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Guru Nanak Dev Ji And The Vaishno Ascetic

In 1508 Guru Nanak Dev ji set out to propagate his mission. This odyssey was particularly aimed at visiting Hindu places of pilgrimage. During this mission when Guru ji reached Hardwar from Kurukshetra, he camped bank of river Ganges. It was the first day of Baisakh, close to the second month of Indian calendar and considered sacred according to the Hindu belief. A Vaishno hermit was also camping nearby, who enjoyed a good amount of admiration. People would come from far off places and keep his company. He was showing off to be a very religious person.

Guru ji knew that he was a fake hermit. Therefore, Guru Nanak Dev Ji had camped there to make public his deceit. Next day, early in the morning, the hermit took a bath in the river and commenced the process of preparing his meals. He plastered a patch of ground with cowdung to sanctify it for using it as a ‘Chaunka’ (a cooking place open to sky). He washed the firewoods to purify them and then drew a line around the ‘Chaunka’ and lit the fire. Guru ji sent Bhai Mardana to him to get some burning ambers to light their own fire. When Bhai Mardana reached near his ‘Chaunka’, the hermit was flushed with anger and started abusing him and said, “you have defiled my Chaunka”. In his anger, he took a burning wood from the hearth and ran after Bhai Mardana. Bhai Mardana reached Guru ji and the hermit followed him on his heels. When Guru ji asked the hermit why he was so furious, when he had only asked for a small amount of fire to burn their own hearth. The hermit replied that the shadow of this ‘Mirasi’ (a bard) had fallen on his ‘Chaunka’ which had become unholy. He being a ‘Shudra’
(a low caste) had desicrated his life.

“How can it be, said Guru ji, when he (Bhai Mardana) is also a human being ?” ‘No, he is not a human being, he is a ‘Shudra’ ’, said the hermit. Guru ji impressed upon the hermit that God was never pleased by these externalities, those depicted outward piety. His abode was in the heart of all human beings.

‘If the heart has cruelty, hatred, slander and anger for others, God, certainly would not be residing in such a malicious mind. Look for Him in the whole mankind. Don’t hate a person believing him to be of low caste. Just despise the bad deeds.

The arguments which were being exchanged loudly particularly from the hermit, caused many other people to gather around and asked each other what the dispute was all about. The hermit kept making noise accusing and maligning Bhai Mardana in utter anger. He was saying that that the ‘Shudra’ had defiled his ‘Chaunka’ with his shadow, and how would he prepare his meal now? Hearing the hermit’s affliction, Guru Nanak Dev ji sung the following shahbad:

slok mÚ 1 ]

salok ma 1 ||

Shalok, First Mehl:

kubuiD fUmxI kudieAw kswieix pr inMdw Gt cUhVI muTI k®oiD cMfwil ]

kubudhh ddoomanee kudhaeiaa kasaaein par ni(n)dhaa ghatt chooharree mut(h)ee krodhh cha(n)ddaal ||

False-mindedness is the drummer-woman; cruelty is the butcheress; slander of others in one's heart is the cleaning-woman, and deceitful anger is the outcast-woman.

kwrI kFI ikAw QIAY jW cwry bYTIAw nwil ]

kaaree kadtee kiaa thheeai jaa(n) chaarae bait(h)eeaa naal ||

What good are the ceremonial lines drawn around your kitchen, when these four are seated there with you?

scu sMjmu krxI kwrW nwvxu nwau jpyhI ]

sach sa(n)jam karanee kaaraa(n) naavan naao japaehee ||

Make Truth your self-discipline, and make good deeds the lines you draw; make chanting the Name your cleansing bath.

nwnk AgY aUqm syeI ij pwpW pMid n dyhI ]1]

naanak agai ootham saeee j paapaa(n) pa(n)dh n dhaehee ||1||

O Nanak, those who do not walk in the ways of sin, shall be exalted in the world hereafter. ||1||

After completion of the shahbad, all present sat around Guru ji to listen to his sermons and new ideas. The vaishno hermit also realized how much full he was
with evil thoughts. How could he then call himself holy ? The words of wisdom spoken by Guru Nanak impressed the hermit so much that he along with many others become a devout Sikh of the Guru and accepted this true way of life.

Many fake hermits and mendicants, gianis (learned people), Yogis and preachers wearing the garb of holy man and displaying externalities are duping the gullible seekers of the truth. They themselves are totally in the grip of worldly desires and Maya (memon). Thier minds are soiled with lust, anger, greed, attachments and false pride beside other ill traits. Sikhs must be cautious of such imposters. They must strive to understand and grasp the philosophy of Sikhism as propounded by Guru Nanak Dev Ji Maharaj.