From Privilege to Purity: Guru Gobind Singh’s Lesson of Service

by Parminder Singh Sodhi

In the annals of Sikh history, Guru Gobind Singh Jayanti holds a special place, commemorating the birth of the tenth Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh. On this auspicious occasion, it is fitting to reflect on a timeless lesson imparted by Guru Gobind Singh—one that transcends religious boundaries and speaks to the core of our humanity.

ਵਿਣੁ ਸੇਵਾ ਧ੍ਰਿਗੁ ਹਥ ਪੈਰ ਹੋਰ ਨਿਹਫਲ ਕਰਣੀ।

ਪੀਰ ਮੁਰੀਦਾਂ ਪਿਰਹੜੀ ਸੁਖ ਸਤਿਗੁਰ ਸਰਣੀ ॥੧੦॥

With your head, be humble and bow to the Guru
With your eyes do not look at other people’s things, instead look to your guru
With your ears listen, with focus, to the Guru’s teachings
With your tongue, sing Guru’s songs and chant Guru’s mantra”

Legend has it that Guru Gobind Singh once taught a profound lesson on humility and the transformative power of selfless service. This lesson unfolded in the presence of a wealthy young man who, inspired by a desire to serve the Guru, eagerly volunteered to fetch water when the Guru expressed thirst.

Little did the young man know that this seemingly simple task would lead to a profound revelation about the nature of true service and the purity of one’s heart.

As the youth proudly returned with a glass of water, Guru Gobind Singh, with his profound insight, questioned the young man about his life and work. The young man, accustomed to a life of privilege and leisure, confessed that he had never engaged in any form of labor or service. His hands, though physically clean, were unacquainted with the purity that comes from selfless work.

Guru Gobind Singh seized this moment to impart a powerful truth: “Hands are made pure by doing service.” The Guru likened a life devoid of service to being filled with dirt, emphasizing that true purity comes from actively contributing to the well-being of others.

The words resonated deeply with the young man, sparking a profound transformation within him. No longer content with being a mere recipient of others’ efforts, he decided to embrace a life of humility and service.

The young man committed himself to the Sikh way of life, adopting a routine that included early morning spiritual practices, selfless service in the Guru’s kitchen, and a newfound dedication to community and family. The change in him was palpable; his hands, once soft and unblemished, now bore the marks of hard work and service.

In a poignant moment, Guru Gobind Singh, once again expressing thirst, asked for water. This time, the young man, humbled and transformed, eagerly volunteered. As the Guru observed the calloused hands and sensed the vibration of love and service in the water, he declared, “THIS is pure water!” The connection between the Guru and the young man deepened, and the latter’s heart swelled with newfound love and devotion.

The story serves as a timeless reminder that true purity is not merely a physical state but a reflection of the soul’s commitment to selfless service. Guru Gobind Singh’s teachings transcend religious boundaries, urging us all to recognize the value of humility, hard work, and a commitment to the well-being of others.

As we celebrate Guru Gobind Singh Jayanti, let us carry this transformative lesson forward—imbuing our lives with the essence of service, humility, and love. In doing so, we honor the legacy of Guru Gobind Singh and contribute to the betterment of humanity.

Parminder Singh Sodhi

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