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āsā   mahalā 1.

khurāsān khasmānā kīā    hindustānu ḍarāiā.
āpai dosu na deī kartā    jamu kari mugalu caṛāiā.
etī mār paī karlāṇe    taiṁ kī daradu na āiā.1.
kartā   tūṁ sabhnā kā soī.
je saktā sakte kaü māre    tā mani rosu na hoī.1. rahāu.
saktā sīhu māre pai vagai    khasmai sā pursāī.
ratan vigāṛi vigoe kutīṁ    muiā sār na kāī.
āpe joṛi vichoṛe āpe    vekhu terī vaḍiāī.2.
je ko nāu dharāe vaḍā    sād kare mani bhāṇe.
khasmai nadarī kīṛā āvai    jete cugai dāṇe.
mari mari jīvai tā kichu pāe    nānak   nāmu vakhāṇe.3.5.39.
-Guru Granth Sahib 360

āsā   mahalā 1.

khurāsān khasmānā kīā    hindustānu ḍarāiā.

āpai dosu na deī kartā    jamu kari mugalu caṛāiā.

etī mār paī karlāṇe    taiṁ kī daradu na āiā.1.

kartā   tūṁ sabhnā kā soī.

je saktā sakte kaü māre    tā mani rosu na hoī.1. rahāu.

saktā sīhu māre pai vagai    khasmai sā pursāī.

ratan vigāṛi vigoe kutīṁ    muiā sār na kāī.

āpe joṛi vichoṛe āpe    vekhu terī vaḍiāī.2.

je ko nāu dharāe vaḍā    sād kare mani bhāṇe.

khasmai nadarī kīṛā āvai    jete cugai dāṇe.

mari mari jīvai tā kichu pāe    nānak   nāmu vakhāṇe.3.5.39.

-Guru Granth Sahib 360

Asa is a rag (musical mode) that traditionally evokes a feeling of hopefulness. It infuses this composition, which reflects on a moment of great violence and upheaval, with a sense of the unshakeable poise that Guru Nanak exhibits — and invites us to experience it.

The four compositions by Guru Nanak, conventionally referred to as Babarvani (Utterances on Babar), describe Babar’s (popular spelling is Babur) invasion of South Asia and overthrow of Lodhi’s regime, which founded the Mughal Empire. In these compositions, Guru Nanak documents the human suffering caused by the invasion and places it into the context of IkOankar (One Universal Integrative Force, 1Force).

In the first Babarvani composition, Guru Nanak says, O Creator! You are the caretaker of all! If the powerful strikes the powerful, then no anger is felt in the mind. Guru Nanak begins by describing Babar’s destructive invasion of South Asia as the doing of the Creator who is the cause of everything. This essential truth can be difficult for many of us to understand or accept. Guru Nanak acknowledges this difficulty by giving voice to the spiritual confusion felt by regular people caught in the middle of Babar’s atrocities: Is IkOankar indifferent to human suffering? As the composition soon makes obvious, this question does not reflect any doubts or despair from Guru Nanak. Rather, Guru Nanak is addressing the doubts and despair of regular people.

O Creator! You are the caretaker of all! If the powerful strikes the powerful, then no anger is felt in the mind. It’s understandable that in moments of grief, people call out directly to the Creator. After all, these ruthless military and political leaders who order terrible acts of horrific violence are themselves utterly subservient to the Creator. But Guru Nanak offers us a profound and challenging insight: The destruction, suffering, and dramatic shifts of political power are an expression of the greatness of the Creator, who unites, separates, creates, and destroys. In the middle of turmoil, Guru Nanak continues to feel the awe of IkOankar. Can we imagine ourselves reacting in such a way? What is that level of awareness and existence?

O Creator! You are the caretaker of all! If the powerful strikes the powerful, then no anger is felt in the mind. Even the most powerful, famous, and wealthy among us — even those who seem to hold others’ lives in their hands — are nothing compared to the Creator. In their attempts to amass influence and wealth, they are as insignificant as insects pecking at grains. The path to true wealth is to surrender to the Creator. In fact, Guru Nanak reveals to us that we must live having died. It’s a paradox — a statement that appears to contradict itself — forcing us to linger and reflect on the idea. We are invited to imagine living as if we were dead — without greed or any of the self-centered urges that often dictate our actions. It may sound to us like a painful sacrifice, but, it’s the path of attainment. Guru Nanak even reveals how to do it: by reciting Nam, the intuitive wisdom of the 1Force to feel the 1Ness. To live having died means to trade the emptiness of self-centeredness for the fullness of Nam, which is both our connection to the Creator and the Creator’s all-pervasive reality.

During political turmoil and violence, can we still see the 1Ness of IkOankar, the singular perfection in everything? Can we avoid despair and respond productively? Can we dwell in Nam to maintain our poise amid suffering?

In Rag Asa, Sabad revealed by Guru Nanak Sahib.

O Creator! You are the one who takes care of everyone.
If a powerful being attacks another powerful being, implying that both sides are equally powerful, then no one has anything to complain or be angry about.1. Pause.

Acting like an owner, IkOankar has saved Khurasan from Mughal emperor Babur and has terrorized Hindustan instead.
The Creator does not let the blame fall on Self. IkOankar sent Babur to invade Hindustan as the messenger of death, for the Pathan rulers had forgotten their responsibilities and were engrossed in worldly pleasures.
During this invasion, along with the guilty Pathans, even the commoners suffered brutality; they wailed in pain, “O Creator! Watching our suffering, did You not feel our pain?”1.

If a lion-like powerful being pounces upon a cowherd like weak people, the inquiry of the attack is made to the owner of the cowherd. Therefore, who can we address our grievances to, other than You?
Witness, O Creator! Dog-like Mughals have killed jewel-like beautiful beings and have crushed them to the ground. No one cared for the dead.
Under Your command, You had united the beings and have now separated them, just as Your glory is known to be.2.

Even if someone acquires a respected name for themself and enjoys mind-desired pleasures, they still appear insignificant like an insect in the eyes of IkOankar.
IkOankar is aware of whatever they do.
At the end of the Sabad, by using the signature ‘Nanak,’ Guru Nanak states: A being can attain an exalted state, only if they completely free themselves from self-centeredness, and reflect on Nam to rejuvenate themselves.3.5.39.

(Rag) Asa, First Embodiment.

(The Creator) has acted (compassionately) like a Master, with Khurasan, (but) terrorized Hindustan (instead).
The Creator does not give blame to Own-Self; the Mughal (Babur) was made to invade, having made (him) the Yama.
So much beating took place (that people) wailed, “Did the suffering not reach You?”1.

O Creator! You are the caretaker of all.
If the powerful strikes (another) powerful, then no anger is felt in the mind.1. rahau.

(If) a powerful lion kills a herd (of cows) having pounced on them, that (attack’s) inquiry (is made) to the owner.
Having ruined jewels (beings), the dogs have destroyed (them); no care (was shown) to the dead.
(You) Yourself, having united (them), have Yourself separated (them too); see (O Creator! just like) Your greatness (is known).2.

If someone acquires a big name (for oneself, and) enjoys the mind-desired tastes.
In the eyes of the Master, (that being still) appears like/as an insect; as many grains (it) pecks, (the Master knows).
Nanak (signature): (If one) lives, having died completely (from self-centeredness), by reciting the Nam (of the Master, only), then can (one) attain something.3.5.39.

In this Sabad, IkOankar is addressed with a subtle rhetorical question and stated that Khurasan was saved from the attack of Babur while Hindustan was terrorized. IkOankar does not give blame to Own-Self; having turned Mughals into the messengers of death, they have been made to invade. The beating attack was so severe that people wailed. O Creator! Did their suffering not reach You?

Here the word ‘Creator’ is used for IkOankar, which is a quality of IkOankar. It reveals IkOankar to be the Creator of all and the ‘cause’ of all ‘actions.’ Consequently, a eulogy has appeared here. This Sabad attests to the Guru’s firm belief in the will of IkOankar. None can be superior to the rule and will of IkOankar. Everything is happening according to the will of IkOankar. So, the use of the word ‘Creator’ is very apt here.

The sixth line, ‘saktā sīhu māre pai vagai khasmai sā pursāī’ (if a powerful lion were to pounce upon and kill a herd of cows, then that inquiry of the attack is made to the owner of the herd alone) is a symbolic statement. It says: ‘O IkOankar! You alone are the Master of all beings. If the powerful Mughals kill the weak Hindustanis, who should we address our grievances to, other than You?’ The implied meaning of this line is different from its literal meaning. So, there is an allegory here.

In the seventh line, ‘ratan vigāṛi vigoe kutī’ (dogs have ruined the jewels and trampled them in dust) is also a symbolic statement. This line means that the dog-like Mughals have killed and trampled jewel-like beautiful humans in the dust. Here also, the literal and the implied meanings are different. So, an allegory is present here too.

In the eighth line, it has been stated: O Creator! You Yourself, having united, then separate the beings. This is your greatness.

In the ninth and tenth lines, there is a clear statement that if someone acquires a big name for oneself and enjoys endearing pleasures in the mind, even then they appear to be as insignificant as an insect in the eyes of IkOankar. IkOankar is aware of all the grains they peck. ‘khasmai nadarī kīṛā āvai jete cugai dāṇe’ is also a symbolic statement. Here, the being is portrayed as an insect, and the being’s achievements are representative of the grains pecked by them. This illustration clarifies that in the eyes of the all-powerful IkOankar, the being and their achievements are insignificant.

In the eleventh line, ‘mari mari jīvai tā kichu pāe,’ (if one lives having died completely, only then can they attain something) is also a symbolic statement, which means that if one lives, having been completely freed from self-centeredness, only then they can attain IkOankar. In the tenth and eleventh lines also, the literal meanings are different from the implied meanings. So here, too, allegory is present.

The entire Sabad invokes aesthetics of compassion (karunya ras). The painful words uttered by Guru Nanak Sahib about human lives lost during Babur’s invasion of Hindustan evoke a deep feeling of compassion in the heart.

This Sabad contains eleven lines. Except for the fourth (16) and eighth (16+13) lines, the meter of all other lines is (16+12). Each line ends with two long meters. This meter is similar to the lines of the verse form known as ‘sar chand’ in Indic poetics, whose meter is (16+12) and whose lines end with two long meters. Usually, ‘sar chand’ has four lines, but this Sabad has eleven lines.