In the time of Guru Arjan Dev jee, there was a powerful and rich Jat by the name of Teeratha. Teeratha was a follower of the Muslim sect of Sakhee Sarvar. He was the local leader of this sect and had hundreds of followers who all respected him. Teeratha would regularly lead the members of this sect on a pilgrimage to the main Sakhee Sarvar shrine now in Pakistan.
Meeting the Guru
Once when passing through Amritsar, Teeratha decided to visit Guru Arjan. He had heard that there was a great Guru who had a large following and this Guru was spiritually enlightened. He was curious to know who this Guru was and what he would say. He decided to stop off and see the Darbar of Guru Arjan. When he saw the Darbar, he saw that people of many different backgrounds, and castes were all sitting together and living in harmony. He also heard the keertan in the darbaar and the keertan left a permanent mark on him. He heard of the great gift of naam and the thirst to have this gift rose within him. He was the leader of hundreds of Sakhee Sarvar followers but he could no longer follow that path. He realised that Sikhee was the path he must follow.
He came to Guru Arjan Dev jee and introduced himself. Guru jee saw how rich and powerful Teeratha was and when Teeratha begged for naam and to be initiated into the Sikh faith, Guru jee replied, “Being a Sikh is no easy thing. The path is finer than a hair and sharper than the khanda. The primary principle of Sikhee is humility.” Teeratha again repeated his request. Guru Arjan Dev jee then said, “Why do you want to be a Sikh? You are a rich and powerful man with hundreds of followers. You can continue on the easy path of Sakhee Sarvar, because the Sikh path is very hard. If you become a Sikh, you will lose your followers and all their respect and you will lose your wealth as well. You may even have to pay for this decision with your life. What use is there in becoming a Sikh for you?” But Teeratha was insistent he begged that nothing mattered. If he lost everything it would not matter, he needed naam. With tears in his eyes he begged for naam. Guru Arjan Dev jee accepted his request and initiated him into Sikhee and gave him Naam.
Teeratha decided to not return home and took leave of his followers. He decided to stay with the Guru for some time. The Sikhs knew that Teeratha was from the Manjh clan and began to call him Bhai Manjh. Bhai Manjh did seva in the darbaar and one day Guru Arjan Dev jee called him and asked him to return to his village and preach Sikhee to his old followers.
Return to the Village and Disaster
Bhai Manjh returned to his village and began the work of preaching Sikhee to the followers of Sakhee Sarvar. In his home, there was a shrine to Sakhee Sarvar which was revered by all the local followers. Bhai Manjh reached home and immediately had it demolished. Many of his old followers who had considered him a Guru heard Bhai Manjh’s message that Guru Arjan was the true Satguru and the source of all happiness. They too decided to become Sikhs and began to recite baaNee. Bhai Manjh and the new devotees of the Guru decided to build a Dharamshaala (Sikh place of gathering) in the village where they could daily meet and do sangat.
While the construction of the Dharamshala was still going on, some Sakhee Sarvar leaders came to the village and saw that so many followers had become Sikhs. They spoke to Bhai Manjh and asked him to renounce Sikhee or face a terrible price. They said that he was powerful and a high official in the Sakhee Sarvar sect and he would lose all this if he did not come to his senses. Bhai Manjh sent them away and was insistent that he would remain a Sikh. The Sakhee Sarvar leaders left the village but heaped countless curses on Bhai Manjh and vowed that he would regret his decision.
Within a few days of this event, one night, all of Bhai Manjh’s cattle died. It was unexplainable how all cattle could die in one night. In the following nights, cattle began to die in neighbouring houses as well. The villagers began to believe that perhaps the curse of Sakhee Sarvar was responsible and by becoming Sikhs and destroying the shrine, they had made a serious mistake. More and more cattle began to die each night and the villagers decided to break off from Bhai Manjh. They declared that they had nothing to do with Bhai Manjh and his new religion. They removed him from his position as village head. Bhai Manjh now began to lose his wealth as well and soon poverty entered his home.
Before, poor and needy people used to come to Bhai Manjh to request for help and money. People would still come now but he himself was living in abject poverty. Bhai Manjh had absolutely no extra wealth to give to anybody. Bhai Manjh was in a desperate situation and he decided to visit the new village head. Bhai Manjh offered his home to be rented out for some money so he could feed his family. The village head agreed to the proposal but added the condition that Bhai Manjh’s wife would become his housemaid. His wife would be paid for her labour as well.
Bhai Manjh returned home absolutely shattered. He was once the most powerful man in the village and today he was being forced to make his wife a maid. When Bhai Manjh’s wife asked him what the village head had said. Bhai Manjh haltingly explained the offer he was given. Bhai Manjh’s wife listned and then said that in such hard times she too was willing to make sacrifices and if they had to lower their dignity by doing a job such as that of maid, then so be it. They had to marry off their young daughter and needed money to raise their family. Bhai Manjh’s wife agreed to go work for the village head.
Bhai Manjh fell asleep that night in deep sadness. The next morning his wife would leave to begin her new job. He thought of Guru Arjan and wondered why the Guru would put his Sikh through such pain. How could the Guru allow him to see such days? Then understanding dawned: this must be the Guru’s test. The Guru had said that he would have to sacrifice his all for Naam. Bhai Manjh was determined not to fail this test. He felt shame that he had ever questioned the will of the Guru.
Serving the Guru
The next morning Bhai Manjh’s wife gathered her clothes and left for the village head’s home. Bhai Manjh decided to also leave the village. He left for Amritsar with his daughter and decided to spend his time doing seva. Bhai Manjh began to take the seva of bringing wood for the langar, cleaning the dishes, serving the visiting sangat and any other seva he could find. The Guru too heard of Bhai Manjh’s sevaa. He called Bhai Manjh to come see him.
Bhai Manjh and his daughter appeared before the Guru and bowed. They stood before Satguru Arjan and waited for him to speak. Guru Arjan asked, “Bhai Manjh, where do you eat?” Bhai Manjh replied, “Satguru, I eat from your langar…”
Guru Arjan jee then said, “well then, what you do is nothing but wage-labour isn’t it?”
The sangat was stunned. They knew Bhai Manjh had sacrificed his entire wealth and prestige to become a Sikh and now did more seva than anyone else in the Darbaar. How could Guru jee have humiliated him like this in front of everyone? After all, the Langar was open to everyone, why would Guru jee say such a thing?
Bhai Manjh was once a powerful and proud aristocrat with hundreds of followers. He now hung his head and then said, “Satguru, you are wise. Please give me the wisdom to understand and accept your Hukam.” Guru jee did not reply. Bhai Manjh then bowed and took his leave with his daughter.
Bhai Manjh now decided to no longer eat in the langar. He decided to collect two bundles of wood from now on and he would give one to the langar and sell the other to earn his living and use it to purchase his food. Bhai Manjh’s daughter asked her father why the Guru was so merciless to him. Bhai Manjh immediately replied, “No no! The Guru is merciful. He is testing our faith. We can not fail.”
The Final Test
Bhai Manjh would rise early and begin to collect wood for seva and also to sell. After giving the first bundle and selling the second, the two would return to the Darbaar and do seva all day. He would put all his extra money into the Golak. Guru jee once came to Bhai Manjh and asked why he still stayed despite being so poor and having lost everything. Guru jee said he should go home. Bhai Manjh replied, “Mahaaraaj, please never speak of having to leave your feet. Sachay Patshah, worldly wealth is a dream and so it comes and goes. Nothing is lost. I have lost my worldly wealth and found your true treasure of Naam. No thief will take this treasure from me and no King will seize it. ” Guru jee gave his blessings to Bhai Manjh and moved on.
One day early in the morning when Bhai Manjh was going to the langar to give wood, such a dust storm arose that he could see nothing. Bhai Manjh stumbled and fell into a well. Day broke and Bhai Manjh still had not returned and everyone understood he must be in trouble. The Sikhs began to search for him and heard him call out from the well. One Sikh ran to Guru Arjan to tell him what had happened and Guru jee immediately dashed bare foot to the well. They threw a rope into the well and asked Bhai Manjh to pull himself out. Bhia Manjh jee called from the depth of the well, “Please, first pull the wood out for the langar! If they become wet, they will be of no use and not burn. If I am wet, nothing will happen.” Bhai jee tied the wood bundle to the rope and had it pulled out. Only then did Bhai Manjh pull himself out.
When Bhai Manjh climbed out of the well, Guru Arjan was standing before him. Bhai Manjh fell at Guru jee’s feet. Guru Arjan asked, “Bhai Manjh! What have you gained by following me? You have lost your wealth, your status, and even your wife. You have lost everything!”
Bhai Manjh held Guru jee’s feet even tighter and with tears in his eyes replied, “No Satguru! I have not lost anything. I have only gained. Please don’t push me away, this is my only request of you…”
Guru Arjan Dev jee then said, “Bhai Manjh, your sevaa has borne fruit. Ask for anything you want.”
Bhai Manjh replied, “Guru jee, bless me that I may never want anything. May I always be content”
Guru jee replied, “It will happen as you request. But still, request something Bhai Manjh…”
Bhai Manjh then said, “If you are happy with me, then have this mercy. It is Kaljug. Please do not scold and test so harshly. May your Sikhs not have to bear such hardships.”
Guru Maharaj again said, “This too will happen, but still request something Bhai Manjh.” Bhai Manjh finally replied, “May my consciousness remain at your feet and may I never forget the meditation of your Naam. If you wish to bless me, then bless me with gift of limitless faith.”
Guru Arjan heard these words and then said, “Manjh is the beloved of the Guru and the Guru is beloved of Manjh. Manjh is the ferry of the Guru who will ferry across the world ocean.”
Guru Arjan sent Bhai Manjh home and told him all had been returned. Bhai Manjh did not understand how this would be possible, but had complete faith in the Guru.
Bhai Manjh’s wife had been working in the house of the village head and she made such an impression on him that he decided to make her his sister. He requested that she take the responsibility of raising his only son. He also gave back Bhai Manjh’s home where she could raise the boy. Bhai Manjh returned home and was informed of all that had happened and was stunned.
Bhai Manjh never left the support of the Guru. Even at the darkest time he had faith it was all a test and if he stayed firm in his faith, nothing would happen to him. Bhai Manjh was appointed the entire Doaba area to preach Sikhee and he opened a Dharamshaalaa in his home. The langar that Bhai jee opened was famous all around. Many people became Sikhs because of his parchaar. When Guru Arjan Dev jee came to visit the Doaba area in 1596, he made a point of specially visiting Bhai Manjh and praised him for his parchaar.
Bhai Manjh jee is the embodiment of faith and perseverance. Nothing in life could turn him away from the Guru and in the end, the Guru kept and protected his Sikh.