GURU NANAK DEV JI
Guru Nanak Dev ji was born on 15th April, 1469 in a village named Talwandi, near Lahore in Punjab. During that time, India was passing through a very difficult period. Muslim invaders from north-east had established their rule in India. Punjab had the longest period of Muslim rule among all the Indian provinces. During Guru Nanak Dev ji’s lifetime (1469 to 1539), he saw the rule of five kings – Bahlol Lodi, Sikandar Lodi, Ibrahim Lodi, Babar, and Humayun. Law and order had broken down. The kings and landlords were immoral, arrogant, tyrannical, and indifferent to the needs of the people. The priests were greedy and were using religion to gain wealth and power rather than serving the people. People neglected spiritual values and had become corrupt, superstitious, illiterate, and demoralized. Hindu society was divided by the caste system. There was no freedom of worship. The priests and the rulers restricted people from worshipping according to their choice. Women were discriminated and treated as inferior. Hindus and Muslims were completely separated from each other, religiously, socially, economically, culturally, and politically. At such a time, Guru Nanak Dev ji came to this world to give relief and hope, not only to the people of Punjab, but to the whole World. A short summary of his principles and teachings is given below:
· Guru Nanak Dev ji preached the brotherhood of mankind and regarded all human beings as the children of God. During his time, there was much conflict between Hindus and Muslims. He said “Religion does not consist of theories and verses. He who looks on all as equal is religious”. He believed in universal good, “sarbat ka bhala” i.e. wishing good for all. His religion was above the limits of caste, creed, and country. He is universally loved and revered by people of all religions.
· Guru Nanak Dev Ji advocated three basic rules to live by and they are: Naam Japna (recitation of Waheguru’s name), Wand Chhakna (share with others, specially the needy persons), and Kirt Karna (working to earn a livelihood).
· He preached that God judges man by his actions and not by his caste, social position, or religious status. Hindu society at that time was divided into four casts. They considered a person high or low based on his birth in a caste and not according to his deeds. He said that a man’s worth depends on his deeds and not his caste, or ethnic and social background. He declared that nobody was high and nobody low. Only fools and idiots claimed superiority over others. Guru Nanak Dev ji aimed at creating a casteless and classless society.
· Guru Nanak Dev ji stressed that one should not escape from the problems and hardships of life but should face them. His approach was positive and dynamic. He said: one must live in the world and take part in its affairs and yet remain unpolluted by its evil.
· On pilgrimages, penances, fasts, superstitions and renunciation, Guruji opposed these practices when performed to please God or thinking that these will wash away one’s past sins. He held remembering God with love and devotion above all these practices. Guru ji says, the real place of pilgrimage is within us, where we can wash off our sins by surrendering ego and absorbing in God’s Name. He denounced the perversions, not the practices.
· He opposed idol worship and predominance given to gods and goddesses among Hindus, but he did not hold them in any disrespect. He emphasized that they were not God but were His creation. He held the holy books of Hinduism and Islam in high esteem and regard. He said “bed kateb kaho mat jhuthe, jhutha so jo na vicharae”, which means: do not call Vedas and Quran false; false are those who do not follow them with understanding.
· Guru Nanak Dev Ji advocated that women must not be treated as having a lower status in society. He said, “in a woman we are conceived, of a woman we are born, to a woman we are married, through a woman new relationships are formed, when one woman dies we look for another, then why should we call her evil or low? “So kion manda akhiea jit jame raajaan” why should we call her evil of whom are born kings? Guru ji condemned the practice of sati – the practice of woman burning herself on the funeral pyre of her husband. He said the real sati is one who dies at the mere shock of separation from her real Master, God.
· Guru ji considered spiritual education essential to retain peace of mind. He said “one may read cartloads of books, read days and nights, even his whole life. At the end, only one thing will count, rest is all an exercise in egoism.” It is love for God and His creation that counts. He emphasized that mere reading of religious texts without understanding and without acting upon them is not of much use. For the spiritual teachers he said they must practice what they taught, only then they could inspire their disciples.
· To spread the message of God Guru Nanak Dev Ji traveled all over India and many parts of the world. During his first tour he traveled to Lahore, Hardwar, Gorakh Mata, Paryag, Auydia, Banaras, Gaya, Patna, Bengal, Dhaka (now in Bangla Desh), Assam, Calcutta, Jaganath, Sri Lanka, Kerla, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pardesh, Hydrabad, Mysore, Maharashtra;, Madhya Pardesh, Gujrat, Rajisthan, Uttar Pardesh (Gwalier, Agra etc.), Delhi, Panipat, Kurukushetra and finally back to Sultan Pur for a few days. There are many Sakhis told about Guru Ji at various places but the main message always remained the same i.e. be in tune with Waheguru’s name at all times.
During the second journey Guru Nanak Dev Ji went to Kashmir, Nepal, Tibet, Leh, Ladakh, back to Jammu and then Punjab.
The third and the last tour were to Mecca. On the way to Mecca Guru Nanak Dev Ji stopped at many places and then went to Adan and then to Mecca. The Saakhi at Mecca is well known (Mecca turns in the direction of Guru Ji’s feet as the Kaji turns Guru Ji’s feet away from the Mecca). The Kaji’s gathered together and asked Guruji who is better, Hindu or Muslim? Guruji replied: “without good deeds both shall suffer and neither one will be honored in God’s court”.
· After spreading the message of God all over India and many other countries, Guru Nanak Dev Ji settled down in Kartarpur in Punjab, where he lived the life of a Grihsthi or a family man. Guru Ji taught us how to lead a family life and yet be in tune with God at all times.
· The greatest gift of Guru Nanak dev Ji to mankind is Gurbani. Guru Ji always used to write down the Gurbani as it came to him (from God Himself). In a Shabad in Guru Granth Sahib Guru Nanak Dev Ji wrote, “Jaisi mai-n awae Khasam ki bani taesra kari-n biaan wei Lalo.” It means, hey Bhai Laloo I write the God’s message as it comes to me. Entire Gurbani in Guru Granth Sahib is universal in nature. It does not apply to any particular religion, time, or place. This practice of writing Gurbani was continued by other Guru’s and this is one of the primary reasons how the original message of God has been preserved.
· The final and historical act was that Guru Nanak Dev Ji gave the Gurgaddi to Bhai Lehna ji (Guru Angad Dev Ji), who was not a relative or a son of the Guru but rather a disciple who had acted on Guru Ji’s teachings without ever questioning them. He held a big congregation on September 2, 1539, praised Bhai Lehna ji for his single minded devotion and service, and placed five paisas and a coconut before him and put his head at Bhai Lehna’s feet, and called him Angad or part of his own body. Thus, Bhai Lehna became Guru Angad Dev Ji. This was a unique act in the history of the world religeons, where a Guru bowed at the feet of the disciple and made him the Guru. By doing this he established the unity and the continuity of Guruship – the concept of the continuity of the same spirit. As a result, the succeeding Gurus used the name Nanak in their compositions. Guru Nanak Dev ji passed away at Kartarpur 20 days after this event at age 70. He was loved by Hindus and Muslims alike and was called “Nanak Shah Faqir, Hindu ka Guru, Musalman ka Pir”.