Akal Ustati

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 or donkeys.

They who live in the crematoriums no better than jackals: they who abide in the tombs no better than owls.

Thou wanderest in the woods? So do the deer.

Thou livest in silence? So do the trees.

Thou art a celibate? So are the eunuchs.

Thou wanderest barefooted? So do the monkeys.

And, how wilst thou, O wretch, O slave of woman, lust and wrath, attain God without Wisdom? (1)


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.

Thou wanderest 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).

Thou worshippest 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 the shark?

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 one leg.

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?

Without wisdom, 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.

Sovereigns like 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)


Without Wisdom and Faith, he who merges not in God, the great Giver, he is ferried not across.

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 faith, 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 the same.

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 river?

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 prey.

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 to fire.

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 pain.

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 of tantra,

Now the Way of the yantra,

And then the wielder of arms,

Or, identified with sacrificial fire. (117)


Now, Thou art the Master of the flute,

Now of the Infinite Song.

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 underworld,

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.

Unpierceable. Undestroyable. Primeval. Without a second. The Constructor of our destinies.

Uncaptured, Unafraid, whose Form is ever the same.

Greetings, greetings, 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)


Without loving devotion, nothing avails.

Neither vast sacrificial fires, nor Yagnas, nor customary charities.

Without single 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,

Indivisible and 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, Indivisible, Undefeatable.

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:

Neither ailment, 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)