ਵਾਹਿਗੁਰੂਜੀਕਾਖ਼ਾਲਸਾ ॥ ਵਾਹਿਗੁਰੂਜੀਕੀਫ਼ਤਹਿ ॥
The Path to Freedom
323 years ago, Guru Gobind Singh Ji, positioned commandingly atop a hill in Anandpur Sahib, drew for their sword. The hill had been a regular congregation point for the Sikhs, but this particular day, in the Spring of 1699, was different. Sword brandished, the Guru asked for a volunteer; someone, he qualified, willing to sacrifice their head.
The story is one we’re all familiar with: one-by-one, the men who came to be known as the Panj Pyare (“the beloved five”), entered the tent with the Guru, with only the Guru and their bloodied sword reappearing. After the fifth, the men all re-emerged from the tent together, unscathed and unharmed.
All five – Bhai Daya Singh, Bhai Mukham Singh, Bhai Sahib Singh, Bhai Dharam Singh and Bhai Himmat Singh – were of different castes: Khatri; Jat; Chhimba; Jheeaur; Chheemba; and Naaee. All five re-emerged as one.
During the last couple of Friday Vichaars, we’ve explored the idea of selflessness; of collapsing the distinction between yourself and others; about fostering a view of the world, a view of humanity, as completely and indistinguishably united. The creation of the Khalsa, marked by the initiation of the Panj Pyare, is a statement of that fact.
The word “Khalsa” originates with the Arabic khalis, which denotes something as being pure; as being clear; as being true. Equally, “Khalsa” can also mean “to be liberated” – to have achieved mukti. The definitions are broad, and interpretations of what exactly these terms mean could go any number of directions. Still, “truth” and “liberation” might be closer in meaning than the popular connotations of the word let off.
The world, we’re told, is little more than a play, a performance, a Netflix drama. As Guru Arjan Dev Ji puts it:
ਰਾਸਿ ਮੰਡਲੁ ਕੀਨੋ ਆਖਾਰਾ ॥
Raas Manddal Keeno Aakhaaraa ||
The Lord has made this world a stage.
(Ang 746, SGGSJ)
This, the illusion of the world, is the truth. It follows, then, that we’re little more than actors in this game. Some of us are Leonardo DiCaprios, others of us are closer to Binnu Dhillon, but it doesn’t change the fact that we’re all reading from the same script. The distinctions we make between us and others – the football teams we support, the specific brands of clothes that we wear, the “nations” that we pledge our allegiance to – are all false. Liberation, being “Khalsa”, is recognising that.
The fact that the Panj Pyare were of different castes is important. The fact that they entered one-by-one and re-emerged as a unit isn’t something to gloss over either. A lot gets made of whether Guru Ji actually beheaded them, or whether it’s “right” to think of Guru Gobind Singh Ji as pulling off some kind of “trick” on the audience. Either way, the fact of the matter is that, when Guru Ji called for five heads from the congregation, these five followers got up under the assumption that they would be sacrifices – the four following Bhai Daya Singh saw the blood dripping from the Guru’s sword, and still they offered themselves.
Stood in a row of five, their heads appeared intact. What they had lost was belief or attachment to the world. The mind, the Guru tells us, reinforces the illusions that we cling to; through Amrit (“the nectar of immortality”), the chains are broken, and the truth, the reality that we are all one, becomes crystal clear. To be free, to win the game of life, the path couldn’t be clearer.
ਆਪਨੜਾ ਮਨੁ ਵੇਚੀਐ ਸਿਰੁ ਦੀਜੈ ਨਾਲੇ ॥
Aapnara man vecheeai sir deeje nale ||
So, offer your mind, and surrender your head with it.
(Ang 420, SGGSJ)
JungNihang, ‘The Khalsa and its Relevance in the 21st Century’ (https://jodhsingh.medium.com/the-khalsa-and-its-relevance-in-the-21st-century-459a1e98b6f)
Isabel Wilkerson, ‘America’s “untouchables”: the silent power of the caste system’, The Guardian (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jul/28/untouchables-caste-system-us-race-martin-luther-king-india)
Giorgio Shani, ‘Towards a Post-Western IR: The Umma, Khalsa Panth and Critical International Relations Theory’ (https://www.jstor.org/stable/25482019?seq=1)