Selections from a chapter from the Akal Ustati (In Praise of God, The
Immortal) Kabitas (71 to 90) by Guru Gobind
Singh denounces blind rituals. The Akal Ustati is a lengthy poem composed
by Guru Gobind Singh which appears in the Dasam Granth.
They who eat filth
are no better than swine’s, they who roll in dust no better than elephants
They who live in
the crematoriums no better than jackals: they who abide in the tombs
no better than owls.
in the woods? So do the deer.
Thou livest in
silence? So do the trees.
Thou art a celibate?
So are the eunuchs.
barefooted? So do the monkeys.
And, how wilst
thou, O wretch, O slave of woman, lust and wrath, attain God without
Thou bidest in
the forest? So do the demons.
Thou livest on
milk? So do the children in the world.
Thou livest on
air? So doth a serpent.
Thou livest on
grass, vegetables and desirest no wealth? So doth the cow, the ox.
Thou fliest in
the skies? So do the birds.
Thou sittest long
in meditation? So do the cranes, the cats, the wolves.
Yea, they who knew,
let not their attainment be advertised: O mind, let not such deceit
enter thy heart even unconsciously. (2)
Thou livest in
the earth? So do the white ants.
Thou fliest in
the skies? So do the sparrows.
Thou eatest only
fruit? So do the monkeys.
unseen? So do the ghosts.
Thou floatest on
the water? So do the black flies.
Thou eatest fire?
So doth a chakori (type of bird).
the sun? No better then the lotus.
Thou bowest to
the moon? No better then the water lilies. (3)
If thou callest
Him Narayan, or a water god, why not also the tortoise, the fish and
If Vishnu with
a lotus in the navel, what about the lake which abounds in the lotus?
If Gopinath and
Gopal, being the cowherd, what about other tenders of the cows?
If Rikhikesh then,
that also is the name of the head of a sect. Madhava is a name also
of the bumble-bee. Kanahyia of a woodpecker. If He is a mere destroyer
of Kansa, then he is only the angel of death.
The ignorant wretches
mutter his customary names, but dwell not on the Mystery that is God
Who saves and cherishes all. (4)
Provider of the
world, also its Death and Destroyer of the enemies, Compassionate to
the poor, forever our Sustenance, whom the noose of death catches not.
Upon Him dwell
the yogis and those with matted hair, and men of continence and celibates,
who meditate on God, suffering hunger and thirst.
And others who
perform inly cleanings, and offer sacrifice to water, fire and wind,
and those who never rest and hold their heads down or stand only upon
And men and serpents
and gods and demons find not the Mystery that is God: even the Vedas
and the Semitic texts utter: “Not this, Not this”. (5)
Thou dancest to
please God? So do the peacocks, when the clouds roar and the lightning
too which dances with a myriad steps.
And who can be
cooler than the moon, or warmer than the sun, and who a more powerful
ruler than Indra, the doyen of gods.
And could there
be one more austere than Shiva, more Veda learned than Brahma; or one
to improve upon the austerities of Sanat Kumara?
ever subject to death, one wanders aimlessly age after age. (6)
Shivas come and
go, and the incarnations of Rama and Krishna are also more than many.
And many are Brahmas
and many are Vishnus too, and of the Vedas, Puranas and books on moral
law no limit there is. They come and they go.
And many have been
orthodox amongst the Muslims, and men of miracles, and Ashvini Kumars,
and the part incarnations of Vishnu, all O all went the way of death.
And many were the
prophets and spiritual guides, yea, countless were they: they sprang
from the dust and to dust they returned. (7)
Many were the yogis
and celibates too, and great kings whose canopied authority extended
over vast spaces.
And who smote all
their enemies and humbled the pride of kings, howsoever high and mighty.
Mandhatri and Dilip, the lord of the canopy, who prided on the strength
of their arms.
And Darius, proud
like the emperors of Delhi, and Daryodhana; they enjoyed the earth in
their own time and then returned to the dust. (8)
Thou bowest low
many times to God? So do gunmen and men of deceit and opium eaters too.
Thou liest prostrate?
So doth the wrestler in his exercise. Is he paying homage with his eight
limbs to his God?
Thou turnest thy
face upwards? This only is a sickness, if thy mind’s head boweth not
down to thy Primal God.
O slave of desire,
clever in amassing riches, shorn of Faith, how wilst thou attain unto
the Lord, thy God? (9)
Why strike thy
head on the ground? Does not one in mourning for his son, or friend,
do the same?
Why shakest thou
thy head? For, the one with an ear-wig in his ears doth much worse.
Thou gazest on
Akka plant, or livest on fruit and flower and the ever wanderest in
the woods? But the goat too doth the same.
If thou eatest
earth, thou art no better than a leech, if rubbest thy head against
a tree, no better than a sheep.
O slave of desire,
versed in wrath and lust, shorn of Faith, how wilt thou see the other
side of the phenomenal world? (10)
Don’t the peacocks
dance, and the frogs croak, and the clouds thunder?
Don’t the trees
stand ever on one foot? Don’t the Jainas sweep the ground before putting
their feet upon it?
Don’t the stones
stay for ages in a single position? And the ravens and kites travel
from place to place? (11)
and Faith, he who merges not in God, the great Giver, he is ferried
Like a showman,
one becomes now a sanyasin, now a yogi or an anchorite:
Now he fasts, living
only on air, and now he goes into a trance or, stung by greed, he sings
the praises of God.
Now a celibate,
now one who grows a garden in his hand, now with a medicants staff,
he deceives men.
It is nothing but
desire that sways such a one to dance; but without wisdom, one enters
not the abode of God. (12)
Five times a jackal
barks in the cold season, and the elephants trumpet and donkeys bay
many times more.
What if one seeks
to be sawn alive at Kashi? The thieves too are cleaved with an axe.
O wretch, why drown
thyself in the Ganga with a halter around thy neck; so do the thugs
put an end to their victims lives.
without wisdom, one is drowned in the river of hell and one can dwell
not on the Divine. (13)
If penance’s were
to lead to God of no-sorrow, then a wounded man suffers much worse.
If by mere utterance,
one were to attain Him who’s the God of Silence, then a warbler too
cries: “Thou, O Thou”.
If by flying in
the skies one finds God, then Anal, the mythical bird, ever wanders
in the heavens.
If by burning oneself
in fire, one were to attain God then the sati also would;
If by living underground,
then why not also the snakes? (14)
One man shaves
off and calls himself a sanyasin, another passes for a yogi or a celibate.
One calls himself
a Hindu, another a Turk, one a Shia, another a Sunni, but know ye, men
all over are the same.
He alone is the
Creator of both Hindus and Muslims, the Compassionate One, the Allah,
our Great Giver: nay, know not another, for there is not another.
So serve they all
the One alone: for He the One is the only God of us all: it is His Form,
His Light that is diffused in all. (15)
No difference there
is between a temple and a mosque, nor between the Hindu worship or the
Muslim prayer: for men are the same all over, though they appear not
Gods and demons,
yakshas and gandharvas, Hindus and Muslims, they all seem different,
but the difference is only of the dress, custom and country.
The same eyes have
they, the same ears, the same body, the same habits, a get-together
of earth, air, water and fire.
Allah is no different
from Abhenkha, the Puranas no different from the Koran. All men are
made alike. They appear no different to me. (16)
As from fire arise
a myriad sparks, one distinct from the other, and then merge again in
the same fire.
As from the earth
arise a myriad of particles of dust, and then dust to dust returns.
As from a river
lap myriad’s of waves, but is a wave different from the waters of the
So also from God
arise beings, both sentient and non-sentient, and merge again they in
their Primal Source. (17)
Many are the tortoises
and fishes and many their eaters, and how many wondrous birds there
are that swim cleanly in the air, and others that make them their feed.
And the birds of
prey, many, many are they, and others who prey even upon the birds of
What if one lives
on the earth, in waters or in the sky, only the All-death, thy God,
creates all and then destroys all.
As light is merged
in darkness and the darkness in light, so do all things spring from
the one God and merge in Him alone. (18)
Many there are
who cry and wail themselves to death: and many who drown or offer themselves
Many abide by the
Ganges, others in Mecca and Medina, others wander about as anchorites.
Many are pleased
to be sawn or buried or impaled alive, and suffer pain as if it weren’t
Many fly in the
air, many dwell in water, but without Divine Knowledge they waste themselves
away in vain. (19)
The demigods searching
the demons dueling, wise men thinking, and knowers with their knowledge
have wearied of their search.
And those too that
practice ritual and apply sandal paste to their foreheads, and worship
stones and spray scents upon idols, and offer them puddings to eat.
And those who visit
cemeteries and tombs, and smear walls with auspicious signs and get
branded their bodies with their choice ensigns.
And expert musicians
and players on heavenly instruments and Pundits too with all their learning
and men of penance have found not God. (20)
Now, Thou art an
Arab, now a Persian, now a Turk. Now the utterer of Pehlavi, now of
Pashtu, now of Sanskrit,
Now of the peoples
tongue, now of the language of the gods.
Now the Instructor
of the rules of kingship and then the King himself. (116)
Here, Thou art
considered the Instructor of mantra,
There, the Essence
Now the Way of
And then the wielder
with sacrificial fire. (117)
Now, Thou art the
Master of the flute,
Now of the Infinite
Now of the foreign
tongue, now of the Way of the Vedas.
Now the instruction
in dance, now the mysterious snake-charm, the secret Mantram whose mystery
is too deep for words. (118)
O heavenly Nymph,
O Enticing Beauty of the world,
O Fairy from the
O Knowledge of
warfare, O Splendour whom elements constitute not,
O Chivalrous Warrior,
O Master of the Canopy,
O King of kings,
endowed with all the attributes of the Supreme Sovereign. (119)
Greetings, O Perfect
Master, the Blesser-ever of miraculous powers.
Primeval. Without a second. The Constructor of our destinies.
whose Form is ever the same.
greetings to Thee, O One beyond the sway of elements. (120)
Some practice the
way of yoga through the ages,
But find not the
end of Him, their only God.
Some devote themselves
to a myriad branches of knowledge,
But they see not
God, face to face. (139)
devotion, nothing avails.
Neither vast sacrificial
fires, nor Yagnas, nor customary charities.
minded devotion to the Name of One God,
All religious effort
ends in fruitlessness. (140)
He whom utters
everyone, all over, through the ages,
And in whose fear
tremble the mountains, the underworld and the earth.
And for whom life
suffers austerities, in the waters upon land,
And who is hailed
by the mighty Indras and the Kuberas, He alone is my God. (141)
Not subject to
sorrow is His Form, who is mysterious and inscrutable,
Absolute, Unpierceable and Indestructible:
Beyond Time, Unsustained
by another, Compassionate, and without pride.
Yea, He who is
the establisher of the mountains, the earth, and the sky: He alone is
my God. (142)
He is the Man-Effulgent,
He the Creator
of the gods, the demons and the powerful ones.
Through Him come
the earth and the heavens,
And all places
and space and the innerspace. (143)
He who has neither
attachment, nor form, nor distinctive mark, nor direction:
And who is subject
not to pain and pleasure, neither affliction nor curse:
nor sorrow, nor indulgence, who can be harmed not, nor His Mystery pierced
through: He alone is my God. (144)
He who has neither
caste, nor lineage, nor mother:
And who is the
Creator of the warrior, the canopy and indeed the earth.
And who is attached
not, has no marks or signs, and is afflicted not by sickness or sorrow;
And who is stranger
to no one,
And is justly considered
blemishless and sinless. He alone is my God. (145)
He who out of an
egg, formed an egg-shaped universe.
And the fourteen
(spheres) and the nine divisions of the earth,
And passion and
power and darkness.
But Himself ever
in the state of fearlessness, He blazes forth as All-light: He alone
is my God. (146)
His is the only
Light permeating uniformly the earth through all ages.
He neither increases
nor decreases, and is ever the same.
He is downed never,
so consider Him ever what He ever remains.
And at all places,
think of His Splendour which is never like anothers. (166)