The World Needs Guru Nanak’s Universal Message

By Dr. Sawraj Singh

Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh religion, was a great humanitarian. He had the broadest vision among the entire visionaries and was one of the strongest advocates for a global community. His concept of a global community is all-inclusive. SARBAT (everybody) includes all human beings, all living organisms, and non-living objects. Guru Nanak’s message of the unity of mankind is based upon the principle that there is only one creator for all humanity, living organisms, and non-living objects. Therefore, we are all inter-related. All are children of the same creator. Therefore, they are inter-related and equal. It is our ignorance which separates us from others. When we become enlightened and the curtain of ignorance is lifted, then the feeling of separation is gone and we realize that we are part of the whole. We merge with the whole as a droplet merges with the ocean. As long as the droplet feels that it is a separate entity, it will feel small and insecure, which generates fear and anxiety. When the droplet realizes that its content, regardless of its size, is water, which is the same content of the ocean, then it overcomes the feelings of insecurity, anxiety and fear by recognizing the vastness of its existence. We are united with the all-pervasive entity. In other words, when we realize our true self, then we achieve a supreme status and find a state of supreme bliss.

Unity of mankind is the central theme of Guru Nanak’s philosophy. He emphasizes the idea of oneness. The feeling of separation from others is a product of our ignorance. There is only one ultimate reality, the eternal truth, which is the source of all other realities. This unchanging and eternal reality is beyond the reach of our senses since it is infinite, and our senses can only reach things which have limits and boundaries (the finite dimension). This is called NIRGUUN (transcendent): that to which we cannot attribute any qualities. This transcendent ultimate reality manifests itself in nature, in a form which is called SARGUUN (IMMANENT). Nature is the perceptive reality which we can feel among us, but there is no separation of this reality from ultimate reality. Ultimate reality manifests itself in the immanent (perceptive) reality. The way to realize ultimate reality, the eternal truth, is by realizing our true self, because that ultimate reality (the eternal truth) is manifest in each one of us. The realization of our true self is the way to cosmic consciousness and universal existence. This will lead to unity and supreme bliss, while ignorance of the ultimate reality will lead to separation, insecurity, anxiety and fear.

The way of uniting (merging) with ultimate reality is through the way of love and knowledge. Love and knowledge will go together whereas hatred and ignorance will also accompany each other. Love is born out of the feeling of oneness and unity which in turn promotes love. The feeling of oneness and unity is a product of knowledge. Therefore, this is the relationship between love and knowledge.

Guru Nanak calls the individual soul as soul bride which wants to unite with its husband, the supreme soul (PARMATMA), God. Love between Jeevatma (individual soul) and Parmatma (supreme soul) leads to merge with the ultimate reality. Knowledge elevates us to a level where we can become receptive for the ultimate merger. This is a stage where we can feel the shabad in our heart. Shabad translates into word, meaning the word of God, but it is more than a word, it is a vibration. For the merger, uniting with ultimate reality (eternal truth), we have to transcend body, mind and intellect, and feel with our heart (soul). Love is the ultimate vehicle for this union, but to reach the level of unity, we need the highest level of knowledge, TAT GIAN (essence of knowledge) or BRAHAM GIAN (spiritual knowledge). At that level, knowledge and love will fuse with each other.

Guru Nanak’s concept of God is of a merciful, compassionate and forgiving one. Guru Nanak said that our separation from God is the cause of our pain and suffering. The moment we realize our true self and unite with God, He forgives all our mistakes and sins. Guru Nanak said that when we realize our true self and merge with God, all our karmas are resolved and we are liberated. We do not have to be reborn. Guru Nanak’s philosophy is of optimism (Charhdikala). There is always hope for your salvation; no matter how many mistakes you have made, so long as you are willing to come to the sanctuary of God, you will be saved.

Guru Nanak was a great advocate of pluralism and diversity. He preached that there is more than one way to reach the eternal truth (God). The message of Guru Nanak is not limited to any religion, caste, nation, country, race or color. His message is for all mankind. Guru Nanak advocates the principle of dialogue between different viewpoints. This philosophy promotes tolerance and peaceful coexistence. Guru Nanak traveled more than ten thousand miles on foot and engaged in dialogues with many scholars and followers of many faiths. He wanted Hindus to become good Hindus and Muslims to become good Muslims. Above all, he wanted people to become good human beings.

Guru Nanak stood for equality and social justice. He condemned all kinds of divisions among men, such as those based upon caste, color, or creed. He said all men are created equal. Guru Nanak strongly opposed all kinds of exploitation and discrimination such as based upon socio-economic status, religious beliefs or gender. He condemned discrimination against women and rejected any suggestion that women are inferior to men.

Guru Nanak promoted the concept of a balanced life. While accepting that self-realization is the ultimate goal of spiritual growth, he preached that self-realization cannot be done by renunciation and getting isolated from society. It has to be done while fulfilling your social obligations. He preached that social interaction is a must for one’s spiritual awakening. He laid emphasis on keeping company with good people, Sadh Sangat, which can be translated as congregation.

We cannot stay aloof and be apathetic to whatever is happening in society, because whatever is happening to society will affect us and we in turn can affect society. Guru Nanak’s philosophy therefore is of both individual spiritual growth and social transformation. Guru Nanak condemned in the strongest words possible, political corruption, religious hypocrisy, and social degradation which were prevalent during his time. Guru Nanak conceives of an all-inclusive community where no one is excluded or left out. The basis of this community is Guru Nanak’s philosophy of the unity of mankind. We all are children of the same God. We have been created from the same source. This global community is based upon his global perspective and universal outlook. This community is being maintained by a universal order which Guru Nanak called Hukam. All components of this global community are maintained in a state of dynamic balance by the universal order. Each component of the global community has a special role in maintaining ecological balance. Therefore, man has to live in harmony with nature. If we try to conquer nature, then we will break the dynamic ecological balance and will end up paying very dearly for the consequences of our actions.

We are already beginning to see some of the consequences of our actions based on the policies of present globalization, which are motivated by selfishness and greed. Environmental degradation, global warming, social destabilization, wars for controlling resources of other countries, disintegration of family, decline of moral and ethical values, increasing crime and violence, and AIDS are some of the consequences of our actions.

Guru Nanak has three principles for this global community: honest work (Kirat karo), spiritual awakening (Naam japo), and sharing (Wand chako). Guru Nanak’s message of unity can provide us with the global perspective that we are greatly in need of. Guru Nanak’s message, based upon principles of love, tolerance, peaceful coexistence, pluralism, diversity, universal concern, universal well-being, equality, social justice, struggle against oppression, eliminating exploitation and all kinds of discrimination, and unity of mankind, has the potential for becoming our greatest asset in our march towards a global community. The world needs Guru Nanak’s universal message to meet the challenges before us.

Dr. Sawraj Singh, MD F.I.C.S. is the Chairman of the Washington State Network for Human Rights and Chairman of the Central Washington Coalition for Social Justice. He can be reached at sawrajsingh@hotmail.com.

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