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Guru Nanak And The Vaishno Ascetic

Guru Nanak Sahib Ji, in 1508 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 on the bank of the river Ganga. It was the first day of Baisakh, close to the second month of the Indian calendar, considered sacred according to hindu belief. A Vaishno Sadhu, who attracted many admirers, was also camping nearby. People would come from far off places and keep his company. He was representing himself as a very religious person.

Guru Ji knew that he was only pretending to be a Holy mendicant. Therefore, Guru Nanak Sahib Ji had camped there to expose the man's deceit. Early in the next 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 the sky; "Chaunka" literally means a "square" or a "compound"). He washed the pieces of firewood 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 embers to light their own fire. When Bhai Mardana approached near his ‘Chaunka’, the hermit suddenly flushed with anger and started abusing him, saying, "you have defiled my Chaunka". In his anger, he took a burning piece of wood from the hearth and ran after Bhai Mardana. Bhai Mardana reached Guru Ji with the hermit close on his heels.

Guru Ji asked the hermit why he was so furious, when he had asked only for a small amount of fire to light their own hearth. The hermit replied that the shadow of this ‘Mirasi’ (a bard; a derogatory term) had fallen on his ‘Chaunka’ which had thus become desecrated. Mardana being both a Muslim and a bard was considered by the supposed Holy man a ‘Shudra’ of so low a varna (caste) that even his shadow could defile 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 who depicted outward piety. God's 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 of 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 ask 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 Sahib Ji sung the following shabad:

ਸਲੋਕ ਮਃ ੧ ॥
Salok mėhlā 1.
Salok, First Mehl:

ਕੁਬੁਧਿ ਡੂਮਣੀ ਕੁਦਇਆ ਕਸਾਇਣਿ ਪਰ ਨਿੰਦਾ ਘਟ ਚੂਹੜੀ ਮੁਠੀ ਕ੍ਰੋਧਿ ਚੰਡਾਲਿ ॥
Kubuḏẖ dūmṇī kuḏ▫i▫ā kasā▫iṇ par ninḏā gẖat cẖūhṛī muṯẖī kroḏẖ cẖandāl.
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.

ਕਾਰੀ ਕਢੀ ਕਿਆ ਥੀਐ ਜਾਂ ਚਾਰੇ ਬੈਠੀਆ ਨਾਲਿ ॥
Kārī kadẖī ki▫ā thī▫ai jāʼn cẖāre baiṯẖī▫ā nāl.
What good are the ceremonial lines drawn around your kitchen, when these four are seated there with you?

ਸਚੁ ਸੰਜਮੁ ਕਰਣੀ ਕਾਰਾਂ ਨਾਵਣੁ ਨਾਉ ਜਪੇਹੀ ॥
Sacẖ sanjam karṇī kārāʼn nāvaṇ nā▫o japehī.
Make Truth your self-discipline, and make good deeds the lines you draw; make chanting the Name your cleansing bath.

ਨਾਨਕ ਅਗੈ ਊਤਮ ਸੇਈ ਜਿ ਪਾਪਾਂ ਪੰਦਿ ਨ ਦੇਹੀ ॥੧॥
Nānak agai ūṯam se▫ī jė pāpāʼn panḏ na ḏehī. ||1||
O Nanak, those who do not walk in the ways of sin, shall be exalted in the world hereafter. ||1||

Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, Ang 91.

After completion of the shabad, all present sat around Guru Ji to listen to his sermons and new ideas. The vaishno hermit also realized how 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 (mammon). Their minds are soiled with lust, anger, greed, attachments and false pride beside other ill traits. Sikhs must be cautious of such impostors. They must strive to understand and grasp the philosophy of Sikhism as propounded by Guru Nanak Sahib Ji Maharaj.

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