Through his Hymns and Prayers (Shabads), Guru Nanak inspired and uplifted humankind to live a life of truth, righteousness and spirituality. Guru Angad, Guru Amar Das and Guru Ram Das all composed Shabads (hymns), and the Sikhs began to collect these in small books, called Pothis. Although pothis existed of authentic Gurbani, there were many different collections of Shabads. Guru Arjun realized that a standardized, authenticated collection of the Guru’s Bani (called Gurbani) was needed to preserve the integrity of the Shabad. The most complete collection of Shabads was in the possession of Mohan, a son of Guru Amar Das. As Mohan was not ready to part the collection, Guru Arjun found it necessary to go in person to Mohan’s house, to retrieve the Shabads. The Guru sat upon his doorstep and began to sing. Gazing upon Guru Arjun’s enlightened face, feeling the love and radiance emanating from him, hearing the sweet words of love and humility, Mohan’s heart was softened, and opened at last. He acknowledged Guru Arjun’s true place upon the throne of Guru Nanak, and gave all of the Shabads in his possession to Guru Arjun.
Guru Arjun then set to compile the Shabads into a single volume, the Adi Granth. He sifted through the Shabads which had been passed down from the first four Gurus. Guru Arjun added a great many of his own Shabads. He also added Shabads of thirty-six Hindu and Muslim Saints, among them Kabir, Ravi Das, Naam Dev, Trilochan and Sheikh Farid. This was the first time any religion incorporated the works of sincere devotees of other religions into its own scripture; this reflects the universality of thought which underlies the Sikh belief in One God, and the one family of humanity as children of God. In time the shabads of Guru Teg Bahadur, the ninth Manifestation of the Guru’s Light, were added by Guru Gobind Singh and thus the Siri Guru Granth Sahib was completed in 1604, and installed in the Golden Temple. Guru Arjun told his Sikhs that the Adi Granth was the embodiment of the Guru, and should be treated in the same fashion as they respect him. The Sikhs treat this Granth as their living Guru.