The Guru Is the Boat

by Nirmal Singh Khalsa (Espanola, New Mexico)


The Guru is the boat that carries you across the world-ocean. I bet you have heard this before. Well, I have too. It was just the other day after I had been assigned to investigate the inspirational qualities of the 10 Gurus, I was reading those lines with Guru Boat and ocean, when this thought sprung into my mind: If the Gurus are all boats, what kind of a boat would they be? And this is what I thought of.

First there is Guru Nanak. To my surprise and maybe yours I found that the first Guru boat wasn't even a boat. No, Guru Nanak had a very special view into life, he saw what no one else could see and he provided the creative spark that gave life to Sikhism. He was totally immersed and submerged in God's flow, and with his special vision could see into every man's heart. His example showed us how to live with compassion and to never say no. Maybe you have already guessed that Guru Nanak, the first Guru, was a submarine. I mean, how else could he sink into the river for three days and nights and then return to utter Ik Ong Kar Sat Nam?

After Guru Nanak's Passing, Guru Angad was left with a big small challenge, or you could say a small big challenge. He was left with a new born child now known as Sikhism, and two paths lay ahead: this child could become a self centered man, or could follow the drift of an immense Hindu ocean. Guru Angad lived up to his calling, drawing faith in his wake. For the youth he opened many schools and started the tradition of Mall Akhara, where physical as well as spiritual exercises were held. He also institutionalized 'Guru ka Langar' and wrote 63 Saloks that would later be included in the Siri Guru Granth Sahib. His life is the example of having an attitude of gratitude. For being the driving force in maintaining the Sikh identity and pulling young and mature to shore, Guru Angad was the Tug boat.

Guru Amardas became a Guru Boat, by living in total service and devotion to his Guru. Every morning he would carry water from the river for the Guru's bath and fetch wood for 'Guru ka Langar'. After becoming Guru he composed around 800 verses that would later be integrated into the Guru Granth Sahib by Guru Arjan, including the Anand Sahib. Guru Amardas shows us that it is never, never, never too late to shine, as he became Guru at age 73. His great Service, devotion and blissful living, transformed this loyal Guru into the ferry boat; moving at a loving mature pace, bountiful with creativity and service.

When I think of Guru Ram Das, I think of a man whose heart was bigger than his body. I also think of boundless greatness expressed through humility. Guru Ram Das gave the whole world the gift of service; he left us all with the heritage of the Golden Temple. He was the Guru Boat with limitless passenger seats. For carrying the whole world in his heart, to me Guru Ram Das will always be Noah's Ark. If you don't believe me just look at how many people can fit inside the Golden Temple, a true miracle.

Only such a one as Guru Arjan could follow after the inspiration of Guru Ram Das and shine true light. Guru Arjan's gifts to the world where numerous: thousands of new Sikh devotees, two thousand poetic verses, three new Sikh towns and one Siri Guru Granth Sahib. After everything he accomplished in life, he went on after death by becoming the first Sikh martyr. Such a flow of creativity, poetic beauty, accomplishment and the ability to flow through rough waters in a smooth motion: Guru Arjan is the Cruise liner.

After Guru Arjan's Martyrdom, the Sikhs could no longer take freedom for granted. The need for strength now equaled that of spiritual understanding. This is how Guru Hargobind rose to be Guru and Saint Warrior. Wielding Miri in one hand and Piri in the other, Guru Hargobind was the first Guru to stand up to the Mogul with the steel of his blade. Guru Hargobind's life is the example of Strength and Courage, which is why in my eyes he is the Battleship.

The seventh Guru, Har Rai, followed a time of conflict. As such he upheld the standards of the Warrior Sikh. However his sensitivity was such that he would not even kill his prey when hunting. Guru Har Rai upheld the sword though he never raised arms in battle; thus he fulfilled the command given to him by his Guru and maintained peace throughout his Guruship. He was an inspiring healer and once cured the emperor's son with his knowledge of ayurvedic medicine. Great sensitivity, love of peace, and the healing touch give Guru Har Rai the quality of being the Safety Boat.

Guru Harkrishan was left with no small task although he was just a boy. Guru Harkrishan became Guru at the age of five years old. Despite his young age Harkrishan was bright with wisdom and understanding. Guru Harkrishan lived a very short Guruship; however, he managed to inspire thousands and complete the task of finding the next Guru before his passing. This Guru moved at a very high speed through life and covered great distance, which is why Guru Harkrishan is the speed boat.

Guru Tegh Bahadur's deepest longing was to meditate on God; even in his childhood he would spend most of his time in meditation and as he grew, so did his love for meditating on God. Finally the time came when he was needed to be an inspiration to all. He became Guru and emerged from his isolation. Guru Tegh Bahadur showed us how to master the mind, how to live with righteousness and fearlessness, and how to sacrifice, when he willingly gave his life to save those of another religious faith. He was always willing to set Sail in God's stream. Guru Tegh Bahadur is the Sail boat.

Guru Gobind Singh was the tenth and final Sikh Guru. He lived in humility and total acceptance of God's will, and in his eyes both glory and misfortune were a gift from God. In this understanding he lived a life of courage. By standing up to the Mogul oppression, he lost his sons and family, but he never forgot to praise God's name. It was through his inspiration that the Khalsa was born. He led everyone to live in freedom and in justice. Guru Gobind Singh teaches through his example how to become fearless, powerful, humble, and to fight for the Dharma. He is the Aircraft carrier and we all are his fighter jets.

Towards the end of his life Guru Gobind Singh gave us the gift of Leadership. He did this by installing the greatest Guru: the Guru that is always with God's word and is greater than any man or woman. He left us the Siri Guru Granth Sahib, our eleventh Guru, that is alive every day in our mind and hearts. This Guru could be no other than our Leader Ship, sharing wisdom and guidance and always pointing God's direction.

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