Seldom in the history of mankind has the ideal of a fusion between the temporal and the spiritual been achieved with such seamless ease as it does in the Sikh Gurus. Since the times of Guru Nanak Dev ji, one can see a remarkable emphasis on combining the spiritual pursuits with the need to wed these pursuits to the physical reality around the seeker of truth. In fact, the very rationale of Sikh philosophy springs from an opposition to the manner in which the spiritual aspect of life was sought to be divorced from one’s obligations to the compulsions of hard social reality. Thus, Guru Nanak Dev ji gave a call to mankind not cease the search for spiritual through wanderings in wild forests or deserts or faraway hills.
By the time, the sixth Master, Guru Hargobind ji arrived on the spiritual and moral landscape of the country, India had already sunken into moral decay of the rulers which was visible even in the times of Guru Nanak Dev, tough to a somewhat lesser extent. The sixth guru virtually announced the fusion between the spiritual and the real world by declaring that he would wear two swords – one symbolizing each reality: the spiritual and temporal. He also heralded two separate flags – Nishan Sahibs –one each for the spiritual and the temporal. The institution of Sri Akal Takhat Sahib as the highest seat of spiritual and temporal reality symbolizes the climax of this new line of thought introduced by the Sikh Gurus.
It is this fusion which was the underlying force behind the extraordinary life and philosophy of the Tenth Master, Sahib-e-Kamaal Guru Gobind Singh ji. Since his childhood, he emphasized the need for a defiant response to the temporal reality around the seekers of higher truth. He actually took this philosophy to its logical climax by founding an order committed to upholding righteousness in the temporal world while pursuing a union with the ultimate. The Gurbani of the Tenth Master is replete with references to the need for such a fusion. In fact, the Tenth Master emerges on human landscape as the first and perhaps the only messiah whose life itself symbolizes this fusion. Therefore, quite rightly, he is the only messiah in world history who is addressed as a Sant Sipahi – Saint Soldier.
Guru Gobind Singh’s life and his extremely imposing and endearing persona makes him into a cult figure unlike any other in world history. Not surprisingly, there is a romance around the story of his life which exalts him to the level of India’s and perhaps the world’s only spiritual superstar. His mystique of his persona is built around his appeal to the human mind of the magnetic pull of the twin virtues of the temporal and the spiritual hero. He bestrides across history’s
landscape as a valiant champion of the downtrodden, a martial hero willing to take on the mightiest of the mighty in the defense of the poor on the one hand and a devout pursuer of the spiritually awakened soul and a mind-liberating saint.
The Guru is a heroic figure but not one who seeks out wars. In fact, he reveals an extremely sensitive and compassionate soul, the heart of a poet with the vision of a prophet. This combined with a rare humility before his followers creates an image on the history’s screen of a figure who is a rare combination of extreme humility, bordering almost on poetic shyness on the one hand and crusading martial champion willing and ready to challenge the forces of tyranny and injustice with the might of arms on the other. Quite naturally, his anthem – "deh shiva var mohe ehai " – is a song composed on a symphony of notes ranging from a heart full of love and compassion, a resolve firm as steel, a vision clear as sunshine and a heart that beats for the weak, the downtrodden and the defenseless. In fact, he founded the Khalsa chiefly as a temporal response to a temporal challenge. It was a challenge which the Guru chose to accept on behalf of the downtrodden and the defenseless who were reeling under the brutal tyranny of rulers of the times.
But having founded the Khalsa as a martial force, the Guru proceeded to invoke divine benedictions to enlarge the vision and the scope of the Khalsa raison d’etre.
The day of the founding of the Khalsa at Sri Anandpur Sahib was marked by a spectacle of rare sublimity. In the first and the only instance in history, the Guru placed himself before his followers and declared them his Guru and himself as their followers. This was a rare and inspirational spectacle which created the yet unheard-of concept of "Aape Gur Chela” – Guru Gobind Singh becoming a Guru and a follower at the same time. By doing this, the Guru in fact was stating in spiritual symbolism his commitment to an ideal which was take centuries to emerge as an active force in human history: the ideal of the democratic principle in which the leader is not so much a ruler as a servant of the masses. But this was not the only dimension in which Guru Gobind Singh ji was figure far, far ahead of his times. Not many may have noticed that though Guru Gobind Singh ji was the founder of the Khalsa, he was not the first of the Khalsa force. In fact, he was the sixth. He first served Khandedhar Pahul (Amrit for baptism of iron, symbolizing an unswerving will) and then asked the Panj Pyare to baptize him as their follower. This was touching sight, one fit to bring tears to the eyes of the Gurus’ followers and lovers.
Guru Gobind Singh ji’s life, a tale marked by heroic tragedy par excellence and yet one which transcends its own tragedy through moral and spiritual redemption, has no parallels in world history. Here is young and singularly handsome figure of a spiritual and temporal leader sacrificing all he has, including his four children, and yet mounting the stage to announce that the entire Khalsa force was his children and he, their follower. It is impossible to imagine the depth of the pain which the Guru heroically defied to remain steadfast in his commitment to the ideals he had set before himself.
It is for these reasons that Guru Gobind Singh ji remains not only a revered figure but one whom his followers love with a passion bordering on romantic glorification, with all the positive connotations of the term romantic.
And he is the only renowned figure in world history whose story brings as much pathos to one’s mind as it enriches one’s resolve on the path of righteousness and enlarges one’s compassionate vision, a vision based purely on love.
How strange for heroic figure that he should have spent his whole life fighting bitter battles against tyranny and yet never to let go of the divine glow in his eye and to proclaim that not through war or bitterness but through love lies the path to God:
"Saach kahaun, sun le ho sabhe; Jin Prem Kiyo, tin hi prabh paayo”