Guru Nanak at a Jain Temple

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The Guru arrived at a Jain temple, which had many visitors and monks. Narbhi, the temple's priest, came with his disciple to visit with Guru Nanak.

The Jain Priest attached immense value to life in any and every form. (Driving a car today would have been, for the Priest that Guru Nanak Dev. talked with that day, akin to mass murder as one's car kills ants and thousands of insects every time it moves.)

Narbhi the Jain priest had heard that the Guru did not share his same tender scruples on life, and began to catechize him, 'Eatest thou old or new corn? (that is, dost thou eat corn with worms in it or not?) 'Drinkest thou cold water; shakest thou the trees of the forest to eat their fruit? Who is thy guru, and what power hath he to pardon thee since thou violatest all rules and destroyest life?'

The Guru in reply uttered the following pauri:

When the True Guru is merciful, faith is perfected.
When the True Guru is merciful, man shall never grieve.
When the True Guru is merciful, man shall know no sorrow.
When the True Guru is merciful, man shall enjoy divine pleasure.
When the True Guru is merciful, what fear hath man of Death?
When the True Guru is merciful he ever bestoweth happiness.
When the True Guru is merciful, man obtaineth the nine treasures.[2]
When the Guru is merciful, man is absorbed in the True One.[3]

After this the Guru satirized many of the practices of the Jains:

They have their hair plucked out, they drink dirty water, they beg and eat others' leavings;

[1. Âsa Ashtapadi.

2. Nau nidhi. This expression is used in the sacred writings of the Sikhs to denote unlimited wealth and prosperity. In the sacred books of the Hindus the expression has a more definite numerical signification.

3. Mâjh ki Wâr.]

{p. 151}

They spread out their ordure, they inhale its smell, they are shy to look at water;
They have their heads plucked like sheep; the pluckers' hands are smeared with ashes--
They spoil the occupations of their parents; their families weep and wail for them.
They give not their deceased relations lamps or perform their last rites, or place anywhere barley :rolls and leaves for them.[1]
The sixty-eight places of pilgrimage grant them no access; the Brahmans will not eat their food.
They are ever filthy day and night; they have no sacrificial marks on their foreheads.
They ever sit close as if they were at a wake, and they enter no assembly.
They hold cups in their hands; they have brooms[2] by their sides; they walk in single file.
They are not Jogis, or Jangams, or Qazis, or Mullas.
God hath ruined them; they go about despised; their words are like curses.
God killeth and restoreth animals to life; none else may preserve them.
The Jains make not gifts or perform ablutions; dust lighteth on their plucked heads.
From water gems arose when Meru was made the churning staff.[3]
The gods appointed the sixty-eight places of pilgrimages, and holy days were fixed accordingly by their orders.

[1. The Jains conform in many ways to Hindu customs. The Guru here censures them for not being altogether consistent.

2. To brush away insects and thus avoid treading on them.

3. According to the Hindus, Vishnu in the Kurmavâtar assumed the shape of a tortoise which supported Mt. Mandara during the mythic churning of the milky ocean. In Sikh writings Mt. Meru has been used in place of Mt. Mandara. Mt. Meru, is considered to be the central axis of the world and the whole universe. Considered the abode of Brahma, it is reproduced symbolicaly in the architecture of many Hindu temples.

From the churning of the ocean, the fourteen gems or jewels (Lakhsmi the consort of Vishnu, the Moon, a white horse with seven heads, a holy physician, Airawata the flying Elephant the vahana (vehicle) of Indra, the tree of plenty, the all-yielding cow and most central to the story the Amrit or elixir of immortality which had been lost…)

{p. 152}

After ablution the Muhammadans pray; after ablution the Hindus worship; the wise ever bathe.
The dead and the living are purified when water is poured on their heads.
Nanak, they who pluck their heads are devils: these things[1] please them not.
When it raineth there is happiness; animals then perform their functions.
When it raineth, there is corn, sugar-cane, and cotton, the clothing of all.
When it raineth, kine ever graze, and women churn their milk.
By the use of the clarified butter thus obtained burnt offerings and sacred feasts are celebrated, :and worship is ever adorned.
All the Sikhs are rivers; the Guru is the ocean, by bathing
in which greatness is obtained.
If the Pluckedheads bathe not, then a hundred handfuls
of dust be on their skulls.[2]

The Jain priest asked the Guru why he travelled in the rainy season, when insects are abroad and there is danger of killing them under foot. The Guru replied as follows:

Nanak, if it rain in Sawan, four species of animals have pleasure-
Serpents, deer, fish, and sensualists who have women in their homes.
Nanak, if it rain in Sawan, there are four species of animals which feel discomfort--
Cows' calves, the poor, travellers, and servants.

The Jain priest then fell at his feet becoming a convert to the Guru's teaching. On that occasion the Guru completed his hymns in the 'Majh ki War', and Saido and Gheho wrote them down from his dictation. It is said that the Guru then went to an island in the ocean, governed by an inhuman tyrant. The name of the island has not been preserved.

Most likely this is a reference to the long held belief that Guru Nanak traveled to Sri Lanka. In mythic Hinduism the island was ruled by Ravaana, a demon King who had kidnapped Sita. It is said that Rama after killing Ravaana traveled to Rinmochand at Kapal Mochan to do penance in the Holy Kund. It was at that same Kund where Guru Gobind Singh and his victorious band of Sikhs stopped and stayed for 52 days after his first Battle with the Pahari Rajas and Moguls Battle of Bhangani.