Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Guru Nanak

GURU NANAK [1469-1539]—Founder of Sikhism.

“The truly great men are not the men of wealth, of possessions, not men who gain name and fame, but those who testify to the truth in them and refuse to compromise whatever be the cost. They are determined to do what they consider to be right. We may punish their bodies, refuse them comforts but we cannot buy their souls, we cannot break their spirits. Whoever possesses this invulnerability of spirit even to a little extent deserves our admiration”—so said Sir S.Radhakrishnan, well-known philosopher and statesman, in one of his writings. Among the galaxy of such great men and women of India who deserve our admiration, the name of Guru Nanak shines like a bright star even today, 500 years after his demise. His name is synonymous with Sikhism.

If we look back and scan the pages of Indian History, we observe that the country has witnessed periods of glory and gloom, triumph and tragedy, victory and defeat. Whenever we passed through gloomy periods, a prophet arose to call us back to the truth, telling us how we have deviated from the path of Dharma and how in our actual life we had discarded the teachings of the true religious founders. Nanak was born in a period of crisis—not political and social, but moral and spiritual. People were lost in the observance of trivialities and following meaningless dogmas which widened the gap between community and community. It was an age of social chaos which was repugnant to the heart of any right thinking man. Guru Nanak, therefore emphasized what may be regarded as the central principles of any true religion—inward vigilance and outward efficiency.

Nanak was born in 1469 in Talwandi, 65kms West of Lahore. Even as a boy, he learnt Persian and Arabic besides the regional languages. His father was a revenue official. Nanak himself was managing a store under the Muslim ruler Daulat Khan Lodi. In 1487 he got married and had two sons. Even though he worked in the store his consciousness was totally given to meditation and dhyana which he practiced at night. One early morning, after a bath in the river, he went into a nearby forest. It is said that there during meditation, he had the vision of God and in this vision God offered him a cup of nectar and commanded him to preach the glory of His name. This profound mystical experience gave a new direction to his life. Despite the difficulties of travel 500 years back, Nanak visited several spiritual centres like Kashi, Kurukshetra, Prayag, Puri etc as a wandering mendicant. It is said that in Puri he met Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the great Bengali Vaishnava saint. This meeting had a tremendous effect and Nanak went on touring the country inspiring people with his songs of exquisite grace and philosophy of fellowship of human beings. The essence of his teachings is found in the book ‘Japji’ which contains prayers for God-Realisation.

Contrary to the generality of holy men and religious preachers of his time, Guru Nanak was not an advocate of total renunciation from the concerns of the material world. He commended the life of a householder, calling upon all men to combat all the evils and injustices in the society. He had the clear vision of a just society as the goal of man. He saw worldly pomp, glory, wealth and luxury as inconsequential to true happiness. Rather than rituals, he suggested prayer, meditation and devotion which alone, when combined with sincerity, would lead one to true happiness in this very life. Nanak’s religious emphasis was basically ethical. The essence of his teaching is reflected in the prayers of the Sikhs, offered twice in the day: “By grace of Nanak, may the spirit ascend to even greater heights; May general weal descend on all creations by the Grace of the Lord”

In the ‘Ramana Geetha’, Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi makes a profound statement:
“Hrudaya Kuharamadhye Kevalam Brahmamatram” which means ‘Only God is to be found in the innermost secret chamber of the Heart [Spiritual Heart]’. This is the Truth which Guru Nanak also upheld and preached when he said that if one wished to understand what Truth is, he should enter into the secret chamber of his heart. Such a man who realizes this Truth should be regarded as religious, not those who just mutter Japam or go to shrines or temples. They are only on the pathway to the Divine but the man who realizes God is the one who sees the Divine in his innermost being.

The other lesson which Nanak taught us is the common ground which subsists between many of our religions. In his time, he was faced by antagonism of Hindus and Muslims and he said “Why are you quarrelling about forms, about ceremonies, about dogmas, about religious places etc. Like this you will find that everyone is worshipping the same Supreme; we are all pilgrims in the same quest. We are all trying to find out where God is and how we can reach him”. He told both the Muslims and Hindus that both the Puranas and the Koran teach the same thing and we see the same God whether it is a temple or a mosque. Guru Nanak was so God-intoxicated that for hours he would sit in meditation. He undertook journeys to distant places on foot like Mecca, Baghdad, Tibet etc to spread the message of universal peace and brotherhood for over 17 years.

Nanak stood for a casteless and classless society in which no one will be superior to another and where no one, through greed and selfishness, will encroach upon the rights and privileges of others. He emphasized on the necessity of all persons living like the members of the same family, helping one another in times of need. He said that the more privileged should help the underprivileged and see that wealth is equally distributed among all people. Thus Guru Nanak was one of the world’s early socialites. In completing this noble mission, he was followed by nine Gurus. In 1708, the 10th and the last Guru, Sri Guru Govind Singh, made the Guru Granthsaheb, the Living Guru to propagate the Guru’s teachings.

Guru Nanak’s unusual attire attracted the attention of quite a few people. He was once asked “To which faith do you belong?” His reply was “I do not need any symbols for my prayer. For me, the Lord’s name is my Salagrama, good deeds are my necklace and Divine Grace is the anchor of my raft”. Guru Nanak advised people to be in the world but not worldly. In his teachings, adherence to Dharma, company of holy men, morality and good conduct held a very high place. To him, religion was a way of life.

A world teacher, Guru Nanak’s message is of universal application and is relevant for all times and for the entire mankind. During the troubled days of his time, it was Guru Nanak who gave new hope to the downtrodden mankind to join his fraternity as equals

ARTICLE NO. 440----GURU NANAK--Founder of Sikhism
Created: Friday, April 18, 2008 11:41 AM


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home