In Sanskrit language, “shreshtha” signifies the quality of being the best. The plains of Punjab in North West India were largely agrarian, but as commerce took root, “shreshtha” was used to refer to the richest merchants. In Punjabi language, the word became “seth” or “sethi”, and was ascribed to the merchant community. They were residents of large towns, who owned flourishing business in the city, and lands in surrounding villages.
Bhai Chuhar was a Sethi from Lahore, who was attracted to the congregation of Guru Arjan Dev. One day the Guru said:
True is that shop, and perfect the transaction;
(that) deal only in the merchandise of the True name.
Bhai Chuhar told the Guru that if he was to tell the truth, his shops would not be able to sell, and his business would end up with losses. He wanted to be true, but his profession would not let him, and he sought the Guru’s guidance.
Guru Arjan Dev gave him a diary. He wanted Bhai Chuhar to faithfully record every lie or truth, and good or bad deed he performed, as he looked after his business for one day, and bring the diary to the Guru. When he returned, the Guru asked him to read it aloud to the congregation. Bhai Chuhar is hesitant, but the Guru encourages him. When the diary is read, there is no good deed, and it only has lies. The Guru asks him to write afresh every day, and tell the congregation. The Guru tells him that as a leader of society, this act of transparency will improve him. Soon, Bhai Chuhar changes to all good and truth in his life.
Guru Nanak had said:
Truth is the medicine for all; it removes and washes away our sins.
Nanak speaks this prayer to those who have Truth in their lap.
Transparency helps in establishing truth as the basis of society, and in the present times, we need it more than ever.