553 of Guru Nanak Dev Ji: Nanak is a philosophy that enlightens individual

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By Zile Singh

In addition to the first Guru of the Sikhs, Nanak is a philosophy that enlightens an individual of the right and the wrong paths.  He is a message from the darkness of blind faith to the light of logic. He teaches to shun orthodoxy and to embrace moderation. Let us reflect on his teachings (Kirat Kar, Naam Jap and Vand Chhak) on his 553rd birth anniversary or Gurpurab.  

Kirat Kar is primary. The other two follow the first. The Mool Mantra and the Japji Sahib, pronounced by Guru Nanak after a three-day Akhand Samadhi can wipe out the mental darkness of an ignorant, ritualistic, dogmatic and egoistic mind.

Guru Nanak was born in 1469 at Talwandi, now in Pakistan.  His teachings were simple and timely. Simple because Guru Nanak was against leaving a household life and escape to forests; timely because he challenged priests and maulvis who had become addicted to the rites and rituals leading nowhere for a purposeful life.  

His message was for everyone irrespective of the graded inequality in society. He stressed equality and unity among all. Everyone has the potential to lead a meaningful life.   With the passage of time, he became global from the local. His light spread from the land of Punjab (the province of five rivers, Satluz, Beeas, Ravi, Chenab and Jhelum) to the seven continents of the world.

Today, we realise that his message is popular with Christians as it was for the Hindus and the Muslims of the undivided India.  There is a need to spread his message equally among the older and the new generation of “seekers of truth”. 

Religion, for an old person is by his ‘conviction or persuasion; for a child, it is by force’. Guru Nanak was a ‘Seeker of Truth’.  He sought truth through his travels and dialogues with different sets of people. Still, “There is no absolute truth; all truths are half-truths.” Also, “The future is made of Seeking.”

History is witness to the fact that religions too, like political, economic and social systems have seen ups and downs according to circumstances prevailing at a certain time.  No religion could withstand the onslaughts of time and the evolutionary process of human brain, especially the logic and scientific temper.

Religion is a flowing river and not a stagnant pool. Everything is evolving, nothing is permanent.  “Time is a file that wears and makes no noise.” It applies to religion as well.  Every religion, once at its helm of affairs, starts declining over the passage of time if it is not modified according to the needs and requirements of changing circumstances.

For this purpose, rituals leading to orthodoxy in any religion, need to be rectified. Though all the religions have their birth almost a few centuries apart yet roots of all are the same. New religions have sprung from the roots of the old religions with refreshing and logical ideas.

“Ek Onkar” signifies nothing but only One at the Root. All religions have laid emphasis on the pure conduct of an individual.  It is called “karma ka sidhant” (the law of action, the cause and effect)), or “as you sow, so shall you reap”. 

In today’s language, it is called “Honest Secular Activity”.   Guru Nanak said, “Kirat Kar.” (Do your duty).  Guru Granth Sahib, the holy book of the Sikhs says, “Why blameth thou others, blame thy deeds.  For thou receiveth the fruit of what thou soweth.” (Do not blame others.  Blame your actions. You will receive the fruits of your actions). God is merciful and benevolent. To me, “Man proposes, God disposes” seems orthodox and outdated.  God is no botcher. He doesn’t mess up things. “God always proposes. It is the man who disposes.”   

The incidents in Guru’s life like damaging the crops while grazing the cattle; a cobra covering the head of Guru Nanak to save him from the heat of the Sun; the moving of Kaaba in the direction of Guru Nanak’s feet and oozing out milk and blood from the pieces of bread of Bhai Lalo and Malik Bhago etc., should not be understood as miracles.  

The educated and a logical mind will hardly believe such things. Guru Nanak preached against miracles and siddhis. These instances might be on account of a false complaint by a jealous person, Nanak’s compassion and love towards the enemy, presence of Almighty God in all directions and honest livelihood respectively. 

Guru Nanak, on his part, fought against the metaphor and symbolism that had mushroomed in the religions of that time. To follow him we must shun orthodoxy and metaphors.  It is necessary to understand that “Truth is the daughter of time.” Truth changes with the passage of time.The Sun was revolving around the Earth, today it is the opposite.Today it is not necessary to invoke gods for rains; neither to perform any ritual to ward off disease. The Earth, once flat is round today.

The seers, prophets and gurus have guided man towards becoming an independent self-conscious self, choosing his beliefs freely. Guru Nanak is an example.  He chose his path for himself and the posterity.