The Sikh Religion/Volume 6/Sadhna

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Sadhna is believed to have been born in Sehwan in Sind and to have been a butcher by trade. He was a contemporary of Namdev. He embraced a religious life by listening to the instructions of holy men. Sadhna never killed animals himself, but pur chased those killed by others and then retailed their flesh. He wiped out the sins of previous births and became purified like fine gold which resists the touch stone. His idol was the salagram or ammonite stone worshipped by Hindus. With this he weighed out meat to his customers. However much or little they required, they received the weight of the salagram.

A Sadhu, or holy man, on seeing the use to which the salagram was applied, thought it ought no longer to remain with a butcher, and resolved to take possession of it. Sadhna gave it up without hesitation. After some time, however, the Sadhu took back the salagram to Sadhna, and told him that, though he had bathed it in the five ambrosias,[1] worshipped it with sandal, sweet basil, and so forth, his worship was unacceptable. 'The salagram is pleased with thee,' said the Sadhu, 'and I have sinned by taking it.' By this time, however, Sadhna's thoughts took a different turn. He became wrapped up in the love of God, abandoned everything he possessed, and bent his steps towards the forest to enjoy the uninterrupted worship of God.

On the way he saw some of his relations at a distance. He concealed himself and avoided them by taking another route lest any of them should put pressure on him to return. On arriving in the evening at a village, he went into the house of a married man and asked for something to eat. The lady of the house on seeing Sadhna young and handsome fell in love with him. She prepared exquisite food for his repast and induced him to stay. At night she proposed to elope with him. Sadhna spurned her, and said he would not do such a thing even though she were to cut his throat for refusing. Understanding by this that, if her husband's throat were cut, Sadhna would be ready to accede to her wishes, she forthwith went and killed her husband. On returning to Sadhna she told him what she had done, and repeated her immoral proposal. Sadhna replied, 'O unworthy woman, thou hast lost thy reason; how can I agree to what thou proposest?' In her despair she raised loud cries and invented a false accusation against him: 'I believed this person to be a holy man, and accordingly entertained him. He hath now killed my husband, and made improper overtures to me. Sadhna was arrested and taken before a magistrate. When asked what he had to say, he, with the meekness and unwillingness to throw blame on others, which have characterized so many Hindu saints, pleaded guilty to the charge. He thought to himself, 'Since God hath placed me in this position, no one will accept my denial.' He then composed the following hymn:

Even though Thou, O God, consign me to hell, I shall not dispute it or turn away from it.
Even though Thou bestow heaven on me, I shall not rejoice or praise it.
If Thou reject me, I cannot constrain Thee; if Thou accept me, I shall not be puffed up with excessive joy.
He by whom Thou standest shoulder to shoulder is dyed with Thee.
Let him whom Thou orderest cheerfully burn his body.
My mind desireth not death, yet Thou mayest, if it please Thee, put me in the fire.
What the Beloved desireth ought to be the heart's desire also.

The judge sentenced Sadhna to have his hands cut off. The punishment was duly carried out, and Sadhna was then discharged. He set out without a frown on his forehead notwithstanding his barbarous mutilation.

There is a tradition, which, however, is not found in the Bhagat Mal, that the woman who had brought the false accusation against Sadhna of having killed her husband with the object of abducting her, burned herself on her husband's funeral pyre. On seeing this Sadhna said, 'No one knoweth the way of a woman; she killeth her husband and becometh a Sati.' However this expression originated, it has passed into a proverb.

Sadhna s devotions proved so successful that, it is said, new hands then sprouted from his body, and he was released from all pain of future birth. 'So efficacious,' says the author of the Bhagat Mal, 'is the love of God.' In the Mahabharat it is stated that, even were a man to study the four Veds, it would not avail him unless he loved God. And God said, 'Even though a man be the lowest social outcast, yet if he be a saint of Mine, he is dear to Me and worthy of worship.'

There is a legend to the effect that Sadhna became the object of further persecution. A king, who was probably incensed against him on account of his religious opinions, ordered him to procure meat for him at an unusual hour of night. Sadhna was unable to do so, and the king thereupon ordered that he should be put to death by being built alive into a wall. While the wall was closing round him, Sadhna is said to have composed the following hymn in the Bilawal measure:—

On account of a king's daughter a man assumed the disguise of Vishnu,
For love of her and for his own object; but his honour was saved.
What merit hast Thou, O Guru of the world, if my sins be not erased?
What availeth it to enter the asylum of the lion, if he allow the jackal[2] to clutch me?
For want of a drop of rain the chatrik suffereth agony;
When its life is gone, even were an ocean at hand, it would be of no avail.
Now that my life is weary and abideth no longer, how shall I be patient?
When a man is drowned, even if a boat be obtained, say whom shall you put into it?
I am nothing, I am nothing, and I have nothing,
At this conjuncture Thy slave, Sadhna, prayeth Thee to protect his honour. [3]

Sadhna's tomb is at Sarhind in the Panjab, but the sadhu in charge of it can give no information regarding him.

  1. The Panch amrit, or five nectars of the Hindus, are curds, clarified butter, honey, Ganges water, and milk.
  2. The lion here is God, the jackal is the king who sentenced Sadhna to death.
  3. The beginning of this hymn alludes to a carpenter's son who, on hearing that a king's daughter desired to marry Vishnu, decked himself out with Vishnu's four arms, club, lotus, discus, and shell, rode on Vishnu's garur, and thus gained the lady's affection. A hostile king was subsequently making war on her father, whereupon she declared she kept Vishnu with her and He would save her people. The carpenter's son felt alarmed on the approach of the hostile army to the capital, and prayed to Vishnu to save him. Vishnu heard his prayers, caused the defeat of the hostile king, and thus saved the country and its people, including the lover of the king's daughter.
    Several gyānis analyse the hymn as follows: In the first two lines Sadhna addresses God, 'Thou hast saved him, why not me?' God is supposed to reply, 'This form of death was recorded in thy destiny.' Sadhna then repeated the third and fourth lines. God then said that He would grant him salvation after death. Sadhna replied with the fifth and sixth lines. God then tells him to be of good cheer, after which Sadhna replied with the seventh and eighth lines. The ninth line is frequently paraphrased—I can do nothing for myself, I have no relation and no one to assist me.
    Sadhna founded a sect which does not appear to be numerous now, and which is confined to persons of the trade of butcher. The particular tenets of the Sadhnāpanthis are nowhere stated, but it is probable they simply consist in worshipping Sadhna as an incarnation of Vishnu.