One, who remains engaged in the Guru’s service unruffled by the obstacles, hurdles and enticements in life, becomes a deserving disciple of the Guru. One who has assimilated the grace of a perfected Guru, assimilates the knowledge of the absolute Truth as well. He alone leads a blessed life, who remains steadfast in his devotion to the Guru even in the face of various adverse circumstances. A landlord called Manjh came to Guru Arjan Dev and said, “Please make me your disciple.”
“Who do you follow at present?” asked Guru Arjan.
“Sakhi Sarwar. We also have a temple in its name at home.”
“Go, pay obeisance to it for the last time and come back after razing the temple to the ground.”
“Yes Sir, as you command.”
Breaking the temple was not so easy but the landlord had faith in the Guru and didn’t care for anything so long as he was carrying out the Guru’s orders. So, he destroyed the temple. The people ostracized him for desecrating the temple and criticized him severely. The landlord went to the feet of Guru Arjan Dev. Seeing a deserving disciple in the landlord, Arjan Dev bestowed initiation on him and taught him the method of sadhana.
Now the landlord would remain engaged in meditation and in doing japa of the Guru-mantra without wasting his time in rites and rituals. His whole life-style was changed. He would give less time to farming. He was put to one test after another. Soon his horse died, then some of his bullocks, next thieves came and took some of his possessions. He now started facing more opposition from the people and all of his creditors demanded immediate repayment. The landlord mortgaged his land, cleared all his debts and himself started working on a farm. At that time the level of interest was such that it was almost impossible for anyone who mortgaged his land to rise again. Once a landlord, Manjh was now working as a labourer himself, but his love for the Guru’s feet never decreased. After some time Manjh had to move to another village along with his wife and children. He began to make his livelihood by cutting and selling grass. Arjan Dev inquired about him and found out that he was living as an outcast, the whole society had ostracized him, but his faith was intact. Arjan Dev was pleased to know this. Ostracized by the society, Manjh had won a place for himself in the Guru’s heart.
After some time the Guru again inquired about him and found out that he was leading a hand-to-mouth life. Guru Arjan sent one of his disciple to deliver a letter to Manjh.
“Be sure to demand twenty rupees as an offering before you give him the letter,” the Guru told the disciple.
Why would the Guru need money? However, He tries the disciple to test his faith and enhance his ability. And it is true that gold has to pass the test of fire several times to become pure. Manjh asked twenty rupees from his wife for the Guru’s letter. Twenty rupees in those days would be equal to around five to seven thousand rupees today. The wife replied, “Lord! I have two wedding bangles and other ornaments. Sell these and send the money to Gurudev.”
The bangles were sold and rupees twenty sent to the Guru. Gurudev saw that his faith was still intact! After some time the Guru sent Manjh a second letter, for which he was to make an offering of twenty-five rupees.
From where was he to bring the money? There was not a single pie at home. He remembered that the headman of the village had once asked if his son could marry Bhai Manjh’s daughter. The caste system was prevalent in those days and the headman belonged to a lower caste. Manjh proposed to the headman, ‘I will marry my daughter to your son but I want only twenty-five rupees as marriage settlement and nothing else.”
Manjh did not mind marrying his daughter to a boy of a lower caste, sending his daughter into a family of people with mean mentality.
Great is his faith in the Guru! The Guru saw that his faith had not wavered yet. He sent a message, “Come here and look after the ashram’s kitchen. Work in the kitchen and serve food to the people.”
Manjh carried out the Guru’s command implicitly and started working in the kitchen.
“Manjh looks after the kitchen, but where does he take his food?” the Guru asked one of his disciples after a few days.
“He gets his food from the free community kitchen after serving food to every body,” the disciple said.
“Bhai Manjh is not doing real service,” said the Guru, “He is taking a wage in the form of food. This is not selfless service.”
Manjh took the Guru’s gesture as a command. From the next day on, Manjh served in the kitchen during the day and went to the forest to cut wood. He then sold the wood in the bazaar and used the proceeds to buy food for his family. This went on for a few days. One evening, Manjh went to the forest to cut wood, which was needed for the Guru’s kitchen. A great storm blew up after he had finished cutting the wood. He tried to seek refuge under a tree with his bundle of wood on his head but the wind was so fierce that it blew him into a well.
Suddenly Guru Arjan Dev called some of his disciples and set out towards the forest with a long rope and a wooden board. The disciples were surprised. “Manjh is at the bottom of this well,” said the Guru when they reached the well. “Shout down to him and tell him that we will lower a board tied to a rope. Tell him to cling to the board and we will pull him out.”
He then spoke something into a person’s ears and told him to say that to Manjh. The person told Manjh, “Brother, see the wretched condition you are in. Why do you follow such a cruel Guru? Why don’t you abandon and forget him?”
Manjh shouted from within, “How dare you say that my Guru is cruel? I have only compassion for him in my heart. Never again speak such shameful words.”
The Guru himself had sent that person to break Manjh’s faith, but bravo Manjh! Manjh said, “I would rather die of hunger inside the well than listen to slander against the Guru. I will die as the Guru’s beloved and not as being one of the slanderers and those who are without a Guru. It is better to die as the Guru’s beloved than live immortally being one among the slanderers and those who have no Guru.”
Bhai Manjh first placed the dry wood he was carrying on his head on the wooden board. “Take this wood first,” he said, “Because it is for the Guru’s kitchen. If it gets wet it would not burn.”
The wood was drawn up, and then Manjh himself was pulled out of the well. As he came out he saw his Guru. He prostrated at His feet. Lifting him up and patting him on the back, Guru Arjan Dev said, “I am proud of you! You have faced all the tests with unwavering faith, courage and devotion and have come out successful. I will be glad to gift you even the three worlds.”
Bhai Manjh was in tears as he said, “I want only you as a boon from you. I have no love for any other thing.” The Guru embraced Manjh and said,
“Manjh is the Guru’s beloved and the Guru is Manjh’s beloved. Now Manjh, like the Guru, is a ship that carries people safely across the ocean of phenomena.”
The Guru enlightened Manjh on the Truth. How trying and adverse were the circumstances! However, Manjh was undaunted. Manjh remained steadfast despite several attempts to break his faith. That is why from the Guru’s heart these words overflowed for him, “Manjh is my beloved. He, like the Guru, is a ship that carries people safely across the ocean of phenomena.”
Blessed is Manjh’s devotion to the Guru! Blessed is his faith and blessed is his love for the Guru!