“Meditate o mind, on the One, who allowed Himself to be tied by rope (by Mata Yashoda), the Remover of suffering, the Destroyer of fear, Hari Rai ji. The One who dances with Mata Lakshmi ji, the Enticer of hearts, the One who loves His devotees, since the beginning.”
– Guru Arjun Dev ji (Guru Granth Sahib, 248)
Guru Hari Rai ji, also known as Guru Harrai or Guru Har Rai, is the seventh Guru in the lineage of Guru Nanak Dev ji. Guru Hari Rai ji was born in the home of Mata Nihal Kaur ji and Pita Baba Gurditta ji. Guru ji was the grandson of Guru Hari Gobind ji (also known as Guru Hargobind). Guru ji’s name was given by his grandfather, who described him as the arrival of Hari on earth.
Guru Hari Rai ji is the idol of peace and sovereignty, whose presence uplifts all beings. I have depicted Guru Hari Rai with the symbols of Hari Rai, the Highest Being. One of them being the Chakra, behind Guru ji’s head.
A sakhi from Guru ji’s early life describes how one day after receiving a large robe as a gift from his grandfather, Guru Hari Gobind ji, he was walking through their garden and his robe got stuck on a flower, and pulled it off the stem. When Guru Hari Gobind ji saw this, he explained to the young boy the importance of life and of taking care of it. He explained that when given such a responsibility as a human, he must exercise it in a way, as to not hurt any form of life.
Guru Amar Das ji ki bani –
ਏਕਸੁ ਤੇ ਸਭਿ ਰੂਪ ਹਹਿ ਰੰਗਾ ॥
From One came all the various forms and colours.
ਪਉਣੁ ਪਾਣੀ ਬੈਸੰਤਰੁ ਸਭਿ ਸਹਲੰਗਾ ॥
Air, water, fire, are all inter-connected.
– Guru Granth Sahib, 160
As Guru Hari Rai ji grew older, he trained in the art of weapons. He went to the jungles to hunt, not to kill animals but to rescue them. He hunted only to capture and bring in injured animals in to his hospital. He would provide them with medicine and dress their wounds, and after they recovered he sent them back in to the wild.
Nowadays we would call this an animal sanctuary. This was a revolutionary step taken by Guru ji that has largely been ignored in the sikh tradition.
Guru ji recognized that all sentient beings suffer and feel pain, and so he made it a part of his mission in life to ease their pain and suffering. These are the values Guru ji learned from his forefathers.
Today we continue to exploit animals for our taste buds. Our lust for the taste of meat and milk has led to this oppression of animals.
However Guru ji gives us a better understanding not only through his words but also by his kind actions.
Sant Kabir ji ki bani –
ਕਬੀਰ ਜੀਅ ਜੁ ਮਾਰਹਿ ਜੋਰੁ ਕਰਿ ਕਹਤੇ ਹਹਿ ਜੁ ਹਲਾਲੁ ॥
Kabir ji says – You kill living beings and say that this killing of animals is permissible by God.
ਦਫਤਰੁ ਦਈ ਜਬ ਕਾਢਿ ਹੈ ਹੋਇਗਾ ਕਉਨੁ ਹਵਾਲੁ ॥੧੯੯॥
But when God, the Protector of all beings, calls forth the account of your actions, then what do you think will happen to you?
ਕਬੀਰ ਜੋਰੁ ਕੀਆ ਸੋ ਜੁਲਮੁ ਹੈ ਲੇਇ ਜਬਾਬੁ ਖੁਦਾਇ ॥
Kabir ji says – This use of force is oppression, and you will have to answer to God for this.
ਦਫਤਰਿ ਲੇਖਾ ਨੀਕਸੈ ਮਾਰ ਮੁਹੈ ਮੁਹਿ ਖਾਇ ॥੨੦੦॥
Your face will be beaten again and again, as a consequence of your actions.
– Guru Granth Sahib, 1375
Guru ji’s focus was on healing all of life.
Guru ji established a hospital in Kiratpur Sahib and encouraged his sikhs to learn the medicinal system of the time, Ayurved. He grew the various medicinal plants and herbs, he grew fruit trees and many varieties of beautiful flowering plants, all to feed and heal all the beings around him.
Guru Hari Gobind ji gave the gurgaddi to his grandson before departing and thus Guru Hari Rai ji became the seventh Guru in the lineage of Guru Nanak Dev ji Maharaj.
During the time of Guru Hari Rai ji, the Mughal ruler Aurangzeb had his brother Dara Shikoh assassinated to cement himself on the throne. Guru ji was called to Aurangzeb’s court to explain his support for Aurangzeb’s brother and political opposition Dara Shikoh, to whom Guru ji had provided medical care.
Guru Hari Rai ji sent his older son, Ram Rai, to provide an explanation, and there in the court, Ram Rai was questioned. He was asked a question about a verse in Adi Granth that mentioned Muslims. They claimed it was disparaging to Muslims and Ram Rai was asked to explain it. In order to appease them, Ram Rai changed the wording of the verse.
Guru Hari Rai ji was testing Ram Rai to see if he would be fit to lead the Sikhs. However, upon this action, Guru ji gave the Gurgaddi to his youngest son, Guru Hari Krishan ji.