550TH ANNIVERSARY: Guru Nanak Was A Man Of Freedom

By Zile Singh


Republic of India will be celebrating its 73rd Independence Day on August 15.  On this day in 1947, we got Freedom from the British yoke.   During the British colonial rule, we were subjected to rules and regulations enacted by the British Parliament at Westminster (London).   When we talk of ‘yoke’, it is a very rigorous and painful word.  In real terms, it is a wooden crosspiece fastened over the necks of two oxen and attached to the plow or wagon or a cart to be drawn.  The yoke leaves a hardened  painful  black spot on the necks of the oxen. Initially, when the young oxen are trained for the job, they jump and run to avoid the yoke. To tame them to the yoke, (i)  they are castrated and (ii)  the  dividing muscle between their two  nostrils is cut with a precision and a rope is put across. The same thing has happened with man. He has been forced to servitude, subjugation  and suppression by different means.


Freedom is a very lovely word opposite to yoke.   In fact, freedom is  a heightened state of mind.  It is to be the master of one’s  own corporal and  divine  affairs. Political, economic and social freedoms are less significant in comparison to  mental freedom.  All living beings  aspire for freedom.  Man wants it more because he has a capacity to go beyond manhood and rise up to a stage of angelhood.  All other creatures in the universe are complete in themselves.  A cow, a lion or a dog are full-fledged and complete.  But, a man is not.  More often we warn a man ‘ Be a man’ i.e.,  ‘Aadmi ban ja” –  we exhort him to be a man, as if he is not a man.  We never tell  a dog to be a dog. He is complete.    Thus, it is clear that something higher is expected from mankind.  For centuries man has been trying to be free.  Yet he finds himself under one or the other yoke.  The yokes are of different types.   To quote Jadu Krishnamurti, “ For centuries we have been spoon-fed by our teachers, by our authorities, by our books and our saints.  We ask them what lies beyond the hills, mountains, the earth and the sky.  We are satisfied with their descriptions.  It means that we live on their words and our own life is shallow and empty.  We are second-hand people. We have been guided by our inclinations, our tendencies and  are compelled to accept  the  circumstances and environment.  We are the result of all kinds of influences.  There is nothing new, original, pristine and clear in us.”  Isn’t it a sign of slavery?


Now, Five hundred and fifty years before, there was a man named  Nanak who took the courage to challenge the authorities and declared himself free from all the man-made dogmatic  rules, regulations, rituals and ruts of  life.  He challenged superstition, formalism in religion, caste, creed, sex and colour consciousness and awakened men to their inner self which has emanated from a Universal Self.  The system of that time could not accept him.  He was discarded socially. The   priestly class also rejected him.  He was a lonely light by himself.     After realizing himself, Guru Nanak preached that you need not fill your mind with knowledge of scriptures.  History of mankind  tells us  that those who set out to fathom His depth through scriptures ended in utter frustration and exhaustion.  The yokes of dogmas, superstitions and different practices of yoga etc.  reduced the physical bodies  of great  rishis, munis and  saints to skeletons.  They realized God only in a state of relaxation.  The problems of today have become so complex that a superficial knowledge has gained ground.  It  is inadequate to enable the common man to understand it properly, much less to discuss. Just as food cannot be digested without being chewed, so ideas and teachings cannot be digested without having been thought over and understood properly.  No matter how clear are the instructions given to learn to play a musical instrument, one cannot master the technique of playing that instrument without handling it properly.  Nanak says, “ There are millions of underworlds and infinite skies above.  The Vedas say millions have searched and searched, only to end in exhaustion.”


The real religion is to act, to think and to practice in an environment free from all outside political, religious social restrictions and formalism.  When Nanak talks about Ek Omkar Satnam,  he advocates that Truth is One.  The truth of a Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Bodh or a Sikh cannot be different.  Nanak  negates duality.  When there is no dualism, then there is  freedom.  A religious mind is a free mind.  It is something different from the mind that believes in religion.   A religious mind is a state of mind in which there is no fear, jealousy and lethargy.    In Nanak’s words,  it is ‘nirbhai, nirvair’ and action oriented.  Freedom is our inborn attribute.  A child is nirbhai, nirvair and action oriented. He lives in total freedom.  He is in a state of bliss.  In fact, not growing up properly and consciously becomes  a curse and   suffering.  Guru Nanak realized , “ Nanak dhukhia sab sansar.  So sukhiya jin Naam adhar.” –  I interpret Naam as (Naa  M – in Hindi); I am not.  Egoless ness is total freedom.   Any formalised and forced identification can serve human beings politically and socially, but it is pro dualism and against Universal Unity.

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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