This month the Sikhi Book Club discussed ‘The Life of Guru Harkrishan Sahib Ji; The Saviour of Kindness’ produced by Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji Academy. This publication can be found at: https://sggsacademy.com/download/jivan-guru-harkrishen-sahib-ji/#
The Academy has put a huge amount of effort into producing a biography of Guru Sahib using authentic sources which are referenced in footnotes. The book club chose to discuss this book because of the authenticity and depth which was included. It is notable that this was published in 2008, and with great humility the authors ask for feedback on the first edition.
Whilst many Sikhs hear Sakhis of Guru Harkrishan Sahib Ji, it is not always obvious that the Guru was living in a highly turbulent time. This biography essentially describes an ongoing battle between the House of Truth and the Mughal despot Aurangzeb. The book weaves the Sakhis together, providing invaluable context to each piece of history as well as nuggets of new information from Kavi Santokh Singh Ji’s writings which provide a valuable insight into many common modern-day questions, such as whether listening to Gurbani is as good as reciting it, and how to balance one’s occupation with one’s faith. This publication is unique in helping the reader feel as if they are watching history with their own eyes.
The members discussed that Sikhs can falsely perceive Guru Harkrishan Sahib Ji as being the sole child Guru. Although Guru Harkrishan Sahib Ji was physically young, Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji and Guru Har Rai Sahib Ji were also very young at the time they became Guru (eleven and fourteen respectively). It is also notable that Ram Rai was also only age 14 at the time that he met Aurungzeb in Delhi. Clearly there was precedent that young people were highly adept in matters of spirituality, to the extent that they were expected to represent the faith in high-stake situations. This feels very different to modern-day attitudes and expectations of the youth today. Similarly Guru Harkrishan Sahib Ji is not commonly perceived as having an attendant army. It was clear from this publication that this was in fact the case, as per the previous Gurus’ orders to maintain an army.
There were many different discussion points which are relevant to us from this publication. Firstly there is a Sakhi of Guru Harkrishan Sahib Ji and Sri Ram Rai reciting Gurbani, which demonstrates that Gurbani is a tool which can be harnessed by different souls in different ways. Gurbani has unlimited power but the vessel in which it is placed is important in determining its effect. Secondly it was striking that the Guru’s house had plenty of problems. Sri Ram Rai harboured animosity towards Guru Sahib for a significant portion of his life, even cursing Guru Sahib and predicting their physical illness. Brothers today also commonly fight in the Panth. It was remarkable to see Guru Sahib’s level of tolerance and compassion to Sri Ram Rai, despite knowing his intentions. It was clear that Guru Sahib was willing to tolerate anything, providing that it didn’t interfere with the house of Guru Nanak Dev Ji.
The members discussed the episode where Sri Ram Rai changed Gurbani to please the Mughal court. When doing Parchar, or even when having conversations with non-Sikhs about Sikhi, we are still quick to softening the words or messages of the Guru in an attempt to make them more palatable. Perhaps we need to look at our history before being tempted to do this. It was notable that Guru Harkrishan Sahib Ji provided the stamp of authority for the scribes of the Aadh Granth. This action again is not something we commonly associate with Guru Sahib.
The members felt it was particularly striking that Guru Harkrishan Sahib Ji wasn’t portrayed as someone who simply ‘healed’ physical ailments. This biblical interpretation of Guru Sahib’s power has seeped into many modern-day renditions of our history. Instead, this publication described Guru Harkrishan Sahib Ji as having a group of physicians with him, and that the blessing of the Guru enlightened the unwell individuals, which then resulted in true realisation of the self. This subsequently had an impact on their physical being.
There were many more significant and important points to be taken from this publication. The above are just a few glimpses as to the value of the work of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji Academy. Further publications on the Gurus’ life history are available on their website.