watering the Crops Village of Children
Guru Nanak and the Brahman Guru Nanak and the Pandit Guru Nanak and the Millionaire Guru Nanak and Sheikh Brahm
Guru Nanak & the dried up river Bhai Bhoomiya Bhai Mardana Ji And Charity Bhai Sayt And Guru Nanak Dev
Daulat Khan Sakhis of Guru Nanak Stories of Guru Nanak Sakhis
Baba Wali Kandhari Durga worshipper from Khadur Sahib Guru Nanak In Syria Guru Nanak in Turkey
Hamza Gaus Heals the Physician How many Sikhs did Guru Nanak have? Raja Shivnabh And Guru Nanak Dev
Sheikh Brahm Mata Sulakhni