Profressor Gurmukh Singh
Published in Soora – April 1995
Published in Soora – April 1995
Master Sunder Singh jee could be seen at the AKJ’s Guru Nanak Dev Gurpurab, Jalandhar Smaagam sitting in attendance of Guru Granth Sahib jee, either doing chaur or in deep meditation.
Master jee was born in 1897 to Baba Nihal Singh jee in Shaykoopura (Pakistan). After obtaining a degree in teaching, he took the position of head master at JaRaanvala Primary School in Lyallpur. Even after he retired in 1952, he continued to be called Master jee by the Sangat.
Master jee had received amrit in childhood and so when he went to his job in JaRaanvala, the Village council saw him and his lifestyle and complained to the District Board Officer, “Why have you sent a Sikh (Singh Sabha member) to our village?” In those days the mahants, Nimralas and Udasis had all made a fuss that the Singh Sabha were bent upon destroying the Sikh faith. They complained that the Singh Sabha would initiate so-called low castes with Amrit and include them in the Panth. In those days, amritdhaarees were generally called “Sikhs” In some places it is still this way.
Soon however the village people changed their mind after seeing Master jee’s purity of conduct. Master jee would encourage his staff and the students to work hard and as a result his school began to achieve excellent academic results. The students that came in contact with Master jee all became good Gursikhs.
Master jee’s own children relate how once they grew up a little, Master jee would wake up at 1AM. He would wrap himself in shawl or a blanket and then turn his attention to the Guru’s feet. For the next four or five hours he would be lost in meditation. No one knew why he spent so long in this state. Once, a very close sister in the Sangat asked Master jee “in such a long meditation, what do you read? Our nitnem paat is finished in an hour an hour and a half….”
Master jee replied, “When I read BaaNee, my stubborn mind leaves the presence of Guru Sahib and goes about in different thoughts. When it returns, I commence the paat from where it had stopped. Because of this, it takes me such a long time.”
Master jee would never share his inner experiences. From this, we learn that Master jee was firm in his believe that the paat of Nitnem should be done with the consciousness attached to the feet of the Guru, and in his presence. If Nitnem is not done with consciousness, it is only a physical act.
Master jee would listen to entire ran sabaees while sitting in the attendance of Guru Sahib. His face would glow red. Once, while speaking to a very close friend, Master jee hesitatingly said that it is difficult to stay focused on outside keertan for long periods, keertan can also be heard inside. These are inner spiritual experiences that Gursikhs always refrain from speaking about.
Old Singhs in the Jatha say that Bhai Sahib Randheer Singh used to listen to divine keertan and then coloured in those spiritual waves, used to do keertan himself. The raags all used to stand in his attendance with folded hands.
The point is, that in a Gursikh’s life, by the grace of the Guru, that time does come when they may be engrossed in naam or keertan for many hours at a time. It is the Guru’s grace that Master jee stayed in this spiritual state till his final breaths.
Besides taking care of his own family, Master jee also took responsibility for caring for his widowed sister’s family shortly after taking his job as head master. He accepted the will of the Lord as sweet. For his entire life he spoke very sweetly and with humility. Never did he speak bitterly. Neither anger nor ego could affect his life. He spoke very little.
After Partition, Master jee moved to Jalandhar. He had been going to AKJ smaagams even before Partition and had become close with Bhai Sahib Randheer Singh jee. When he came to Jalandhar, he along with his two daughters began a keertan program every Sunday at various homes. Slowly people joined the congregation. He then requested Bhai Sahib to have the yearly smaagam for Guru Nanak Dev jee’s Gurpurab at Jalandhar. It had been Master jee’s desire that if not daily, then weekly AKJ smaagams should take place in Jalandhar. Soon keertanee Singhs and Singhnees were sent to help him.
Master jee, his two daughters and the neighbor’s daughter used to leave at amrit vela with the instruments and arrived first at the smaagam venue to begin the keertan on-time. The tabla player also lived close by to them and used to drive a rickshaw. Using two rickshaws, they used to leave their home at 4AM. The Sangat would also begin to arrive early at Amrit Vela. In this way, Master jee made Jalandhar a center for akhand keertan. Kartarpur, Dyaalpur, Kapoorthala, Kakee Pind all became attached to this center and all the keertanees that do seva there learned keertan in Jalandhar. Master jee was the Jathedar of the Jalandhar area until his final days.
Master jee was respected for his farsightedness and Gursikh lefstyle. Even outside of Sikh society, he was respected. Master jee helped many poor Gursikh children get jobs and Punjab & Sindh Bank. Never once did he express and ego over being Jathedar for over 30 years. At the yearly smaagams, when all the other sevaadaars would leave their seva after the conclusion of the smaagam, Master jee would continue to look after the instruments and other things till the very end.
In mid-October 1977, Col. Daljeet Singh and Bibi Harsharan Kaur jee’s daughter was to be married and three continuous akhand paath sahibs had been scheduled at their home in Mithaapur. Master jee at the age of 80, without any eyeglasses, completed 2 hour rauls. Two paaths had concluded and the third was to conclude on the day of the marriage at 6AM. I arrived the night before the marriage. My bedding and Master jee’s were together in the open courtyard. Around 1AM Master jee rose for his 2AM raul and went to gather his clothes to bathe. Suddenly Master jee had a heart attack. He was in a lot of pain and was repeating “Vahiguru, Vahiguru”. It was apparent he was in much discomfort. I also awoke. I put my shawl over him. He said to me, “go get a bottle of medicine from my suitcase inside and put the medicine in my mouth”. I did as he asked but the pain continued to increase.
I woke up Col. Sahib and Bhain jee and told them what had happened. Col Sahib went to Model Town to fetch a Doctor in his car. All the Singhs, (10-12 of them) went to Master jee’s bed and began to repeat Guru Guru. Bhain Harsharan Kaur took Master jee’s head and put it in her lap and said “Father, you must perform the marriage of our daughter! Is this any time to leave us?” Master jee replied, “Oh silly one, what better time is there than this? It is Amrit vela, Singhs are all around me meditating on naam, Guru Sahib’s call has come and Singhs have come to take me. Please forgive all my mistakes and faults.”
Bhain jee was lost in sadness and didn’t know what she was saying. The Doctor arrived and gave an injection. The Doctor said, “This is a very serious attack, if his condition improves in the next five minutes, he may be saved, otherwise I have no hope.”
As we watched, Master jee joined his hands together and in full awareness gave everyone a Fateh and took his place at the feet of the Guru.
I realized here that a devotee’s death is a new life which is passed in the feet of the Guru.
Master jee’s remains were taken to his home in Sraaj Ganj at 4 AM with respect. Once the day rose, the daughter’s marriage took place. After the marriage, the entire Sangat took part in the cremation.