BEING HUMAN: Guru Nanak’s Philosophy Is Deep Rooted In Humanity

By Zile Singh

Baba Nanak Shah Fakir.  Hindu ka Guru, Musalman ka Pir.”


“Before becoming a Muslim, a Sikh, a Hindu or a Christian, let us become a Human first.” – Gurbani

It will be inappropriate to confine Guru Nanak’s philosophy in the ambit of religion only.  It is more than that. It dwells upon economic, social, cultural and political milieus. More importantly, Nanak’s philosophy does not relate to a specific time and place.   It would be unfair to keep his philosophy within the local boundaries of Punjab and India.  It has a Universal appeal.  He was far ahead of his time.  Today, when we are facing multiple crises on account of race, religion, culture, gender, economy and environment globally, much can be drawn upon Guru Nanak’s message and teachings.  He was a messenger of extraordinary depth and insight.  The Sikh faith has become the 5th numerically at the global level.  The followers of the Sikh faith are settled almost all over the world except the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), an official name for North Korea.  The chances are dim, in the near future, that an outsider can settle in this ‘Hermit Kingdom’.  On a pleasant note; Sardar Surinder Singh Gill, IFS was once Indian Ambassador to North Korea! One more who followed was “Mr. Singh” the writer of this column.

Great philosophers have said that “Man is a social animal”. But with the changing situations and the needs, it will not be out of place to assert, “In addition to social, man has become a political and economic animal as well”. For a man, society alone is not enough. He cannot live without politics and materialism. Unfortunately, all the religious places have become breeding grounds for politics and earnings.     Guru Nanak’s legacy offers rich food for thought.  It is of universal nature and of practical significance. The religious aspect apart, Guru Nanak was liberal in his political approach.  His first message was “There is no Muslim and no Hindu”.  As for him, he said, “I am a mere man made up of five elements.”  On political ethics, he said, “ False are the kings and those who subject themselves to their authority and also they who come here merely to go out, build castles of dust but not hearts of men.” What a wonderful simile is about Guru Nanak: “Baba Nanak Shah Fakir.  Hindu ka Guru, Musalman ka Pir.”  He did not favour the dynastic rule and nepotism. Ignoring his two sons, Laxmi Das and Sri Chand, Nanak    invited Bhai Lahana (later known as Guru Angad) as his able successor.  Nanak emphasized idealism over mere existentialism, a democratic spiritual temper not only to tolerate but also appreciate and integrate different points of view.  Nanak showed the way to the present politics by dining with poor and low caste  Lalo instead of with rich Bhago without any self-interest.  Today’s politicians are taking turns for photo-ops by visiting and dining with the poor to garner votes.  Nanak had a noble mind and a compassionate heart.  He was not like today’s leaders who are “A wolf in sheep’s clothing”.

In the process of founding a different practical Path, Nanak knew that mere religious aspect will   not be enough – “Bhukhe Bhajan na hoye Dayala.”  During his extensive travels in all directions, he met with the Hindu Jogis, Jain Munis Buddhist Monks and Muslim Fakirs, who had become parasites on society for their material needs and came to the conclusion that the life of a householder would be ideal.  Out of his three main messages, i.e., “Kirat Kar  Vand Chhak and Naam Jap”– two of these pertain to the material  production and distribution.  In his discourse with Duni Chand and Malak Bhago, two wealthy men, Nanak gave a decisive message on economics,  (i) do not be proud of your wealth, (ii) we cannot take it  with us when we die, (iii)  money should be earned by honest means, not by dishonesty and (iv) we should share our money with the needy. Nanak advocated neither austerity nor opulence; not only meditation but also action; self-sufficiency rather than dependency on others.

On social front, Guru Nanak’s point of view was that without social harmony, other walks of life are barren.  An affable and harmonious society alone is a breeding ground for all the qualities of life.  A heterogeneous and hateful society is an open gate to doom’s day.   Sooner or later it will disintegrate and dwindle.  Nanak was a great champion of love and brotherhood. His love percolated from high to low.  Nanak’s realization that ‘God is One’ goes hand in hand with his insistence that we all are equal as the children of God. His meetings with people of different beliefs and cultures, during his travels, depict his openness and acceptance to diversity and difference.  His concern was people’s integrity and sense of social responsibility.  In his later life, Nanak settled at a place called ‘Kartarpur’, meaning ‘a place of the Creator.’ (Now in Pakistan).  He wanted the development of all in every possible way.

Like the Buddha, Nanak also realized that the world is in pain. “ Nanak dukhiya sab sansar”.  The only way to get rid of it  is to follow the path shown by the Enlightened Souls.   Nanak said, “O God, the world is on fire.  Save it. O save it through whichever door it cometh unto you”.  It is indeed a rare secular and democratic voice in the world of religion.  The essence of Guru Nanak’s Mool Mantra is beyond words and beyond the mind.  It is love and tranquility beyond all noise.  We all belong there.

Mr. Zile Singh is much respected Link Columnist, writer, a Vipassana Meditator and has a Post-Graduate Diploma in Human Rights.  He can be reached at zsnirwal@yahoo.ca

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