Respect through Service

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Guru Nanak blessing Bhai Lehna

Bhai Lehna decided to stay with Guru Nanak at Kartarpur. However, Bhai Lehna’s companions left for Jawalamukhi to worship the goddess Durga.

After staying for a few days at Kartarpur, he said to himself, ‘Let me go to my village and tell my family and friends about my plans to stay with Guru Nanak. Then I shall come back and stay with the Guru for a longer time and no one will worry about my whereabouts’

Bhai Sahib ji went back to his village Khadur Sahib in district Amritsar. He stayed at his village for a few days only. Soon, he was ready to return to Kartarpur. He wanted to be with the Guru. He wanted to learn from the Guru and serve him as this was the custom at the time. He wanted to become a disciple of Guru Nanak and learn true wisdom from him.

Before starting his journey back, he said to himself, ‘I must take something with me for the Guru. He runs a free kitchen. Scores of people take their meals from there. They do not have to pay anything for the meals. I should take something for the Langar or "free kitchen for all". But what should I take? Yes, let it be as heavy a load of salt as I can carry on my head.’

Once that was decided, he starts his journey to Kartarpur on foot instead of the horse that he had used before. He carried a load of salt on his head. It was as heavy as he could carry. When he got to Kartarpur Sahib, he placed the load of salt in the Guru’s Langar. Then he went out to find and meet the Guru, who was working in the field.

He reached the field and saw that the Guru had prepared three bundles of grass for the cattle. Guru Ji wanted someone to carry these bundles home to the cattle. He asked his two sons, Sri Chand and Lakshmi Chand to help him with the bundles.

They said, ‘Such work is not fit for sons of the Guru. Some other Sikh should do it. Perhaps, that man, coming this way, might agree to do it. Let us wait for him.’

Bhai Lehna in presence of Guru Nanak in the field at Kartarpur

Bhai Lehna heard these words. He was glad to get a chance to serve the Guru. He said to the Guru, ‘Let me carry the bundles home.’ He carried the three bundles of grass to the Guru’s place.

The grass had been taken out from a paddy field. It was wet and muddy. Drops of muddy water fell from the bundles of grass, now and then. This muddy water fell upon Bhai Lehna's clothes. As Bhai Lehna was rich and had just arrived, his clothes were made of fine silk. The drops of muddy water spoiled his fine, new silk clothes. But this did not worry him. He was glad to serve the Guru and be in his presence. The Guru was greatly pleased with his new Sikh, Bhai Lehna.

The Guru taught the golden rules of his religion to all who came to him. He also worked in the fields like a farmer and he also thought of God all the time. He repeated God's name and so did all his Sikhs. Some worked in the fields. Some worked in the common kitchen. Some brought dry wood for the langar. Others worked to make articles needed for the Guru’s family and the Sangat. They did not want any payment for such work and it was done as Sewa or selfless service to the community. They did it all out of their love for the Guru and his Sikhs. It was all a labour of love. They also thought of God all the time. The Guru loved them for this.

Bhai Lehna began to work like other Sikhs in the Sangat. He worked more actively than the rest. He loved to be near the Guru and to serve the Guru. He was a model student of the Guru and did whatever the Guru wished him to do. He found real joy in doing this. He thought of God at all times. He repeated His Name. He learnt and recited the Guru’s hymns.

The Guru began to love Bhai Lehna very dearly. His love for Bhai Lehna was greater than his love for any other Sikh. It was greater even than his love for his own two sons. They did follow the spiritual teaching of the Guru, did not obey and serve him as well as Bhai Lehna did.

Bhai Lehna began to be respected highly by all Sikhs. They began to call him Baba Lehna Ji. By serving and working for the Guru, Bhai Lehna became Baba Lehna. But this fact did not produce any feeling of pride in him. It did not make him think himself better or ‘higher' than the rest. Rather, it made him humbler, more kindly and more eager to serve the Guru, his Sikhs and the community. As a consequence, he grew more and more popular; more and more deeply respected. The Guru’s love for him went on increasing, day by day.

After only a short time, Baba Lehna Ji was the main Sewadar at Kartarpur and he would be consulted by the Sikhs when Guru Ji was not present. By following the teachings of Guru Nanak, Baba Lehna Ji had earned respect and love of the Sikh Sangat. He used to work hard in the fields growing crops for the Langar; teach Gurbani to the children; join in the kirtan; tend to the sick and assist the needy; help prepare the Langar and carry out other duties at Kartarpur.

Based on the book: Stories from Sikh History, Book 2 by Hemkunt Press, A-78 Naraina Industrial Area, Phase-1 New Delhi-110028. Authors: Kartar Singh and Gurdial Singh Dhillion. Edited by P.M. McCormack