BHAI BHIKHARI JI
(Rajinder Singh ‘Arshi’)
On a pilgrimage to Amritsar, a devoted Sikh (referred to hereafter as Gurmukh) of Guru Arjan Dev Ji sought his audience. After touching the lotus feet of Guru Sahib he stood up, and with joined hands said “Maharaaj I have often heard of Sikhs who are well versed in the art of accepting Lord’s Will at all times, and that these Sikhs never question His Will whether in good or bad times. They are very adept in the acceptance of ‘bhanaa’ (1). Where can I meet such a devotee of yours?
Guru Arjan smiled and asked Gurmukh to go and spend a few days with Bhai Bhikhari who lived in the district of Gujarat. Gurmukh immediately left for Gujarat. On reaching Bhai Bhikhari’s house he saw a lot of joyous activity. Ladies of the house singing ceremonial songs. Halvaais (cooks and sweet makers) busy in preparing various types of dishes. In brief it cut a joyous atmosphere. Bhai Bhikhari was sitting down busy in stitching a linen carpet made of discarded clothing. On seeing Gurmukh he got up and embraced him. He was overjoyed to see a Gursikh coming directly from Guru Sahib. Gurmukh enquired about the activities and learnt that these were the preliminary celebrations in respect of Bhai Bhikari’s son’s wedding in a couple of day’s time. After all the formalities of hospitality Bhai Sahib went back to his seat and resumed his stitching.
The big day arrived and with all the auspicious customs of a wedding day the baraat (wedding party) left for the bride’s village with vaajey gaajjey (musical band which accompanies the baraat). The Anand Kaaraj (the ceremony of bliss) was duly conducted as per the laavs (nuptial circumambulation) composed by Guru Ram Das Ji. With post-marriage formalities completed the wedding party returned to the Groom’s place with vaajey gaajjey.
Most of the guests left but Gurmukh decided to stay on for a few days. After two or three days Bhai Bhikhari’s son fell ill with a severe stomach pain and died despite all efforts to cure him. The ladies of the house who were up to now still singing and celebrating the wedding started crying and the whole household transformed into a scene of gloom and tragedy. However, Bhai Bhikhari showed no emotional remorse or outburst. He calmly went on with the formalities of his son’s cremation amidst paath (reading of the wholly scriptures), prayers and kirtan (singing of Gurbani). After cremating his son’s body, as per the necessary mirtak maryada (2) he came home, pulled out the linen carpet he had stitched earlier and sat down to accommodate relatives and friends who came to offer their condolences.
Gurmukh was completely stunned and amazed at Bhai Bhikhari’s conduct. He asked Bhai Bhikari why, if he knew his son was going to die, he went through the façade of the marriage and the related pomp and ceremony. He added “You, Bhai Sahib, are no ordinary Sikh as you possess rare spiritual powers. Why sir did you not try and extend his life span? If you do not possess such powers, why could you not request Guru sahib to grant your son the boon of mortal life? I cannot understand why, despite so much spiritual power, you have gone through so much pain and anguish and inflicted the same on your family, the bride and the bride’s family.”
Bhai Sahib calmly replied “Brother Gurmukh this was God’s Hukam (3) and those who question His Hukam are manmukhs (4) and such people will never achieve moksha (5) during their mortal life or after death. A man must accept His Decree whether it brings pleasure or inflicts pain. He must not be choosy. Actually God is not responsible for our sufferings which are really the fruit of our own actions, past and present (karma). A person who tries to interfere in God’s Will, commits a sin. This is not acceptable by the House of Nanak. Neither do we have Guru’s permission to interfere with another person’s destiny”.
Gurmukh listened intently. This was a lesson in spirituality he had craved for. Bhai Bhikhari went on “You raised the question of approaching Guru Arjan for an extension to my son’s life. There is nothing wrong in going to the Guru if you need help but if one has ask him for something why ask for worldly things which are only illusionary and do not help towards our main goal – unification with the Lord. Ask the Guru for something which will travel with our soul, so that when we leave this mortal life we can acquit ourselves with honour”.
Bhai sahib echoed Guru Amar Das Ji’s words: har kaa bhaanaa bhagtee maniaa say bhagat paeay dar thaaey – meaning - the devotees who surrender to the Lord’s Will are accepted at His Door (GGS 65).
Gurmukh was speechless and realised how lucky he was to have a Teacher like Guru Arjan Dev. How great must be the Guru whose Sikhs attain such lofty spiritual heights!
1 Bhaana: Surrendering to (or acceptance of) Lord’s will
2 mirtak maryada: death formalities
3 hukam: God’s decree; Divine Will or Order
4 manmukh: A self-centred persons who follows his mind rather than conscious.
5 moksha:Eternal Bliss; Unification with God;liberation from transmigration.
The author most humbly regrets any inaccuracy or errors in interpreting Gurbani or quoting facts.