by MSS Kirtan Singh Khalsa, Los Angeles CA
As the youngest son of Guru Ram Das and after a long trial of deceit and jealous ambition by his older brother, on September 6th, 1581, at the age of 18, Guru Arjan became the Guru. e was born in Goindwal in April of 1563, and under the special care of his grandfather Guru Amar Das he acquired knowledge in philosophy, poetry and language arts as well becoming proficient in music, equestrian sports and archery.
We know that before he became Guru, Arjan was sent to Lahore by Guru Ram Das to represent the Guru at a wedding. It is well known that he was instructed by the Guru not to return until he was sent for by Guru Ram Das himself.
What we hear less about is what the young Arjan Mal (as he was known then) did with his time during his stay in Lahore, which lasted many months on end. Most noteably, he used his time to hold daily sangat gatherings and meet the sants, faqirs and spiritual leaders of the region, including the Sufi saint Mian Mir, who later laid the cornerstone of the Harimandir Sahib in Amritsar.
This time period served to nurture in him the kind of detached strength (caused by the separation with his father and Guru) that would be necessary for him to lead, for the remaining 25 years that he would serve as Guru of his Sikhs; until his ultimate merger with the Infinite in 1606.
Somebody once asked Guru Arjan, “How many Sikhs are there?” His reply was, “Three and a half; Guru Angad, Guru Amardas, Guru Ram Das; that’s three. And I’m trying to be a Sikh; one half.” It is this deep abiding humility and his loving devotion that ultimately lifted Guru Arjan to the status of Partak Guru; complete, exalted, King of Kings, Sache Patishah.
The life of Guru Arjan Dev Ji is an incredible offering of service; an offering that he consciously made in love and devotion to his Guru. Just to name a few of the key contributions his life has made to our lives as Sikhs, then and now:
- He worked diligently to preserve and protect the authentic writings of the Gurus and the gurbani recorded by his predecessors; all in the wake of ongoing challenges throughout his days from Prithi Chand, his eldest brother.
- He established the concept of Das Vandh, which served to finance the building and construction of the Harimandir Sahib; which concept continues to serve the Sikh Panth and bring prosperity to individual Sikhs the world over as well as deliver prosperity for all places where Guru resides.
- He carried out the vision of Guru Ram Das to build Harimandir Sahib, an incredible feat of both spiritual inspiration and exquisite architecture and design.
- He founded many sacred places with healing water tanks (in part to bring solace to the lepers of the time) including Kartarpur, Baoli in Lahore, Taran Taaran Sahib, and the village of Chhertha, the location of Miri Piri Academy.
- He compiled the Adi Granth, first Guru Granth Sahib and he established the form and function of our regular devotional services, with now, Siri Guru Granth Sahib positioned at the center point of our attention, focus and devotion. He contributed 2312 shabds, pauris and shlokas contained in the Siri Guru Granth Sahib, including the most divine Sukhmani Sahib.
- Through his martyrdom he taught us how to die as Sikhs and live as Khalsa.
Were his life not a great enough example for us to follow and aspire to, his death was surely the ultimate demonstration of Khalsa consciousness. He transcended extreme torturous physical pain in the very same way he lived detached while alive.
In the words of Guru Arjan Dev, Rag Dev Gandhari, SGGS p. 534:
“It is easy to be very beauteous, shrewd, wise, educated and of sweet speech. To let go of your pride, worldly love, ‘my-ness’ and ‘thy-ness’ though, this is a path on the edge of a double-edged sword.”
Guru Arjan Dev Ji’s life and legacy have been uplifting to me in several ways. I have often benefited from reading Sukhmani Sahib as a personal sadhana from time to time.
I have had the blessing to share with MSS Shakti Parwha Kaur leading the early Sunday morning rendition of Shabd Hazaare. We have done this since the early 1980s and The Siri Singh Sahib Ji has said that singing or reciting Shabd Hazaare has the benefit of allowing one to never be separated from their loved ones or their Guru.
To me though, the most inspiring example that we can derive from Guru Arjan is the dedication and commitment with which he carried out his father’s vision to see the Harimandir Sahib constructed. This reminds me of the opportunity and blessing that we collectively have before us; to manifest the vision of the Siri Singh Sahib’s mission and to serve his legacy and the future generations of Khalsa Yogis.
About the Author
MSS Kirtan Singh Khalsa is an ordained Sikh Dharma Minister. Kirtan Singh was appointed by the Siri Singh Sahib to the position of Secretary of Gurdwara of Guru Ram Das Ashram Los Angeles in 1985. He has served for many years as one of Sikh Dharma’s outreach coordinators into the interfaith, political and extended Sikh community. He continues to work closely as a representative of the Sikh Dharma Community with various state, local and national Sikh organizations involved in forwarding the cause of Sikh awareness and identity. For more than twenty five years he has been coordinating the annual Southern California Baisakhi celebration, which brings together more than 20 Gurdwaras and 15,000 attendees including many local, state and national political dignitaries.