The Fourth Master Guru Ram Das (1534 - 1581)
Ram Das was born on September 24, 1534 to simple God-fearing parents,
Hari Das and Anup Devi of Lahore. Known as Jetha meaning the first born,
he was a handsome young man. When he grew up he could always be found
in the company of religious men. One day Jetha came across a party of
Sikhs who were on their way to Goindwal to pay homage to Guru Amar Das.
Jetha decided to join them and also travel to Goindwal. Upon their arrival
and meeting, Guru Amar Das at once noticed the young Jetha with his
pleasant manner and sense of devotion. While his fellow travelers returned
to Lahore, Jetha decided to stay and become a disciple of Guru Amar
Das. His hard work, and devotion eventually won him the hand of Guru
Amar Das's younger daughter, Bibi Bhani. They went on to have three
sons, Prithi Chand, Mahadev and Arjan Dev.
Jetha became a
trusted disciple of Guru Amar Das. As described previously he successfully
represented Guru Ram Das before the Mughal royal court to defend the
charges by jealous Hindus that Sikhism maligned both the Hindu and Muslim
religions. "Birth and caste are of no avail before God. It is deeds
which make or unmake a man. To exploit ignorant people with superstitions
and to call it religion is a sacrilege against God and man. To worship
the infinite, formless and absolute God in the form of a totem, an image
or an insignificant or time-bound object of nature, or to wash one's
sins not through compassion and self-surrender, but through ablutions;
to insist upon special diets, languages and dresses, and fads about
what to eat and what not, and to condemn the mass of human beings, including
women, to the status of sub-humans and to deny them the reading of the
scriptures and even work of every kind is to tear apart man from man.
This is not religion, not is it religion to deny the world through which
alone man can find his spiritual possibilities." The Emperor Akbar was
greatly impressed by the tenants of Sikhism as explained by Jetha and
dismissed all of the charges.
was ordained as Guru Amar Das's successor and named Guru Ram Das (meaning
servant of God). These events have previously been described.
When the aged ascetic
son of Guru Nanak Baba Sri Chand came to visit Guru Ram Das he asked
him why he kept such a long beard? Guru Ram Das replied; "To wipe the
dust off the feet of holy men like yourself" and then proceeded to perform
this supreme act of humility. Sri Chand held his hand and embraced Guru
Ram Das saying; "It's enough. This is the kind of character by which
you have deprived me of my ancestral heritage. Now, what more is left
with me that I could offer you for your piety and goodness of heart?"
Guru Ram Das now
eagerly continued the building of the city of Ramdaspur (the abode of
Ram Das) by digging of the second sacred pool as he had been instructed
by Guru Amar Das. Pilgrims came in large numbers to hear the Guru and
to help in the excavation work of the tank. The holy tank would be called
Amritsar meaning pool of nectar. Today the city which is the holiest
center of Sikhism has come to be know as Amritsar. Guru Ram Das urged
his Sikhs that one could fulfill one's life not merely by quiet meditation
but in actively participating in the joys and sorrows of others. This
is how one could also rid oneself of the prime malady - Ego, and end
their spiritual loneliness.
One of the new
entries into the Sikh fold at this time was Bhai Gurdas Bhalla, the
son of the younger brother of Guru Amar Das. Bhai Gurdas was a superb
poet and scholar of comparative religion who would later go on become
the scribe of the first edition of the Guru Granth Sahib. Guru Amar
Das was impressed with Bhai Gurdas's existing knowledge of Hindi and
Sanskrit and the Hindu scriptures. Following the tradition of sending
out Masands across the country Guru Amar Das deputed Bhai Gurdas to
Agra to spread the gospel of Sikhism. Before leaving Guru Amar Das prescribed
the following routine for Sikhs;
"He who calls himself
a Sikh of the True Guru, He must get up in the morning and say his prayers.
He must rise in the early hours and bathe in the holy tank. He must
meditate on God as advised by the Guru. And rid himself of the afflictions
of sins and evil. As the day dawns, he should recite scriptures, and
repeat God's name in every activity. He to whom the Guru takes kindly
is shown the path. Nanak! I seek the dust of the feet of the Guru's
Sikh who himself remembers God and makes others remember Him." (Gauri)
The standard Sikh
marriage ceremony known as the Anand Karaj is centered around the Lawan,
a four stanza hymn composed by Guru Ram Das. The marriage couple circumscribe
the Guru Granth Sahib as each stanza is read. The first round is the
Divine consent for commencing the householders life through marriage.
The second round states that the union of the couple has been brought
about by God. In the third round the couple is described as the most
fortunate as they have sung the praises of the Lord in the company of
saints. In the fourth round the feeling of the couple that they have
obtained their hearts desire and are being congratulated is described.
Guru Ram Das's
first cousin Sahari Mal came to invite the Guru to visit Lahore in connection
with the marriage of his son. The Guru being much too busy with his
work promised to send one of his sons instead. Guru Ram Das asked his
eldest son Prithi Chand to attend on his behalf, but he refused. Prithi
Chand feared that his father was perhaps trying to eliminate him in
order to install his youngest brother Arjan as the next Guru. Arjan
was a great favorite of his father. Mahadev the Guru's middle son was
a recluse and excused himself on the ground that he was not interested
in the affairs of the world. The Guru therefore asked his youngest son
Arjan to attend, which he agreed to do with such grace and humility,
that Guru Ram Das was very pleased.
Arjan now proceeded
to Lahore, where his father asked him to remain until called for and
to take charge of the needs and education of the Sikhs in Lahore, his
ancestral home. After two years of feeling intensely homesick, Arjan
composed a poem of love and devotion and sent it to Guru Ram Das.
This poem along with another one a few month's later were intercepted
by the Guru's jealous son Prithi Chand who made sure his father never
received them. Finally Arjan wrote a third poem and numbered it with
a 3 and gave strict instructions to the messenger to only hand it over
to the Guru personally.
"A moment's separation
and it was like an age. When do I see you now, my beloved Lord? My night
does not pass, nor do I get sleep, Without seeing the Guru's darbar.
I am a sacrifice, I am a sacrifice again to the true darbar of the Guru.
Upon finally receiving
this poem, Guru Ram Das sensed what must have happened to the earlier
two messages so he confronted his eldest son Prithi Chand. At first,
Prithi Chand denied everything, but seeing the insistence of the Guru
and the consequences of refusal to obey him, he finally confessed his
treachery and produced the other two letters. When Guru Ram Das read
them, he was moved to tears by the humility and sincerity of his son
Guru Ram Das immediately
sent for Baba Buddha to journey to Lahore and to bring back his son
Arjan with full honour. The Guru then had Bhai Budhha apply the
saffron mark to the forehead of Arjan and declared him his successor.
Prithi Chand would not accept his fathers wishes and continued to misbehave
and abuse Guru Arjan Dev. Guru Ram Das had to publicly condemn his son
Prithi Chand for his actions. Shortly thereafter Guru Ram Das breathed
his last on September 1 1581.