Guru Amar Das ji and Seva

Guru Amar Das ji doing Langaar seva in a village of Punjab, by Artist Bhagat Singh Bedi
Guru Amar Das ji – Langar Seva

My painting of Guru Amar Das ji highlights Ram Naam in action.

When we are talking about Ram Naam, we are talking about Responsible Actions and Meditation, Seva and Simran.

While I was painting Guru Amar Das ji Maharaj, I wanted to show Guru ji in a state of tranquility, and show how his profound sense of peace and total freedom spills out into everything he does.

This is seva.

Guru Nanak Dev ji ki bani –
ਧੌਲੁ ਧਰਮੁ ਦਇਆ ਕਾ ਪੂਤੁ ॥ ਸੰਤੋਖੁ ਥਾਪਿ ਰਖਿਆ ਜਿਨਿ ਸੂਤਿ ॥
Dharma is the son of Compassion, and together with Patience, it maintains the world.

Guru Nanak Dev ji says that Dharma or Responsibility is born of Kindness. Only that action can be considered Dharmic or Responsible, which comes from kindness, from compassion.

When Bhai Kanhaiya ji was feeding water to both the Sikh and Mughal soldiers on the battlefield, he did so out of compassion.

Bhai Kanhaiya ji, Sikh Art for your home, by Artist Bhagat Singh Bedi
Bhai Kanhaiya ji

Compassion forms the basis of Seva.

When we are talking about Responsible Actions or Seva, and when we are talking about compassion, we must look at our lives and evaluate how responsible and compassionate we are in our day to day activities. This includes eating and what we eat.

When people think about Seva, they never think about eating. Eating is something we do 3 times a day. Many people eat less, only once a day. Many people eat more, up to 4-5 times.

One type of Seva is what we prepare for others. The other seva is what we choose to eat.

Ancient humans had to eat whatever they could find. But modern technologies have made survival much easier. Now that our survival is taken care of we can eat a little more responsibly.

What we eat can be Seva in itself.

We may say it is our personal choice what we eat. But we must understand that this “personal choice” has many victims involved.

These victims feel pain.

But their screams happen behind closed doors so we do not hear them. Their right to life is trampled upon, when we choose to eat them or what comes out of their bodies.

When we eat in a way where we don’t take their life and we don’t take what comes out of their bodies, then this is a great Seva.

Guru Angad Dev ji and Meditation

Guru Angad Dev ji was the second guru of the Sikhs. His contributions towards the development of the Gurmukhi script is one of the highlights of this painting.

Guru Angad Dev ji, Sikh Guru, Sikh Art by Artist Bhagat Singh Bedi
Guru Angad Dev ji – The Graceful One

You might notice that Guru ji is doing something in this painting. You might notice that he is in meditation.

What is meditation?

Fundamentally, meditation is a process whereby you lose yourself.

Guru Angad Dev ji ki bani –
ਅਖੀ ਬਾਝਹੁ ਵੇਖਣਾ ਵਿਣੁ ਕੰਨਾ ਸੁਨਣਾ ॥  
See without eyes. Hear without ears.

ਪੈਰਾ ਬਾਝਹੁ ਚਲਣਾ ਵਿਣੁ ਹਥਾ ਕਰਣਾ ॥  
Walk without feet. Do without hands.

ਜੀਭੈ ਬਾਝਹੁ ਬੋਲਣਾ ਇਉ ਜੀਵਤ ਮਰਣਾ ॥
Speak without tongue. This is living with true freedom*.

(* Guru ji uses the phrase “dead while alive”.
When you are dead, you are free from the bondage of life. So he is talking about that state of freedom from life while you are still alive.)

Guru Granth Sahib, 726

This is not a theory. This is a practical way of living.

This is observable within yourself, if you pay attention, and it will transform how you view all of life and how you live it.

Take a few minutes and do it with me now.

When you look within yourself, you will see there are sensations of the body.

Feel your hand from the inside, you will feel subtle vibrations, blood flow and maybe even a heartbeat in your hand.

Now within your mind, there are a stream of thoughts and emotions.

As you are reading this, there may even be a string of this exact sentence you are now reading, being said in your mind.

All of these you can see very easily.

But what may be hidden from view is that there is something behind the thoughts and emotions.

There is a feeling of self, that I exist, that I am watching these sensations in my hand and thinking my thoughts.

While reading this, you might think, I am reading it. There is an ‘I’ – the reader who is reading this sentence.

There is the thought or sensation you are feeling and then there is a separate observer feeling the thoughts and sensations.

This is the ‘I’.

Just like how you are becoming aware of this sentence, become aware of the sense of the reader, who is reading the sentence.

Can you see that ‘I’, that reader?

Many of us may not be able to see it at first, and may need to retry.

If you cannot, start again from the bodily sensations and then see your thoughts and feelings, and then see that there is a sense that someone is aware of those sensations, thoughts and feelings.

Become aware of that ‘I’.

If you lose it, go back and try again.

Become aware of the ‘I’ until it is just like any other object, like a thought or the feeling of an itch on your skin.

Again, I am not speaking theoretically or philosophically. This is something you can see within yourself.

Just like you can see this sentence on the screen, you can see there is a feeling of someone reading it.

It is a feeling like any other, albeit more subtle.

If you take a few minutes to look within, you will feel your bodily sensations, you will see your thoughts come and go, and you will also see your sense of self.

This ‘I’ also has its story, which we have connected to it.

I – have this body and these eyes, ears, hands, etc

I – hold such position in society

I – have been through this and that

I – am misunderstood, whom no one seems to get

I – have done so much for my family

This is who I am, we think.

Become aware of that feeling.

Become aware of that ‘I’ who was previously feeling the sensations of the body and thinking the thoughts, become aware of it, until it is also being felt or seen just like the sensations and thoughts.

When you see that this ‘I’ is also seen then in that moment, there is no ‘I’ that sees, but rather there is simply the act of seeing, there is no ‘I’ that hears, there is simply act of hearing, there is no ‘I’ that walks, there is simply the act of walking, there is no ‘I’ that does things, there is simply the act of doing.

ਅਖੀ ਬਾਝਹੁ ਵੇਖਣਾ ਵਿਣੁ ਕੰਨਾ ਸੁਨਣਾ ॥  
See without eyes, Hear without ears.

You are no longer identified with the body. You are no longer identified with the contents of your mind, including your sense of self, I. There is simply pure awareness. Seeing, hearing, walking, doing, are simply happening.

This is the goal of meditation.

Meditation on the Martyrdom of Guru Arjun Dev ji – 4

Gurgaddi, the Throne of the Guru, is the hot plate, meaning, it is Self-Sacrifice. Without Self-Sacrifice, the Guru is not the Guru.

Sacrificing yourself for the right things, for the right principles. This is what leads to Greatness.

“Guru Arjun Dev ji sits on the throne, the Guru’s canopy shines above his head.” – Guru Granth Sahib, 969

The Mughals lit a fire under Guru ji and made him sit on the hot plate.
On Guru ji’s head and body, they poured hot sand.

The Mughal Emperor Jahangir ordered that Guru ji convert to his religion.
Guru ji refused and so they tortured him.

Guru ji forgave them and sat on the hot plate, as if it were his throne, as if the hot sand was the shade of his canopy.

This idea filled my eyes with tears.
When I contemplated the torture of Guru Sahib, I could not imagine the amount of pain he must have felt.
When I contemplated how Guru ji dealt with it, I felt overwhelmed by a cascade of emotions.

I realized that the Throne of the Guru, is the hot plate, meaning, it is Self-Sacrifice. Without Self-Sacrifice, the Guru is not the Guru.
Sacrificing yourself for the right things, for the right principles. This is what leads to Greatness.

This is the insight that emerged when this shabad intermingled with this painting.

My painting cannot capture the entirety of the scene, and it cannot even capture what I saw and felt. However I have tried my best to depict that moment when Guru ji, the King of Kings, sat on the hotplate as if it were his throne.