Sri Guru Gobind Singh & Public Leadership

Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji (1666-1708) was the tenth Guru in the illustrious spiritual lineage of the ten Sikh Gurus. Guruji founded the great ‘Khalsa’ army against the Mughal Empire, for exploiting the dharmic communities of India under the despot Aurangzeb. 

By Sreejit Datta, Director of Civilisational Studies Practice & Resident Mentor at Rashtram

Sri Guru Gobind Singh, who is also known as Dashmesh Pitaji was the 10th Guru of Sikhs. His exemplary leadership, supreme sacrifices of his 4 Sahibzade for protecting dharma and his own life is one of the supreme examples of public leadership in India.

Once Swami Vivekananda addressed his grand reception by the Arya Samaj and the Sanatana Dharma Sabha at Lahore. In his address, he described the māhātmya of Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji and Punjab with the following words:

“Here it was that one of the last and one of the most glorious heroes of our race, Guru Govind Singh, after shedding his blood and that of his dearest and nearest for the cause of religion, even when deserted by those for whom this blood was shed, retired into the South to die like a wounded lion struck to the heart, without a word against his country, without a single word of murmur.”  

In his address, the Swamiji spoke profusely about the leadership qualities of the Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji that workers and leaders serving the great cause of revivification of their motherland can and should imbibe. He said:

“Mark me, every one of you will have to be a Govind Singh, if you want to do good to your country. You may see thousands of defects in your countrymen, but mark their Hindu blood. They are the first Gods you will have to worship even if they do everything to hurt you, even if every one of them send out a curse to you, you send out to them words of love. If they drive you out, retire to die in silence like that mighty lion, Govind Singh. Such a man is worthy of the name of Hindu; such an ideal ought to be before us always. All our hatchets let us bury; send out this grand current of love all round.

Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji (1666-1708) was the tenth Guru in the illustrious spiritual lineage of the ten Sikh Gurus. He was born in Patna, Bihar in 1666 CE. Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji went on to raise the great ‘Khalsa’ army against the Mughal Empire, which had unleashed hell on the dharmic communities of India under the despot Aurangzeb. 

Driven by his extreme religious fanaticism, Aurangzeb and his vassals continued the Mughal tradition of persecuting Hindus and other dharmic communities by destroying and desecrating their temples and forcing them to convert. It was at such a moment in history when the Great Tenth Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji appeared on the scene.   

Vivekananda invoked Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji to stress on conviction in his Dharma, his courage and equanimity. He stressed on the quality which enables a leader to rise above sectarian quarrels and serve his people with an equal eye. During that same public address in Lahore, the Swamiji said:

“Therefore, take more thought before you go and find fault with others. Let them follow their own path to realisation so long as they struggle to see truth in their own hearts; and when the broad, naked truth will be seen, then they will find that wonderful blissfulness which marvellously enough has been testified to by every seer in India, by everyone who has realised the truth. Then words of love alone will come out of that heart, for it has already been touched by Him who is the essence of Love Himself. Then and then alone, all sectarian quarrels will cease, and we shall be in a position to understand, to bring to our hearts, to embrace, to intensely love the very word Hindu and everyone who bears that name.”

“Mark me, then and then alone you are a Hindu when the very name sends through you a galvanic shock of strength. Then and then alone you are a Hindu when every man who bears the name, from any country, speaking our language or any other language, becomes at once the nearest and the dearest to you. Then and then alone you are a Hindu when the distress of anyone bearing that name comes to your heart and makes you feel as if your own son were in distress.

Citing the example of Sri Guru Gobind Singh’s life and deeds, Vivekananda urged people to become spiritual in order to regenerate India. He urged people to shun practising other civilisations, even if they seem to be dominating the world.

“Let them talk of India’s regeneration as they like. Let me tell you as one who has been working — at least trying to work — all his life, that there is no regeneration for India until you be spiritual. Not only so, but upon it depends on the welfare of the whole world.”

Lastly, Swami Vivekananda reminded his audience about the importance of being patient – a quality that he showed was essential for the individual who takes up a leadership role. Even in this regard, Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji’s example comes to one’s mind while contemplating how a leader should build the foundations of his work on solid ground in order to help sustain his followers through the ravages of time. Such solid ground cannot be found in mere material riches; instead, it should be based on the Transcendental. It was because the Tenth Guru had combined years of his yogic tapas with rigorous organisational work that his legacy was able to bear fruit within just a few decades after his passing. Vivekananda illustrated this point when he linked the rush to imitate the West with a lack of patience and conviction in one’s own roots. He said: 

“The Western man is a body first, and then he has a soul; with us, a man is a soul and spirit, and he has a body. Therein lies a world of difference. All such civilisations, therefore, as have been based upon such sand foundations as material comfort and all that, have disappeared one after another, after short lives, from the face of the world; but the civilisation of India and the other nations that have stood at India’s feet to listen and learn, namely, Japan and China, live even to the present day, and there are signs even of revival among them.”

“Their lives are like that of the Phoenix, a thousand times destroyed, but ready to spring up again more glorious. But a materialistic civilisation once dashed down, never can come up again; that building once thrown down is broken into pieces once for all. Therefore have patience and wait, the future is in store for us. Do not be in a hurry, do not go out to imitate anybody else.” 

On this Guruparb, let’s keep before us the ideals that Sri Guru Gobind Singh brought to life in our leadership journeys. 


  1. “The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda/Volume 3/Lectures from Colombo to Almora/The Common Bases of Hinduism – Wikisource, the Free Online Library.” Wikisource, the Free Library, Accessed 20 Jan. 2021.

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