Gurus Parkash Guru Nanak April 14

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1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
Guru Nanak Dev ji (1469 - 1539)

Note: Sikh Philosophy Network follows the Nanakshai (2003) calendar placing the birthday of Guru Nanak as April 14. This gurpurab was followed from 2003 through 2012 when a revised Nanakshai Calendar was adopted by the SGPC, celebrating Guru Nanak's birthday in November. There is continuing controversy over this date with some Sikh historians placing the Guru's birthday even earlier in mid-October.

Sri Guru Nanak Dev ji was born in 1469 in Talwandi, a village in the Sheikhupura district, 65 kms. west of Lahore. His father was a village official in the local revenue administration. As a boy, Sri Guru Nanak learnt, besides the regional languages, Persian and Arabic. He was married in 1487 and was blessed with two sons, one in 1491 and the second in 1496. In 1485 he took up, at the instance of his brother-in-law, the appointment of an official in charge of the stores of Daulat Khan Lodhi, the Muslim ruler of the area at Sultanpur. It is there that he came into contact with Mardana, a Muslim minstrel (Mirasi) who was senior in age.

By all accounts, 1496 was the year of his enlightenment when he started on his mission. His first statement after his prophetic communion with God was "There is no Hindu, nor any Mussalman." This is an announcement of supreme significance it declared not only the brotherhood of man and the fatherhood of God, but also his clear and primary interest not in any metaphysical doctrine but only in man and his fate. It means love your neighbour as yourself. Gurdwara nankana sahib In addition, it emphasised, simultaneously the inalienable spirituo-moral combination of his message. Accompanied by Mardana, he began his missionary tours. Apart from conveying his message and rendering help to the weak, he forcefully preached, both by precept and practice, against caste distinctions ritualism, idol worship and the pseudo-religious beliefs that had no spiritual content. He chose to mix with all. He dined and lived with men of the lowest castes and classes Considering the then prevailing cultural practices and traditions, this was something socially and religiously unheard of in those days of rigid Hindu caste system sanctioned by the scriptures and the religiously approved notions of untouchability and pollution. It is a matter of great significance that at the very beginning of his mission, the Guru's first companion was a low caste Muslim. The offerings he received during his tours, were distributed among the poor. Any surplus collected was given to his hosts to maintain a common kitchen, where all could sit and eat together without any distinction of caste and status. This institution of common kitchen or langar became a major instrument of helping the poor, and a nucleus for religious gatherings of his society and of establishing the basic equality of all castes, classes and sexes.

When Guru Nanak Dev ji were 12 years old his father gave him twenty rupees and asked him to do a business, apparently to teach him business. Guru Nanak dev ji bought food for all the money and distributed among saints, and poor. When his father asked him what happened to business? He replied that he had done a "True business" at the place where Guru Nanak dev had fed the poor, this gurdwara was made and named Sacha Sauda.

Despite the hazards of travel in those times, he performed five long tours all over the country and even outside it. He visited most of the known religious places and centres of worship. At one time he preferred to dine at the place of a low caste artisan, Bhai Lallo, instead of accepting the invitation of a high caste rich landlord, Malik Bhago, because the latter lived by exploitation of the poor and the former earned his bread by the sweat of his brow. This incident has been depicted by a symbolic representation of the reason for his preference. Sri Guru Nanak pressed in one hand the co{censored} loaf of bread from Lallo's hut and in the other the food from Bhago's house. Milk gushed forth from the loaf of Lallo's and blood from the delicacies of Bhago. This prescription for honest work and living and the condemnation of exploitation, coupled with the Guru's dictum that "riches cannot be gathered without sin and evil means," have, from the very beginning, continued to be the basic moral tenet with the Sikh mystics and the Sikh society.

During his tours, he visited numerous places of Hindu and Muslim worship. He explained and exposed through his preachings the incongruities and fruitlessness of ritualistic and ascetic practices. At Hardwar, when he found people throwing Ganges water towards the sun in the east as oblations to their ancestors in heaven, he started, as a measure of correction, throwing the water towards the West, in the direction of his fields in the Punjab. When ridiculed about his folly, he replied, "If Ganges water will reach your ancestors in heaven, why should the water I throw up not reach my fields in the Punjab, which are far less distant ?"

He spent twenty five years of his life preaching from place to place. Many of his hymns were composed during this period. They represent answers to the major religious and social problems of the day and cogent responses to the situations and incidents that he came across. Some of the hymns convey dialogues with Yogis in the Punjab and elsewhere. He denounced their methods of living and their religious views. During these tours he studied other religious systems like Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism and Islam. At the same time, he preached the doctrines of his new religion and mission at the places and centres he visited. Since his mystic system almost completely reversed the trends, principles and practices of the then prevailing religions, he criticised and rejected virtually all the old beliefs, rituals and harmful practices existing in the country. This explains the necessity of his long and arduous tours and the variety and profusion of his hymns on all the religious, social, political and theological issues, practices and institutions of his period.

Finally, on the completion of his tours, he settled as a peasant farmer at Kartarpur, a village in the Punjab. Bhai Gurdas, the scribe of Guru Granth Sahib, was a devout and close associate of the third and the three subsequent Gurus. He was born 12 years after Guru Nanak's death and joined the Sikh mission in his very boyhood. He became the chief missionary agent of the Gurus. Because of his intimate knowledge of the Sikh society and his being a near contemporary of Sri Guru Nanak, his writings are historically authentic and reliable. He writes that at Kartarpur Guru Nanak donned the robes of a peasant and continued his ministry. He organised Sikh societies at places he visited with their meeting places called Dharamsalas. A similar society was created at Kartarpur. In the morning, Japji was sung in the congregation. In the evening Sodar and Arti were recited. The Guru cultivated his lands and also continued with his mission and preachings. His followers throughout the country were known as Nanak-panthies or Sikhs. The places where Sikh congregation and religious gatherings of his followers were held were called Dharamsalas. These were also the places for feeding the poor. Eventually, every Sikh home became a Dharamsala.

One thing is very evident. Guru Nanak had a distinct sense of his prophethood and that his mission was God-ordained. During his preachings, he himself announced. "O Lallo, as the words of the Lord come to me, so do I express them." Successors of Guru Nanak have also made similar statements indicating that they were the messengers of God. So often Guru Nanak refers to God as his Enlightener and Teacher. His statements clearly show his belief that God had commanded him to preach an entirely new religion, the central idea of which was the brotherhood of man and the fatherhood of God, shorn of all ritualism and priestcraft. During a dialogue with the Yogis, he stated that his mission was to help everyone. He came to be called a Guru in his lifetime. In Punjabi, the word Guru means both God and an enlightener or a prophet. During his life, his disciples were formed and came to be recognised as a separate community. He was accepted as a new religious prophet. His followers adopted a separate way of greeting each other with the words Sat Kartar (God is true). Twentyfive years of his extensive preparatory tours and preachings across the length and breadth of the country clearly show his deep conviction that the people needed a new prophetic message which God had commanded him to deliver. He chose his successor and in his own life time established him as the future Guru or enlightener of the new community. This step is of the greatest significance, showing Guru Nanak s determination and declaration that the mission which he had started and the community he had created were distinct and should be continued, promoted and developed. By the formal ceremony of appointing his successor and by giving him a new name, Angad (his part or limb), he laid down the clear principle of impersonality, unity and indivisibility of Guruship. At that time he addressed Angad by saying, Between thou and me there is now no difference. In Guru Granth Sahib there is clear acceptance and proclamation of this identity of personality in the hymns of Satta-Balwand. This unity of spiritual personality of all the Gurus has a theological and mystic implication. It is also endorsed by the fact that each of the subsequent Gurus calls himself Nanak in his hymns. Never do they call themselves by their own names as was done by other Bhagats and Illyslics. That Guru Nanak attached the highest importance to his mission is also evident from his selection of the successor by a system of test, and only when he was found perfect, was Guru Angad appointed as his successor. He was comparatively a new comer to the fold, and yet he was chosen in preference to the Guru's own son, Sri Chand, who also had the reputation of being a pious person, and Baba Budha, a devout Sikh of long standing, who during his own lifetime had the distinction of ceremonially installing all subsequent Gurus.

All these facts indicate that Guru Nanak had a clear plan and vision that his mission was to be continued as an independent and distinct spiritual system on the lines laid down by him, and that, in the context of the country, there was a clear need for the organisation of such a spiritual mission and society. In his own lifetime, he distinctly determined its direction and laid the foundations of some of the new religious institutions. In addition, he created the basis for the extension and organisation of his community and religion.

The above in brief is the story of the Guru's life. We shall now note the chief features of his work, how they arose from his message and how he proceeded to develop them during his lifetime.

(1) After his enlightenment, the first words of Guru Nanak declared the brotherhood of man. This principle formed the foundation of his new spiritual gospel. It involved a fundamental doctrinal change because moral life received the sole spiritual recognition and status. This was something entirely opposed to the religious systems in vogue in the country during the time of the Guru. All those systems were, by and large, other-worldly. As against it, the Guru by his new message brought God on earth. For the first time in the country, he made a declaration that God was deeply involved and interested in the affairs of man and the world which was real and worth living in. Having taken the first step by the proclamation of his radical message, his obvious concern was to adopt further measures to implement the same.

(2)The Guru realised that in the context and climate of the country, especially because of the then existing religious systems and the prevailing prejudices, there would be resistance to his message, which, in view of his very thesis, he wanted to convey to all. He, therefore, refused to remain at Sultanpur and preach his gospel from there. Having declared the sanctity of life, his second major step was in the planning and organisation of institutions that would spread his message. As such, his twentyfive years of extensive touring can be understood only as a major organizational step. These tours were not casual. They had a triple object. He wanted to acquaint himself with all the centres and organisations of the prevalent religious systems so as to assess the forces his mission had to contend with, and to find out the institutions that he could use in the aid of his own system. Secondly, he wanted to convey his gospel at the very centres of the old systems and point out the futile and harmful nature of their methods and practices. It is for this purpose that he visited Hardwar, Kurukshetra, Banaras, Kanshi, Maya, Ceylon, Baghdad, Mecca, etc. Simultaneously, he desired to organise all his followers and set up for them local centres for their gatherings and worship. The existence of some of these far-flung centres even up-till today is a testimony to his initiative in the Organizational and the societal field. His hymns became the sole guide and the scripture for his flock and were sung at the Dharamsalas.

(3) Guru Nanak's gospel was for all men. He proclaimed their equality in all respects. In his system, the householder's life became the primary forum of religious activity. Human life was not a burden but a privilege. His was not a concession to the laity. In fact, the normal life became the medium of spiritual training and expression. The entire discipline and institutions of the Gurus can be appreciated only if one understands that, by the very logic of Guru Nanak's system, the householder's life became essential for the seeker. On reaching Kartarpur after his tours, the Guru sent for the members of his family and lived there with them for the remaining eighteen years of his life. For the same reason his followers all over the country were not recluses. They were ordinary men, living at their own homes and pursuing their normal vocations. The Guru's system involved morning and evening prayers. Congregational gatherings of the local followers were also held at their respective Dharamsalas.

(4) After he returned to Kartarpur, Guru Nanak did not rest. He straightaway took up work as a cultivator of land, without interrupting his discourses and morning and evening prayers. It is very significant that throughout the later eighteen years of his mission he continued to work as a peasant. It was a total involvement in the moral and productive life of the community. His life was a model for others to follow. Like him all his disciples were regular workers who had not given up their normal vocations Even while he was performing the important duties of organising a new religion, he nester shirked the full-time duties of a small cultivator. By his personal example he showed that the leading of a normal man's working life was fundamental to his spiritual system Even a seemingly small departure from this basic tenet would have been misunderstood and misconstrued both by his own followers and others. In the Guru's system, idleness became a vice and engagement in productive and constructive work a virtue. It was Guru Nanak who chastised ascetics as idlers and condemned their practice of begging for food at the doors of the householders.

(5) According to the Guru, moral life was the sole medium of spiritual progress In those times, caste, religious and social distinctions, and the idea of pollution were major problems. Unfortunately, these distinctions had received religious sanction The problem of poverty and food was another moral challenge. The institution of langar had a twin purpose. As every one sat and ate at the same place and shared the same food, it cut at the root of the evil of caste, class and religious distinctions. Besides, it demolished the idea of pollution of food by the mere presence of an untouchable. Secondlys it provided food to the needy. This institution of langar and pangat was started by the Guru among all his followers wherever they had been organised. It became an integral part of the moral life of the Sikhs. Considering that a large number of his followers were of low caste and poor members of society, he, from the very start, made it clear that persons who wanted to maintain caste and class distinctions had no place in his system In fact, the twin duties of sharing one's income with the poor and doing away with social distinctions were the two obligations which every Sikh had to discharge. On this score, he left no option to anyone, since he started his mission with Mardana, a low caste Muslim, as his life long companion.

(6) The greatest departure Guru Nanak made was to prescribe for the religious man the responsibility of confronting evil and oppression. It was he who said that God destroys 'the evil doers' and 'the demonical; and that such being God s nature and will, it is man's goal to carry out that will. Since there are evil doers in life, it is the spiritual duty of the seeker and his society to resist evil and injustice. Again, it is Guru Nanak who protests and complains that Babur had been committing tyranny against the weak and the innocent. Having laid the principle and the doctrine, it was again he who proceeded to organise a society. because political and societal oppression cannot be resisted by individuals, the same can be confronted only by a committed society. It was, therefore, he who proceeded to create a society and appointed a successor with the clear instructions to develop his Panth. Again, it was Guru Nanak who emphasized that life is a game of love, and once on that path one should not shirk laying down one's life. Love of one's brother or neighbour also implies, if love is true, his or her protection from attack, injustice and tyranny. Hence, the necessity of creating a religious society that can discharge this spiritual obligation. Ihis is the rationale of Guru Nanak's system and the development of the Sikh society which he organised.

(7) The Guru expressed all his teachings in Punjabi, the spoken language of Northern India. It was a clear indication of his desire not to address the elite alone but the masses as well. It is recorded that the Sikhs had no regard for Sanskrit, which was the sole scriptural language of the Hindus. Both these facts lead to important inferences. They reiterate that the Guru's message was for all. It was not for the few who, because of their personal aptitude, should feel drawn to a life of a so-called spiritual meditation and contemplation. Nor was it an exclusive spiritual system divorced from the normal life. In addition, it stressed that the Guru's message was entirely new and was completely embodied in his hymns. His disciples used his hymns as their sole guide for all their moral, religious and spiritual purposes. I hirdly, the disregard of the Sikhs for Sanskrit strongly suggests that not only was the Guru's message independent and self-contained, without reference and resort to the Sanskrit scriptures and literature, but also that the Guru made a deliberate attempt to cut off his disciples completely from all the traditional sources and the priestly class. Otherwise, the old concepts, ritualistic practices, modes of worship and orthodox religions were bound to affect adversely the growth of his religion which had wholly a different basis and direction and demanded an entirely new approach.

The following hymn from Guru Nanak and the subsequent one from Sankara are contrast in their approach to the world.

"the sun and moon, O Lord, are Thy lamps; the firmament Thy salver; the orbs of the stars the pearls encased in it.

The perfume of the sandal is Thine incense, the wind is Thy fan, all the forests are Thy flowers, O Lord of light.

What worship is this, O Thou destroyer of birth ? Unbeaten strains of ecstasy are the trumpets of Thy worship.

Thou has a thousand eyes and yet not one eye; Thou host a thousand forms and yet not one form;

Thou hast a thousand stainless feet and yet not one foot; Thou hast a thousand organs of smell and yet not one organ. I am fascinated by this play of 'l hine.

The light which is in everything is Chine, O Lord of light.

From its brilliancy everything is illuminated;

By the Guru's teaching the light becometh manifest.

What pleaseth Thee is the real worship.

O God, my mind is fascinated with Thy lotus feet as the bumble-bee with the flower; night and day I thirst for them.

Give the water of Thy favour to the Sarang (bird) Nanak, so that he may dwell in Thy Name."3

Sankara writes: "I am not a combination of the five perishable elements I arn neither body, the senses, nor what is in the body (antar-anga: i e., the mind). I am not the ego-function: I am not the group of the vital breathforces; I am not intuitive intelligence (buddhi). Far from wife and son am 1, far from land and wealth and other notions of that kind. I am the Witness, the Eternal, the Inner Self, the Blissful One (sivoham; suggesting also, 'I am Siva')."

"Owing to ignorance of the rope the rope appears to be a snake; owing to ignorance of the Self the transient state arises of the individualized, limited, phenomenal aspect of the Self. The rope becomes a rope when the false impression disappears because of the statement of some credible person; because of the statement of my teacher I am not an individual life-monad (yivo-naham), I am the Blissful One (sivo-ham )."

"I am not the born; how can there be either birth or death for me ?"

"I am not the vital air; how can there be either hunger or thirst for me ?"

"I am not the mind, the organ of thought and feeling; how can there be either sorrow or delusion for me ?"

"I am not the doer; how can there be either bondage or release for me ?"

"I am neither male nor female, nor am I sexless. I am the Peaceful One, whose form is self-effulgent, powerful radiance. I am neither a child, a young man, nor an ancient; nor am I of any caste. I do not belong to one of the four lifestages. I am the Blessed-Peaceful One, who is the only Cause of the origin and dissolution of the world."4

While Guru Nanak is bewitched by the beauty of His creation and sees in the panorama of nature a lovely scene of the worshipful adoration of the Lord, Sankara in his hymn rejects the reality of the world and treats himself as the Sole Reality. Zimmer feels that "Such holy megalomania goes past the bounds of sense. With Sankara, the grandeur of the supreme human experience becomes intellectualized and reveals its inhuman sterility."5

No wonder that Guru Nanak found the traditional religions and concepts as of no use for his purpose. He calculatedly tried to wean away his people from them. For Guru Nanak, religion did not consist in a 'patched coat or besmearing oneself with ashes"6 but in treating all as equals. For him the service of man is supreme and that alone wins a place in God's heart.

By this time it should be easy to discern that all the eight features of the Guru's system are integrally connected. In fact, one flows from the other and all follow from the basic tenet of his spiritual system, viz., the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. For Guru Nanak, life and human beings became the sole field of his work. Thus arose the spiritual necessity of a normal life and work and the identity of moral and spiritual functioning and growth.

Having accepted the primacy of moral life and its spiritual validity, the Guru proceeded to identify the chief moral problems of his time. These were caste and class distinctions, the institutions, of property and wealth, and poverty and scarcity of food. Immoral institutions could be substituted and replaced only by the setting up of rival institutions. Guru Nanak believed that while it is essential to elevate man internally, it is equally necessary to uplift the fallen and the downtrodden in actual life. Because, the ultimate test of one's spiritual progress is the kind of moral life one leads in the social field. The Guru not only accepted the necessity of affecting change in the environment, but also endeavoured to build new institutions. We shall find that these eight basic principles of the spirituo-moral life enunciated by Guru Nanak, were strictly carried out by his successors. As envisaged by the first prophet, his successors further extended the structure and organised the institutions of which the foundations had been laid by Guru Nanak. Though we shall consider these points while dealing with the lives of the other nine Gurus, some of them need to be mentioned here.

The primacy of the householder's life was maintained. Everyone of the Gurus, excepting Guru Harkishan who died at an early age, was a married person who maintained a family. When Guru Nanak, sent Guru Angad from Kartarpur to Khadur Sahib to start his mission there, he advised him to send for the members of his family and live a normal life. According to Bhalla,8 when Guru Nanak went to visit Guru Angad at Khadur Sahib, he found him living a life of withdrawal and meditation. Guru Nanak directed him to be active as he had to fulfill his mission and organise a community inspired by his religious principles.

Work in life, both for earning the livelihood and serving the common good, continued to be the fundamental tenet of Sikhism. There is a clear record that everyone upto the Fifth Guru (and probably subsequent Gurus too) earned his livelihood by a separate vocation and contributed his surplus to the institution of langar Each Sikh was made to accept his social responsibility. So much so that Guru Angad and finally Guru Amar Das clearly ordered that Udasis, persons living a celibate and ascetic life without any productive vocation, should remain excluded from the Sikh fold. As against it, any worker or a householder without distinction of class or caste could become a Sikh. This indicates how these two principles were deemed fundamental to the mystic system of Guru Nanak. It was defined and laid down that in Sikhism a normal productive and moral life could alone be the basis of spiritual progress. Here, by the very rationale of the mystic path, no one who was not following a normal life could be fruitfully included.

The organization of moral life and institutions, of which the foundations had been laid by Guru Nanak, came to be the chief concern of the other Gurus. We refer to the sociopolitical martyrdoms of two of the Gurus and the organisation of the military struggle by the Sixth Guru and his successors. Here it would be pertinent to mention Bhai Gurdas's narration of Guru Nanak's encounter and dialogue with the Nath Yogis who were living an ascetic life of retreat in the remote hills. They asked Guru Nanak how the world below in the plains was faring. ' How could it be well", replied Guru Nanak, "when the so- called pious men had resorted to the seclusion of the hills ?" The Naths commented that it was incongruous and self-contradictory for Guru Nanak to be a householder and also pretend to lead a spiritual life. That, they said, was like putting acid in milk and thereby destroying its purity. The Guru replied emphatically that the Naths were ignorant of even the basic elements of spiritual life.9 This authentic record of the dialouge reveals the then prevailing religious thought in the country. It points to the clear and deliberate break the Guru made from the traditional system.

While Guru Nanak was catholic in his criticism of other religions, he was unsparing where he felt it necessary to clarify an issue or to keep his flock away from a wrong practice or prejudice. He categorically attacked all the evil institutions of his time including oppression and barbarity in the political field, corruption among the officialss and hypocrisy and greed in the priestly class. He deprecated the degrading practices of inequality in the social field. He criticised and repudiated the scriptures that sanctioned such practices. After having denounced all of them, he took tangible steps to create a society that accepted the religious responsibility of eliminating these evils from the new institutions created by him and of attacking the evil practices and institutions in the Social and political fields. T his was a fundamental institutional change with the largest dimensions and implications for the future of the community and the country. The very fact that originally poorer classes were attracted to the Gurus, fold shows that they found there a society and a place where they could breathe freely and live with a sense of equality and dignity.

Dr H.R. Gupta, the well-known historian, writes, "Nanak's religion consisted in the love of God, love of man and love of godly living. His religion was above the limits of caste, creed and country. He gave his love to all, Hindus, Muslims, Indians and foreigners alike. His religion was a people's movement based on modern conceptions of secularism and socialism, a common brotherhood of all human beings. Like Rousseau, Nanak felt 250 years earlier that it was the common people who made up the human race Ihey had always toiled and tussled for princes, priests and politicians. What did not concern the common people was hardly worth considering. Nanak's work to begin with assumed the form of an agrarian movement. His teachings were purely in Puniabi language mostly spoken by cultivators. Obey appealed to the downtrodden and the oppressed peasants and petty traders as they were ground down between the two mill stones of Government tyranny and the new Muslims' brutality. Nanak's faith was simple and sublime. It was the life lived. His religion was not a system of philosophy like Hinduism. It was a discipline, a way of life, a force, which connected one Sikh with another as well as with the Guru."' "In Nanak s time Indian society was based on caste and was divided into countless watertight Compartments. Men were considered high and low on account of their birth and not according to their deeds. Equality of human beings was a dream. There was no spirit of national unity except feelings of community fellowship. In Nanak's views men's love of God was the criterion to judge whether a person was good or bad, high or low. As the caste system was not based on divine love, he condemned it. Nanak aimed at creating a casteless and classless society similar to the modern type of socialist society in which all were equal and where one member did not exploit the other. Nanak insisted that every Sikh house should serve as a place of love and devotion, a true guest house (Sach dharamshala). Every Sikh was enjoined to welcome a traveller or a needy person and to share his meals and other comforts with him. "Guru Nanak aimed at uplifting the individual as well as building a nation."

Considering the religious conditions and the philosophies of the time and the social and political milieu in which Guru Nanak was born, the new spirituo- moral thesis he introduced and the changes he brought about in the social and spiritual field were indeed radical and revolutionary. Earlier, release from the bondage of the world was sought as the goal. The householder's life was considered an impediment and an entanglement to be avoided by seclusion, monasticism, celibacy, sanyasa or vanpraslha. In contrast, in the Guru's system the world became the arena of spiritual endeavour. A normal life and moral and righteous deeds became the fundamental means of spiritual progress, since these alone were approved by God. Man was free to choose between the good and the bad and shape his own future by choosing virtue and fighting evil. All this gave "new hope, new faith, new life and new expectations to the depressed, dejected and downcast people of Punjab."

Guru Nanak's religious concepts and system were entirely opposed to those of the traditional religions in the country. His views were different even from those of the saints of the Radical Bhakti movement. From the very beginning of his mission, he started implementing his doctrines and creating institutions for their practice and development. In his time the religious energy and zeal were flowing away from the empirical world into the desert of otherworldliness, asceticism and renunciation. It was Guru Nanak's mission and achievement not only to dam that Amazon of moral and spiritual energy but also to divert it into the world so as to enrich the moral, social the political life of man. We wonder if, in the context of his times, anything could be more astounding and miraculous. The task was undertaken with a faith, confidence and determination which could only be prophetic.

It is indeed the emphatic manifestation of his spiritual system into the moral formations and institutions that created a casteless society of people who mixed freely, worked and earned righteously, contributed some of their income to the common causes and the langar. It was this community, with all kinds of its shackles broken and a new freedom gained, that bound its members with a new sense of cohesion, enabling it to rise triumphant even though subjected to the severest of political and military persecutions.

The life of Guru Nanak shows that the only interpretation of his thesis and doctrines could be the one which we have accepted. He expressed his doctrines through the medium of activities. He himself laid the firm foundations of institutions and trends which flowered and fructified later on. As we do not find a trace of those ideas and institutions in the religious milieu of his time or the religious history of the country, the entirely original and new character of his spiritual system could have only been mystically and prophetically inspired.

Apart from the continuation, consolidation and expansion of Guru Nanak's mission, the account that follows seeks to present the major contributions made by the remaining Gurus.
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1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
Guru Nanak's Travels

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Me, the bard out of work, the Lord has applied to His service. In the very beginning He gave me the order to sing His praises night and day. The Master summoned the minstrel to His True Court. He clothed me with the robe of His true honour and eulogy. Since then the True Name had become my ambrosial food. They, who under the Guru's instruction, eat this food to their satisfaction, obtain peace. By singing the Guru's hymns, I, the minstrel spread the Lord's glory. Nanak, by praising the True Name I have obtained the perfect Lord." (Guru Nanak, Pauri, pg. 150)

The founder of the Sikh religion, Guru Nanak was born on April 15, 1469 in the Western Punjab village of Talwandi. He was born to a simple Hindu family. His father Mehta Kalian Das was an accountant in the employment of the local Muslim authorities. From an early age Guru Nanak made friends with both Hindu and Muslim children and was very inquisitive about the meaning of life. At the age of six he was sent to the village school teacher for schooling in reading and writing in Hindi and mathematics. He was then schooled in the study of Muslim literature and learned Persian and Arabic. He was an unusually gifted child who learned quickly and often question his teachers. At age 13 it was time for Guru Nanak to be invested with the sacred thread according to the traditional Hindu custom. At the ceremony which was attended by family and friends and to the disappointment of his family Guru Nanak refused to accept the sacred cotton thread from the Hindu priest. He sang the following poem;

"Let mercy be the cotton, contentment the thread, Continence the knot and truth the twist. O priest! If you have such a thread, Do give it to me. It'll not wear out, nor get soiled, nor burnt, nor lost. Says Nanak, blessed are those who go about wearing such a thread" (Rag Asa)

As a young man herding the family cattle, Guru Nanak would spend long hours absorbed in meditation and in religious discussions with Muslim and Hindu holy men who lived in the forests surrounding the village. Thinking that if bound in marriage Guru Nanak might start taking interest in household affairs a suitable match was found for him. At age 16 he was married to Sulakhani daughter of a pious merchant. Guru Nanak did not object as he felt that married life did not conflict with spiritual pursuits. Guru Nanak was happily married, he loved his wife and eventually had two sons Sri Chand in 1494 and Lakshmi Chand three years later. Now that he had a family of his own Guru Nanak was persuaded by his parents to take a job as an accountant in charge of the stores of the Muslim governor of Sultanpur Daulat Khan Lodi. Guru Nanak agreed and was joined by his family and an old Muslim childhood friend Mardana, a musician by profession. Guru Nanak would work during the days, but early in the mornings and late at nights, he would meditate and sing hymns accompanied by Mardana on the rabab ( a string instrument). These sessions attracted a lot of attention and many people started joining the two.

Early one morning accompanied by Mardana, Guru Nanak went to the river Bain for his bath. After plunging into the river, Guru Nanak did not surface and it was reported that he must have drowned. The villagers searched everywhere, but their was no trace of him. Guru Nanak was in holy communion with God. The Lord God revealed himself to Guru Nanak and enlightened him. In praise of the Lord, Guru Nanak uttered;

"There is but One God, His name is Truth, He is the Creator, He fears none, he is without hate, He never dies, He is beyond the cycle of births and death, He is self illuminated, He is realized by the kindness of the True Guru. He was True in the beginning, He was True when the ages commenced and has ever been True, He is also True now." (Japji)

These words are enshrined at the beginning of the Sikh Holy Scriptures, the Guru Granth Sahib. Guru Nanak did not believe in a Trinity of Gods, or the belief that God can be born into human form.

After three days Guru Nanak appeared at the same spot from where he had disappeared. He was no longer the same person he had been, there was a divine light in his eyes and his face was resplendent. He remained in a trance and said nothing. He gave up his job and distributed all of his belongings to the poor. When he finally broke his silence he uttered "There is no Hindu, no Muslim". Daulat Khan asked what he meant when he said to Guru Nanak, "Perhaps the Hindus were no longer Hindus but the Muslims remain devout to their faith." Guru Nanak replied,

"Let God's grace be the mosque, and devotion the prayer mat. Let the Quran be the good conduct. Let modesty be compassion, good manners fasting, you should be a Muslim the like of this. Let good deeds be your Kaaba and truth be your mentor. Your Kalma be your creed and prayer, God would then vindicate your honour." (Majh)

Guru Nanak was thirty years old at this time in 1499. The next stage of his life began with extensive travels to spread the message of God. Accompanied by his Muslim rabab player Mardana for company, Guru Nanak undertook long journeys to convey his message to the people in the form of musical hymns. Guru Nanak choose this medium to propagate his message because it was easily understood by the population of the time. Wherever he traveled he used the local language to convey his message to the people. He traveled throughout the Indian Subcontinent and further east, west, and north to spread his mission. Wherever he went he set up local cells called manjis, where his followers could gather to recite hymns and meditate.

Once when Guru Nanak came to the small town of Saidpur in West Punjab he choose to stay there with Lalo, a low caste carpenter. At the same time the local chief of the town Malik Bhago, who was quite wealthy and a very proud man was holding a feast to which all holy men were invited. When Malik Bhago found out that Guru Nanak would not attend his feast but instead partook of the simple fare of his host Lalo, he was quite angry and had the Guru brought to him for questioning. When asked why he didn't join in the feast, the Guru sent for the meal served by Malik Bhago and also some of the simple meal served by Lalo. Holding these in separate hands he squeezed them, blood appeared out of the rich food of Malik Bhago, while milk oozed out of Lalos simple fare. Malik Bhago was put to shame and realized that his riches had been amassed by exploiting the poor, while what Lalo offered was the milk of hard earned honest work.

Another time while camped out at a town during the rainy season, several devotees would come to the Guru on a regular basis. One of them while on the way to see the Guru, came across a prostitute and was allured by her. Thereafter he would leave home on the pretext of going to see the Guru, but instead visited the prostitute. A few days later his friend who daily came to pay homage to the Guru was pricked by a thorn, while his neighbor, who visited the prostitute, found a gold coin in the street. The incident bewildered the Guru's devotee who came every day religiously. He mentioned it in the morning prayer meeting where Guru Nanak heard it and was amused. He told the Sikh;

"Your friend was destined to come across a treasure but due to his evil ways, it has been reduced to a single coin. While on the account of your past karma you were to have been impaled with a stake, but having reformed yourself, you have been let off with the mere ***** of a thorn." (Janamsakhi)

When the Guru visited Kurukshetra in Haryana, a big fair was being held at the holy tank to celebrate the solar eclipse. There were a large number of pilgrims all over the country. On his arrival at the fair, Guru Nanak had Mardana cook them a meat dish of a deer presented to them by one of his followers. Upon finding that meat was being cooked on the holy premises, a large angry crowd gathered in anger to attack the Guru for what they thought amounted to sacrilege (Bhai Mani Singh, Gyan Ratnavali, pg. 123). Upon hearing the angry crowd Guru Nanak responded;

"Only fools argue whether to eat meat or not. They don't understand truth nor do they meditate on it. Who can define what is meat and what is plant? Who knows where the sin lies, being a vegetarian or a non- vegetarian?" (Malhar)

When Guru Nanak stopped at Hardwar a pilgrimage center on the Ganges river he found a large gathering of devotees. They were taking ritual baths in the holy river and offering water to the sun. When the Guru asked "Why do you throw water like that?" The pilgrims replied that they were offering it to their ancestors. Guru Nanak upon hearing this started throwing water in the opposite direction towards the west. When the pilgrims asked him what he was doing?. Guru Nanak replied "I am sending water to my farm which is dry". They asked, "How will water reach you crops so far away?". Guru Nanak replied, "If your water can reach your ancestors in the region of the sun, why can't mine reach my fields a short distance away?" The pilgrims realized their folly and fell at the Gurus feet.

On an eastern journey Guru Nanak visited Gorakhmata where he discussed the true meaning of asceticism with some yogis;

"Asceticism doesn't lie in ascetic robes, or in walking staff, nor in the ashes. Asceticism doesn't lie in the earring, nor in the shaven head, nor blowing a conch. Asceticism lies in remaining pure amidst impurities. Asceticism doesn't lie in mere words; He is an ascetic who treats everyone alike. Asceticism doesn't lie in visiting burial places, It lies not in wandering about, nor in bathing at places of pilgrimage. Asceticism is to remain pure amidst impurities. (Suhi)

After his first long journey, Guru Nanak returned home after twelve years of propagating his message. He then set out on a second journey traveling as far south as Sri Lanka. On his return north he founded a settlement known as Kartharpur (the Abode of God) on the western banks of the Ravi river. Guru Nanak would one day settle down here in his old age. It was also here that he met a young devotee who would later go on to serve five of the following Gurus, Baba Buddha (the revered old one). On his third great journey Guru Nanak traveled as far north as Tibet. Wherever Guru Nanak traveled he always wore a combination of styles worn by Hindu and Muslim holy men and was always asked whether he was a Hindu or Muslim. Guru Nanak visited Sheikh Ibrahim the muslim successor of Baba Farid the great Sufi dervish of the twelfth century at Ajodhan. When asked by Ibrahim which of the two religions was the true way to attain God, Guru Nanak replied; "If there is one God, then there is only His way to attain Him, not another. One must follow that way and reject the other. Worship not him who is born only to die, but Him who is eternal and is contained in the whole universe."

On his fourth great journey in life Guru Nanak dressed in the blue garb of a Muslim pilgrim traveled to the west and visited Mecca, Medina and Baghdad. Arriving at Mecca, Guru Nanak fell asleep with his feet pointing towards the holy Kabba. When the watchman on his night rounds noticed this he kicked the Guru, saying, "How dare you turn your feet towards the house of God". At this Guru Nanak woke up and said, "Good man, I am weary after a long journey. Kindly turn my feet in the direction where God is not." When pilgrims and the holy men of the shrine gathered to hear Guru Nanak and question him, he sang in Persian;

"I beseech you, O Lord! pray grant me a hearing. You are the truthful, the great, the merciful, and the faultless Creator. I know for certain, this world must perish, And death must come, I know this and nothing else. Neither wife, nor son, nor father, nor brothers shall be able to help. I must go in the end, none can undo what is my fate. I have spend days and nights in vanity, contemplating evil. Never have I thought of good; this is what I am. I am ill-starred, miserly, careless, short-sighted, and rude. But says Nanak, I am yours, the dust of the feet of your servants." (Tilang)

While in Baghdad contradicting the Muslim priests views that their were only seven upper and as many lower regions Guru Nanak shouted out his own prayer saying,

"There are worlds and more worlds below them and there are a hundred thousand skies over them. No one has been able to find the limits and boundaries of God. If there be any account of God, than alone the mortal can write the same; but Gods account does not finish and the mortal himself dies while still writing. Nanak says that one should call Him great, and God Himself knows His ownself." (Japji)

In 1916 a tablet with the following inscription was uncovered in Baghdad, "In memory of the Guru, the holy Baba Nanak, King of holy men, this monument has been raised anew with the help of the seven saints." The date on the tablet 927 Hijri corresponds to A.D. 1520-1521.

On his return journey home he stopped at Saidpur in western Punjab during the invasion of the first Mughal Emperor Babar. On seeing the extent of the massacre by the invaders, Mardana asked Guru Nanak why so many innocent people were put to death along with those few who were guilty. Guru Nanak told Mardana to wait under a banyan tree and after a while he would return to answer his question. While sitting under the tree Mardana was suddenly bitten by an ant. In anger Mardana killed as many ants as he could with his feet. Guru Nanak said to him, "You know now Mardana, why do the innocents suffer along with the guilty?"

Guru Nanak and Mardana were both taken prisoner by the Mughal's. While in jail Guru Nanak sang a divine hymn about the senseless slaughter of the innocents by the Mughal invaders. Upon hearing it the jailer reported it to his king. Babar sent for the Guru and upon hearing him realized that Guru Nanak was a great religious figure. He asked for the Gurus forgiveness and set him free offering him a pouch of hashish. Guru Nanak refused saying the he was already intoxicated with the love and name of God.

After having spent a lifetime of traveling abroad and setting up missions, an aged Guru Nanak returned home to Punjab. He settled down at Kartharpur with his wife and sons. Pilgrims came from far and near to hear the hymns and preaching of the Master. Here his followers would gather in the mornings and afternoons for religious services. He believed in a castless society without any distinctions based on birthright, religion or sex. He institutionalized the common kitchen called langar in Sikhism. Here all can sit together and share a common meal, whether they were kings or beggars.

While working the fields one day in 1532 Guru Nanak was approached by a new devotee who said, "I am Lehna," Guru Nanak looked at him and replied, "So you have arrived Lehna - the creditor. I have been waiting for you all these days. I must pay your debt." ("Lehna" in Punjabi means debt or creditor.) Lehna was a great devotee of the Hindu God Durga. One day having hearing about Guru Nanak and his teachings, he decided to visit and see the Guru for himself. Once Lehna met Guru Nanak he left his previous beliefs and became an ardent disciple of the Guru. Lehna's devotion to Guru Nanak was absolute, when he was not working on the farm, he would devote his spare time to the contemplation of God. Over time he became Guru Nanak's most ardent disciple. Guru Nanak put his followers to many tests to see who was the most faithful. Once while accompanied by Lehna and his two sons Guru Nanak came across what looked like a corpse covered with a sheet. "Who would eat it?" asked Guru Nanak unexpectedly. His sons refused, thinking that their father was not in his senses. Lehna though agreed and as he removed the cover he found that it was a tray of sacred food. Lehna first offered it to Guru Nanak and his sons and then partook of the leftovers himself. Guru Nanak on seeing this replied;

"Lehna, you were blessed with the sacred food because you could share it with others. If the people use the wealth bestowed on them by God for themselves alone or for treasuring it, it is like a corpse. But if they decide to share it with others, it becomes sacred food. You have known the secret. You are my image." (Janamsakhi)

Guru Nanak then blessed Lehna with his ang (hand) and gave him a new name, Angad, saying "you are a part of my body". Guru Nanak placed five coins and a coconut in front of Guru Angad and then bowed before him. He then had Bahi Budhha anoint Angad with a saffron mark on his forehead. When Guru Nanak gathered his followers together for prayers he invited Angad to occupy the seat of the Guru. Thus Guru Angad was ordained as the successor to Guru Nanak. Feeling his end was near, the Hindus said we will cremate you, the Muslims said we will bury you. Guru Nanak said; "You place flowers on either side, Hindus on my right, Muslims on my left. Those whose flowers remain fresh tomorrow will have their way." He then asked them to prey and lay down covering himself with a sheet. Thus on September 22, 1539 in the early hours of the morning Guru Nanak merged with the eternal light of the Creator. When the followers lifted the sheet they found nothing except the flowers which were all fresh. The Hindus took theirs and cremated them, while the Muslims took their flowers and buried them.

Thus having spread the words of reform throughout his lifetime, Guru Nanak successfully challenged and questioned the existing religious tenants and laid the foundations of Sikhism.


Jun 1, 2004
Conception and Aim of Education According to Guru Nanak
Dr. Amrit Raina*

* Principal, Mata Gujri Girls College, Sardulgarh (Mansa) 151507.

Propounder of a new religion, Guru Nanak was a versatile genius who dealt with all phases of life elaborately. He wrote profusely on religion, philosophy, moral and social ethics, education, social welfare, economic and political evils of his time.

In his writings and discourses. Guruji has frequently referred to the role of education in human life, although his views are scattered in his works and one is apt to believe that he has not propounded any philosophy of education. It is true that a systematic philosophy of education as such was not developed and discussed by him in the modern sense. He did not sit down to theorize as a modern educationist would do. Nor did he carry on any experimentation in any laboratory school, nevertheless, his many thoughts on education provide rich material on the philosophy of education. After going through his educational ideas lying here and there in his works, especially in the Japuji, Patti, Asa-di-Var and Onkar, it is not difficult to come to the conclusion that he had definite views on education.

But his educational philosophy has to be inferred from his diverse as well as methodical utterances. All through his thoughts on education, one finds intimate relations between his educational views and general philosophy.
Guru Nanak’s conception of education encompasses the entire vista of man’s life on earth. The highest education, according to him; is that which develops the whole man in a way that he realizes God’s existence and gets in tune with Him. Says Guru Nanak:

That Teacher alone is educated,
Who enlightens his mind with divine knowledge,
Through right reflection in a spontaneous way,
Who sublimates his education into right understanding of life,
And cultivates devotional love for Ram Naam (Page No ?)

From times immemorial India has been a land of spiritual consciousness. For ancient Indian Educationists, education enabled a student to realise his spiritual nature. ‘Arise, awake and stop not till the goal is reached, is the essence of the teachings of Upanishads. In Guru Nanak’s conception of education we find the same noble ideal. One who realizes himself is a truly educated man:

Nanak says in all humility:
He alone is the man of wisdom
Who gains self-knowledge,
And attains the realization of God,
That seer alone becomes acceptable in the Court of God,
Who becomes enlightened in his life.
Through the grace of the Guru. (Page No ?)

According to Guru Nanak, real education enables a man to gain self-realization and self-manifestation in a spontaneous way. He says emphatically that a really educated man is one who enlightens his mind with the divine knowledge and realizes himself. He has emphasized this idea again and again:

An educated person, a scholar or a seer is one
Who wears the garland of Ram Naam ever round his neck. (Page No ?)

The "garland of Ram Naam" stands for the adoption of the cosmic values of knowledge. Love, beauty, purity, sportsmanship, humour and universality. Ram stands for all pervading universal spirit and Naam for Name which is the very embodiment of truth, life, joy, beauty, purity, righteousness and heroism. Truly, Ram Naam is the special word which the Guru has associated with education especially in his poetical compositions of Asa-di-Var and Onkar.

Thus to wear the garland of Ram Naam to be a really educated man is not a mean task. One must lead a noble and disciplined life, and then alone one can evolve such high values in life. But once one has inculcated such high ideals in life, one becomes acceptable in the court of Lord.

A rightly educated person whose soul and mind,
Are awakened into the realm of self realisation
Becomes acceptable in the court of God,

Surely, there flies the flag of God’s Kingdom over his head.1
That is why some people sing the praises of God through gaining knowledge which is based on wisdom and enlightenment.2

Aims of Education: Needless to mention that aims of education, mentioned by Guru Nanak, are corollaries from his philosophy of life and that of education. He finds the highest good of man in the perfection of his spiritual nature, in nobility of heart and mind, in love of all that is great and good, in hearty acceptance of duty, in strenuous honest labour, in earnest longing for truth, in appreciation and development of higher values of life, and these ideals of human life are reflected in his aims of education.

Self Realization: The ultimate end of education is determined by the ultimate goal of life which has always constituted the highest aspiration of man. The people of yore regarded the aspiration for the ‘Bhuma’ or ‘Infinite Plenty’ as the highest aspiration of man.

Influenced by such a philosophy, Guru Nanak regards, self realisation and self-manifestation as the ultimate aims of education on which the upliftment of man depends:

He is a man of wisdom who gains
Self knowledge through self enlightenment. (Page No ?)

Guru Nanak has used two special words ‘Vigas’ and ‘Pargas’ for the evolution of man’s life. ‘Vigas’ means evolution of divine beauties in life and ‘Pargas’ signifies manifestation of divine enlightenment through life. A man can gain honour of life only if he develops divine consciousness in him. And a true teacher is he who awakens divine consciousness in his deciples:

He alone is a really educated teacher,
Who is God-centered - Gurmukh,
Who awakens divine intelligence in his disciples,
Who meditates on the divine name with concentration,
Who stores name in his mind,
Who gains the gain of God realisation,
Which is the main purpose of human life. (Page No ?)

That is why he asks the Pandit, the scholar to dwell on adorations of God-
"O, Pandit, why writest thou of strife and involvement,
Pray, write thou, only the God’s name by the Guru’s grace." (Page No ?)

Guru Nanak decries that education which stimulates the senses without arousing the inner spirit. Real education should help in spiritual experience:
"What use is that education", says Guru Nanak, "which does not help us to get out of our animal existence, and which does not awaken the spiritual depths in man but, on the other hand, sharpens his intellect to become clever, selfish, shy and wicked"3

Thus like the ancient Indian Teachers, Guru Nanak believes that education is that which liberates. Even in the modern times, Vivekanand and Gandhi have upheld this aim of education. According to Tagore, too, to know the infinite, to attain the ‘Bhuma’ is the highest aim of human life. 4

Book Learning is not Synonymous with True Education: Guru Nanak differentiates education from mere information; one may read innumerable books and still may not be rightly educated person. Once, Guru Nanak met an eminent Kashmiri Pandit, Dharam Dass, by name. He was profound scholar of Sanskrit literature, and often carried cartloads of books where-ever he went to display his learning. He came to Guru Nanak also for the sake of scholarly discussions. Guru Nanak explained to him that the store of information or knowledge did not constitute real education:

We may read books endlessly
By cart loads,
And assemble caravans with their loads,
And stuff boats, and hollows with their loads,
Through all the years and months which are at our command.
Throughout the life and for all the breaths at our disposal
Yet, says Nanak,
That all our education will be a mere prattle of ego.
Unless we realize the philosophy of unity of
God-head through it,
To make our destiny divine. (Page No ?)

Thus to Guru Nanak, mere book learning is not education. God is the summun-bonum of human life. In fact, that alone is the real education which enables a person to realise the divinity latent in him:

He alone is a man of wisdom,
Who gains self knowledge through right reflection.

Guru Nanak does not want to live by amassing knowledge, which is merely external stuff. But he wants to avoid death and destruction through an education which will generate immortalizing nectar within the soul. He condemns the scholars of his times who were contented only with the
mass of knowledge they acquired for fruitless discussions, but did not realize the actual aim of life :

The scholars study more and more to gain knowledge,
But they use it for vain discussions,
They do not use education,
For the realization of divine substance which is in them. (Page No ?)

Indeed, Guru Nanak is of the opinion that if one goes on reading and reading for its own sake, without practical realization of knowledge, he worries himself more and more. The more you write and study without practical realisation of Wisdom, the more you worry yourself. (Page No ?)

Education for Illumination: From the Sat-yuga downwards, the conception of education of the Indians has been that it is a source of illumination giving us a correct lead in the various spheres of life. Knowledge is rightly called the "third eye" of man, which gives him insight into all affairs of life and teaches him to act correctly. Nothing gives us such an insight as education, says the Mahabharata.3 Ignorance is the real bondage of man.

Knowledge is Strength: Guru Nanak considers education essential for the enlightenment of body, mind and soul. It is avidya (ignorance) he says, which forges fetters to bind the mind. Writing about the masses of his own times he says:

The people live in utter ignorance,
Like dead souls they obey the despots. (Page No ?)
Those people who are devoid of knowledge,
Fall an easy victim to deception of life, and are eaten up by the god of death. (Page No ?)
Education illumines the mind and helps in loosening the hold of these fetters.

Knowledge leads to wisdom and insight: At another place, Guru Ji regards knowledge as collyrium which, when applied, adds to the vigour and sight of eyes. Just as the darkness disappears when the lamp is lighted, similarly through the study of books of wisdom, ignorance of our mind is removed. It becomes clean and does not yet dirty again:

One can cleanse the mind(only) with the Jewel of wisdom
And thereafter it is soiled not again.1

Knowledge elevates body, mind and soul: For Guru Nanak knowledge helps in the harmonious development of body, mind and soul:

When we acquire treasure of divine knowledge,
We get insight into all the three realms of body, mind and soul.2

Knowledge is Virtue: With the help of knowledge man is able to discriminate between good and bad, right and wrong. He shuns evil and follows the virtuous path. He is able to fight the evil impulses of his mind with the sword of knowledge :

Man’s desires subside in his mind,
When he fights against them,
With the sword of wisdom.3

Wisdom leads to spiritual consciousness: For Guru Ji, constant curiosity and alertness of the mind and the emancipation of the intellect from inertia and dead habits should constitute a real element in the intellectual make-up of an individual, as he is aware of the utility of knowledge for spiritual upliftment also. But by knowledge he means divine knowledge which helps to gain eternal bliss:

The man of wisdom, gains eternal life of spiritualism,
Because he develops divine consciousness in himself. (Page No ?)

Education for life of action and labour: Guru Nanak stands for a life of action. He says that man can carve out his destiny through his own efforts.1 A man cannot get salvation of life without adoption of Karam-Yoga. The Karam-Yogi is the real enlightened person. A man devoid of such creative actions suffers all weaknesses of life.2

While choosing his successor, Guru Ji was not swayed by affinities of blood-relationships but was guided by consideration of merit and worth. He found dignity of labour and hardwork in Bhai Lehna and appointed him as his successor.

Guru Ji was no arm-chair philosopher. He himself led a life of creative and constructive action throughout life. Work and workship, love and labour, silence and song were blended together in the life at Kartarpur.1
For Guru Ji true wisdom can be realised only through a life of action:

Wisdom cannot be sought though prattle,
To describe its Essence also is hard,
Verily those alone can gain wisdom,
Who through God’s grace,
Lead the very practical life of Karam Yoga. (Page No ?)

That is why he says :

A person of real research becomes a creative man,
But the talkative one who indulges in mere prattle,
Destroys himself. (Page No ?)

Thus Guru Nanak scorns knowledge that does not lead to action. True testing of learning, according to him, is action.

Social and Civic Training: According to Guruji, Education should aim at the inculcation of civic and social virtues and promotion of social efficiency and happiness. For him essence of wisdom is the service of humanity.
If one dwells on (the essence of) knowledge.
One becometh of benefactor of all.4

Guruji is not individualistic in his aims of education. He wants the greatest good of the greatest number. The most outstanding aspect of his education is his humanism. He wants an educated person, first to evolve his own personality, and then serve society. Action and service are the two most important features of his teachings. Since he believes in the service of man, education of his conception should promote, among the young pupils spirit of service, social-sensitiveness, co-operation and sacrifice. He emphatically says:

We can get an honourable seat in the court of God.
Only when we practice disinterested service in the world.
And thus win glory, beauty and joy of life. (Page No ?)

According to Guruji, education and spirituality should inspire man to dedicate his life and genius to service of humanity. Spirituality, wisdom and virtues are futile if they help in personal salvation only. When the Yogis who had long retired into the Himalayan peaks for personal salvation ask him about the prevailing conditions of the world of men, he ironically replies, "When sages and perfect men like you, who have acquired enlightenment, keep hiding in the mountains, who will save the world and what do you expect the world of men do be!" For him, really educated man is he who is not egoist and individualistic but sees one God in all, and works for their upliftment:

He alone is an educated man, and a scholar,
Who realizes Divine knowledge, through spiritual experience,
Verily one who sees one God in all,
Cannot assess his egoism at all. (Page No ?)

Education for Harmonious Development: One single aim of education which embodies all the aims of education is: education as harmonious development of personality, ‘to draw out the best from body, mind and spirit’. Guru Nanak’s major emphasis is on education for self-realisation and self manifestation. But he asks for the physical, intellectual, emotional social, moral and spiritual development of the child as well.

In Siddha Ghosht he admonishes the ‘Sidhas’ not to torture and starve their bodies in hope of winning salvation. ‘Body is the vehicle of the soul. So it must be kept in fit, strong, and healthy condition. It is the basis for the performance of various worldly duties, and hence must be kept in perfect order. He upholds dignity of labour, like Rousseau in the modern age, and wants the child to work like a peasant and think like a philosopher.

1. M.I., Dakhani Onkar. Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, p.938.
1. Siri Rag M.I., P.25.
2. Dakhani Onkar, M.I., p-938.
3. Harnam Dass, "Kingdom of God" Spokesman weekly, Baisakhi Number, 1957, p.29.
1. M.I., Rag Dhana Sari Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji p. 662.
2. M. I. Japji, Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji. p.1
3. M. I. Rag Gouri Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji p. 152
1. M.I., Dakhani Onkar Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji p. 938
2. Ibid p. 930
3. Tirlochan Singh, Guru Nanak’s Conception of Education. ‘Spokeman Weekly’, Guru Nanak Number, Delhi 1956 p. 23.
4. H.B. Mukerjee, Education for Fulness. Calcutta : Asia Publishing House, 1962 p. 267.
1. M. I. Asa-di-Var Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji p. 467.
1. M.I. Rag Gauri Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji p. 152
2. M.I. Asa-di-war Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji p. 467
3. A. S. Altekar, Education in Ancient India, Benares: Nand Kishore and Bros, 1948 p. 4.
4. M.I. Asa-di-War Sri Guru Granth Sahib Jip. 465
5. M.I. Asa-di-War Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji p. 469.
1. M.I. Rag Maru Sri Guru Granth Sahib Jip. 992.
2. M.I. Siri Rag, Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji p. 60
3. M.I. Saru Sohile Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, p. 1022
4. M.I. Solak Wara Te Wadhik, p. 1412.
1. M. I. Asa-di-War, Sri Guru Granth Sahib Jip. 474.
2. M.I., Siri Rag, Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji p. 25
1. T. L. Waswani, A prophet of the people, Poona : Gita Publishing House, p. 69.
2. M.I. Asa-di-Var Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji p. 465.
3. M.I. Rag Malhar Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji p. 1255
4. Raga Asa, M.I. p. 356
1. M.I. Siri Ram, Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji p. 26.
2. M.I. Rag Asa Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, p. 356.


Aug 18, 2010
World citizen!
Such a wealth of information on this thread!

The 1st post claims Guru Nanak ji became enlightened in 1496. I disagree with this. The stories quoted are from the Janamsakhis, which have been shown to have dubious origins. It is interesting it misses out the only sakhi which has been enshrined in Gurbani-the sakhi about the janeu. This story shows Guru Nanak ji was enlightened from a very young age and not from 1496.

I also think its fascinating that Vaisakhi is on the same day (near enough). Do you think this was intentional by Guru Gobind Singh ji? Completion of the circle :kaurkhalsaflagred:


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
findingmyway ji

Not all janaamsakhi are under suspicion. There is however enough suspicion to go around. When Janamsakhi are supported in various bani scholars tend to go with them, particularly if there is also support from Bhai Gurdas, and the author is not considered a quack. There is some good information about this on allaboutsikhs web site.

The point you make about the missing sakhi is something to follow up and I am glad you caught that one.

When Purewal ji conducted his calculations, his effort was to establish fixed, not variable, dates for gurpurabs. Frankly I myself do not know why there are 3 very deviant dates for Parkash Guru Nanak, although historian H Singh Dilgeer has written extensively about this, putting Guru Nanak's birthday in around 10-21 Kitak which is about as far away from Vaisakhi as you can get. The November 28 date makes little sense and is an SGPC determination. Research would be needed to zero in on how Purewal chose April 14. Note: I posted Purewal's calculation right after aristotle ji's reply.

Yes to have Parkash Guru Nanak the day before Vaisakhi is an inspiring event because it does speak to a circle of light that has no beginning and no end, from Guru Nanak to Guruji. Parkash Guru Nanak to Birth of the Khalsa. :kaurkhalsaflagblue:

Let's see what we can find about the Purewal calculation of the date. :whatzpointkudi:
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May 11, 2010
Ancient Greece
I also think its fascinating that Vaisakhi is on the same day (near enough). Do you think this was intentional by Guru Gobind Singh ji? Completion of the circle :kaurkhalsaflagred:

Vaisakhi was already celebrated as a Jor Mela since the times of Guru Amar Das Ji. Moreover, Vaisakhi was a big day for the majority agrarian community and also was a niche of pleasant weather before the hot North Indian summer (note that elsewhere in India too, Vaisakhi is celebrated as a seasonal festival, eg. Vishu in Kerala, ritual baths in TamilNadu, Ganga belt).
Perhaps because this event guaranteed the maximum attendance, Guru Ji chose this day.
What you are saying could also be a valid factor, I must say, I completely overlooked the point till I read your post. I guess more research should go into this point.


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
Here is a short explanation for the April 14 date. And I have copied the link to Purewal's calculations.

Originally the Parkash Guru Nanak was set by the Bikrami calendar which was used by Hindus and Sikhs up until the early part of the 21st Century. 1 Vaisakh is the solar date for his parkash; the lunar date is variable.

Purewal demonstrates, based on solar and lunar charts, that original lunar dates given in the Bikrami calendars for Guru purabs do not take into account changes in lunar cycles. What would have been the lunar Bikrami date given for Guru Nanak's birth in 1469 will not be the same date years, centuries later. The progressive shift in the position of the moon affecst both the beginning of each month and Sangrands. In fact, under the Bikrami calendar gurpurabs do not fall on the same date year after year, and in some years gurpurabs are skipped..

So Purewal used a method of triangulation by which he could match the original solar Bikrami dates to changeable Julian calendar dates (European calendar) and fixed Gregorian calendar dates. Via this method, all gurpurabs would be fixed and would not change according to lunar timetables. He gives this example of how he did it:

The original date of Shaheedi of Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib is 11 Maghar, 1732 BK / 11 November, 1675 Julian. We have converted 11 Maghar in the Nanakshahi calendar to 24th November Gregorian. This date, i.e. 11 Maghar ,will always fall on 24th November.

The great irony however is this. The original Bikram purab of Guru Nanak was the first day of Vaisakh. Purewal kept to the original solar date. Not until 2010/2012 with the SGPC revision of the Nankashai calendar does the gurpurab change to the November date. Purewal states:

We have discarded the lunar calendar of sudis, and vadis for the determination of the dates of Gurpurbs. However Guru Nanak Sahib’s parkash Gurpurb, and Bandi Chhor Divas (Divali) shall continue to be celebrated according to the old calendar. However, yielding to the pressure from the ‘Sants’ Hola Muhalla date was also made an exception. Even this did not appease the ‘Sants’ .

To answer your question: According to the original Bikrami date of April 14 or 1 Vaisakh we have Guru Nanak's Parkash. It is a fair inference that Guru Gobind Singh chose April 15 (originally 3 Vaisakh) to give birth to the khasla.

This will make your brain swell but here are the calculations
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