Sewa Panthi Sampradaye

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Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib, Guru Gobind Singh Sahib and the various Sampradas

Guru Gobind Singh Sahib, when he envisioned a Sikh nation, he envisioned the entire world as his realm, and not just a particular geographical area. Similarly, the All-Knowing Guru, in keeping with the traditional ways of the preceeding Gurus, knowing the core philosophies of Guru Nanak Dev Ji, envisioned an all-inclusive Sikh nation, rejecting the exclusive norms of other faiths. Understanding the ways of the Creator, he allowed some diversity and some distinguished ways within it, and personally and specifically blessed Nirmalas and Seva-Panthis. Earlier, Guru Ram Das Sahib honored and acknowledged Baba Sri Chand, founder of the Udaasi Samprada, as per Guru Nanak Dev Ji's blessing to Mata Sulakhni, for her sons. Again, Guru Hargobind Sahib, offered his eldest son Baba Gurditta and the father of Guru Har Rai Sahib, as successor to Baba Sri Chand.

The five sampardas

These distinguished ways or paths are termed ‘sampardaya’ or 'samprada'. This term has, in the past, been wrongly mis-interpreted or conveyed to the public as ‘sects’ or a ‘cults’, terms that incorrectly imply deviation, arising from dissent with practised beliefs. The term samparda does not mean ‘sect’, but rather order, as in an order of monks. In this sense a sampardaya represents one among several mutually complementary orders. Each one of the major four traditional sampardas began with our Gurus blessings. There are five, traditional sampardas however, starting with the Nirmalas (spiritual scholars), Udasis (scholar mystics), Nihangs (warriors) and Sevapanthis (spiritual mystics serving humanity) and the lesser known Suthra Shahis started by Suthra Shah who was named and raised by Guru Hargobind Sahib.

Sampradaya can be interpreted as ‘tradition’ or a ‘religious order’. It signifies a spiritual or a monastic progression serving as a spiritual conduit via an organisation that lends perpetuity of religious identity. It is somewhat in contrast to other Indian Guru Lineages called paramparas, where by receiving an initiation into a parampara of a living guru, one belongs to a sampradaya. The sampradaya is — a succession of spiritual mentors who carry forward and further convey a religious order of holy men. Holy men belonging to particular sampradas follow their traditional way, holding on to their order's unique philosophies, as conveyed by their mentors to their successors, hence perpetuating their identity. Each successor, however, exercising discretion, does keep the organisation further evolving, while staying with the panthic norms and their tradtional ways.

Sevapanthi samprada comprises of holy men who are devoted to selfless service. The name Sevapanthi can be divided into two parts 'Seva' and 'Panthi'. Seva being selfless service and Panthi meaning someone who walks the path. Hence connoting someone who walks the path of selfless service.

Kanhaiya Lal becomes Bhai Kanhaiya

The Sevapanthi samprada started with the yearnings of a pious young man named Kanhaiya Lal, born into a wealthy Dhamman Khatri family of Sodhra in Sialkot District (now in Pakistan). Not having any leanings toward leading a life of a householder, he left the comforts of an opulent home seeking the company of sadhus and saints, who could bless him with spiritual peace. He finally arrived at the feet of Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib. Bhai Kanhaiya Ji began to serve the Guru with loving devotion.

At Anandpur, he was under the benign umbrella of the Guru. He felt that he was living in paradise and wanted to enjoy the company of the gracious Guru for the rest of his life. He then proceeded to the stables and voluntarily took over the service of serving food and water to the horses in the stables, as well as grooming them. The Guru also began to make surprise visits to the stables and enquired about the state and condition of the horses, which he had never done before.

Once, when Guru Ji was in the stables on one of his surprise visits, Bhai Kanhaiya a moment alone with him. He, emotionally fell on his lotus feet and washed them with his tears of love. He paid tribute to the Guru and said: “Thou knowest all about the past, the present and the future, hence thou art omniscient. Thou art above all three modes of mammon (Satva, Rajas and Tamas) hence thou art immaculate and transcendent. Thou enjoyeth every pleasure and remain poised in gloom or glory, hence thou art beatitude and bliss. As God incarnates in human form to protect his devotes, so are you, an incarnation of God and have appeared to turn people’s minds away from vices. In glory or gloom, in profit or loss, thou never loseth your poise and equanimity of your mind. No power on earth can compete with thee. Thou art omnipotent and victor ludorum. Thou are the financier, thou art the draft and thou art the cashier too. Thou pervadeth everywhere. Other than you, I recognize no one. Somewhere you appeareth as Sant Bans and here thou seemeth Guru Tegh Bahadur. Countless art thy names and forms. Thou art indeed God manifested. It is thine mercy and grace that thou hast summoned thy humble servant into your benign presence and hath conferred upon thy humble servant, the honor of a monarch."'

The Guru appreciated his cordial and heartfelt tribute and smiling cast his look upon him and said, “You have proved yourself to be very earnest and sincere in your efforts and endeavors to attain a state of poise and beatitude. I appreciate all your actions and say, Bravo.” After these words of appreciation, he departed. After a lapse of four months, Bhai Kanhaiya again had a solitary moment with him in the stables. The Guru then instructed the mace-bearer at the gates of the stables not to admit anybody in, until he permitted him to do so. He glanced at Bhai Kanhaiya and cast his most kind and generous look at him. It was a jubilant occasion for Bhai Kanhaiya. It was a vision of God for him. He then praised the Guru and said, “My Lord! Thou art the holiest of the holy, most pious and the purest of the pure. Thou fulfillest the earnest desires of thy devotees and beautify them with your grace.” The Guru then graciously addressed him and said, “Dear lad! On who the benign Lord looks at with favor and grants him the Ambrosial Nectar of Naam, they share their bounties with others. You too have been granted the same Ambrosial Nectar of the Divine Name. The responsibility now rests with you, to share this gift with others." Bhai Kanhaiya then supplicated, “My dearest dear Satguru, my benign master! I pray that you allow me some more time in your sublime service. I have no shelter other than your lotus feet. Just as a child is dependent on his mother, I look upon thee to give me refuge under your gracious umbrella. Thou art the only support of my distracted mind. But I cannot even dare to deny your esteemed command.” The Guru then reiterated, “You have been blessed with Naam by Divine Providence, so you should now go and share your attained gift with others who desire Divine Bliss." But Bhai Kanhaiya, could not bear to separate from him, and he resubmitted, “I long to have your godly glances for a little more time. Though your command is supreme and I dare not disobey it, yet I ask for your grace to grant me some more time to enjoy your kind and benevolent association. The Guru then advised him, “A Guru, essentially, is an object of Divine Knowledge Naam and to digest that knowledge, one has to practically use the gift. To impart your attained Divine Knowledge to others and to earn pleasure of those yearning souls is the application and the recitation of the Gurmantar in the real sense. You should, therefore, leave Anandpur for a place of your choice and establish there a Dharamsala (Ashram). Serve people with the Divine Name and go and impart the Divine Knowledge that you have attained by the Grace of God. Be happy yourself and keep others happy. That will be real service to humanity." Bhai Kanhaiya then paid his most respectful obeisance to the Guru, fell on his lotus feet and bade him goodbye.

Bhai Kanhaiya left Anandpur and proceeded towards the North Western frontier of Punjab. He reached Kehwa, a village on a hilly tract of land in Attock District of Punjab. It was situated on the Grand Trunk Road, the main highway between Lahore and Peshawar. Bhai Kanhaiya noticed that the people of the area were experiencing a terrible scarcity of water. The villagers had to descend and then ascend a long dreary and treacherous mountain track to fetch water from a stream flowing at a distance of about 2 miles. Bhai Kanhaiya Ji then proceeded to set up a dharamsal at Kehwa, in Attock district, presently in Pakistan, where he started serving the local people and travellers, providing them with water, food and shelter and conveying the message of Guru Nanak Sahib to everyone that came to the dharamsal.

In a short time, the Dharamsala gained a remarkable appreciation among the local population and they liberally offered their services and donations for this humanitarian cause. All incoming funds were utilized for the welfare of humanity. The selfless service rendered by Bhai Kanhaiya at the Dharamsala and elsewhere, impressed the general public and the establishment became famous for its humanitarian service throughout the country. Now there was no scarcity of water, as Bhai Kanhaiya had stored about 200 pitchers filled with water at the Dharamsala, and made them available twenty four hours a day. There also were provisions for several cots and beds. Travelers from all religions and castes who desired to spend the night at the dharamsala were, provide with free boarding and lodging, indiscriminately. Bhai Kanhaiya preached the Guru’s message to all, “We are all part of a common brotherhood. God is the only father and we are all his children. So live like brothers without any sort of bias against a Hindu or a Muslim and be humanitarian.” This attracted more people towards Gurmat (Sikh ideology), hence mutual affinity and love for each other were promoted everyday.

The time came when the Tenth Guru ordered his Sikhs to wear a Kirpan (Sword) and be armed. The Sikhs obeyed the order. Sikhs conveyed the same order to Bhai Kanhaiya. Bhai Kanhaiya, unhesitatingly, obeyed that order and armed himself with a Kirpan. Wearing the sword, he continued his service of providing water to the thirsty without any discrimination. If some one asked him the function of the sword, he simply replied, "I will offer my sword to the slayer to avoid the trouble of him drawing his sword out of its sheath." This news also reached the Guru and he ordered Bhai Kanhaiya’s presence in his court. Bhai Kanhaiya was brought before the Guru, immediately. The Guru asked him how he would deal with the sword he was wearing. Bhai Kanhaiya, unhesitatingly, replied, "My Lord! I will request the killer to behead me with the sword I am wearing, as it is the symbol of my Guru." The Guru then ordered his Sikhs to remove the sword from his body and disarm him. "Let him perform the duty allotted to him by my revered father, the Ninth Guru."

Many years later, in 1704, during the Battle of Anandpur, when Anandpur Sahib was besieged by the army of Mughal General Ramzan Khan and the Rajput (Hindu) Hill Chiefs, Bhai Kanhaiya naturally recognized his duties. He entered the battleground with no regard for his personal safety, serving water and giving first aid to the fallen and injured with no discrimination for friend or foe. Being a devout Sikh, he remembered the bani composed by the 5th Guru, Guru Arjan Dev in Raag Kanraa:

ਕਾਨੜਾ ਮਹਲਾ ੫ ॥
ਬਿਸਰਿ ਗਈ ਸਭ ਤਾਤਿ ਪਰਾਈ ॥
ਜਬ ਤੇ ਸਾਧ ਸੰਗਿਤ ਮੋਹਿ ਪਾਈ ॥ ੧ ॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥
ਨਾ ਕੋ ਬੈਰੀ ਨਹੀ ਬਿਗਾਨਾ
ਸਗਲ ਸੰਗਿ ਹਮ ਕਉ ਬਨਿ ਆਈ ॥੧॥ ੮॥ ਪੰਨਾ ੧੨੯੯

Kaanraa, Fifth Mehla:

I have totally forgotten my jealousy of others,
since I found the Saadh Sangat, the Company of the Holy. ||1||Pause||
No one is my enemy, and no one is a stranger. I get along with everyone. ||1||
Page 1299 of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib

This outraged some of the Sikh soldiers who witnessed his acts. They reported what they had seen (rather their opinions) to their superiors, who in turn brought the matter to Guru Gobind Singh Sahib's attention.

Guru Gobind Singh Ji's Darbar

Guru Gobind Singh Ji summoned Bhai Kanhaiya to his Darbar, and asked him if the complaints against him were true. He asked Bhai Kanhaiya if he served the Mughal soldiers in battlefield with water, and Bhai Kanhaiya denied it. Then Guru Ji asked him if he served water to the Rajput (Hindu) Hill chiefs soldiers in the battlefield and Bhai Kanhaiya denied doing that, as well. Then Guru Sahib asked him if was serving the Sikh warriors in the battlefield, and he denied that as well. Then Guru Ji asked him if was fulfilling his duty of serving water in battlefield and Bhai Kanhaiya said he did.

Then Guru Ji asked him, if you did not serve the Mughal soldiers, the Hindu soldiers or the Sikh soldiers, then who did you serve water to?

Bhai Kanhaiya replied, as related by Sant Rattan Mala:

Tainu paiyaa pilavaan paani, sir meree dey saaeen, Turk aturk na disda mainu, Tu saarey dis ayeen.

Bhai Kanhaiya bowed reverently and submitted, "My Lord, ever since I touched your lotus feet, I do not see the difference between men. I see your image in every one. You have so enlightened my eyes that I see no one else but you. I see your face in all the people I serve. I serve water to no one else but you, my Lord! It is you yourself who have taught me, Lord.

The Guru was, extremely pleased with the spirit of all embracing love and selfless service exhibited by Bhai Kanhaiya. He applauded him for his humanitarian service. Guru Ji hugged him to his bosom He had only done this once before to Bhai Jaita Rangreta, who had brought him the severed head of Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib.

Again Sant Rattan Mala narrates:

Tutthe te gull laayaa Satgur, dubbi hath pharaaee. Paani naal malham bhi rakhin, lor paee te laaeen.

Then, from under his cummerbund, Guru Ji brought out a box of his special ointment and asked Bhai Kanhaiya Ji to provide first aid to the wounded, as well, when needed. In addition, Guru Ji blessed Bhai Ji with a boon, prophesizing that Bhai Ji will start an organization of similar minded individuals, who will selflessly serve humanity.

Kavi Santokh Singh Ji writes in Panth Prakash Suraj Granth:

Eh bhee apno panth prakaasey. Bahu logan ki kumatt binaasey.

He then told his Sikhs, that Bhai Kanhaiya had understood his teachings, and the message of Akal Purakh Vaheguru, well.

Applauded and blessed by the Guru, he returned to Kehwa and with all his devotion labored hard to further his Divine mission of love and selfless service.

Bhai Kanhaiya Ji had two prominent disciples, Bhai Seva Ram and Bhai Noori Shah (an Afghani Muslim) whom he had nursed to good health when Noori Shah was seriously wounded in the battle at Anandpur Sahib. Eventually, Bhai Seva Ram, the gentle, obedient, kindhearted saint was the one whom Bhai Kanhaiya Ji anointed as his successor as Bhai Kanhaiya Ji's soul departed in 1718 AD.

Bhai Seva Ram Ji - Bhai Kanhaiya Ji's First Disciple

Bhai Seva Ram was born in the year 1658 A.D. (Samvat 1715)in a rural area in Western Punjab, now in Pakistan. Bhai Seva Ram from his very birth appeared to be a saintly personality. To his family and all others, it seemed as if godliness was a pre-recorded Divine Writ, for him. Instinctively, he enjoyed the company of spiritual personalities, and treasured communions with them. Always absorbed in Divine Love, he wandered in the wilderness, seeking union with Divine personalities. He did meet many pretenders claiming to be Sadhus, but he was soon disappointed as he realized that their actions were not as per their own sermons. He did not however lose heart and continued his search for a Divine preceptor. Once, a trickster in the garb of an Udasi Sadhu came to Sodhra with a scheme to cheat people out of their money. On a pretext of changing their silver coins into gold, he collected a large amount of silver coins and was looking for a way to give the people a slip. Some of people being skeptical, suspected treachery and kept a keen vigil upon him. He tried all sorts of hoaxes to try and get away from there now that he had the silver, but he did not get a chance. Then luck favored him, as Bhai Seva Ram, by chance, turned up there. He was also wearing the same Udasi garb. The trickster saw a great chance to get away. He exclaimed, “Lo! My disciple has finally arrived to assist me. I had been eagerly awaiting him. As he is here now, there will no further delay from my side as I will now go and accomplish my task as promised.” The people believed him and got slack in their vigilance. By the time Bhai Seva Ram arrived and sat down, the treacherous trickster disappeared and was out of sight in an instant. The people waited for him to return but soon realized that they had been taken advantage of. They surrounded Bhai Seva Ram and asked him to produce his Guru, the trickster who had robbed them of their silver. Bhai Seva Ram did his utmost to assure them that he had no association, whatsoever, with the trickster. He introduced himself as an ascetic wandering about and had entered that garden, purely by chance. But no one believed him. All his pleas went unheeded. Finally, he was brought into the presence of the city chieftain, who ordered that Bhai Seva Ram be fettered and handcuffed. The order was carried out and he was arrested and held in the ante room of the chieftain’s mansion. Marvelous and miraculous are the ways of God. He employs various means to change the course of a person’s destiny. The Lord’s actions are perfect and his mysteries ultimately do unravel. Bhai Kanhaiya, who at that time was in Sodhra, and had been invited by the same chieftain for dinner at his residence. By chance, it happened to be the same evening that Bhai Seva Ram was brought to his house in fetters, as a captive. As soon as Bhai Kanhaiya entered the ante room of the chieftain’s mansion, he noticed the prisoner and addressed the prisoner as if he was acquainted with him. Bhai Kanhaiya said to the prisoner, “O dear, what has brought you here in this state?” “I have come here in your search, My Lord! My destiny has brought me here in this state,” Bhai Seva Ram replied, politely. Bhai Kanhaiya immediately ascertained all the facts and asked the chieftain to set Bhai Seva Ram free at his assurance. The chieftain, unhesitatingly, obeyed Bhai Kanhaiya and had Bhai Seva Ram released.

Bhai Seva Ram, from then on, remained with Bhai Kanhaiya Ji for a long time, serving devoutly. Finally, Bhai Kanhaiya asked Bhai Seva Ram to take over the assignment of Chief Preceptor at the Dharamsala in Kehwa. He became known as his first and chief disciple.

Bhai Seva Ram Ji served Bhai Kanhaiya with great reverence. On one of his missionary tours, he arrived at Nurpur Thall, a prominent town of Sargodha District of West Punjab(now in Pakistan). Not unlike Bhai Kanhaiya, noticing an acute water shortage in the area, he immediately thought of having a well dug up in the town and establishing another Dharamsala. The project was completed in 1688 AD.

The entire population of the area learnt that he was disciple of Bhai Kanhaiya, soon recognized his saintly personality and came to assist in his selfless humanitarian cause. This new Dharamsala, later became known as the most important center of the Seva Panthi order and until the partition of India, it retained that position. At the beginning of the nineteenth century it became known as Tikana Bhai Jagta Ji, after the fifth spiritual descendant of Bhai Kanhaiya Ji, Bhai Jagta Ji.

Bhai Seva Ram Ji established two other very prominent Dharamsalas/Ashrams. One at Laitukra and the other at Mohanpur, where he spent the last 14 years of his life. His contributions to the Bhai Kanhaiya Ji's mission for several decades were noticed by one and all and the mission became popular as the "SEVA PANTH". His disciples were henceforth referred to as Sevapanthis.

Bhai Seva Ram Ji had many disciples like Bhai Sahej Ram, Bhai Sahib Ram, Bhai Santokh, Bhai Addan Shah and others but the foremost disciple was Bhai Addan Shah Ji, who was very spiritual, charismatic and illustrious. Bhai Seva Ram and his disciples went all over Punjab, spreading the message of Guru Granth Sahib Ji and showing the path of selfless service to Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims. Through the years he actually influenced and converted many souls onto the path of Sikhi.

In 1728 A.D., realizing the end of his journey was near, he handed the torch over to his chief disciple, Bhai Addan Shah Ji and departed for his heavenly abode.

Bhai Addan Shah Ji - Bhai Seva Ram Ji's Chief Disciple

It was a blessed day in 1688 AD (Samvat 1745) when a heavenly soul was sent to the home of saintly parents in Lau, in Jhang District in West Punjab(now in Pakistan). Young Addan Shah Ji was educated in his village under the able tutelage of Bhai Gurdas 'Dakhani' who following the command of Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib had arrived in the area to teach Gurmukhi and Gurbani and impart spiritual guidance to the local population. He took special care of young Addan Shah Ji, who paid great attention to his teachings and as per the Will of the Almighty, evolved into a very spiritual young man. People often asked Bhai Gurdas 'Dakhni' why he had chosen this arduous profession of teaching others, and he soberly replied, "So that a genius, like young Addan Shah may crop up." Young Addan Shah Ji was a virtuous and chaste person and loved being in the company of holy men. His parents noticed that tendency and being afraid that one day he would leave them, they got him married to a pretty young woman. But that did not change the spirit of young Addan Shah Ji even an iota. Soon his parents realized that this young man had arrived for tasks other than those of a householder, and he yearned for Divine guidance.

Word of his spirituality spread to neighboring areas and Bhai Seva Ram Ji also finally heard the news. He wanted to see the young man and made plans to travel to his village. When Bhai Seva Ram Ji arrived at the village, he was informed that young Addan Shah Ji was away. Addan Shah Ji's companions gave him a warm honorable reception and served him with great respect. They sang Divine hymns to entertain him, as they knew Gurbani and Gurbani Kirtan were Bhai Seva Ram Ji's sustenance. Watching Addan Shah Ji's companions recite Gurbani with devotion, Bhai Seva Ram Ji decided to not leave without meeting Addan Shah Ji himself. Bhai Ji then asked about his whereabouts and was told that he had traveled to a village called Shah Yusuf and was expected to return soon. Despite Addan Shah Ji's companions and parents' entreaties, he decided to leave Lau and proceeded to the Shah Yusuf village to see Addan Shah Ji. The moment arrived when both beheld each other and witnesses say they had never before seen such a spiritually ecstatic encounter. It was as if they had both ascended into seventh heaven. Addan Shah Ji could perceive Divine brilliance in the radiant face of Bhai Seva Ram Ji and immediately felt spiritual peace enter his heart as Bhai Ji looked at him with a glance of Grace. Addan Shah became conscious of an unexplainable transformation within and immediately fell on his feet and surrendered himself completely to his service. In 1713 AD, he became Bhai Seva Ram Ji's disciple. He served Bhai Kanhaiya Ji and Bhai Seva Ram Ji, with great reverence and utmost devotion, until the two saints abandoned their mortal bodies. He was anointed the third chief assignee of the Sevapanthi mission. The mission grew many fold under his able guidance. At one time Bhai Addan Shah Ji had 250 Sadhus/Holy men living in his Dharamsala/Ashram.

One day, a Hindu Kshatriya Divan (Minister) of the local Muslim ruler, who became his ardent devotee, came to him with a substantial deed of Ten Persian Wheeled Wells, and wanted him to accept the same as a gift. It was duly signed and stamped by the ruler. He offered it with great humility, saying,"Gracious master! You have such a huge Ashram and you have to entertain thousands of devotees and serve them langar, and in the summer season, you have huge expenses and a great need of water. Therefore, I humbly offer you this deed of Ten Persian Wheeled Wells to assist you in meeting your expenses. Bhai Addan Shah Ji responded, "Respected Divan Ji, I thank you from bottom of my heart for this act of generosity and please know that that in my heart I have I have accepted it, but I cannot accept the deed for the wells. This huge gift will cause me great difficulties and distress. The Divan was astounded, and requested a clarification. Bhai Addan Shah Ji listed the following reasons. He said, "Now listen, my Dear: 1. The acceptance of the deed will become the talk of the town and will make the Muslim Sayyads, Qureshies and Maulanas envious about a grant of this size being granted to a Hindu Fakir. They will curse the ruler for favoring a Hindu. We will feel responsible and start to harbor enmity towards them. 2. The Sadhus, who know even accept dry crusts of bread as langar, we will lose the sense of equality that exists here. We will also become overly cautious about entertaining the ruler's representatives and others will notice the discrimination and the spirit of goodness will diminish. 3. People love us and appreciating our secluded lifestyle, they care for us by bring milk, food and delicacies. If we accept this deed, they will start to approach us for gifts of the yields from the land and will reproach us for not satisfying their demands, hence turning this deed into a liability. 4. To be devoted entirely to God, we have renounced the world and our households. When we accept this deed, our households will again gather around us and will stake all kinds of claims and will never leave us alone, throwing chains of Maya/mammonish affections and attachments at us, entangling us. 5. Even thieves come to us and we welcome them without discrimination. We leave our doors open and everything we have in plain sight. By accepting this deed our material holdings will increase and we will have to employ armed guards to protect our property. Hence, an introduction of weapons in our Dharamsala, which may lead to armed encounters as well. 6. Now, all who come here, whether, a hermit, a mendicant or a renunciant, know us as poor and recluses. When they learn of our deed, they will all flock to us for food, delicacies and expensive gifts. We may not please them all and our daily lives will be wasted in these squabbles. 7. When the time for planting the crops on the land comes, some peasants will claim shortage of seeds, some of oxen, and some will complain of a meager yield, and want a greater return on their work. Cattle wandering into our fields will create a nuisance for the cattle owners and peasants alike and cause disputes. 8. When the rulers/divans now pass away, their successors may not be as tolerant to the peasants, tenants and land owners. They may even question our lifestyles, our character and our mission as Sadhus and Saints, only because of these vast land holdings. 9. The men in our congregation come here only to learn and practice the tenets and doctrines of Sikhism and Gurmat. With this deed a lot of them will remain occupied in the business of peasantry and land ownership and will not have any time left for attaining Divine Knowledge. "So Divan Ji, this deed will certainly impede our spiritual development and we will waste this precious God given human life and our chance to merge with the Ultimate Truth. So please excuse us for our inability to accept such a generous gift." The Divan was stunned and falling at Bhai Addan Ji's feet, he responded, "O benign master, a good number of fakirs and Sadhus knock on our doors for grants and gifts, but we do not attend to those pretenders. I am now convinced of your purpose and of your mission." He took back the deed and offered some money, but Bhai Addan Shah Ji refused that as well. But the Divan became despondent and begged Bhai Ji to accept the money. So Bhai Ji, noticing his devotion, accepted some money and donated all of it instantly, without keeping a penny for himself, just to satisfy him.

One day, some sadhus in his ashram brought to Bhai Addan Shah Ji's attention that there was a shortage of necessities and even cotton fabric for clothes. Bhai Ji managed to procure some cotton and had it converted to warp and stretched out on the loom. He had additional cotton for weft and had it stored in a room. Some thieves who had not had success elsewhere, were returning disheartened, when they saw Bhai Ji's Dharamsala. They decided they rather than going home empty handed, they would take whatever little stuff they could find there. The doors being open twenty four hours, and the lights were on as well. The thieves had an easy time locating the cotton warp and quickly decamped with it. In the morning, Bhai was made aware of the theft. He asked the sadhus if the cotton for the weft was secure and they confirmed that the thieves had not taken it. Bhai Ji, immediately gave them instructions to track down the thieves and go and deliver the cotton for the weft to them, lest they try and steal it from elsewhere. The sadhus obeyed their master's command. They with the help of the local population tracked the thieves down as they were about to cross a river. They humbly approached them and presented them with the cotton for the weft, saying, "Dear ones, you may have unconsciously left your cotton for the weft behind. You will need it to complete the weaving process." The sadhus turned back after presenting the cotton. The thieves were astonished. They whispered to each other, one saying that the sadhus were very nice, they did not even ask questions the ownership of the cotton, and even delivered the rest, saying, "You may have left 'your' cotton behind". They did blame them for about the theft. They are true sadhus, who truly practice equity. They treat their friends and foes, alike. Look! They even addressed us as sadhus and not thieves. We have committed a heinous crime and a great sin, stealing from these godly people. Let us go and return the cotton and beg for their forgiveness. They immediately disembarked from the boat, walked back to Bhai Addan Shah Ji's dharamsala and prostrated themselves before him, and apologizing profusely, they begged for his mercy. Bhai Addan Shah Ji said, Dear ones,"This cotton is of no use to us. Kindly keep it with you and make use of it. It would make us happy if it could serve your purpose. Please do not worry." But the thieves would not relent. They was extremely penitent."You are a sincere devotee of Almighty God and a true saint. Please have mercy on us and forgive our sins and further guide us towards a better path." Convinced by their remorseful behavior, Bhai ji forgave them. The thieves left the cotton and returned to their homes.

There are so many episodes about Bhai Addan Shah Ji, that are absolutely mesmerizing. He was fearless in the face of Muslim rulers, Qazis and Maulanas. During his tenure as the Chief Assignee of the Seva Panth, and after him, Sevapanthi sadhus made ink for writing pages of the Guru Granth Sahib. It was also popularly known as 'Addan Shahi'. He was so respected that when the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabhandak Committee was formed in 1925, after a year they returned the keys of all 150 Gurdwaras to the Seva Panthis, the Seva Panthis, organized their own Committee in Amritsar and named it Addan Shahi Sabha (Regd.).

Other Well Known Seva Panthi Saints

Some of these saints have their own pages on this site, as well.

  1. Mahant Bhai Kahan Singh Ji – Goniana Mandi
  2. Mahant Bhai Asa Singh Ji – Goniana Mandi
  3. Bhai Jagta Ji – Dharamsala Nurpur Thal
  4. Bhai Bhalla Ram Ji – Dharamsala Nurpur Thal
  5. Mahant Bhai Gulab Singh Ji – Nurpur Thal and Goniana Mandi
  6. Mahant Bhai Tirath Singh Ji – Goniana Mandi
  7. Mahant Bhai Jawahar Singh Ji – Mitha Tiwana and Hoshiarpur
  8. Mahant Bhai Bhagat Singh Ji - Mitha Tiwana and Hoshiarpur
  9. Sant Bhai Nischal Singh Ji - Jagadhri
  10. Sant Giani Amir Singh Ji – Satto Gali, Amritsar
  11. Sant Giani Kirpal Singh Ji – Satto Gali, Amritsar
  12. Sant Bhai Shaam Singh Ji – Atta Mandi, Amritsar
  13. Sant Bhai Harbans Singh Ji - ‘Kar Seva Wale’

“The human spirit at Anandpur manifested its joyous spiritual energy in many ways. On every day that dawned there were new ideas in the very air, and the Khalsa crystallized in many shapes. The Sevapanthis, the Nirmalas, the Sahej-dharis, set forth new shining resolutions...Sevapanthis reserved themselves for the creed of service; later on they formed the first ‘Red Cross’ corps of Gobind Singh, serving friend and foe alike. They carried water on their backs in the battlefield, and held the bowl of mercy to the thirsty lips of the dying. They carried on (them) a stock of first aid, and gained special knowledge in surgery and medicine...”

(Prof. Puran Singh, The Book of the Ten Masters, page 107-108)


See also Sewapanthi/Addanshahi Sampardaye