“If You Must, Bow to Him’ Said Guru Nanak

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By Zile Singh                                        

Guru Nanak’s 553rd birthday was celebrated throughout the world on November 8.  Guru Nanak, in Japji Sahib says, “If you must, bow to him. He is the primal being, pure without beginning or end. He is the unstruck sound. Not only that, but He is also immutable all time.” 

According to the ‘Trimurti’ in Hinduism, there are three Gods – Brahma – the Creator: Vishnu – the Preserver and Shiva – the Destroyer. In fact, these are three different faces, attached to one body. Similarly, in Christianity, the concept of ‘Trinity’ holds that there are three co-eternal persons –the Father, the Son (Jesus Christ) and the Holy Spirit. Islam also believes in a Merciful, Benevolent and Omnipotent Allah.  

Science has proved that the material world consists of electrons, neutrons and protons. Nanak, on realization, pronounced that there is only one God or Supreme Power. He called it ‘Ek Omkar Satnam’ which is primal, pure, without beginning or ending.

Nanak’s concept of God is incorporeal, i.e., body-less, or formless. To him, it is an ‘Unstruck Sound’. Because only a body- less entity can be primal, pure, without beginning or without the end. All bodily forms are subject to birth, death and corruption. Even if we do not agree that Nanak’s Ek Omkar Satnam is the same as the Soul in Hinduism, the Holy Spirit in Christianity and the Merciful and Benevolent Allah, without any form, we must agree that Nanak’s Ek Omkar Satnam is a ‘conditioned principle’ according to which the whole universe is being created, sustained and destroyed over time.

This ‘conditioned principle’ fulfills the condition of being pure, primal, beyond birth and death. About the Universe, Guru Nanak says that it is ‘infinite’. The Unstuck Sound (the Word – Shabad), the Soul, the Holy Spirit, and Allah all are infinite and incorporeal in nature. We cannot touch or see these. We can realize these only through mind and body.

Guru Nanak’s life story tells us that he was a Saint and a Guru who would not bow before anyone whether it was a living being, a dead religious dogma or a tradition.   He refused to bow before Mogul Emperor Babur and the rituals and dogmas of his own Hindu religion. Instead, he was in a constant adherence to his complete solitude and meditation in which there was no leadership, no tradition and no authority.

This state of Solitude and Meditative composure of Guru Nanak is a path that can take a person from many worldly pursuits to Three and ultimately from Three to One. This solitude, which is pure, primal and eternal, never beginning and never-ending, takes a human being away from all the transitory nature of worldly things.

To quote J. Krishnamurti, a new-age philosopher, “We carry with us the burden of what thousands of people have said and the memories of all our misfortunes. To abandon all that totally is to be alone and the mind that is alone is not only innocent but young – not in time or age, but young, innocent, alive at whatever age – and only such a mind can see that which is Truth and that which is not measurable by words.”

According to Guru Nanak, the Creator, the Creation and its Sustainer are the same in three different forms. To Guru Nanak, it is a journey from infinite to three and from three to one. According to an English translation of three lines of a poem in Punjabi about Guru Nanak written by Bhai Gurdas:

He revealed that there is one supreme God.

                                   He regarded the king and beggar as equal.

   He came to transform the people of the world.

Today, after 553 years of Guru Nanak’s birth, ‘transformation’ of human beings has gone towards ‘radicalization’.  Instead of bowing to and serving the Truth (God) we have lined up to ask God to serve us.  We are praying to improve our financial condition; I have no job, give me a job. All our prayers are, about asking and demanding.

 On the contrary, the fact is that God has already given us as much as we deserve. Our prayers show that we are pressing God to serve us. Sometimes, we challenge God and ask Him in a threatening tone to fulfill our unending desires.  Simone Weil, a renowned philosopher, characterized prayer as ‘pure undivided attention’.  Listening to that ‘unstruck sound within’ with undivided attention is the true prayer.  It is true remembrance (Simran) of Ek Omkar Satnam. It is true One-ness and  Equality.  It is true Akhand Path.

Today, we find ourselves more as disciples than as ‘Seekers of Truth’. The word ‘Sikh’ signifies ‘seeker of truth’.  In religious matters, Guru Nanak refused to be a spoon-fed disciple. He refused to follow anything blindly. He was a man of freedom and a real seeker of truth at any cost.  We on the other hand are not seeking through our deep introspection but are being guided by Maya – an illusion. To celebrate Guru Nanak, “ Let us lit a light in the illusory nature of man’s mind”.