Whenever there is a big catastrophe in the land, whenever there is decline of righteousness,
whenever there are oppression and chaos in the land, whenever the faith of the people in GOD wanes, great men or saints appear, from time to time, to enrich sacred literature, to protect Dharma, to destroy unrighteousness and reawaken the love of God in the minds of the people. India was in a bad plight. Babar from Turkey invaded India, His armies assaulted and sacked several cities. The ascetic captives were forced to do rigorous work. There was wholesale massacre everywhere. The kings were bloodthirsty, cruel and turannical. There was no real religion. There was religious prosecution. The real spirit of religion was crushed by ritualism. The hearts of the people were filled with falsehood, cunningness, selfishness and greed. At such a time Guru Nanak came to the world with a message of peace, unity, love and devotion of God. He came at a time when real religion was replaced by mere rituals and forms. He came to preach the gospel of peace, brotherhood or the unity of humanity, love and sacrifice.
Nanak, the Khatri mystic and poet and founder of the sikh religion, was born in 1469 A.D. in the village of Talwandi on the Ravi river, in the Lahore district of punjab, on one side of the house in which Guru Nanak was born, there stands now the famous shrine called" Nankana sahib".
Nanak has been called the "Prophet of the Punjab and Sind", Nanak's father was Mehta Kalu Chand, known popularly as Kalu. He was the accountant of the village. He was an agriculturist also. Nanak's mother was Tripta. Even in his childhood , Nanak had a mystic disposition and he used to talk about God with saints. He had a contemplative mind and a pious nature. He began to spend his time in meditation and spiritual practices. He was , by habit, reserved in nature. He would eat but little.
When Nanak was a boy of seven , he was sent to Gopal Pandha to learn hindi. The teacher told Nanak to read a book. Nanak replied" what will it avail to know all and not have a knowledge of God?" Then the teacher wrote the Hindi alphabets for him on a wooden slate. Nanak said to the teacher, " Please tell me, Sir, what books have you studied? What is the extent of your knowledge?" Gopal Pandha replied. " I know mathematics and accounts necessary for shopkeeping", Nanak replied , "This knowledge will not in any way help you in obtaining freedom".
The teacher was very astonished at the words of the boy. He told him, "Nanak tell me something which could help me in the attainment of salvation", Nanak said, "O teacher! Burn worldly love, make its ashes into ink and make the intellect into a fine paper. Now make the love of God your pen, and your heart the writer, and under the instructions of your Guru, write and meditate. Write the name of the lord and His praises and write, He has no limit this side or the other, O teacher! Learn to write this account", The teacher was struck with wonder.
The kalu sent his son to Pundit Brij Nath to learn Sanskrit. The Pundit wrote for him "OM", Nanak asked the teacher the meaning of "Om", The teacher replied, "You have no business to know the meaning of "Om", now I can not explain to you the meaning of "Om", Nanak said, "O teacher! what is the use of reading without knowing the meaning ? I shall explain to you the meaning of "Om", Then Nanak gave an elaborate explanation of the significance of "Om", The sanskrit Pundit was stuck with amazement.
Then Kalu tried his level best to turn Nanak's mind towards worldly matters. He put Nanak in the work of looking after the cultivation of the land. Nanak did not pay any attention to his work. He meditated even in the fields. He went out to tend the cattle, but centred his mind on the worship of God. The cattle trespassed into a neighbor's field. Kalu rebuked Nanak for his idleness. Nanak replied , " I am not idle", but I am busy in guarding my own fields", Kalu asked him," where are your fields?" Nanal replied, " My body is a field. The mind is the ploughman, Righteouness is the cultivation. Modesty is water for irrigation. I have sown the field with the seed of the sacred Name of the Lord. Contentment is my field's harrow. Humility is its hedge. The seeds will germinate into a good crop with love and devotion. Fortunate is the house in which such a crop is brought! O sir, mammon will not accompany us to the next world. It has infatuated the whole world, but there are few who understand its delusive nature.
Then Kalu put him in charge of a small shop, Nanak distributed the things to saints and poor people. He would give away in charity whatever he could lay hands on in his father's house and in the shop. Nanak said, " My shop is made of time and space. Its store consists of the commodities of truth and self-control. I am always dealing with my customers, the sadhus and Mahatmas, contact with whom is very profitable indeed".
When Nanak was fifteen years of age, his father gave him twenty rupees and said, "Nanak, go to the market and purchase some profitable commodity". Kalu sent his servant Bala also to accompany Nanak. Nanak and Bala reached Chuhar kana, a village about twenty miles from Talwandi. Nanak met a party of Fakirs. He thought with in himself:" Let me feed these fakirs now, this is the most profitable bargain I can make". He purchased provisions immediately and fed them sumptuously. Then he came back to his house. the servant informed his master of his son's bargian. Kalu was very much annoyed. He gave a slap on Nanak's face.
The father thought that Nanak did not like sedentary work. Therefore he said to Nanak, "O dear son! Ride on a horse and do travelling business. This will suit you nicely", Nanak repllied "Revered father! My trade is divine knowldge. The profits are the purseful of good deeds with which I can certainly reach the domain of the Lord.
Then Kalu chand told Nanak:" If you do not like trade or business, you may serve in some office." Nank replied ." I am already a servant of God. I am endeavouring to do my duty honestly and whole-heartedly in the service of my Lord. I carry out His behests implicitly. I desire fervently to get the reward of devine grace from the Lord by serving Him untiringly and incessantly." On hearing this, the father became silent and retired from there.
There is a remarkable incident in connection with Nanak's visit to Mecca. At Mecca, Nanak was found sleeping with his feet towards the Kaaba, before which the Mohammedans prostrated themselves when performing their prayers. Kazi Rukan-ud-din, who observed this , angrily remarked. "Infidel! How dare you dishonor God's place by turning your feet towards Him?" He also kicked Nanak, Nanak silently replied" I am tired. Turn my feet in any direction where the place of God is not." Kazi Rukan -ud-din took hold of Nanak's feet angrily and moved them towards the opposite direction. The mosque also began to move . The Kazi was struck with wonder. He then recognised the glory of Guru Nanak.
Guru Nanak visited Hassam Abdal in the attock district in the North Western Frontier in 1520 A.D. He sat under a Pipal tree at the foot of a hillock. On top of the hill , there lived a Mohammedan saint named Vali Quandhari. there was then a spring of water on top of the hill. Mardana used to get water for the spring. Guru Nanak became very popular in a short time. The Mohammedan saint became jealous. He forbade Mardana from taking water out of the spring. Mardana informed Guru Nanak of the conduct of the Mohammedan saint. Guru Nanak said to Mardana." O Mardana! Do not be afraid. God will send water down to us soon." The spring that was on the top of the hill dried up immediately. There arose a spring at the foot of the hill where Guru Nanak halted . The saint was very much enraged. He hurled a big rock from the top of the hill down to the spot where Nanak was sitting. Guru Nanak stopped the rock by his open palm. The impression of his hand on the rock exists even now. For images ans story go to
Nanak has given a beautiful summary of his teachings in one of his hymns as follows:-
Love the saints of every faith
Put away thy pride.
Remember the essence of religion
Is meekness and sympathy.
Not fine clothes,
Not the Yogi's garb and ashes,
Not the blowing of the horns,
Not long prayers,
Not recitations and tortuings,
Not the ascetic way,
But a life of goodness and purity,
Amid the world's temptations.
"Vahe Guru" is the Guru Mantra for the followers of Guru Nanak. The other important Mantra for repetition is :
"Ek Omkar Satnam Karta Purkh Nirbhav Nirvair,
Akalmurat Ajuni Savai Bhang Gur Parsad"
Guru Nanak invented the Gurumukhi characters by simplifying the sanskrit characters.
The Granth Sahib begins with the following: There is but one God whose name is true-the Creator", It contains a code of high morals . Purity of life , obedience to Guru, Mercy, Charity, temperance, Justice, Straightwardness, Truthfulness, Sacrifice service, Love and abstinence from animal food are among the virtues on which great emphasis is laid; while lust, anger, pride, hatred, egoism, greed selfishness, cruelty, backbiting and falsehood are vehemently condemned.
Guru Nanak settled down at Kartarpur towards the close of his life. His whole family lived there together for the first time. Houses for the dwelling of Nanak's family and a Dharmashala were also built Mardana also lived with the Guru. Every day the "Japji and Sohila"- The morning and the evening prayers composed by Guru Nanak-were recited in his presence. Guru Nanak reached his heavenly abode in the year 1538 A.D. at the age of 69. Guru Angad succeeded Guru Nanak. The other Gurus are: Guru Amardas, Guru Ramdas, Guru Arjun, Guru Hargobind, Guru Har Rai, Guru Har Kishan, Guru Teg Bhadur and Guru Gobind Singh.
May the blessings of Guru Nanak be upon you all!
Aum NamaH Shivaya!
Sianala, Montreal, May 2008