- Sep 24, 2004
Max Arthur Macauliffe (1841 – 1913) was fascinated with Sikhi. His study of Gurbani while serving the British in India resulted in him adopting Sikhi, albeit without being formally baptized.
Some years ago I acquired Macauliffe’s writings and was wonder struck to observe the title quotation that he chose to display on the opening pages of his work.
It was about Breaking the Eggshell.
The quote Macauliffe chose to inscribe on the title pages of his volumes came from the writing of Guru Arjun as contained on page 1002 of the SGGS.
ਫੂਟੋ ਆਂਡਾ ਭਰਮ ਕਾ ਮਨਿਹ ਭਇਓ ਪਰਗਾਸੁ ॥ Fūto Āʼndā Bẖaram Kā Manėh Bẖaio Pargās. The Eggshell (of doubt, duality, misinterpretation, continuous practice of mistaken stereotypes and beliefs), Has Now Been Broken. My Mind Is Engulfed in Enlightenment.
Macauliffe may indeed have used the verse to describe his own spiritual attainment; just as Gautama Budh used the same metaphor to describe his, when he said “of those beings who live in ignorance, shut up and confined, as it were, in an egg, I have first broken the eggshell of ignorance.”
Yet the profundity of spiritual wisdom that is embedded in the message of the fifth Guru pertaining to the Breaking of the Eggshell is such that it is overwhelmingly relevant to our decaying spiritual situations of today.
The second verse of the shabd in question makes this crystal clear. ਕਾਟੀ ਬੇਰੀ ਪਗਹ ਤੇ ਗੁਿਰ ਕੀਨੀ ਬੰਿਦ ਖਲਾਸੁ ॥ Katee Beyri Pgeh Tay Gur Kini Bund. The Breaking of the Eggshell was the Liberation of my Shackled Self.
The Rahao Verse hallmarks the significance of Breaking the Eggshell. ਆਵਣ ਜਾਣੁ ਰਿਹਓ ॥ ਤਪਤ ਕੜਾਹਾ ਬੁਿਝ ਗਇਆ ਗੁਿਰ ਸੀਤਲ ਨਾਮੁ ਦੀਓ ॥ 1 ॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥ Avan Jaan Raheyo. Tapt Krraha Bujh Gya Gur Seetal Naam Deeyo. Rahao. My (Spiritual) Cycle (of Doubt) has Ended. The Flames of Doubt Are Extinguished. I Can Now Accord Myself Guru Ordained Divine Virtues.
The Eggshell Must Be Broken. But we must break it ourselves. And we must break out from within.
We know that chicks need to break out of their shells. Else they will never turn into a bird that can fly. No chick can learn to fly while still in the egg.
Yet, it’s not just about breaking an eggshell, it’s about pecking their own way out.
The difference in outcome – between a chick pecking itself out of its own eggshell and allowing an external force do it – is one of life and death.
The truth is that the Sikhs of today, as a group, seem to be becoming blind inside the eggshell of our ignorance and blind faith driven practices and attitudes. We need to break our eggshells and come out to be able to soar to the heights of spirituality that our Gurus have set for us.
We are familiar with Guru Nanak’s messages to the masses during his travels across 24 years. The crux of his messages revolved around his desire to inspire people to break their own eggshells that were created by the clergy who themselves remained cocooned inside their shells and desired to keep others therein.
A vast number of Sikhi practices today are exercised in the darkness of the eggshell around us. Random examples will suffice to make the point.
We continue to have the Shabd Guru read by proxy. We have declared pieces of external dress as articles of faith. We have imported brahmanical beliefs and rituals into our Gurdwaras. We ban women from a whole host of religious activities. We have allowed self‐appointed sants, babas and frauds with titles of mahapurakhs (superior beings) have enslaved the spiritual minds of a vasts majority of Sikhs.
The list is virtually endless.
The bottom line is that we need to peck our way out of our shells. We have become chicks in eggshells. This cannot go on indefinitely. We must be hatched or risk letting it go rotten.
It is time to wake up to the call of our Guru expressed in the above cited verse of Guru Arjun ji.