Great Writing

Macaulay’s Best …

Posted on October 25, 2017. Filed under: Books, Great Writing, Personalities, The English |

Lays of Ancient Rome, a series of very popular poems about heroic episodes in Roman history which Macaulay composed in India and published in 1842.

The most famous of them, Horatius, concerns the heroism of Horatius Cocles. It contains the oft-quoted lines:

Then out spake brave Horatius,
The Captain of the Gate:
“To every man upon this earth
Death cometh soon or late.
And how can man die better
Than facing fearful odds,
For the ashes of his fathers,
And the temples of his gods?”


PS As a rival you might enjoy

https://improveacrati.wordpress.com/2008/03/15/ulysses/

Advertisements
Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

‘Afterwards’ by Capt Cyril Morton Horne …

Posted on June 3, 2017. Filed under: From a Services Career, Great Writing, Searching for Success |

Beautiful lines by an Irish Officer from ‘Songs of the Shrapnel Shell.’

In the Afterwards, when I am dead,
I want no flowers over my head.
But if Fate and the Gods are kind to me
They’ll send me a Sikh half Company
 .
To sweeten my sleep, when I am dead.
To fire three volleys over my head
 And these are the words they will write for me –
“Here endeth a Fool’s Philosophy!”
 .
 Some shall sneer, some shall sigh,
Yet I shall not hear them as there I lie,
 For this is the Law of Lover and Friend –
That all joy must finish – all feelings end.
 .
 Many will laugh but Some will weep,
I shall not know as I lie asleep;
A worn-out body, a dried-up crust;
Ashes to ashes and Dust to Dust!
 .
 And they’ll drink a toast up there in the Mess,
“Here’s to a friend who is no more!”
 Music and talk, for a while, shall cease
As my Brothers drink to their Brother’s Peace.
 .
 And the Sikhs, once my own, shall say
“Who rode with us now rides alone!”
And leaning over the grave they’ll sigh –
“Sahib Margaye … Ki jai, Ki Jai!”
 .
And I, who so loved them one and all
Shall stir no more at the Bugle call,
But another Sahib shall ride instead
At the head of my Sikhs, when I am dead.
 .
And this thought which hurts me so,
Shall cease to trouble me when I go.
 .
My chestnut charger, Mam’selle,
She was fleet of foot and I loved her well!
Shall nibble the grass above my head
Unknowing that the one she loved is dead.
 .
 Someone – my Horse or my Company
Shall fail to smile at the comedy;
But strive to reason yet fail to guess
That Life is little and Death is less!
.
And they shall sorrow over my space
Till somebody comes to fill my place;
But all their sorrow, grief and pain,
Shall be expended upon me in vain!
 .
And you – if you read this my epitaph –
Harden your heart and I pray you, laugh!
But if you would deal with me tenderly
Place one dew-kissed violet over me;
 .
I claim not this and I ask no more,
Yet – this was the flower that Someone wore
in the dead yesterdays that have gone before.
Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

Tagore’s ‘Gitanjali’ …

Posted on March 23, 2017. Filed under: Eloquence, Great Writing, Searching for Success |

Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International, chose as his favorite, “Let My Country Awake” by Rabindranath Tagore.

Salil Shetty describes the poem as “a powerful call to action and a declaration of belief in achievable change”. Perhaps most moving, however, is his statement that the final phrase, “let my country awake”, could quite easily be replaced with, “let the world awake”.

The poem is “about universal aspirations” and improving ourselves and is a great source of inspiration and motivation.

“Let My Country Awake”

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;
Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls;
Where words come out from the depth of truth;
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit;
Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought and action –
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.

PS  Rabindranath Tagore was an admirer of Tolstoy’s humanism. However according to Tagore, “Everything about Tolstoy is filled with strength and energy and violence!”
Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

Machiavelli and Cicero on Political Power …

Posted on November 16, 2016. Filed under: Books, Great Writing, Guide Posts, Personalities, Uncategorized |

“The Prince” is an extended analysis of how to acquire and maintain political power. The dedication declares Machiavelli’s intention to discuss in plain language the conduct of great men and the principles of princely government.

The book’s 26 chapters can be divided into four sections: Chapters 1-11 discuss the different types of principalities or states, Chapters 12-14 discuss the different types of armies and the proper conduct of a prince as military leader, Chapters 15-23 discuss the character and behavior of the prince.

Golden Rules

It is better to be stingy than generous ………….. It is better to be cruel than merciful.

It is better to break promises if keeping them would be against one’s interests.

Princes must avoid making themselves hated and despised; the goodwill of the people is a better defense than any fortress. …. Princes should undertake great projects to enhance their reputation.

Princes should choose wise advisers and avoid flatterers.

Fortune controls half of human affairs, but free will controls the rest, leaving the prince free to act. However, few princes can adapt their actions to the times.

And Now Cicero

Quintus Cicero’s letter in 64 BC containing some practical advice to his more idealistic brother Marcus which became the work “How to Win an Election” (Philip Freeman), which includes political principles like:

  1. Have the backing of your family & friends. Surround yourself with the right people.
  2. Call in ALL favors. Build a wide base of support. Every vote counts.
  3. Promise EVERYTHING to EVERYBODY. It’s easier for people to vote for you if you come up with excuses for why you couldn’t keep your promise later than flat out refusing to make a promise in the first place.
  4. Communication skills are KEY. Give people hope..  Flatter voters SHAMELESSLY.
  5. Know your opponent’s weaknesses and exploit them.

How did the election go? Well, Marcus went on to win and there’s a book called “How to Run a Country” (also by Philip Freeman) which contains Marcus’ letters, speeches, and other writings on the subject.

While some things change, the principles stay the same.

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

Shashi Tharoor – that maverick politician with ‘problems’ of his own – on OROP

Posted on January 15, 2015. Filed under: From a Services Career, Great Writing, Personalities |

New Year’s Resolutions, it is said, are made to be broken. There’s something about a new dawn that inspires the earnestness of yearned-for virtue in most of us, and we solemnly pledge to do this and that in the course of the New Year which we never thought ourselves capable of fulfilling in the old. And then, as the New Year turns less new, we tend to regret those rash resolutions, modify them, ignore them, or most of all, simply forget them.
.
Our new government didn’t wait for the New Year to make something of a habit of breaking its promises, To some degree, this is unsurprising in most democracies: after all, as New York Governor Mario Cuomo famously pointed out more than two decades ago, “you campaign in poetry, but you govern in prose”.
 .
Extravagant campaign promises tend to look much more difficult to fulfill when faced with the reality of government.
What am I going on about? Very simple: it is the pledge to ensure “One Rank One Pension” for our retired military personnel, who currently suffer gross injustice through the provision of pensions that have not been indexed to inflation, so that a Brigadier who retired twenty years ago gets a lower pension than a Captain who leaves the force this year.
 .
This entirely reasonable demand – made by people who have risked their lives to protect our borders, our nation, and us – was acceded to by the UPA government, echoed by the NDA, and announced again by the new regime after its ascension to power. 
.
The demand has not been fulfilled. Not one soldier has received an enhanced pension; meanwhile leaks in the newspapers “reveal” that the Finance Ministry has had a change of heart, saying that justice to our men in uniform would “cost too much”.
 .
It seems the Comptroller of Defense Accounts has estimated that the cost of One Rank One Pension could be as high as 9,300 crore. It may sound a lot, but the estimated budget for Mr Modi’s much-vaunted statue of Sardar Patel is 1,500 crore, which puts this sum in perspective.
 .
It is true I have a soft corner for our armed forces. I believe they embody the best of what India can be, but so rarely is: they are motivated, professional, meritocratic, competent, reliable, free of caste and religious prejudice, and they take risks the rest of us would not dare to. Yet we treat them in a disgracefully cavalier fashion.
 .
During my UN peace-keeping years, when I dealt with a large number of senior military officers and issues from around the world, I was appalled to see how poorly our professional officers were valued by our self-regarding bureaucracy.
 .
A full Colonel with over 25 years of service behind him is ranked by our babus below a Director in protocol terms.
 .
I have suffered through peacekeeping seminars in which a knowledgeable Indian military officer had to defer to a callow bureaucrat in discussions on military matters.
.
At a time when post-Cold War peacekeeping called for serious levels of military expertise at the UN Headquarters in New York, India remained the only Permanent Mission to the UN (of any major peace-keeping contributor) not to post a military adviser. Our diplomats believed they knew it all themselves.
.
This attitude extends to conditions of service across the board. A Joint Secretary, with nineteen years of professional experience, is deemed the equivalent of a Major-General, who not only has thirty years but has commanded men and materiel, made life-and-death decisions and protected our nation.
.
We pay pensions to a lot more Joint Secretaries than Major-Generals (only 0.8% of army officers ever attain Major General rank). Yet we are now quibbling about the cost.
 ..
Who are the people we are cheating here by pinching pennies? Some 20 lakh ex-servicemen and four lakh widows. It is time to ask the Government of Messrs Modi and Jaitley: gentlemen, have you no shame?
 .,
As far back as 2003, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defense recommended One Rank One Pension, calling it “a debt” the nation had to pay. It is a debt our Government must honour. Not to do so is an act of dishonor. It dishonors the nation and the flag these men have fought to defend. And it thoroughly discredits those who would treat the well-being of our jawans and officers as one more election promise to be lightly cast aside.


Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

The Young Winston Churchill on Islam ….

Posted on December 18, 2014. Filed under: Books, Great Writing, Personalities | Tags: , , , |

Islam is noted for many things – among which are its ferocity as well as wide following. Edward Gibbon has covered it very well and we have a few posts from his work .Here is however the young Winston Churchill in an extract from his book, “The River War”.

“How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries!
Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy.

The effects are apparent in many countries, improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce,  and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live.

A degraded sensualist deprives this life of its grace and refinement, the next of its dignity and sanctity.

The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property, either as a child, a wife, or a concubine, must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men.

Individual Muslims may show splendid qualities, but the influence of the religion paralyses the social development of those who follow it.No stronger retrograde force exists in the world.

Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith. It has already spread throughout Central Africa, raising fearless warriors at every step.
 .
Were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science, the science against which it had vainly struggled, the civilization of
modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilization of ancient Rome ”

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

1962 War – Sardar Patel warns Nehru in 1950

Posted on August 24, 2013. Filed under: From a Services Career, Great Writing, Guide Posts, Indian Thought, Personalities |

In these excerpts from his all encompassing letter we see Sardar Patel prophesy the cold calculations and machinations of the Chinese. Nehru was never at ease with the Sardar; perhaps because sub consciously, he perceived him as the ‘better’ man! 

New Delhi 7 November 1950

My dear Jawaharlal,

I have carefully gone through the correspondence between the External Affairs Ministry and our Ambassador in Peking and through him the Chinese Government. I have tried to peruse this correspondence as favourably to our Ambassador and the Chinese Government as possible, but I regret to say that neither of them comes out well as a result of this study. The Chinese Government has tried to delude us by professions of peaceful intention. My own feeling is that at a crucial period they managed to instill into our Ambassador a false sense of confidence in their so-called desire to settle the Tibetan problem by peaceful means.

There can be no doubt that during the period covered by this correspondence the Chinese must have been concentrating for an onslaught on Tibet. The final action of the Chinese, in my judgement, is little short of perfidy.

The tragedy of it is that the Tibetans put faith in us. Our Ambassador has been at great pains to find an explanation or justification for Chinese policy and actions. As the External Affairs Ministry remarked in one of their telegrams, there was a lack of firmness and unnecessary apology in one or two representations that he made to the Chinese Government on our behalf. 

Their last telegram to us is an act of gross discourtesy not only in the summary way it disposes of our protest against the entry of Chinese forces into Tibet but also in the wild insinuation that our attitude is determined by foreign influences. It looks as though it is not a friend speaking in that language but a potential enemy.

While our western and north-western threat to security is still as prominent as before, a new threat has developed from the north and north-east. Thus, for the first time, after centuries, India’s defence has to concentrate itself on two fronts simultaneously.

Communist China in the north has definite ambitions and aims and which does not, in any way, seem friendly disposed towards us.

From the point of view of communication, there are weak spots. Continuous defensive lines do not exist. There is almost an unlimited scope for infiltration. Police protection is limited to a very small number of passes. There, too, our outposts do not seem to be fully manned. The contact of these areas with us is by no means close and intimate. The people inhabiting these portions have no established loyalty or devotion to India. Even Darjeeling and Kalimpong areas are not free from pro-Mongoloid prejudices.

We cannot afford either to be complacent or to be vacillating. We must have a clear idea of what we wish to achieve and also of the methods by which we should achieve it. Any faltering or lack of decisiveness in formulating our objectives or in pursuing our policies to attain those objectives is bound to weaken us and increase the threats which are so evident.

We need a Military and Intelligence appreciation of the Chinese threat to India both on the frontier and internal security. Also –

  • An examination of military position and such redisposition of our forces as might be necessary, particularly with the idea of guarding important routes or areas which are likely to be the subject of dispute.
  • An appraisement of strength of our forces and, if necessary, reconsideration of our retrenchment plans to the Army in the light of the new threat.
  • A long-term consideration of our defense needs. My own feeling is that, unless we assure our supplies of arms, ammunition and armour, we should be making a defense position perpetually weak and we would not be able to stand up to the double threat of difficulties both from the West and North-West and North and North-East.
  • Improvement of our communication, road, rail, air and wireless with these areas and with the frontier outposts.

I suggest that we meet early to have a general discussion on these problems and decide on such steps as we might think to be immediately necessary and direct, quick examination of other problems with a view of taking early measure to deal with them.

Yours,
Vallabhbhai Patel

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

Best Case for Commensurate Pay for Defense Services …

Posted on June 21, 2013. Filed under: From a Services Career, Great Writing, Guide Posts, Indian Thought, Personalities |

We need a permanent solution to the tussle over emoluments so that the armed forces need only confront the enemies of the nation, says TR Ramaswami, IAS.
.
In the continuing debate on pay scales for the armed forces, there has to be a serious and transparent effort to ensure that the country is not faced with an unnecessary civil-military confrontation. .
.
This country requires the best armed forces, the best police and the best civil service. In fact that is what the British ensured.. By best one means that a person chooses which service he wants as per his desires/capabilities and not based on the vast differential in prospects in the various services.
.
How much differential is there?
.
Take Maharashtra, one of the most parsimonious with police ranks thus still retaining some merit. The 1981 IPS batch have become 3-star generals, the 1987 are 2-star and the 1994 have 1-star.
.
In the army the corresponding years are 1972, 1975, 1979.  i.e. a differential of 10-15 years. While the differential is more with the IAS, the variance with the IPS is all the more glaring because both are uniformed services and the grades are “visible” on the shoulders.
.
First some general aspects. Only the armed forces are a real profession where you rise to the top only by joining at the bottom.
.
We have had professors of economics become Finance Secretaries or even Governors of RBI. We have any number of MBBSs, engineers, MBAs in the police force though what their qualifications lend to their jobs is a moot point. You can join at any level in the civil service, except Cabinet Secretary. A civil servant can move from Animal Husbandry to Civil Aviation to Fertiliszrs to Steel to yes, unfortunately, even to Defense.
.
But the army never asks for Brigade Commanders or a Commandant of the Army War College or even Director General Military Intelligence, even from RAW or IB. Army officers can and have moved into organizations like IB and RAW but it is never the other way round. MBBS and Law graduates are only in the Medical or JAG Corps and do nothing beyond their narrow areas.
.
Every Army Chief – in any army – has risen from being a commander of a platoon to company to battalion to brigade to division to corps to army.
.
Next, one must note the rigidity and steep pyramid of the army’s rank structure. In the civil services any post is fungible with any grade based on political expediency and the desires of the service. For example I know of one case where one department downgraded one post in another state and up-graded one in Mumbai just to enable someone continue in Mumbai after promotion!
.
You can’t fool around like this in the armed forces. A very good Brigadier cannot be made a Major-General and continue as brigade commander. There has to be a clear vacancy for a Major General and even then there may be others better than him. Further the top five ranks in the army comprise only 10% of the officer strength. Contrast this with the civil services where entire batches become Joint Secretaries!
.
Even the meaning of the word “merit” is vastly different in the army and the civil services. Some years back an officer of the Maharashtra cadre claimed that he should be the Chief Secretary as he was first in the merit list.
.
Which merit list? At the time of entry more than 35 years before? The fact is that this is how merit is decided in the IAS and IPS. Every time a batch gets promoted the inter-se merit is still retained as at the time of entry. In other words if you are first in a batch at the time of entry, then as long as you get promoted, you continue to remain first! This is like someone in the army claiming that he should become chief because he got the Sword of Honor at the IMA.
.
Even a Param Vir Chakra does not count for promotion.
.
In the armed forces, merit is a continuous process – each time a batch is promoted the merit list is redrawn according to your performance in all the previous assignments with additional weightage given not only to the last one but also to your suitability for the next one. Thus if you are a Brigade Commander and found fit to become a Major General, you may not get a division because others have been found better to head a division. That effectively puts an end to your promotion to Lt General.
.
The compensation package must therefore address all the above issues. In each service, anyone must get the same total compensation by the time he reaches the ‘mode rank’ of his service. “Mode” is a statistical term ie the value where the maximum number of variables fall.
.
In the IAS normally everyone reaches Director and in the IPS it is DIG. In the army, given the aforementioned rank and grade rigidities and pyramidal structure, the mode rank cannot exceed Colonel. Thus a Colonel’s gross career earnings (not salary scales alone) must be at par with that of a Director. But remember that a Colonel retires at 54, but every babu from peon to Secretary at 60 – regardless of performance.
.
Further, it takes 18-20 years to become a Colonel whereas in that time an IAS officer reaches the next higher grade of Joint Secretary, which is considered equal to a Major General.
.
These aspects and others – like postings in non-family stations – must be addressed while fixing the overall pay scales of Colonel and below. Thereafter, a Brigadier will be made equal to a Joint Secretary, a Major-General to an Additional Secretary and a Lt General to a Secretary. The Army Commanders deserve a new rank – Colonel General – and should be above a Secretary but below Cabinet Secretary.
.
The equalization takes place at the level of Cabinet Secretary and Army Chief.
.
If this is financially a problem I have another solution. Without increasing the armed forces’ scales, reduce the scales of the IAS and IPS till they too have 20% shortage!  Done?
.
Even India ‘s corruption index will go down.
.
If the above is accepted in principle, there is a good case to review the number of posts above Colonel. Senior ranks in the armed forces have become devalued with more and more posts being created.
.
But the same pruning exercise is necessary in the IAS and more so in the IPS, where Directors General in some states are re-writing police manuals (one is doing Volume I and another Volume II!
.
Further the civil services have such facilities as “compulsory wait” basically a picnic at taxpayers cost. And if you are not promoted or posted where you don’t want to go they seem able to take off on leave with much ease. In the army you will be court-martialled. Also find out how many civil servants are on study leave. The country cannot afford this.
.
Let not someone say that the IAS and IPS exams are tougher and hence the quality of the officers better. An exam at the age of 24 has to be tougher than one at the age of 16. The taxpaying citizen is not interested in your essay/note writing capabilities or whether you know Cleopatra’s grandfather.
.
As a citizen I always see the army being called to hold the pants of the civil services and the police and never the other way round. That’s enough proof as to who is really more capable.
.
Also recall the insensitive statements made by the IG Meerut in the Aarushi case and the Home Secretary after the blasts.
.
Further, when the IAS and IPS hopefuls are sleeping, eating and studying, their school mates, who have joined the army, stand vigil on the borders to make it possible for them to do so. Remember that the armed forces can only fight for above-the table-pay. They can never compete with the civil services and definitely not with the police for the under the table variety. 
.
Finally, there is one supreme national necessity : The political class  better become more savvy on matters relating to the armed forces. Till then they are at the mercy of the civil service, who frequently play their own little war games. At ministerial level there are some very specialized departments – Finance, Railways, Security (Home), Foreign and Defense – where split second decisions are necessary. It is always possible to find netas savvy in finance, foreign relations and railways. Security has been addressed in getting a former IPS officer as NSA at the level of a MoS.
.
It is time that a professional is also brought into the Defense Ministry as MoS! The sooner the better. In fact this will be better than a CDS because the armed forces will have someone not constrained by the Army Act or Article 33, of the Constitution.
.
Of course the loudest howls will come from the babus. The netas must realize that a divide and rule policy cannot work where the country’s security is concerned. Recall 1962?
.
Our army, already engaged in activities not core to their functions, including rescuing babies from borewells  apart from national calamities, should not have to engage in civil wars over their pay scales.
.
I only hope our Defense Minister or anyone who would take a reasonable stand for defense forces ever gets to see this article. It would definitely affect any person with an iota of integrity.

 

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )

A Prayer …

Posted on June 21, 2013. Filed under: Great Writing, Guide Posts, Searching for Success |

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time; Enjoying one moment at a time; accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; 

Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as how it should be; trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will;

That I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him Forever in the next. Amen.

–Reinhold Niebuhr

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

Founding of the SIKH Religion …

Posted on October 5, 2012. Filed under: Great Writing, Guide Posts, Indian Thought, Personalities |

The World in general, including the Sikhs themselves, know little about Sikhism. Probably because Sikhism itself has degenerated and fallen prey to the very practices, which it was the endeavor of its Guru’s to proscribe.

Here are extracts from the work of Joseph Davy Cunningham. who must surely rank with Gibbon as a Historian. This Englishman was a Captain in the East India Company and served eight years in the Punjab.when he researched and produced his great work. He died a year later, aged 39.

In religious faith and worldly aspirations the Sikhs are wholly different from other Indians. They are bound together by a community of inward sentiment and of outward object unknown elsewhere.

The Sikhs are converts to a new religion, which came from the dispensation of both Brahma and Mohamad. Their enthusiasm is fresh and their faith is an active and living principle. They are persuaded that God himself is present with them and that He supports them in all their endeavors and will, sooner or later, confound their enemies for His own Glory.

Their strength lies in the unity and energy of religious fervor and war like temperament. They will dare much and endure much for the mystic ‘Khalsa’ or commonwealth. They are not discouraged by defeat and they ardently look forward to the day when the world shall acknowledge the double mission of Nanak and Gobind.

A living spirit possesses the whole Sikh people. The impress of Gobind has not only elevated and altered the constitution of their minds but has operated materially and given amplitude to their physical frames.

The features and external form of a whole people have been modified. A Sikh chief is not more distinguishable by his stately person and free and manly bearing than a minister of his faith is by a lofty thoughtfulness of look which marks the fervor of his soul and his persuasion of the near presence of the divinity.

Nanak perceived the true principles of reform and laid the broad foundations which enabled his Tenth successor, Gobind, to fire the minds of his countrymen with a new nationality and to give practical effect to the doctrine that the lowest is equal with the highest, in race as in creed, in political rights as in religious hopes.

Nanak was born near Lahore in 1469 and was by nature of a pious disposition and had a reflective mind. He made himself familiar with the creeds of Islam and of the Hindus and gained knowledge of the Koran and Brahminical Shastras. His good sense and fervid temper left him displeased with the corruptions of vulgar faith and dissatisfied with the indifference of the learned or the refuge they sought in the specious abstractions of philosophy.

The ardent inquirer strove to attain wisdom by penitent meditation, by study and by an enlarged intercourse with mankind. He traveled beyond the limits of India; he prayed in solitude; he reflected on the Vedas and the mission of Mohamad and he questioned with equal anxiety the learned priest and the simple devotee – about the will of God and the path to happiness.

The heart of the pious Nanak sought hopelessly for a resting place amid the conflicting creeds and practices of men. He said all was error. He had read the Puranas and the Koran but God was nowhere to be found. He called upon men to worship the One Invisible God, to live virtuously and to be tolerant of the failings of others.

The mild demeanor, the earnest piety and the persuasive eloquence of Nanak are ever the themes of praise..

Nanak loftily invokes the Lord as the One, the Sole, the Timeless Being, the Creator, the Self Existent, the Incomprehensible, and the Ever Lasting. He likens the Deity to Truth, which was before the world began, which is and which shall endure for ever as the ultimate idea or cause of all that we know or behold.

He addresses equally the Mullah and the Pandit, the Dervish and the Sannaysi and tells them to remember that Lord of Lords, who had seen come and go, numberless Mohamads. Vishnus and Shivas. He tells them that virtues and charities, heroic acts and gathered wisdom, are naught of themselves.

That the only knowledge that availeth is the knowledge of God. To rebuke men who saw eternal life in their own act of faith, he declares that they only can find the Lord, on whom the Lord looks with favor. Yet the extension of grace is linked with the exercise of our will and the beneficent use of our faculties.

God, said Nanak, places salvation in good works and uprightness of conduct. The Lord will ask of man, “What has he done?” And the teacher further requires timely repentance, saying “If not until the day of reckoning, the sinner abaseth himself, punishment shall overtake him”.

Nanak adopted the philosophical system of his countrymen and regarded bliss as the dwelling of the soul with God after its punitory transmigrations should have ceased. Life, he says, is like the shadow of the passing bird. The soul of man is like the potters wheel, ever circling on its pivot. Nanak says that he, who remains bright amid darkness, unmoved amid deceit (maya) and perfect amid temptation, shall attain happiness.

Nanak referred to the Arabian Prophet and the Hindu Incarnations, not as imposters and diffusers of evil but having been truly sent by God to instruct mankind and he truly lamented that sin should never the less prevail. He asserted no special divinity, though he may have possibly considered himself, as he was considered by others, as an inspired teacher sent to reclaim fallen mortals of all creeds and countries.

He rendered his mission applicable to all times and all places yet he declared himself to be a slave, a humble messenger of the Almighty making use of the Universal Truth. “Fight with no weapon but with the word of God, as a holy man has no means other than the purity of his doctrine.” He taught that asceticism or abandonment of the world was unnecessary – the pious hermit and the devout householder were equal in the eyes of the Almighty.

Nanak extricated his followers from the accumulated errors of ages and enjoined upon them devotion of thought and excellence of conduct as the first of duties. He left them erect and free, unbiased in mind and unfettered by rules to become an increasing body of truthful worshippers. His reform was religious and moral and believers were regarded as Sikhs or disciples.

His care was to prevent his followers from contracting into a sect and his comprehensive principles narrowing into monastic distinctions. This he effected by excluding his son from the Ministry, when he should himself be no more and preferred the simple and sincere Lehna, who he named as Angad who in turn was followed by Seven more Gurus till Govind who ended the line of Gurus by proclaiming that the Granth Sahib or Holy Book would hence forth be the Everlasting Guru..

Nanak died in 1539 at the age of 70, leaving behind many zealous and admiring disciples.

For reasons of space we omit the strong contribution of Gurus’ 2 to 9 and go to the 10th Guru, Guru Gobind..

Study and reflection had enlarged the mind of Guru Gobind and experience of the world had matured his judgement and under the mixed impulse of avenging his own and his country’s wrongs, he resolved upon awakening his followers to a new life and upon giving precision and aim to the broad and general institutions of Nanak. In the heart of the powerful Mughal Empire, he set himself to the task of subverting it. From the midst of social degradation and religious corruption, he called up simplicity of manners, singleness of purpose and enthusiasm of desire.

Gobind was equally bold, systematic and sanguine. He thought that the minds of men might be wrought upon to great purposes. He deplored the corruption of the world. He resented the tyranny which endangered his own life and he believed that the time had come for another teacher to arouse the latent energies of the human will. His memory was filled with primaeval seers and heroes. His imagination dwelt on successive dispensations for the instruction of the world and his mind was not, perhaps, untinged with a superstitious belief in his own earthly destiny.

The Hindu Devtas on one hand and Mohamad on the other, had required men to repeat their own name while beseeching God. Whereas Gobind was  himself only as other men and a humble servant of God, a beholder of the wonders of creation and whosoever worshiped him as the Lord, would assuredly burn in everlasting flame. God, he said, was to be found only in humility and sincerity. He said that the low were to be raised and those held in contempt would sit by his side.

Gobind thus abolished social distinction and took away from his followers each ancient solace of superstition. To fill the void, he felt that he must engage the heart as well as satisfy the reason and give the Sikhs some common bond of union.which would remind the weak of their new life and add fervor to the devotion of the sincere.

Having assembled his followers, he founded the Khalsa, (the pure) and bonded it by sacrifice and similarity in outward form based on the five ‘K’s of the local script (unshorn hair, a comb, knife, undergarment and an iron bangle). He thus made himself master of the imagination of his followers and established the theocracy of Sikhs.

Gobind added religious fervor to warlike temper and his design of founding a kingdom of jats, upon the waning glories of the Mughals, does not appear to have been idly conceived or rashly undertaken.

After numerous successes and some severe reversals, Gobind proceeded to the Deccan where the Mughal Emperor was ensconced. Here he was fatally stabbed after he had retired. by the sons of a pathan his grand father, Guru HarGobind, or he himself had slain. Gobind directed that no harm come to his assassins as they had only done their duty in avenging their father’s death. Then he ordained that hence forth the everlasting Guru of the Sikhs was to be the Guru Granth or the Book of the compiled writings of Nanak and others.

It was 1708 and Gobind was in his 48th year.

Gobind did not live to see his own ends accomplished but he effectually aroused the dormant energies of a vanquished people and filled them with a lofty though fitful longing for social freedom and national ascendancy – the proper adjuncts of that purity of worship which had been preached by Nanak. Gobind saw what was yet vital and filled it with Promethian fire.

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

« Previous Entries

Liked it here?
Why not try sites on the blogroll...