This pauri (stanza), revealed by Guru Nanak Sahib, is accompanied by two saloks. Both the saloks contain four lines each. The first salok references ancestor worship and satirizes charity performed using dubiously acquired money, stating only the wealth earned through honest labor is worth sharing. Through illustration and imagery, the second salok exposes the liar’s hypocrisy. While keeping the idea of the transient nature of the world at its center, this pauri expresses the futility of attachment to worldly materiality and forgetting IkOankar (the Divine).
saloku m: 1.
je mohākā gharu muhai gharu muhi pitrī dei.
agai vastu siñāṇīai pitrī cor karei.
vaḍhīahi hath dalāl ke musphī eh karei.
nānak agai so milai ji khaṭe ghāle dei.1.
Literal Translation
Interpretive Transcreation
Poetical Dimension
Guru Nanak writes about the Hindu ceremony which is done to ensure that one’s ancestors are still living well in the afterlife, where the Pandit plays a particular role as the interpolator. But the ceremony is situated in the context of those corrupt elites who have stolen from the common people and offered their “blood money” or ill-gotten gains to their ancestors. Guru Nanak says that if a thief breaks into a house and then offers it to their ancestors, the thief is inadvertently turning their ancestors into thieves as well. If the Brahmin priest plays the role of religious interpolator in the ceremony with these stolen goods, the Brahmin is a thief as well. Thus, the responsibility for these ill-gotten gains lies on all three players (the thief, the priest, and the ancestors) involved in the ceremony, and all three players will be punished as a result. In fact, the middle man has a more drastic punishment, as they facilitate and, by virtue of their status, legitimize these kinds of false ceremonies and unethical transactions. We see this today, both in smaller individual cases and in the cases of powerful political figures, who through their actions show us corruption, who take money from lobbying groups, who perpetuate oppressive policies and further profit off of those policies, but who go through the “necessary” public ceremonies in attempts to cleanse their public image. They stand in front of large audiences with religious figures, they pray, they perform religious ceremonies, and it is not just them, but also the other two players (the religious figures who perform the ceremonies, and the audiences who accept those ceremonies as legitimate) who must take responsibility.

Guru Nanak is critiquing the way we perform ceremonies just for the sake of ceremony, especially when our offerings were not earned in an honest way — especially when corruption pervades our actions. Justifying unethical means to an end does not work. Going through the outward motions of ceremony with ill-intent or carrying evidence of bad behaviors with you to these ceremonies is a false way of paying respect to the ancestors, and any gifts in this life have no entrance into the world beyond. The fruits of our own labor and sweat do, and these are the things that matter in the hereafter.