by Kristen Meiser — February 26, 2021
“As the grease adheres to the potshards, so to do the Guru’s hymns to the hearts of his Sikhs.” - Guru Har Rai
The grandson of Guru Har Gobind, Guru Har Rai was a peaceful, contemplative leader. He spent much of his time in reflective meditation, avoiding conflict and channeling his energy toward serving others. He is remembered for his dedication to the Guru’s hymns, promoting peace while remaining ready to defend, advancing ayurvedic medicine, and showing the power of meditation.
Importance of the Guru’s Hymns
Guru Har Rai knew the Guru’s Hymns were holy and important. He had no tolerance for any distortion of them, even from his own son, Ram Rai.
People knew of his love for the words and teachings of the Gurus. One day they asked him if people should read the hymns if they do not understand them. He did not answer right away. The next day, he came across a pot that had broken and now had butter melting on each piece.
Guru Har Rai said, “Look my Sikhs, broken pot shards - when they are heated, the butter that adheres to them readily melts. As the grease adheres to the pot shards, so 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."
The words of the Gurus may not always make sense, but they still plant the “seed of salvation” that can grow into greater understanding later.
Promoting Peace While Ready to Defend
While Guru Har Rai never engaged in battle, he upheld the importance of the army to defend oneself and those in need. His example, taken in light of his grandfather’s insistence on a standing army, demonstrates that Sikhs should remain peaceful when possible, but stand up and fight when there is a just cause.
Advancing Ayurvedic Medicine
Guru Har Rai encouraged the use of Ayurvedic medicine and established an Ayurvedic hospital and a research centre at Kiratpur Sahib. Ayurveda is a holistic approach to medicine that begins with internal purification, follows a specific diet, and uses herbal remedies, massage therapy, yoga, and meditation to heal maladies.
His Ayurvedic knowledge helped him heal Emperor Shah Jahan’s eldest son, Dara Shikoh, who was poisoned by his brother, Aurangzeb. The emperor, after consulting astrologists and magicians to no avail, met with his wise men who knew of an herbal remedy but did not have the ingredients. The emperor searched and heard that Guru Har Rai had access to them in his storehouse.
Emperor Shah humbly requested the ingredients, knowing the animosity that existed between himself and the Sikhs. Guru Har Rai was touched by the emperor’s humility and said, “Behold, with one hand man breaks flowers and with one hand offers them, but the flowers perfume both hands alike... The Guru ought, therefore, to return good for evil.”
He gave the ingredients and even provided instructions for administering. Dara was healed, and the emperor was pleased. He promised not to cause further problems for Guru Har Rai and his Sikhs.
The Power of Meditation
Guru Har Rai encouraged meditation, as previous gurus also had done. Meditation can help bring peace and emphasize interconnectedness. Guru Har Rai demonstrated this through an experience with Bhai Gonda.
Bhai Gonda was a devout Sikh who greatly impressed Guru Har Rai and was asked to start a Gurdwara and teach people in Kabul, Afghanistan. While there, Bhai Gonda went into a deep meditation where he felt as though he was right at the feet of Guru Har Rai. He remained in this meditation for hours.
At the same time, Guru Har Rai entered a deep meditation as well. When his dinner was ready, he would not move or even answer the cook. After the Sikhs grew concerned, Guru Har Rai said, “Brother Sikhs. Bhai Gonda is in Kabul. He is in thought, word, and deed, a saint of the Guru. He today clasped my feet. How can I take them away from him? How can I go take my dinner until he lets go? I am therefore waiting until the conclusion of his meditation and obeisance.” When Bhai Gonda ended his meditation Guru Har Rai had his meal and all in his presence had a glimpse of how powerful meditation can be.
Guru Har Rai continued to develop the rich tradition of Sikhi and taught many important lessons. Before he died he nominated his youngest son, Har Krishan, to be the 8th Guru.