GURU NANAK DEV JI: The Lighthouse Of Spiritual And Truthful Living


By Shamir Singh Virk


The lifespan (1469-1539 AD) of Guru Nanak Dev dawns into worldly light with his birth in the year April | May 1469; the early morning of 3rd of Vaisakh month at Rai Bhoe Ki Talwandi, now famous as Nankana Sahib in Sheikhupura district of Pakistan. His parents Kalu Bedi later referred to Kalu Metha and mother Tripta were from Khatri caste of Hindu religion. His older sister Nanaki and Nanak’s akin names resulted possibly from having birth at their Nanke or maternal grandparents’ home. After his schooling and marriage to Sulakhni at Talwandi, Nanak got employed as storekeeper at Sultanpur with local governor Daulat Khan Lodhi. Here also Sulakhni bore two sons SiriChand and LakhmiDas.

Having served for about ten years as store-keeper Nanak was around thirty years of age. One day, he had a Divine Experience of having been swept and drowned in the stream, which ran past the town. His spiritual insight transformed him to proclaim- ‘There is no Hindu, no Muslim’- when he reappeared after three days. Hence after, giving away all his possessions and later on devoting his entire life time to spreading his Experienced Divine light, Nanak started travelling far and distance, singing his devotional compositions (Bani) in the company of his co-traveller Mardana, a specialized trained person in playing Rabek, a musical instrument popularly famous as Rabab. Nanak’s very first declaration after his “Vaie” stream Blissful Experience, suggested that the religious norms and labels prevalent amongst Hindus and Muslims are not in anyway helpful and relevant in observing the true socio-religious faiths. Thus, on the contrary, Nanak started consistently preaching the true intrinsic spirituality, sound enough to transend the psyche of the masses at large. To understand and imbibe his Blissful Experience, we have to undertake the imagery of his spiritual way of proclamation, laced together his gently provoking humor, simply to exhibit the prevailing Hindu-Muslim socio-religious bigoted hypocrisy. To be more aware and grasping we ought to imbibe the outcome of Guru Nanak Dev’s discourse with a Hindu Medicant- ‘Yogi’ by citing- ‘Contentment be his earnings, modesty be his pouch and begging bowl, medications be the ashes Yogi ought to wear, consciousness of death be his head covering, pure and truthful living be his vow of celibacy and faith in God.’

Further, ‘Mulmantra’- the composition of just twelve words by Guru Nanak Dev, scripted in the beginning of The Holy Siri Guru Granth Sahib, begins with the opening affirmation- ‘ikoankar’- can be viewed as – ‘There is one God, one Reality or one Being’- prevailing in the universe, leads to philosophical and religious faith of monotheism instead of a polytheistic view of God as envisaged by the Hindu priesthood. Here in Mulmantra, emphasis is again certainly on, ‘one’ and that too written as a numeral and not in vernacular, thereby rendering its singularity, uniqueness and invisibility. The remaining ten words: ‘Truth by Name, The Creator, Without Fear, Without Hatred, Timeless in Form, Beyond Birth, Self-Existed, Viable or Known by the Grace of Guru.’

‘Mulmantra’- empowers the devotee for Simran, where-in ‘Mul’- responds to root of all the living organism, as if the entire moral teaching and spirituality propounded and practiced by Guru Nanak Dev grows or originate fromMul drawing the human growth life substance from- ‘Mulmantra’. Here- in, Guru Nanak Dev’s Truth equivalent to God The Almighty, as supreme essence possessingtenents of spirituality in the Divine process of Cosmic Creation.

Another aspect most relevant and worth mentioning with Guru Nanak Dev’s life- span is the contribution of his contemporary socio-religious German Reformer Martin Luther (1483-1546 AD) in the sphere of spirituality and religion. Both proclaimed spirituality and religious insight and were heartfully involved to bring about generational cultural transformation in society at large. To accomplish his human cause Guru Nanak Dev travelled in almost whole of Asian Continent and Middle East areas to unite and fasten together the loose and un-tied bonds of humanity and spirituality living of love and compassion. Likewise, Martin Luther was actively involved in propagating the human beliefs of equality, honesty, truthful- living at par with sense of love and compassion, believing – ‘They who, through faith are righteous shall live’ – and he was putting all efforts to re-introduce the established faith of  – ‘Trust in God’ – for the induced idolatry like: ‘Misbeliefs of fasting, pilgrimages, prayers to saints, special masses and the other ways the medieval believers made themselves righteous and acceptable to God. ‘(Martin Luther: A Very Short Introduction by Scott H. Hendrix: page 23)’. Both the spiritual comrades criticized the superstitions, rituals, and the priest-craft, to introduce the lasting changes in social and religious norms.  Also, they realized to deliver the socio-religious moral teachings through the prevalent commonman’s language rather than the sacred ancient languages of Sanskrit, German or Latin. Illustrating further comparison Martin Luther’s Germany was Roman Catholic, owing its respect and alliance to Pope in Rome, whereas Punjab at the time of Sikh Gurus was altogether diverse on spiritual and cultural grounds. In simple words, Punjab was a mix of Hindus and Muslims, but both were subject to Muslim Lords or rulers. Also, Sikh Guru’s lives were directly or indirectly affected by the contemporary Mughal lords. The spiritual and cultural diversity was a mix of Hindus and Muslims, but the most damaging situation was that the Hindus and Muslims were themselves diverse. Here- in to mention, a high cast minority, the Brahmins conducted the religious rituals of the low-caste in specific, with their so-called sacred thread. Thus, observing a parallel and consistent reform was in progress in almost entire semi-sphere of the planet, to which Guru Nanak Dev and other Sikh Gurus, MedievalSaints and Bhagats like Namdev, Kabir andRavidas along with the European reformist Martin Luther were actively and consistently contributing their thrust of spirituality and morality. A champion  of infinite religious faith of peace ,love and compassion, Guru Nanak Dev was The Light House of Human-Welfare and if nothing human was ever alien to his compassionate nature, his outlook was totally universal and as such his message was meant not for Hindus and Muslims alone, not for the Indians only, but for the mankind in total. Prof. Puran Singh pronounces Guru Nanak Dev not only the world teacher, but also the teacher of the poor man unknown to name and fame like Bhai Lalo. He allowed no traffic with falsehood or half-truth or with any kind of superstition. He spoke with the voice of the deliverer to the oppressors of the people, whether Hindu or Muslim, whether Prince (Ruler) or Priest. He condemned the imposition ofBrahmanicalHypocrisy and priest craft (The Book of Ten Masters ByPuran Singh: Page 95).

The basic tenents of the Sikh religion-Namjapna,Dharm-Di-Kirt-Karni and Wand-Shakna- were preached by Guru Nanak Dev in his life practice and through his compositions (Bani). These beliefs of Sikhism helped building social and cultural bonds of peace, love, compassion, honesty and truthful living. Apart from, human welfare and peaceful living, Guru Nanak Dev also advocated congregational prayer (Ardas for SarbatDaBhala), a formal payer, which one devotee with folded hands standing infront of Siri Guru Granth Sahib, recites on behalf of whole Sangat or congregation in standing posture, reciting in- between-‘Bolo- Gee-Wahe- Guru’- every time thrice.

A verse composed by Guru Nanak Dev glorifies and encourages us to mutual social living regardless of Caste, Creed, Gender or any Socio-Religious Identity:

“Call everyone noble, there is only one potter, who has moulded and fashioned everyone alike, light of God is the One that pervades all the Creation”.

Again, it looks beautiful that in Sikhism the traditional never- the- less, the contemporary words of greeting each other reveals the faith propagated in Sikhism and perhaps by Guru Nanak Dev during his life time travels. In all religions, practice of noble behaviour, fair thinking as well as truthful practice in life are the top most basic beliefs, where special and foremost emphasis has been laid on truthful living by Guru Nanak Dev:

‘Truth is higher, but still higher is the Truthful Living,’ (Siri Guru Granth Sahib: Page 62).

In today’s era of democratic degradation, religio-social perversion towards dishonest- living and power- hunger amongst the rulers by their cheap and mean modes of harvesting their immediate interest, just to achieve their own self-centered political ends. The life and Bani of Guru Nanak Dev looks relevant to serve the needs of society, when he disinherited his own sons from Guruship and choosing Guru Angad successor worthy of him. The practice continued for about the next two centuries, from where we find the successive Gurus were not only spiritually awakened, but supreme enough to guide and protect the people of Hindu and Muslim religions. Lastly, the Tenth Guru Gobind Singh, put an end upon genderGuruship and called on people to accept The Holy Siri Guru Granth Sahib as their Guru for seeking guidance in every sphere of life. In a way, the pro-visionary message of Guru Nanak Dev was accomplished by the installation of Siri Guru Granth Sahib upon the Guru ship abode. Guru Nanak Dev was monotheist, who not only spread the message of spiritual and democratic way of practical life, but also propagated the beliefs of equality, service to God and society, ethical living free of immoral acts of pride, greed, lust, anger and self-centeredness. “All the best tenents, which can elevate the human soul up to prophetic level are possessed by Guru Nanak Dev and Almighty God did not grant them to anybody else”- are the respectful and befitting compliments of Maulvi Gulam Ali, a reknowned scholar and torchbearer of Islam.

The celebrations of Guru Nanak Dev’s 550th Birth Anniversary look more and more glorious, when as a true disciple and devotee, we see him a master-mind not a Preacher only, but also a Gardner, who plants with his hands the crop of seedlings of spirituality and watch it grow as well:

“The Guru put his hand on my forehead and made me an angel by his touch, all sin-consciousness was washed out of me and I now live in the beautiful vision of the Reality.” (The Book of Ten Maters by Prof.Puran Singh; Page 107).

Let the inspiration of love and Peace be in air to achieve and accomplish, still we dream of, rendering the sparrows of Love and Peace,fly high in the sky, to engulf the eagles of hatred and impousity of selfishness.

Shamir Singh Virk is a PhD Retired. Prof. Khalsa Collage Amritsar Punjab. He can be reached at amritjaggee@yahoo.com.

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