Guru Nanak Sahib describes the ego, lust, anger riddled human body, disconnected from the sweet essence of Nam (Identification with IkOankar). All sorrows are erased for the devotees of IkOankar (the Divine), who remain absorbed in the essence of Identification (Nam).
rāgu gaüṛī pūrabī mahalā 4.
kāmi karodhi nagaru bahu bhariā mili sādhū khanḍal khanḍā he.
pūrabi likhat likhe guru pāiā mani hari liv manḍal manḍā he.1.
kari sādhū anjulī punu vaḍā he.
kari ḍanḍaüt punu vaḍā he.1. rahāu.
sākat hari ras sādu na jāṇiā tin antari haümai kanḍā he.
jiu jiu calahi cubhai dukhu pāvahi jamkālu sahahi siri ḍaṇḍā he.2.
hari jan hari hari nāmi samāṇe dukhu janam maraṇ bhav khanḍā he.
abināsī purakhu pāiā parmesaru bahu sobh khanḍ brahamanḍā he.3.
ham garīb maskīn prabh tere hari rākhu rākhu vaḍ vaḍā he.
jan nānak nāmu adhāru ṭek hai hari nāme hī sukhu manḍā he.4.4.
-Guru Granth Sahib 13
Guru Ramdas, the fourth Nanak, focuses in the fourth stanza on the question of what the greatest virtue is. In most schools of thought, the greatest virtue is tied to a ritual. Guru Ramdas plays with that idea and the dichotomy between virtue and sin. So what really is the greatest virtue? Guru Ramdas says that the greatest virtue is to do anjuli of a sadhu. Anjuli is a particular way to give respect, folding the hands, or when bathing in a holy body of water, scooping water from in front of you and taking it slowly to your head. This is considered a gesture of utmost respect in the South Asian tradition. Guru Ramdas says, if you want to make that gesture, do it to the Sadhu, the one who knows the sadhana (spiritual discipline). Show utmost respect to the person who has figured out their path within a particular discipline.
Who is a Sadhu? The common understanding of who a Sadhu is rooted very deeply in the outward appearance of one having a sage or saint look. In Hindu epics, the Sadhu destroys people and curses them. These are not the Sadhus Guru Ramdas is referring to. The Sadhu that Guru Ramdas is referring to is the one who practices a particular form of spiritual discipline. There is no definition of which discipline that is (remember, earlier stanzas emphasized that every discipline has the same Origin). Guru Ramdas is simply saying that the one who has figured out what works for them, who has picked a path and a discipline and committed to it, that is the Sadhu we ought to be giving respect to. That Sadhu is one who exudes goodness. That Sadhu leads a life that is goal-oriented and spirituality-oriented. That Sadhu is kind and honorable. That Sadhu might look like a mendicant or a sage, as we might expect them to, or they might not. In a larger sense, this is about the goodness which is demonstrable and exhibited by an individual, not their outer appearance. This is the individual to whom we ought to submit to with those gestures of respect mentioned at the beginning of the stanza.
Those universal gestures of respect are demanded by so many social norms and positional relationships: the in-laws demand it, parents demand it, elders demand it. Culture obligates us to respect people simply because of positional relationships and not because of behaviors. The Sadhu that Guru Ramdas tells us to seek out never demands this gesture. We show respect to the Sadhu because we want to. We make the gesture of anjuli to this Sadhu. We also do the gesture of dandaut, prostrating in front of them, sometimes laying the entire body down in front of them, and touching our foreheads to the ground in submission. This need not be a literal physical gesture. Guru Ramdas is simply using these gestures to emphasize that the Sadhu deserves the highest possible respect and submission, where we are willing to give anything to them. If we have figured out a person who exudes this goodness to respect and submit to, it is through that gesture of love that we will be able to experience the Vastness within us. That Sadhu will show us the Wisdom and show us how to take our tiny city of a body and rise above the vices of lust and anger within. That Sadhu will help us chisel them down bit by bit, habitually, so that we can manage them, so that we are not swallowed up by them. This is why the Sadhu is great. We discover this Sadhu through the Writ of IkOankar (One Universal Integrative Force, 1Force). This Sadhu is the Wisdom (Guru), who encompasses all the elements of what the Sadhu is according to Guru Ramdas, and all the elements of a saint. It is the Wisdom that helps us break our doubts within the body, bit by bit. It is the Wisdom that helps us establish a loving connection with IkOankar, the 1-Light, a beautification that is constantly happening. The Sadhu is the Guru, the Wisdom!
Guru Ramdas contrasts the Sadhu with the sakats, those who worship power and the temporary material world. The ones who worship power are broken from connection with IkOankar. They do not know how to taste the essence of the 1-Light. Within them is the thorn of ego, and with each thing they do, those thorns stab them again and again. They are constantly pierced. They are constantly in pain.
So we have a choice — will we follow the Sadhu or the sakats? If we follow the Sadhu and bring Identification (Nam) within, the fear of birth and death comes out of us. That fear is the same fear that the sakats hold onto so stubbornly. They are afraid they will lose their power, and so they cannot rid themselves of fear. Because those who follow the Sadhu have discovered the imperishable and supreme One, the only One recognized in all the different parts of the cosmos and the universe, those followers of that Sadhu do not fear anything.
Guru Ramdas addresses the One in the collective first-person, calling himself one without wealth, a foreigner, a powerless one. We are nothing, but we are the One’s. The One is the greatest and is the only One who can protect us. All we can do is make Identification with IkOankar our support and refuge. This is what brings us comfort.