Bhai Munj (BweI mMj), who’s original name was Teertha (qIrQw) was born in the village of Kang Maee (kMg mweI). He was the village chief and was so rich that his name was known in all four directions. He would take a huge group and go on a pilgrimage to Nigahae Sarvar Peer (ingwhy srvr pIr), a sacred site. He even had a special temple of the Goddess built in his village. Then one day, according to the Mahima Parkash:
Ar idn eyk sunI gurbwxI[vYrwg jog suMdr SuB rwnI[ lgw mrm mn ruc aupjwnI[drSn dyKn ko gur igAwnI[ mihmw pRkwS) Translation: One day he heard the Guru’s Bani and his mind was filled with sadness. Inside of himself he had a desire to meet the Guru.
In the year 1585, Bhai Munj and his group were coming back from their pilgrimage when they decided to visit the Harmandir Saheb in Amritsar. There, they were surprised to see how all the sangat was running around doing seva (service) of the sangat (congregation) and others were sitting in deep meditation. They felt that they were sitting in heaven.
Bhai Munj and his associates came up to Guru Arjan Saheb Ji and asked the Guru to make them his Sikhs. Guru Ji told them that Sikhi is not an easy path. It is a hard path to follow. Guru Ji then told Bhai Munj that Sikhs believe in only one God and do not worship any Goddesses.
Bhai Munj returned to his village and the first thing he did was he destroyed the Goddesses temple that he had built. The village people got upset at him and got him fired from his position of village chief.
He then left his village and everything he had and went to Amritsar to serve Guru Arjan Saheb Ji. He would get up and listen to kirtan every morning, then he would go and get grass to feed the Guru’s horses. After that he would take off to the jungle to cut woods for the langar (free kitchen). He kept this up for some time, but then one day Guru Ji asked, “Where do you eat while you are staying here?”
Bhai Munj put his hands together and politely answered, “My lord, I eat food from the langar (free kitchen).”
Guru Ji then responded, “That means you are just doing a job.”
What Guru Ji meant was that Bhai Munj was doing a lot of seva, but when he is eating the langar then it becomes a job because he is getting something in return for his work. Seva would be that thing which you do not get anything in return for it.
Bhai Munj understood what the Guru was saying. He did not get angry, instead, he stopped eating food from the langar. He kept on doing all of the seva as before, but to feed himself he started to work a job at night time. Then he would keep half of the money and donate the rest to the poor and to the Guru:
do ih`sy mYN kry guzwrw[eyk pwTvih gur iFg swrw[ eyk KlwvyN inq grIbYN[Xw ibiD krYN rhYN KuS jIvYN[ (pMQ pRkwS) Translation: He would use half of what he earned. He gave one-quarter to the Guru. Another quarter to help the poor.
People saw what Bhai Munj was going through and started to feel sorry for him. However, those who understood Gursikhi said, “Dhan Sikh, Dhan Sikhi (Great is the Sikh, and great is Sikhi).”
Guru Arjun Saheb Ji then wished to test Bhai Munj Ji. He told him, “Munj, what have you gained by becoming a Sikh? You lost your position as village chief, you lost all of your wealth, and you run around working all day. You hardly get any time to sleep. Do you know that your home in your village is being repossessed. You should check up on your house.”
Bhai Munj fell to the floor and grabbed Guru Ji’s feet. With tears in his eyes, he said, “My lord, please do not send me away from your blessed feet. Who cares if I lose any of this false wealth which is not going to go with me when I die. I lost this false wealth, but now I have found the true wealth of Naam Dhan (God’s Name).”
The Guru was happy with the Sikh’s answer and let him stay in Amritsar. Bhai Munj continued to do his seva as before. Then one day, he was getting wood from the jungle when a huge storm came and Bhai Munj lost his way. The storm was so fierce that he could not see where he was walking and accidentally fell into a well. Even though he was falling he took more care of the wood than his own body. He put the wood on his head so that they don’t get wet. Soon, night came and nobody knew where Bhai Munj was. Bhai Munj just kept on reciting Bani out loud the whole time.
The Sikhs from Amritsar went out to search for Bhai Munj. It was late in the night when one of the Sikhs heard Bhai Munj’s voice as he recited Gurbani. The Sikhs ran back and told Guru Ji what had happened. Guru Arjun Saheb Ji ran at once towards the well while being bare-footed.
At the well, the Sikhs threw down a rope and told Bhai Munj to drop the wood and grab the rope. Bhai Munj quickly answered:
inMmR hY BweI mOj BwKw[kwT suDk lMgr ihq rwKw[ Xih qn BIgXo ibgrq nwhI[lkrI BIgI jr hY nwhI[ Translation: First grab the wood that I have cut for the langar. Who cares if my body drenches, if the wood gets wet then it will not give off fire for the langar.
Everyone was surprised at his devotion. The Sikhs first pulled up the wood and then they pulled Bhai Munj out of the well. When he came out of the well he saw Guru Arjun Saheb Ji standing there. Bhai Munj grabbed the Guru’s feet:
phly suDk kwr inkwrXo[punw inkir gur p`gY lptwXo[
Guru Ji pulled Bhia Munj up, gave him a hug and said, “I am very pleased with your service, ask for anything you want.”
Bhai Munj said, “I do not wish to ask for any thing. If you wish to give me something then this is my wish that I have no more desires inside of me.”
Guru Ji said, “Anything else you want?”
Bhai Munj said, “Give me the gift of never forgetting God and full devotion.”
Guru Ji was pleased with Bhai Munj and said:
mM\ ipAwrw gurU ko guru mM\ ipAwrw[ mM\ gurU kw boihQw jg lMGxhwrw[ Translation: The Guru loves Bhai Munj and Bhai Munj loves the Guru. Bhai Munj is the Guru’s Boat that can help the world cross the ocean of life.
Bhai Munj showed us how a Sikh should do seva in the Guru’s sangat. He showed us how we should put the Guru’s seva and simran first even before our own families, wealth, and fame. Each one of us should strive to become just like Bhai Munj Ji.