The text itself does not provide any clue as to the time and place of its composition, though it is generally placed in the last years of Guru Nanak`s life when he had finally setded down at Kartarpur after completing his major preaching odysseys. And, the composition might not be the record of any of the goshtis that are said to have occurred at Gorakh Hatri, Gorakh Mata, also known as Nanak Mata, Sumer Parbat and Achal Batala, but a recollection in tranquillity of the major points from discourses between Guru Nanak and the Siddhas at any of these or other places.The Sidh Gosti comprises seventy-three stanzas of which the first stanza consisting of four lines is by way of a prologue wherein Guru Nanak is shown as discoursing with the Siddh Sabha, i.e. assembly of the Siddhas, proclaiming that he paid obeisance to none other than the True Infinite One before whom everybody bows and who can be realized only with the aid of a spiritual preceptor.
He says that meditation on His Name was the only way to liberation and that the outer garb and wandering in search of Him were futile. After the first stanza in this section, there is a couplet which, marked as rahau or pause, sums up the substance of the whole composition, i.e. renouncing the world and wandering in woods and mountains will be fruitless; it is through the True Name that life becomes pure and purposeful and one can attain emancipation.The three stanzas, numbering four to six, are designed as Guru Nanak`s discourse with Charpat, who belonged not to the Siddha but Natha tradition which had evolved in protest against the former`s over infatuation with supernatural powers which they generally used for the satisfaction of their carnal desires. Charpat puts two questions to Guru Nanak as to how successfully to swim across the ocean of life and how to realize God.
Guru Nanak`s reply is that one can achieve liberation by remaining detached while still living in the world and by making human heart a worthy abode for the Supreme Being by cleansing it of all impurities, and not by renouncing the world as did the Siddhas, Nathas and Yogis.Stanzas seven to eleven comprise Guru Nanak`s dialogue with Loharipa, who proclaims the importance of renunciation, outer garbs and rituals in contradistinction to the former`s stress on inner purity and self control. Loharipa favours the austere life of Sidddhas who lived amid shrubs and trees, away from the towns and highways subsisting on roots and underground bulbs. According to him, ablutions at a sacred place of pilgrimage brought man peace.
Guru Nanak rejects the significance of outer garb, renunciation of the world in favour of wandering in forests away from human habitation and visits to places of pilgrimage as the ultimate end of human life.He on the other hand recommends man to control his passions and fix his mind on Him who pervades throughout the universe which is His creation. What follows in stanza eleven is not Guru Nanak`s discourse with any particular Siddha, but his recollection of some of the points from a dialogue he might have had with different Siddhas on different occassions. These cover a wide variety of subjects such as the definition of a true yogi, gurmukh and manmukh; the origin of the universe and of man ; and the significance of truthfulness and of constant meditation on His Name in realizing the ultimate end of human life, i.e. emancipation from the process of transmigration and being one with the Supreme Being.
According to Guru Nanak, a yogi is not one who renouncing, the world wanders in the woods and mountains, but one who effaces his self conceit, becomes detached and enshrines the True Lord in his heart. As opposed to manmukh, i.e. the self willed who assailed by doubt wanders in wilderness (26), the gurmukh, one who has his face and mind turned towards the Guru, remains busy in reflecting On die gnosis and attains the invisible and infinite Lord (27). In answering the Siddhas` questions concerning the origin of the universe and man, Guru Nanak refers to the concepts of sunya (void) and sabda (word) also.
Before the creation of man and the universe, there was no world, no firmament, yet it was not an empty void. The light of the Nirankar, i.e. the Formless Lord, pervaded the three worlds (67). Guru Nanak`s sunya, sunn in the text, does not mean nothing or an empty void. It is not a negative concept; rather it is a positive cause of the cosmos; it is nothing but the Brahman Himself. His sun/a is the emptiness of the vase, the essential intrinsic nature and quality of the pot. The word has also been used in the sense of Brahman, both with maya and as pure Brahman when the Guru says that sunya is within us and without us and that the worlds are also imbued with sunya.
He who realizes the fourth state of sunya remains unaffected by vice and virtue (51). Here the sunya that envelops the three worlds is nothing but Brahman with maya, the fourth state of sunya being pure Brahman. In reply to a Siddha`s question as to how the sunya, i.e. Brahman is obtained and what is the state of those who are with the sunya (Lord) imbued, Guru Nanak replies that it is through the Guru and by instructing the mind that the Imperishable Lord is obtained and that those who obtain Him are like Him from whom they have emanated and that they suffer not in the cycle of transmigration (52). A person knowing the mystery of God, who pervades all the hearts, himself becomes the manifestation of the Primal, Immaculate and Luminous Lord; one imbued with His Name is himself the Lord Creator (51).
The sabda, which in gurbamhas been described more in terms of what it does than what it actually is, provides the means whereby man can know both God and the path that leads to Him, the means whereby man may secure release from bondage and attain union with Him. In Sidh Gosti, sabda (sabad) has been enlightenment, eternal delight and true yoga (32 and 33). Sublime understanding and shedding of lust, anger and ego are possible only with the help of sabda (10). It is through sabda that man is able to counteract the poison of ego and understand the true meaning of the creation and of the Creator (21).
The sabda is competent to annul man`s transmigration and secure him liberation (25). All the wanderings ofyog`fand sarinyasiswill come to naught if they fail to drop ego from their hearts (34) and ego, which hinders man`s progression towards the Supreme Reality, can be effaced only through the sabda (21). In reply to a Siddhas` question as to where does sabda which helps man ferry across the ocean of life abide (58), Guru Nanak says that it pervades all beings and that, if one is blessed with the Lord`s grace, abides it in the human heart, dispels all doubt and leads one to union with the Supreme Lord (59).
The language of the Sidh Gosti is Sadh Bhakha with an admixture of technical terms from the disciplines of the Yogis and the Siddhas. Brevity is chief characteristic of the style of expression. Symbols and metaphors used are more functional than decorative and liave been taken from everyday life. The classical symbol of a lotus flower growing in water drawing its sustenance from the mud below and yet remaining untouched by it has also been used to illustrate the point that man can live a detached life in this world and realize the Supreme Lord by enshrining His Name in his heart. So has been the symbol of the duck swimming in water without wetting its wings.
1. Sabadarth Sri Guru Granth Sahib. Amritsar, 1962
2. Gurdas, Bhai, Varan. Amritsar, 1962
3. Jodli Singh, The Religious Philosophy of Guru Nanak. Delhi, 1983