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The Perfumed Axe

By SS Siri-Gian Kaur, Espanola


“The axe cuts the sandal tree, yet the sandal perfumes the axe.” 

This is Guru Har Rai’s explanation of why he helped save the life of Shah Jihan’s son with his special herbs when that emperor had been so cruel to his great grandfather, Guru Arjan and to his grandfather, Guru Hargobind.

The Guru demonstrated that the negative actions of others shouldn’t dictate grudges, blocking or retaliation from a Sikh.  So, just as a sandalwood tree perfumes the axe which cuts it, the Guru returns good for evil.  That is true compassion flowing from pure integrity.

Guru Har Rai was born Mar. 3, 1644 in Kiratpur as the grandson of Guru Hargobind who appointed him the 7th Sikh Guru at the age of 14.  He was the son of Baba Gurditta whom Guru Hargobind appointed to be the successor to Baba Siri Chand as head of the Udasi Yogis, and he was the nephew of Guru Teg Bahadur.  Guru Har Rai was the younger brother of the jealous Dhir Mal who among many nefarious deeds stole the only written copy of the Adi Granth.  And Guru Har Rai was also the father of the boy Guru Har Krishan.   Guru Har Rai passed away on Oct. 6, 1661.

Guru Har Rai was a fine herbal healer and created an ayurvedic hospital, as well as a menagerie where he treated injured animals that were enjoyed by all.  He was well-trained in martial arts and horses, maintained Guru Hargobind’s army of 2,200 but never commanded them to battle.  He established 360 missionary sites, worked to change the corruption of the old masand system, and promoted lungar.  Guru Har Rai encouraged the leaders of the people to govern with mercy, be available to their people, and to support them by providing wells, bridges, schools and religious ministry.

Compassion and peace pervaded his Guruship, even though he had to deal with so many vile situations!


If someone were mean to you, would you have compassion to see the difficulties that have formed their meanness, or for their as yet un-evolved consciousness?

Compassion springs straight from the deepest part of our unencumbered heart, and it goes way beyond the limits of our mind.  It flows from our holding steady in the neutral, expansive Consciousness of the Guru—of our Soul which is experienced as Cherdi Kala.  Compassion is sourced from true love of the SELF within oneself as it naturally connects with everyone, regardless of what we believe they have done to us, to themselves or to others.  It is the opposite of narcissistic self-love.  The Source of compassion knows the Real Truth behind every situation—far beyond what our mind can pick up. Compassion is pure, neutral, often unemotional expansive love that does not expect a return, or to be rewarded—no “hooks.”  It is meditative-level forgiveness and non-attachment, and the compassionate perspective is neither from a high nor low position, but from the deep recognition that “the other person is you.”  It is being fully Present in the Soul Space or radiant body; it is holding the actual healing space.  In that “place”, we just KNOW how we can best help this person, no matter how crazy that may seem to our mind.

Compassion is not sentimental, nor does is originate from fear.   It does not get stuck in hand-wringing, or worry.  And judgment from our mind or emotions about the “other” person or situation actually blocks our compassion.  There is no judgment of who deserves our compassion or not.  And of course, thoughts of revenge or non-forgiveness totally destroy compassion. We only discern the Real situation and remedies by directly listening to, or feeling from Soul as we are based in a state of true neutrality—not mind or emotions.  That is True Love!  Only from this state of conscious compassion can our projections and actions be entirely helpful to the other person in the highest, most expansive yet most personal, appropriate, and down-to-earth sense. 

Compassion is definitely not fantasy “do-gooders” who only seek to solve their own pain by inflicting inappropriate ”help” on others as their mind or emotions call for it.  Rather, it is pure connection while allowing the solutions to arise from consciousness and “personally impersonal” love.

We not only pray for and do suitable good for our friends and family, but we also send our prayers and kind help to those who may have been nasty to us or have apparently opposite values from ours, such as those of the other political party.  That may be the only way their consciousness could ever be “perfumed” and therefore have a chance to experience Soul’s kind consciousness that may actually open their attitudes.

On the other hand, we do make healthy boundaries when necessary, as we continue to flow from compassion.  For instance, a band of a couple hundred of Guru Har Rai’s brave soldiers successfully defended against a thousand ambushing forces with great loss of life on both sides.  This putting a stop to an attack is known as “Ahimsa Parmo Dharma.”  So, that concept might include putting a perpetrator in jail to keep them from harming others—not from revenge or justice, but from compassion.

Empathy, where you can feel the other person’s state of being is an associate of compassion, but is not actually compassion.  Empathy in small doses is most helpful so that we may viscerally experience what is happening with another person.  But if we jump fully-blown into the other person’s mental and emotional condition, we only lose ourselves in the other person’s pain or confusion and consequently become useless in helping them out of their hole.

By the same token, if we try to heal others by energetically taking on their pain ourselves, we only weigh ourselves down with their pain.  The other person is relieved of their pain only temporarily, but due to their habits, they continue to build yet more personal hurt.  So, in the long run, our self-sacrifice only distracts them from healing themselves, which includes getting help to heal themselves.  And compassion is not rescuing others because we would feel bad or look bad if we didn’t take that on.  The directions for helping others, the courage to stand our ground, to be steady and grounded, and to follow through all come directly from our communication with our own Soul that is perceived through our self-sensory system. 

So, kindness, appropriate help and support, healthy boundaries, and radiating the pure love of compassion from your heart and Soul, along with prayer, intention, holding the healing space, and respect for what the “other person” gains from transforming through their own course of karmas are all the expressions of true compassion.

Now, as Guru Har Rai taught us, let’s “perfume all of the axes” that we meet in this extraordinary life!  He showed us real practical compassion in action, which is humbly ministering Guru’s Light to all.


Compassion is a subject that Siri-Gian Kaur has studied over decades of teaching and facilitating healing for many folks.  Her courses are based in “INTUITION TRAINING: The Art of Soul Listening!”, self-healing, dealing with the Mind, and the Self-Sensory System.  She is currently training Soul Answer Healers, and promotes both Amandeep Singh’s and GuruMeher Singh’s exquisite courses at  To join our e-newsletter with fresh articles each week, please go to .


Copyright Siri-Gian Kaur Khalsa, 2014.  Sikh Dharma Ministry Newsletter.

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