Spills from life: Enigma of Guru Nanak’s simplicity

                            Please read the article to the end for understanding the complete purpose of my writing. It was Guru Nanak’s birthday on the 30th Nov and for those who don’t know who he is, Guru Nanak is the founder of Sikh philosophy and first of the ten Sikh gurus. He was born in 1469 in India, more than four centuries before the country was divided in two- India and Pakistan.
                           His message contained of the spiritual truth as well as social reform through purging of the mindset. If we think right, we build healthy society which creates collective good karma pushing the doors of spiritual enlightenment open. One of the Guru’s founding messages can be understood through the following verse:
Aval Allah Noor Upaya – Everything is created out of radiance of the same energy
Kudrat ke sab bande– All humanity belongs to the one radiant spiritual power
Ek Noor se sab jug upjaya– From the ONE light originated the whole Universe
Kaun Bhale kaun mande– Who can then judge who is good or who is bad

                           But something really perturbed me about the relevance and effects in the current world of what the great Guru preached and practiced for the good of all humanity,  and not one sect, one caste, one class or creed in the manmade society. While browsing through the net, I came across a couple of bemusing questions based on the verse I’ve just quoted above. One lady asked , ‘ Why is a Sikh Guru writing about Allah’s greatness?’ The other person commented, “ It’s obvious that Guru Nanak was actually a Muslim peer (saint) and not a Sikh, because even he is praising and praying to Allah!” In fact, the Hindus have also been claiming that Nanak was born in to a Hindu family. All these innocent people haven’t quite grasped the essence of Nanak’s message of establishing equality and peace in ONENESS of humanity and preaching to the world the mantra of ‘Ek Omkar’, meaning that God is ONE . These are the first two words of the holy book of Sikhs, called ‘Guru Granth Sahib’. In Hindi and Punjabi language Guru means teacher and Granth means Book; this epic compilation of hymns and prayers is adorned with the title of Guru because it contains the true words of the saints and the spiritual Gurus.
                             Now returning the focus back to the comments above, let me clarify, rather proudly shout from top of the roof – ‘ Brothers and sisters, Guru belongs to all humanity and his message is about equality and peace for ALL! And the literal meaning of the word Allah is GOD!! Not a Muslim God or Sikh God or Hindu God or Christian God or any other God belonging to a particular religion, but just a generic and universal abstract entity.  We all need to step out of the little pond and feel the vast ground under our feet or we’ll remain going round and round like a toad in a puddle.  
                          I would also like to pre-empt another potentially simmering question in a wandering mind : Why is Guru Nanak considered to be a Sikh Guru if he didn’t represent any particular religious institute? I’ll attempt to explain.
                          Guru Nanak didn’t set out to start a new religion. In fact, he introduced a new thought in the contemporary Brahmin ( A supposed upper most caste in Hinduism) dominated orthodox society enforcing its religious and social superiority over the masses in India. Brahminic anarchy was blessed by the Monarchy of the time and together they strangulated the down trodden masses. Any breath left in them was sucked out by the class- pyramid of discrimination. This is not all, women were the exploited sex in every existing religion, class and caste. For example, Sati was the most heinous of social rituals and customs in the Hindu culture of that time – It meant that when husband died, the wife was forced to enter the burning pyre alive and self- immolate as a symbol of her eternal love for the husband. Blood curdling? Yes, to say the least but Guru Nanak raised the first voice to campaign against such a senseless inhumanity. He wrote (As translated into English) :
From woman, man is born;
within woman, man is conceived; to woman he is engaged and married.
Woman becomes his friend; through woman, the future generations come.
When his woman dies, he seeks another woman; to woman he is bound.
So why call her bad? From her, kings are born.
From woman, woman is born; without woman, there would be no one at all.
(Guru Nanak, Page 473 of Guru Granth Sahib – the Sikh holy book).
                               This was one in the series of Guru ji’s teachings, reform movement and spiritual guidance. After Guru Nanak’s physical departure from this earth, the baton was passed on to the subsequent nine Gurus.  Those who sought Guru’s teachings  were called ‘Sikh’ or Gursikh. The Punjabi word sikh  means ‘to learn’ and Gursikh means Guru’s Sikhs or teacher’s students
                              So, the Sikhs are followers of all the ten Gurus, currently represented collectively by, ‘GURU Granth Sahib’ The most unique feature of this Granth is the fact that  though the hymns and prayers in the holy book are  predominately written by the Gurus themselves, it also contain verses written by many Sufi and Hindu Saints, as a symbol of ONENESS of God beyond the demarcations of religions. Because of Guru Nanak’s religion-less spiritual thoughts, Muslims consider him to be their Peer, Hindu Sindhis  believe in his teachings even without calling themselves Gursikhs, the converted Christians in India from Punjab believe that Guru Nanak is a saint in their faith. It’s the universal appeal of Guru Nanak’s thought that all the major religions have made a claim to this great name. Many people do not know that even the tenth Guru, Gobind Singh, who baptised the Sikhs in to becoming the Khalsa or the Pure, also had Muslims and Hindus amongst his followers, without changing their religion. What does that mean? Well, the tenth Guru preached that so long one is true to humanity, is true to his individual religion, in line with Guru Nanak’s teachings. There was no ‘conversion’ enforced, so Sikhs became Khalsa out of free will. The Khalsa Sikhs ( baptised and called Singh ) and Sikhs ( all those who believed in the teachings of the Gurus) coexisted as Gursikhs. It is the case even now.
                                    I am pre-empting another question of a sceptic mind- ‘ Why create Khalsa if anyone from any religion could also be a sikh, as per the tradition since Guru Nanak?’ I’ll need to give a synopsis of the historical background to explain this point. The Mughal rulers in India at the time were forcing the Hindus to convert to Islam or face death. Hindus and Muslims looked alike and when Muslim armies used to attack, the Hindus tried to save their lives by pretending to be Muslim so their lives could be spared. But the unique identity with the beard and turban inspired pride in self and courage to fight for their just rights. Guru Gobind Singh wanted to prepare a strong mental state which would not accept injustice and  oppression. So along with building the spiritual character, he also demonstrated how to raise one’s spirit and achieve freedom which is every human being’s right. Isn’t this pure spiritualism? Isn’t feeling free within and outside the ultimate state of mind to become One with the Almighty? When a Khalsa Sikh stood in front of a Muslim soldier, he was instantly recognised, without any doubts. So when one is faced with the enemy there is no other option left but to stand firm and show the tenacity to fight back to defend yourself and  fellow humans. Encouraged by the success of many victories in the battlefield, a number of people from diverse faiths joined Guru Gobind Singh’s army and followed Sikhism in its principles. The tenth Guru sacrificed his four sons, mother and father to win the cause against injustice. In fact, five of the ten Gurus directly led the struggle in the battlefields against all the contemporary oppression of the defenceless innocent people in the Indian region. Sikh Philosophy is like the two sides of the same coin, named Miri and Piri by the fifth Guru, Hargobind Singh- Miri means the political or worldly power ( only Just power that is used to save and defend in order to restore peace to all humanity) and Piri means quest for spiritual truth . And it all started with the progressive thought of Guru Nanak for the good of all.
                                          So, Guru Nanak  demonstrated that social justice, recognising personal rights as equal human beings, living with dignity were the foundation stones for building belief in self which prepares the right mindset to connect with God.  A true Sikh wouldn’t disrespect any other religion or spiritual philosophy. Only if we human beings could stop being possessive and obsessive about ‘whose God’ is greater, this world could be a beautiful place to cohabit blissfully. After all, it’s a journey together and not a contest.
                                   Hope I’ve explained my context in simplicity, even though the subject matter is as deep as the ocean and no one can count every drop in it. I can say categorically that I am happy to be a Sikh, a novice student who shall continue to try on the path shown by the Gurus , even if I limp through most of it.  
                                     Sikhism belong to all – after all aren’t we all Sikhs of the faith we follow, regardless of the name of the religion?  

4 thoughts on “Spills from life: Enigma of Guru Nanak’s simplicity

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.