Shiva and Guru Nanak

The 'Adi Gurdev' (primordial master) of Sanatan Shastar Vidiya is acknowledged to be Shiva himself; Guru Nanak is the first Sikh Guru. The manner in which the Akali Nihang Baba Darbara Singh Sanatan Suraj Bansia Shastar Vidiya Shiv Akhara reconciles these two masters together has caused some unease in certain revisionist-informed Sikh circles. This has led to paranoia, and more narrow-minded amongst them have made some absurd allegations against Gurdev Nidar Singh Nihang. Some have taken a more extreme stance of denouncing him as a Sikh and suggest he is a Hindu in guise of a Sikh.

The Hindu Sikh masters of Sanatan Shastar Vidiya believe in a spiritual world view that has already espoused the idea of 'advetta' (non-duality), that all is 'Brahm', i.e., one infinite being, infinite consciousness and infinite bliss. Through the application of semantic arithmetic, they endeavoured to bring the two ends of Sanatan Shastar Vidiya and the Sikh Faith, i.e., the founding masters Shiva and Guru Nanak, together. The manner in which this was carried out is revealed below:

First the Hindu Sikh masters applied separate treatments across the two ends of the traditions to clarify their understanding.

On having clearly defined the two separate ends of Sanatan Shastar Vidiya and Sikh traditions, the Hindu Sikh Gurdevs further endeavoured to knot them together to make one synergistic whole. This conforms to their notion the core belief of 'advetta' (non-duality). Inspiration to realising this is found in the writings of the Gurus; they seized upon a number of quotes, in particular those attributed to Guru Gobind Singh.

It has to be appreciated that the reader understand a key Indian spiritual concept, which, to a certain extent has already been utilised in passing. In accordance with Indian thinking, 'Brahm' that is infinite consciousness, infinite being, and infinite bliss, exists both in the transcendental 'Nirguna' (intangible quality) state, one beyond time, space, mind and senses, and as the imminent 'Sarguna' (all qualities) state, i.e., all that is the phenomenal universe. The 'Sarguna' is itself further characterised by a mixture of three 'Guna' (qualities):

The fifth Sikh Guru, Arjan Dev stated:

"Sarguna and nirguna is himself the formless 'Nirankar' (formless); in the state of self-absorption in the void. Having himself created all O Nanak, he himself contemplates it all."
(Adi Guru Granth Sahib, Raag Gauri Sukhmani, M:5, 290)

The understanding of the concept that 'Sarguna' and 'Nirguna' are ultimately one, but distinct in quality, are brought to light through the words of the Guru. Whilst keeping the aforementioned concepts in mind, the reader will now be able to contextualise and appreciate the otherwise contradictory statements that we find in these inspirational quotes:

"Without your grace how can anyone please you? All, by seeing your [Shiv] form are enchanted. In the heavens, nether worlds, on earth and in the galaxies He is all pervasive. All clasp their hands repeating 'Shiv Shiv', to you the compassionate Master all plea. O Master, the redeemer of sinners, the holy and pure, giver of comfort and peace is your name [Shiv]. O Nanak, wisdom, focus of mind in meditation, and honour in the world is found in discussing you [Shiva] with your holy devotees."
(Adi Guru Granth Sahib, Raag Gauri, M 5, 207)

"I am a lover of your [salvation-granting] name O Shiva, your physical form [of 'bhau bhagti' (love and devotion)] I always keep in my heart. With fervour I praise you repeating 'Shiv Shiv'. I [by repeating your name 'Shiv, Shiv' thus] desire but to attain onto your all-pervasive true form [of 'bhau bhagti']."
(Sarbloh Guru Granth Sahib (Sarbloh Guru Granth Sahib, 2:5:730)

"The great form of Rudra, the fierce formless 'Behroopa'."
(Astotar Siri Bhagauti Ji Ka)

"He who reads the verses of the 'Astotar' (praises of the primordial power of Shiva, the Devi). Rudra Kal himself salutes him. Rudra, he who devours, kills and destroys sin."

"With the command of the all-pervasive, immortal one 'Akal Purakh' emerged [the Singh Khalsa] in the form of the great sage Munivar (i.e., Shiva)."
(Sarbloh Guru Granth Sahib, 2:5:495)

"The path of Dharma, the Khalsa emerged in the original true eternal form of Shiva."
(Sarbloh Guru Granth Sahib, 2:5:496)

"Sarab Kal (all time / death, i.e., Shiva) is my great father and 'Deb' (his radiant power) Kalika, is my mother." (Dasam Guru Granth Sahib, Bachittar Natak, part 14, verse 5)

"The Mother is 'Bhagwati' (wife of Shiva), and the father is 'Kal' (Shiva / 'Sadha' (eternal) Shiva), who taking in their lap, have nurtured the Khalsa."
(Sarbloh Guru Granth Sahib, 2:5:496)

"Salutations to the master of the city of spirits; the great 'Rudra Shankar' (i.e., Shiva), master of the world; he who is the great deity of all deities; the master of the spirits; the Pashupat (master of the beasts) man-leader of the 'Gan' (Shiva's spirit soldiers), lord of the world."
(Sarbloh Guru Granth Sahib, 2:5:723)

"O Shiva, give me this boon that I reside at your feet with my mind focused upon them. When great difficulty comes and besets me; quickly come save me, I stand at your door."
(Sarbloh Guru Granth Sahib, 1:1:191)

"Mahadev (i.e., the great 'Sarguna' god Shiva) they call eternal 'Shiv' (i.e., 'Nirguna' Brahm). They [the general Sarguna-worshipping Hindus] know not the secret of the formless [Nirguna] One."
(Dasam Guru Granth Sahib, Charitter 404, Kabio bach benti chaupai, verse 392)

"One [Sarguna] Shiv came into being, one went (i.e., re-merged back into the void at end of time); another again emerged (i.e., in the infinite cycle of 'Sarguna', all life forms, even as great as Shiva come and go, over and over again)."
(Dasam Guru Granth Sahib, Akal Ustat, 7:77)

"Mahadev (i.e., 'Sarguna' Shiva) called himself great. Vishnu declared himself [great]. Brahma called himself infinite 'Brahm'. None knew the Master as the Master (i.e., all 'Sarguna' forms be they deities, are prone to folly of ego so mankind should be careful)."
(Dasam Guru Granth Sahib, Bachittar Natak, 7:6)

"[Sarguna] Brahma one contemplated, and [Sarguna] Shiva one worshipped; none saved you from it [death]." (Dasam Guru Granth Sahib, Bachittar Natak, 1:97)

"Why call 'Eas' ('Sarguna' Shiva) the great master? (i.e., he is the same as the Sikh Gurus, not 'Nirguna' Brahm]."
(Dasam Guru Granth Sahib, Teti Swaya, 15)

"...Shiva does not understand the limits (i.e., of infinite 'Brahm', because 'Brahm' is so infinitely great)." (Dasam Guru Granth Sahib, Gian Parbodh, 12:32)

"With command of 'Kal' (time) ['Sarguna'] Shiva emerges, famed in all lands and we all have known him."
(Ibid, 24)

"Within the divine command (of 'Vaehguru') are deities and female deities. Within the divine command are Vishnu, Rudra (Shiva) and Brahma."
(Sarbloh Guru Granth Sahib, 2:5:609)

"[If devotion alone grants salvation, without divine grace then] there is no one who practices penance/devotion like Shiva..."
(Dasam Guru Granth Sahib, Akal Ustat, 6:76)

With a wonderful interplay of words, by switching from 'Sarguna' to 'Nirguna', the Guru writes of how Shiva prays to his own true eternal self, Sadha Shiva:

"Salutations to 'Mahakal' (the great death), the 'Bhairav' (the horrific one), the Master! 'Mahakal', 'Akal' (the immortal one), in whose stomach reside the Vedas. My horrific [Bhairo] state has become successful. With your grace, all my sins have been destroyed. With your power is my 'Tams Guna' (dark virtue) state. The master of the 'Tams Guna', I am your 'Tams Guna' son. O Master, I am your 'Tams Guna' populace. Such are you, 'Mahakal'. O great Rudra, Bhairav, Bhairo, I fall at your feet, O 'Nirguna' Master."
(Sarbloh Guru Granth Sahib, 2:5:724)

Guru Gobind Singh attributes these words to 'Sarguna' Shiva in order to demonstrate he is but a fellow devotee of his transcendental 'Nirguna', the true self 'Sadha Shiva' / 'Brahm':

"I salute the 'Parmeshvar' (the supreme master 'Shiva / 'Brahm'), the great master with whose grace my state of 'Shiv' (salvation) maintained. Joy is his praise, the praising of his name is joy; joy is in fighting the mind. Day and night, joy is found in the form that focuses the mind (on its true self); fighting lustis another good way of praising him. The possessor of the moon's shine, the creator of the sun's 'Jot' (flame), and destroyer of the world; I am such because of your power. I wander the world, wearing unpraise-worthy clothes [as does Bhairav] only because I have faith in your name. My clothes became praise-worthy only when I place your feet in my heart. The all-powerful 'Maya' (illusion) in the form of 'Shiv Shakti' [Shiva's consort Parbati] resides in my home. May the 'Sadha Shiv Sri Sarbloh' ('Vaehguru' / 'Brahm') always be happy with me; as I your 'Bhagwant' (devotee of Shiva) sing your praises."
(Sarbloh Guru Granth Sahib, 2:5:688)

Even in Adi Guru Granth Sahib, it clearly states that Shiva is a devotee of the eternal 'Nanak' / 'Brahm'.

"The 'Bairagi' (dispassionate) ascetic 'Mahadev' (i.e., Shiva) sings the praises of him (Guru Nanak), who gained realisation by meditating inwardly."
(Adi Guru Granth Sahib, Bhat Swaya, Bhat Kal, 1390)

Furthermore, Shiva is considered both the Guru and disciple of Vishnu (see Sikhan Di Bhagatmala, ed. Tarlochan Singh Bedi, (Publication Bureau Punjabi University Patiala, 1994), 93). As with all Sikhs, according to the tenth master himself, Shiva contemplates and grants the great 'Vaehguru' (itself constructed from the four starting letters of 'Sarguna' Vishnu's names: Vasudeva, Raam, Hari and Gobind (see Bhai Gurdas Var 1, Pauri 49):

"The great mantra the Master gave the Khalsa. 'Va-eh-gu-ru' mantra was given the great holy status. Drawing upon the four Vedas, eighteen Purans, etc. (ancient Hindu holy texts) was the four lettered mantra culled. From the Guru's (i.e., Nanak's) mouth was this salvation-granting mantra uttered. 'Mahadev' (Shiva) called it great..... Shiva with faith, keeps this mantra in his mouth...In the end (time of destruction of the world) 'Shankar' (the master Shiva) utters it for all ears to hear. In the realm of Vishnu resides Vishnu (i.e., 'Sarguna' Vaehguru). From Shiva's mouth he [Vishnu] listens to the name of 'Raam' ('Nirguna Vishnu', i.e., Vaehguru). Beloved of Shiva is this great mantra of Raam's name. With his blessings, Shankar grants it to beings. It is given to them to who Shiva is merciful towards. The debt gained of transmigration is thus settled.....The name of the highest being (i.e., 'Vaehguru') Shankar gave. In this way, the being as he is, he will himself become Shiva form (i.e., attains spiritual salvation by becoming at one with one's true self)."
(Sarbloh Guru Granth Sahib, 2:5:487-488)

Such transcendental quotes of the Sikh Guru inculcate a deep reverence for 'Sarguna' Shiva whilst making it clear that he is not 'Nirguna' Brahm. In comparison to 'Vaehguru', Shiva, as all other 'Sarguna' beings, is insignificant.
The final quote given here is utilised by Hindu Sikh Shastar Vidiya masters as a key to achieving the objective of reconciling Shiva and Guru Nanak:

"Salutations to foremost death form 'Bhairo', the great terror 'Rudra Bhairav', the 'Jagt Gur' (Guru of the world)."
(Sarbloh Guru Granth Sahib, 2:5:723)

The relevance of the above quote becomes clear as we appreciate that in Sikh tradition, Guru Nanak is spoken of as being 'Jagt Guru' (Guru of the world). From the perspective of the Akali Nihang Baba Darbara Singh Sanatan Suraj Bansia Shastar Vidiya Shiv Akhara, the formless 'Rudra Bhairav' (i.e., Shiva), and Guru Nanak are both at an elevated, spiritual and conceptual level, where there is no sense of duality. The ultimate aim of Sikh spirituality is to achieve such a state of being. The Akhara, being a Shiv Akhara from the onset acknowledge:

Within the Sanatan Hindu Sikh tradition is story of Kak Psund, who out of ego did not stand to greet his Guru during his worship of Shiva. In this episode, Shiva himself appeared and greatly cursed him for the disrespect shown to his Guru. Ancient Sanatan Hindu Sikh wisdom holds:

"If Shiva is angered, the Guru can protect you from Shiva's anger. If the Guru is angered with you, then even if Shiva be nearby he cannot help you. Such say the 'Shashtras' and 'Simritis' (Hindu law books); so serve at the feet of the True Guru and then the worship of all 'Devtas' (deities) is completed."
(Baba Sham Singh, Bhagat Prem Parkash Granth, (Unpublished manuscript), 60-61)

Detractors of the Shiv Akhara must appreciate that in such a context, the Akhara's historical absolute and unflinching reverence for the 'Adi Gurdev' (primordial master) is not at the expense of their 'Isht deva' (personal deity) Guru Nanak / Guru Gobind Singh. Yet, Shiva, being the 'Isht deva' of Sanatan Shastar Vidiya is revered beyond all measure in the Akhara; he existed long before the historical Sikh Gurus. Equating the love the Akhara has for Guru Nanak is that of a child for a parent; love for Shiva is that of a child for their great-grandparent. The partiality the Akhara possesses for Shiva is not new, nor a fabrication by Gurdev Nidar Singh; it has existed amongst Sikh warriors throughout history. A 19th century European recounts his first hand interaction with the Akali Nihang warriors of his age, which he refers to as 'Govind Sinhis':

"Neither are the Govind Sinhis, the disciples of Guru Govind, to be considered as unbelievers in the Hindu mythology. They received all the Pauranik legends as true, but they appear to be most partial to those of the Saiva (Shiva) sect, as harmonizing best with their fierce and martial character."
(HH Wilson, "Civil and Religious Institutions of the Sikhs", (1848), quoted in The Western Image of the Sikh Religion, A Source Book, ed. Darshan Singh, New Delhi: National Book Organisation (1999), 100)

The greatest 19th century Indian Emperor, Maharaja Ranjit Singh in 1835, through reverence had two domes of the most respected Shiva temple in northern India, the Vishwanath Mandir in Benares, plated with 800kg of gold. He did the same for the 'Hari Mandir' (literally, 'temple of Hari, i.e., Vishnu') in Amritsar. This shrine is also known as the 'Sunheri Mandir' (Golden Temple).

Gurdev Nidar Singh speaks of what his own Gurdev, Baba Mohinder Singh, taught him:

"Shiva, Vishnu, Chandi, etc. are the inspirations behind our Indian culture. Though not 'Nirguna' Brahm, they are the 'Sarguna' Brahm, and the divine deities of our great Indian ancestors. If Guru Nanak and Gobind Singh are our parents, then they are our great, great, great... grandparents. Who in the world can claim to respect their parents by not acknowledging, let alone insulting, their grandparents? Learn to love and respect all the great beings of this world, and, all that inspired their greatness. So, please do not ever ask me to choose between Shiva and Guru Nanak / Gobind when there is nothing other than 'advetta' (non-duality) 'Brahm';. All is simply the form of 'Bhau Bhagti' (love and devotion) that is 'Shiv Sroop' (the form of Shiva)."

A more detailed explanation of this subject will be given in forthcoming books covering Sanatan Shastar Vidiya.