WHO IS GURU RAM DAS?
Guru Ram Das (1534-1581) is the patron and titular saint of our charity. From the age of seven, he was an orphan and, later in his life, became a celebrated devotional poet, musician and spiritual leader in mid-16th century Northern India.
He impressed his teacher, Guru Amar Das, by his humility and dedicated selfless service to the community, so that Guru Amar Das not only married his dauhgter to him but also made him his successor in leadership of the community.
This community, the Sikhs (meaning "students"), was founded in the early 16th century by the travelling bhagat and saint Guru Nanak, who started the (for the time) unorthodox and progressive custom of serving food in free kitchens where everybody was eating together in the same room, sitting on the same floor, irrespective of caste and creed. When the elite of the Brahmin caste took offence at this custom and complained at emperor Akbar's court in Delhi, a representative of the community was summoned to the emperor's court to explain. Young Ram Das (who was, at the time, still a student of Guru Amar Das) was chosen and sent to Delhi to answer. When challenged with the "offence" of mixing castes while eating, Guru Ram Das reportedly said:
"Status and caste are of no avail before the God. It is actions which define a human being. To exploit people with superstitions and to call it religion is a sacrilege. To lead people to believe that redemption comes through ablutions instead of compassion and self-surrender, to insist upon special diets, languages and dresses, to discriminate lower castes and women by denying them to learn and read the sacred scriptures, by denying them free worship and work, is to tear man apart from man. This is not religion. Nor is it religion to turn your back on the world and on people, for it is service to the world and its creatures through which man finds liberation."
For us, Guru Ram Das manifests and exemplifies the spirit of equal rights for all human beings and selfless service to those most in need, an inspiration that guides us through the challenge and joy of our mission.
Guru (or gur, gurū) is a word from Sanskrit which is most often used for: teacher (in general), spiritual or religious guide, leader, superior, chief, lord, head, venerable or respectable person (as father or mother); but also translates as: heavy, weighty, great, large, extended, long, grave, difficult, hard, high (in degree), vehement, violent, excessive, intense, deep, much, important, serious, momentous, excellent, best, valuable, highly prized, dear, beloved, venerable, honourable, respectable, one who is an object of reverence, the planet Jupiter. Ram (or rāma) is a word from Sanskrit which translates as: pleasing, pleasant, delighting, rejoicing, beautiful, lovely, charming, pleasure, joy, delight, lover; it is also used as an expression for the "all-pervading" aspect of the Divine; in some modern esoteric reading it is sometimes interpreted as a merger or balance between the opposite forces or energies within the human being (or within existence as such) of Ra (male, solar) and Ma (female, lunar), similar to the process of union in yoga. Das (or dāsa) is a word from Sanskrit which translates as: slave, servant, a knowing man, one who knows the universal spirit, a śūdra (member of the fourth or lowest of the four original classes or castes).