More than 500 years have gone by when Shri Guru Nanak Dev Ji started his holy mission to transform world social structure in a way that human society rids itself of all social evils. He preached his followers, the Sikhs, to lead truthful and pious lives and do good to others. He then preached to his Sikhs to inspire others, their near and dear ones and their friends to lead truthful and pious lives and doing good to others so that a wave is created and whole of the nation is transformed into a pious society. This was in fact a message for all times to come and a message not only for India but for whole of the world. This was thus the message for eternity.
The nine gurus who followed Shri Guru Nanak Dev Ji followed the same method and for over 250 years, rivers of spirituality flowed in India and whole of the nation started to see the Sikhs as perfect humans. It became famous that a Sikh will never tell a lie. Even court decisions were made on the basis of a Sikh’s witness thinking that a Sikh will never tell a lie. Sikhs used to escort the brides in the marriages to safety. They used to free the daughters of the country from the clutches of the foreign invaders. They were always ready to fight for the right cause. Sikhs’ fifth and ninth gurus sacrificed their lives to save the honour of the country and to check the forcible conversion of innocent people to Islamic religion by a tyrant ruler. Their tenth guru sacrificed his four sons for saving the honour of the country. The great, noble and unprecedented sacrifices of the gurus were followed by thousands of sacrifices by the devoted Sikhs to save the honour, religion and culture of this country. Even in freedom struggle from the clutches of a foreign rule, the sacrifices made by the Sikhs far exceed the combined sacrifices made by the rest of the country.
Society before guru Nanak Dev Ji
Guru Nanak Dev Ji has described the state of decadent society prevailing in his times in his own words. He writes that the sin was the ruler, greed was his prime minister and falsehood was his finance minister. Ladies of the harem were the king’s advisers with whom the ruler was ever engaged in conversation. The public was ignorant and mindless and accepted every thing thrust on it by the corrupt ruler (pages 468-469 of sacred guru granth sahib).At another place, Guru Nanak Dev Ji likened kings to ravenous loins, their officials to dogs and their subjects to blind sheep.
It is ironical that the wave started by Sikh gurus did not last long. The present day rulers and the public are in no way different than those described by Guru Nanak Dev Ji in his times The present day society is caste ridden and strife torn. There is violence every where. Corruption is rampant. Bribery has made inroads every where. No work is possible without greasing the palms of the government officials. Justice is purchased. Bigotry is the order of the day. Tolerance has disappeared. Rapes of innocent girls are common. There is therefore a dire necessity of renaissance of Guru Nanak Dev’s message for eternity. That can only save the present day society from self destruction.
Basic concepts of Guru Nanak’s teachings
Guru Nanak’s teachings lay main emphasis on righteous living and doing good to the society. According to him, it is through good deeds that a person can reach the door of God. Guru Ji says, “God rules through His supreme command but His pen flows according to our deeds. His justice is truth and his court is truth” (page 1241 of sacred Guru Granth Sahib).At another place Guru Ji says,” For every human being, life means action (work) and God would take His decision on the basis of our good or bad actions” (page 1176 of sacred Guru Granth Sahib). In fact Guru Ji says that we have got human birth according to our good deeds done in the past births (page 18 of holy Guru Granth Sahib).Guru Ji says that no worship of God can be possible without righteous living and without inculcating good attributes (gunas) in our mind (vin gun keete bhagte na hoe). Riches have no meaning in the court of God if the wealth is earned by evil means and spent on selfish causes. On the other hand, money earned by hard labour and honest means and spent on right causes makes the life sublime and is accepted in the court of God. Once Guru Nanak Dev Ji spurned the invitation of having feast with a rich man named Malik Bhago and accepted simple food from a hard working, poor carpenter, Bhai Lalo. On Malik’s asking, Guru Ji replied,” The bread earned by the exploitation of the poor and by using evil means exudes blood of those exploited by you. If I squeeze your bread, blood will flow from it. How can I eat such bread? On the other hand, the bread earned by a sweat, hard work and honest and right means by Bhai Lalo exudes milk of his hard earnings. If I squeeze his bread, milk will flow from it. That is the difference between your sumptuous meals and Bhai Lalo’s simple food.” Once in Bagdad, a Moslem Ulema asked Guru Nanak Dev Ji,” who is superior, a Hindu or a Moslem?” To this Guru Ji replied,” Both would weep without good deeds”.
Integration of Naam and Mind
Every one of us does some good deed in our day to day chorus in our lives. May it be attending to a sick person, donating to orphanages or blind care organizations, attending to handicapped persons, taking care of old parents, donating towards the treatment of poor patients suffering from serious diseases, donating blood, serving the nation at the time of foreign aggression, funding the education expenses of poor bright students who cannot afford the costly education, donating to construction and subsequent running of hospitals, schools, colleges, free eye operation camps among many such like other benevolent acts. But can such sporadic acts of goodness transform one’s life so that he can reach the door of God? No. Our mind should in stead be so tuned that at every step or rather at every breath, it thinks of good and nothing else. By attaining this state of mind, a person can attain highest level of piety in his life. To achieve this, Guru Nanak Dev Ji has repeatedly preached to us to have a symbiotic association of mind and Naam, the name of God or the noble attributes of God. Guru Nanak Dev Ji says,” to do good deeds is the best rosary. If our mind is tuned in doing good deeds, our life goes according to God’s wishes (sukirt karni saar jap maali hirde pher challai tudh naali)” (page 1134 of holy Guru Granth Sahib Ji).
Naam means attributes of God. Integration of mind and Naam thus means absorption of God’s attributes in mind so that the mind becomes tuned to the wishes of God or whatever mind will think will be as God desires it to think. To receive Naam, mind should be free from all ills like hatred, jealousy, backbiting, bigotry, thinking bad of others, hurting others feelings, stealing, telling lies, etc etc and also have complete control on anger, sex, greed, worldly attachments and ego. Guru Nanak Dev Ji says, “When we go to milk a cow, we first wash the utensil, sit and fumigate it with smoke of scented material before collecting the milk. In the same way, we should purify our mind before absorbing Naam in it.”( bhanda dhoe bais dhup devo tau dhudhe ko javo) (page 728 of Guru Granth Sahib Ji).
Key Lessons & Teachings from Guru Nanak Dev Ji life
1 Submission to the Will of God (WAHEGURU)
Guru Nanak Dev ji gave the message of “Hukam Rajayee Chalna Nanak Likheya Naal“. Guru Nanak Dev ji says that everything happens by God’s Grace, so Rest assured that God knows better what is right or wrong for us. We should, therefore, accept His decisions without any grudge or question.
2. There is One God
In Sikhism, the god is omnipresent, shapeless, timeless, and sightless. ( Nirankar, akar, alakh). Sikhism stress that, before creation there was God, and because of His will ( Hukam), the Illusion ( maya of attachment and enticement) came into being. The God in Sikhism is not male/female, and can only be seen through inward eye. Guru Nanak Dev ji explained one thing clearly that there is only One who gives to Everyone and we should not forget to Him. The Guru stressed that full knowledge of god is impossible in human form.
3. Goodwill for all – SARBAT DAA BHALAA
Guru Nanak dev ji passed the message of Universal brotherhood. He said that religion is not mere consistence of words but actually looks all men and women equally. Universal brotherhood is a strong theme in Gurbani written by Guru Nanak Dev ji. In our prayer, we say this line towards the end of daily Ardaas – “Nanak Naam Chardi Kala Tere Bhane Sarbat da bhala”, which can be translated as “Nanak asks for ‘Naam’ (name of God) with which comes well being, happiness and positive spirit and with your blessings, Lord may everyone in the world prosper and be in peace“ or can be broken down as:
Nanak, With Naam comes Chardi Kala and with your blessings, may there be peace for all
We request Him for the welfare of the whole humanity and not just of our community or our family alone.
4. SACH SUNAISI SACH KEE BELA – (to speak the truth)
Guru Nanak Dev Ji told in front of King Babar “You are not Babar but JABAR”. We should always speak the truth without any fear. According to the Guru’s doctrine, the victory of truth is not dependent on ending or suppressing falsehood but in standing firmly by truth. That is why Guru Nanak Dev ji exhorts that to stick to truth and to remain on the side of truth when it is necessary is very essential –
Sach ki bani Nanak aakhai sach sunaisi sach ki bela
I have related the true Word of the True Lord as per His Will.
5. SEWA AND SIMRAN
Guru Nanak says that no one can save anybody else. It is only Guru who guides us to safety, and to be saved, one have to follow the right path of SEWA and SIMRAN told by him. Further the Guru is not to be found in big palaces, he lives with poor. Let us love the poor, God will bless us. If we recite Gurbani with love, we will find the Guru is speaking to us. We have been reminded of his observations many times in our life. When we barely make both ends meet, we are usually sincerely devoted to GURBANI and the Sikh way of life. But when we have excess money to spend on worldly pleasures we follow vices and ignore the real mission of human life. DHARAM is usually the first casualty when we become rich. About SEWA Gurbani explains: (In the midst of this world, do SEWA and you shall be given a place of honour in the Court of the Lord)
6 The three Principals
Vand Chako: Sharing with others, helping those with less who are in need
Kirat Karo: Earning/making a living honestly, without exploitation or fraud
Naam Japna: Chanting the Holy Name and thus remembering God at all times (ceaseless devotion to God)
7 Shun five Evils
GuruNanak Dev Ji asked his followers to shun five evils which leads to illusion ( maya) which eventually acts as roadblock towards attainment of salvation. The five evils are
Ego, Anger, Greed, Attachment and Lust.
8 Importance of Guru
Guru Nanak Dev ji lay great emphasis on having the importance of Guru in one’s life. He put forward the thought that salvation occurs not from pilgrimage or rites etc, but through heart, spirit and soul. For this to happen continuous seeking of knowledge must take place which is dependent on one’s guru. Guru according to him is the voice of the god, the true source of knowledge and salvation.
9. No Discrimination
Guru Nanak Dev ji was strongly against all artificially created divisions and all discrimination, both in word and deed. He said that the caste of a person is based on what he does. His idea of a caste-free society transpired also in his concepts of Sangat and Pangat.
10. Against Rituals/Superstitions
Guru Nanak Dev Ji preached against superstitions, false rituals, worship of demi-gods and goddesses. He stressed that only One God, the Formless, is to be glorified. In this way, he showed the path of truth and enlightenment.