This weekend we will have an Akhand Paath to celebrate the Prakash Divas of Guru Har Rai Ji. Guru Har Rai Ji was born in January 1630, to parents Baba Gurditta Ji and Mata Nihal Kaur Ji in Kiratpur Sahib. As his father died when he was young, (Guru) Har Rai Ji was raised by his grandfather, Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji. He married Mata Krishen Dev at age 11 (young marriages were common during those times) and went on to have children Baba Ram Rai and (Guru) Har Krishan.
There is a sakhi that shows us what Guru Hargobind Ji taught young (Guru) Har Rai. Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji used to feed that birds and then eat langar. One day, there was one particular crow who persisted, and was approaching Guru Ji’s thal (plate). One of the sewadars hit it using a slingshot, and the bird flew away. The next day Guru Ji asked where that crow was, and the man admitted what he did. The crow was present, but far from the rest of the birds and was injured. Guru Ji nursed it back to good health and it would come daily then for langar. This taught (Guru) Har Rai Ji great compassion, and teaches us additionally that we need to teach our children by being a role model.
Another sakhi is that (Guru) Har Rai was walking in the garden one day, and noticed that the flower he had previously been admiring was not there. He discovered that his clothing had caught and the flower had broken off, and he began to cry. Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji told him it was important for him to be careful with his clothing. This also teaches us, just like our clothing for our soul is our body, we have responsibility not to hurt others or break anyone from this path. Guru Har Rai is commonly said to have used this quote by Fareed Ji very often: "All men's hearts are jewels; to distress them is not at all good; If thou desire the Beloved, distress no one's heart."
Har Rai became Guru at age 14. He started katha along with the tradition of kirtan. He made 52 gardens and started a herbal hospital for the ill. Guru Har Rai Ji was a hunter, however instead of killing the animals, he fed them and protected them in a zoo. He additionally kept a force of 2200 soldiers, however he never had the need to deploy them. Guru Ji also traveled extensively.
One particular Sakhi about Guru Har Rai Ji emphasizes the importance of Gurbani. The Sikhs asked whether we get any gain from reading Gurbani if there is no understanding. When the Guru Ji came across a broken pot with butter in it, the sun was melting the butter onto the pot, he said, "Look my Sikhs, broken pot shards - when they are heated, the butter that adhered to them readily melts. As the grease adheres to the potshards, so to do the Gurus' hymns to the hearts of his Sikhs. At the hour of death the Gurus' instruction shall assuredly bear fruit. Whether understood or not, it has within it the seed of salvation. Perfume still clings to a broken vase." From this sakhi we learn the value of Gurbani, even if we do not yet have an understanding.
Dhir Mal, the older brother of Har Rai, gained support from Shah Jahan, and turned against Guru Hargobind (and thus was not named successor). He went on to corrupt the masand system set up for collecting daswandh, and tried to divide the Sikhs. Guru Har Rai Ji set up a Manji system to try to unite the Sikhs, with Sikh missionaries sent to certain regions. He also appointed new masands who became successful in spreading the messages of Sikhi.
When Emperor Shah Jahan’s son Dara was poisoned by Aurangzeb, there was no one that could help. Upon Shah Jahan’s request, Guru Ji gave the necessary medicines and Dara’s life was saved. Aurganzeb manipulated that Guru Ji was supporter of Dara, and when he became emperor he summoned Guru Ji to his court. Guru Ji sent his son Ram Rai was sent in his place with the instructions to not give up his principles at any cost, and God would protect him. Ram Rai started to show miracles, and changed one of the lines of Gurbani to please Aurganzeb. Aurganzeb, in turn, decided to keep him in Delhi with the idea that he would be able to control him when he succeeded Gur Har Rai. Guru Ji excommunicated him for changing Gurbani and nominated Guru Harkrishan as his successor at the mere age of 5. Guru Ji became Jyoti Jot at the mere age of 31, in October 1661.
So let us apply these lessons learned from the life of Guru Har Rai Ji:
-Nature is God’s creation- we should treat plants and animals with respect. Feeding animals, watering plants, and planting a garden is sewa.
-Be fearless but also gentle
-The benefits of Gurbani are there even if we don’t quite understand yet, so we should always do our prayers
-We need to be careful not to hurt others on our path, or break others from this path.
-We should stand by our principles no matter what and maintain our integrity
-We should unite in the face of those dividing us like Guru Ji did with Dhirmal and the corruption of the masands. This is a big message for us today as we are being continually divided, and there is a lot of negativity. It is important for us to come together for solutions if there are problems, and support each other.