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Born in 1668 in Laou of Jhang district, Bhai Adhan ji spent his early life in his village with his first spiritual mentor, Sant Baba Gurdas Dakkhani ji an Udasi Baba and famous Sikh of Guru Tegh Bahadur. According to Sri Sant Rattan Mala not only did Baba Gurdas ji teach Bhai Adhan Shah complete vidiya but under his guidance, Bhai ji experienced the virtues of ‘Sat, Santokh, Dyaa, Dharam, Vichaar and Vivek’.On hearing about this personality that was Bhai Adhan Shah, Baba Sewa Ram, the second Sewapanthi Sri Mahant, visited his village. When the two met it was an emotional union, and in 1713 Bhai Adhan ji became a chela of Baba Sewa Ram.
Many saakhis (teaching stories) exist about Bhai Adhan Sahib’s sayings and actions in Parchi Adhan Shah ji ki and Sakhian Adhan Shah ji both written by Bhai Sehaj Ram. Among these numerous narratives is one important insight into the Sewapanthi mindset, and in particular the maryada of Sewapanthi deras:
'One day during Bhai Adhan Sahib’s divan an individual posed the question ‘What is the criteria for a true member of a satsang (true congregation)?’, to which Baba ji replied;
‘Take a look at the dharamsala you are in, we have the exposition of Paaras Bhag (the translation of Keemat-i-Sa’adat by Al-Ghazzali) and the Masunuvi (the legendary work of Mevlana Rumi) and we have kept a leather bucket for the well. The Brahmin pandits will claim that the Masnavi is in the language of the mallech (barbarians), and the Muslim maulanas will claim that the Paaras Bhag is in the language of the kaafir (infidels), and the Vaishnavs will not go near the water from a leather bucket! Only that person will enjoy this congregation who is beyond prejudice, partiality and fanaticism, imbued in bhakti of naam, egoless; such a person is a member of the saadh sangat.’ (Paraphrased from Bhagat Singh Hira’s Great Sikh Saints)
It is stated by Dr. Gurmukh Singh the established maryada was as follows; (taken from Musnuvi Bhaka p.14)
‘The day would begin at amrit vela, with katha of Sri Guru Granth Sahib. Then after the afternoon katha would be given of Paaras Bhag and the Musnuvi’
Furthermore, katha was also given on vedantic texts such as Yog Vashista, (Bhai Adhan Shah is credited with a commentary on Yog Vashista), Adhyatam Ramayan, and the Upanishads . The deras were also vidyalas for the study of the above mentioned granths, and as a consequence Farsi, Arabic and Sanskrit. It is said that there were over 250 residential students at Baba ji’s dera at any one time.
A number of granths are accredited to Baba Adhan Shah ji (see Sahit di Seva for detailed information). In time a translation of his Bibeksar will hopefully appear on this website. His name is also linked with both the making birs of, and a type of ink used in manuscripts of Sri Guru Granth Sahib.‘There was indeed a tradition among the seva-panthis of writing copies of the Adi Granth. Bhai Addhan Sahib (addhan-shahi ink is named after him), the second successor of Bhai Ghanahyya...were two seva-panthi scribes who devoted their lives to making copies of Adi Granth.’ (Pashaura Singh, Guru Granth Sahib, p-76-77, 2000)
It is recorded in Sri Sant Rattan Mala that Baba Rang ji, a chela of Bhai Adhan Shah, was a renowned scribe who would write at least one page a day for much of his later life.
When talking of Bhai Adhan Shah, let us not forget that he was first and foremost a model of practical selflessness. An example of Baba Adhan Shah’s philanthropic nature is described here;
Once Bhai Adhan Shah was offered a number of cows to create a ghaoshala to produce milk for the sadhus. One night however some thieves stole these very cows, but decided to leave their calves. The calves began pining for their parents making a pitiable yowling sound! Bhai Adhan Shah could not stand to hear these creatures in distress, so he gathered his sadhus, untethered the calves and told them to follow the footsteps of the stolen cows. They must deliver the calves to their mothers. Lo and behold, the sadhus succeeded in tracking down the thieves and the cows. They then delivered the calves stating:
'Bhai Adhan Shah has sent these calves to you for they are pining for their mothers. It is no doubt the case that the mothers are also miserable, so now they will be peaceful.’
The thieves stunned by this experience they had never encountered before went home. The next day a fire destroyed their cotton stores. Their wives rebuked them for their selfish and unrepentant behaviour. The said thieves then returned to Baba Adhan Shah ji with the cows and calves seeking blessings. Baba ji simply smiled and stated ‘Friends, all is for the best!’