Guru Nanak

Charnjit Singh Bal

Guru Nanak Sahib, the founder of Sikhism was born in 1469 AD in Talwandi-Rai-Bhoaye, which later came to be known as Nankana, now in Pakistan. His saintly attributes were quite apparent to his multi socio-religious societal contemporaries including aritocrats, elders, teachers- a Pundit and a Mullah, who were impressed by the young Nanakís exalted spiritual consciousness, charisma and august personality.

The two predominant religions in India at the time, Hinduism and Islam did not fulfill young Nanakís progressive, pluralist, liberal and monotheist religious aspirations. The polytheism, Idolatry, dogmatism ritualism, blind faith superstitions, caste-apartheid, coercive proselytizing and tyrannical crusades were not Guru Nanak Sahibís concepts of a religion.

Rejection of Dogmatic Ritualism

Born in Hinduismís higher Kashatri caste, young Nanak let his rejection of dogmatic ritualism known at an early age when he refused to wear the Janeo/Janju, multi-strand Sacred thread that the family Pundit dons on the eight, ten and eleven year old Hindu males of Brahmin, Kashatri and Vash castes respectively, at the ritual ceremony. Endowed with exalted spiritual awareness the young Nanak censured the Pundit for exploiting the gullible Hindus by performing such futile rites that did nothing for a manís spiritual consciousness and moral rectitude. Guru Sahib edified every one to wear janeo/janju of the spiritually exhilarating Naam (Godís praise) that neither wears out, or soiled nor burns.

Advent of Guru Nanak

At the advent of Guru Nanak the cunning religious leaders were exploiting the innocent folks through myths, superstitions, taboos, pagan rites, blind faith rituals etc. The Brahmins denied education and access to religion to lower caste Hindus to keep them ignorant so that they could be exploited through occultism and dogmatism. In esoteric Hinduism that was instituted by the elitist Brahmins, every dogma, rite, ritual, taboo and social custom was crafted for the benefit of the Brahmins. Every auspicious or inauspicious event in a non-Brahmin's life from birth to death entailed feast and/or offerings to the Brahmins. Even after death the Brahmins had deluded the naÔve Hindus into believing that the ritual feast given to them and holy men would benefit the hostís ancestors living in celestial abode.

Holy Saw

In each of the Hindu holy cities of Banaras and Peryaug (Allahabad) the Brahmins had installed a Kervutter, holy saw with which they butchered the gullible people after extorting all their worldly possessions on the pretext of securing passage to Shivpuri, the abode of Shiva, one of the gods in mythological Hindu trinity. Since the saw at Peryaug was considered less sacred than the one at Banaras, it generated less income comparatively, so the crafty Brahmins at Peryaug devised another devious means of exploitation. They cunningly popularized a giant tree and propagated that anyone who committed suicide by falling off that tree after donating all his/her material wealth to Brahmins he would be immortalized.

Worship of Shiv-Ling (Phallus), jonepeeth (Satiís Vagina)

Situated at 14000 feet in the Himalayan mountain range, a place called Amarnath Temple dedicated to the Hindu mythical god Shiva has a cave. High up above the cave the ice-cold water trickles down, freezes into an icicle and hangs down. The mythology oriented Hindu ascetics, Hermits and holy quacks who used to go up there to meditate in the primeval times superstitiously or cunningly perceived and popularized it as Shivaís phallus and a Hindu holy shrine. Every year a vast majority of gullible Hindu pilgrims go up there to worship and pay homage to the shrine of Shivaís phallus and provide a lucrative source of income for the holy men/quacks.

In almost all the Shivite Hindu temples Shiv-ling (phallus), deified as the fertility godhead, is the centerpiece of worship. The child-bearing-age Hindu women bathe it with milk and/or ghee (purified butter) to invoke its blessings. According to an unconfirmed oral or grapevine tradition, some Hindu women are said to rub their vaginas on it.

According to Hindu mythological scripture, Devi Bhagwat Skandh 7, chapter 30 and Kalkťa Puran, Satiís father, god king Dukk, did not invite her husband, Hindu Trinitarian god, Shiv (Shivji) to ritual festive feast. Sati offended by her fatherís omission, jumped into the festive ritual bonfire and committed suicide. Shiva angered and aggrieved by his wifeís sacrifice crashed and wrecked ritual feast and carrying Sati on his shoulder, started wandering around day and night. Vishnu, another Hindu Trinitarian god, unable to bear dead Satiís pitiable state, cut her body up into 51 parts, with sodrshan chucker, a circular blade weapon, that one flings at the intended target. All the 51 locations, where Satiís limbs scattered, are worshipped as Hindu holy shrines.

One such shrine is Yonepeeth (vagina shrine) in Gauhati, Assam, India, where according to Hindu mythology Satiís vagina fell. Followers of the Hindu Ascetic sect called Vaam Marg pay homage and worship there. This cult is said to consider materialism, sexual orgies, meat, alcohol consumption, etc as essential elements of worship and salvation

Followers of Vaam Margís sub-sect called Aghori, founded by Keena Ram, are said to consume urine and feces as part of the religious practice. Frequently they indulge in sexual orgies in which each woman's bodice and man's garment bearing individual's identifying mark, are placed in two separate vats from which one bodice and one male garment are pulled out randomly. The couple whose bodice and under garment are pulled out; engage in copulation, irrespective of relationship or age.

Human and Animal Sacrifices

The Hindu autocratic rulers ritually sacrificed humans and animals to invoke mythical godsí and stone idolsí blessings for victory in battles against their enemies and bounties. Although the Muslims, professed to be iconoclasts, vilify Hindus as Kaffirs (infidels), they them-selves worship and pay homage to graves and Tombs of holy men/quacks and ancestors. They too sacrificed animals as auspicious religious acts to appease the holy men/quacks and please the Allah.

Guru Nanak's Mission

The exploitations and atrocities committed in the name of religion by the self-serving clerics, spurious gurus, crafty holy quacks and aristocrats of the two predominant religions, Hinduism and Islam, in India at the time, inspired the conscientious Nanak to found a novel religion, Sikhism.

Religious Concepts

Guru Nanak Sahibís concepts of a religion constitute the core doctrines and ethos of Sikh religiosity and are enshrined in the Gurbani of Guru Granth Sahib. Co-authored by the Sikh Gurus and eminent Hindu and Muslim holy Sages, the Guru Granth Sahib personifies the perpetual Guru of the Sikhs and the supreme spiritual and temporal authority of Sikhism. The cardinal tenets of Sikhism are; extolling (praising) the 'One God', thanking Him for his bounties- (through the Guruís illuminating Word)- accepting His Will, earning an honest living and sharing with the needy.

The Sikhism essentially promotes monotheistic, pragmatic religiosity, humanism, egalitarianism, socio-religious liberalism, multi-cultural harmony and moral excellence. The dogmatism, ritualism, occultism, caste-ism, pagan human/animal sacrifices, blind faith taboos, prejudices, myths, and superstitions have no place in Guru Nanakís Sikhism.

Guru Nanakís Odysseys

Guru Nanak Sahib accompanied by his childhood, life-long Muslim companion Merdana undertook four arduous odysseys traveling all over the Indian Sub-continent and the Middle East, at a time when transportation means were scant. On his mission Guru Sahib visited virtually all the Hindu and Muslim prominent shrines on the auspicious holy days so as to reach out to the maximum number of people and enlighten them with his universal religious concepts. He exposed and denounced the cunning clerics and holy quacks and cautioned the people against the futile blind faith rituals. During his odysseys Guru Sahib went out of his way to meet the Muslim and Hindu holy sages, Monks and Ascetics.

Considering early sixteenth century arduous and hazardous mode of travel, Guru sahibís resolve to embark upon his mission that would take him through formidable jungles, rugged mountains and deserts; frequently encountering holy quacks, witches, cannibals and thugs, was in itself a remarkable feat.

On his first odyssey that took him from Punjab, India in the North, to Dhaka in South East, to Sri Lanka in the South, to Gujarat in North West and back to Punjab, Guru Sahib traveled 6862 Miles in approximately eight years (1507-1515 AD). Guru Sahib's second odyssey was within Punjab itself. And during the third he traveled all over Himalayan mountain region visiting the monasteries of the Hindu ascetics, hermits and monks. On his fourth and last odyssey Guru Nanak, along with his companion, sailed across Arabian Sea to visit Mecca, then journeying via Medina reached Baghdad in 1520/1 AD and returning home through Iran and Afghanistan.

Friend of the Meek

Guru Nanak Sahib was a pragmatic monotheist, an avid humanist, social reformist and a charismatic Guru (spiritual guide) who preferred to project himself as a meek human being and a humble messenger of the God. During his sojourn at Sadpur (Amnabad) Guru Sahib stayed with a meek carpenter named Laalo Ghataura. Malik Bhago, an official of the administrator of Sadpur invited Guru Sahib to a ritual feast that was traditionally attended by the Brahmins, Monks and Ascetics. The Guru Sahib refused saying that he preferred Laaloís hard earned simple bread to the lavish feast hosted by corrupt Malik Bhago who was exploiting the poor; and that the ritual feast would benefit only the invitees who relished the feast not his ancestors.

Nanak, simply a Guru, not a demigod

Contrary to the mythical tales, miracles and legends attributed by some Sikh quasi-Sikh holy quacks, to Guru Nanak he claimed no such supernatural powers. The mythology oriented anonymous (Hindu?) and pseudonymous Sikh writers and quasi-literate propagators of these wizardly tales would rather have the gullible people believe that Guru Nanak was a demigod who could restore crop destroyed by his heard of buffalos, transport himself to celestial realm and have audience and dialogue with the God while remaining submerged in a strem for couple of days, flit through the space instantly like a spirit or ride, along with his companion, a fish 35 miles long by 5 miles wide on his way to Mecca.

Any rational minded person who studies Guru Granthís Gurbani intelligently knows that the omnipresent, omnipotent and omniscient God is the only one who can perform miracles and wield supernatural powers. Manís capability is limited to mere illusionary magic or witchcraft.

Guru Nanak Sahib used a rational approach to make the mankind and religious clerics aware of the follies of indulging in occultism, dogmatic rituals and pagan rites. On Vasakhi day in the month of April the Hindu pilgrims used to converge at Herdwar, a city on the banks of Hindu holy river Ganges (Ganga) for a holy bath. While bathing, facing east, they scooped water with their hands and threw it up in an erroneous belief that the water will reach their ancestors with the aid of the Sun God. To make them aware of the futility of their pagan rite the Guru Sahib waded into the river and started scooping and throwing water up facing west. On being asked by the puzzled pilgrims as to what he was doing, the Guru Sahib asked them what they were doing? When told that they were sending water to their ancestors somewhere up millions of miles away, the Guru Sahib replied he was sending water to his fields five hundred miles away. The pilgrims got the message.

During his visit to Banaras Guru Sahib acquired the inspirational holy scriptural compositions of low-caste Hindu holy sages Kabir and Ravi Dass whose religious philosophy was compatible with Guru Nanakís own.

In June 1510 the Guru Sahib reached the popular Hindu shrine Puri in Orissa, on the east cost of India. According to a Hindu mythical tale in Skund Puran, Rajah Inder Dewmun of Orissa had the remains of the Hindu demigod Krishna (Jaggannath) entombed in a statue; named it Jaggannath and installed it in a Temple there. On the scheduled holy day in June mammoth crowd of Hindu pilgrims from all over India converge to Puri to worship and pay homage to the Idol Jaggannath that is taken out on a float in a parade. The Hindu pilgrims, who consider this day holy and auspicious, make generous donations and offerings to the sanctimonious Brahmins, holy men/quacks.

One such holy quack named Kali-Jug sat in a feint transcendental meditative posture He had a collection receptacle placed in front of him into which the naÔve pilgrims were depositing generous donations. He was telling the pilgrims gathered around him that he was seeing through clairvoyance the mythical Hindu demigod Vishnu in the celestial abode. It is said that the Guru Nanak Sahib quietly moved the receptacle behind the imposter who was baffled and frantic when he opened his eyes and inquired about his missing receptacle. Guru questioned him, "how could you see Vishnu in the celestial abode when you couldnít even see your collection receptacle right behind you? The Guru Sahibís logical act taught the fake holy man not to perpetrate such deceptions. To the pilgrims he cautioned that their blind faith makes them vulnerable to exploitation by the holy pretenders.

During this odyssey Guru visited Punder Pur and collected eminent Hindu Saint Naam Daveís inspirational holy scriptures.

After the Guru Sahib returned to Punjab in 1515 AD he founded a Village that he named Kartarpur and settled his own family along with other families from various castes, creeds and trades there. There, he established a center to disseminate universal Sikhism. Word Kartar literally means creator in Sikhismís vocabulary and Pur or Pore denotes a Village town or City in India. Since the Guru Sahib himself wrote, "One God who is omnipresent" he, obviously, did not mean to imply that the God was resident in the Village Kartarpur only.

Nor did Guru Arjun Sahib intend to imply that the God would reside in the Golden Temple alone when he named it as Harmandir meaning Temple of God. However some anonymous, pseudonymous or zealous Sikh writers have asserted as such in the quasi-Sikh Literature either because of their ignorance of Sikhismís philosophy or some other ulterior motive. Because many of the Sikh preachers, who are functionally literate, preach Sikh scriptures supplemented by quotes and excerpts from these un-authenticated Sikh literature, majority Sikhs tend to believe that the God dwells in their holiest shrine alone.

On his fourth odyssey (1918-1921 AD) Guru Nanak Sahib starting in Punjab went to Mecca, Medina, Basra and Baghdad, through Iran to Kabul and back to Punjab. On the way to Mecca Guru Sahib visited Sheikh Braham who was the eleventh successor to the eminent Muslim holy sage Sheikh Freed at the place called Pak Pattan. From Sheikh Braham Guru Sahib acquired inspirational holy scriptural compositions of Sheikh Freed whose spiritual message was compatible with that of Guru Nanak Sahib.

The Guru Sahib went to the Islamís most holy shrine Kaaba, in Mecca city, that is forbidden to the non-Muslims (Kaffirs), with the Muslim Hajjis [pilgrims] from India. According to the Muslim belief the God resides in their holy shrine called Kaaba only. This belief requires them to face Kaaba when praying. And to sleep with oneís feet towards Kaaba is a taboo. To convince the Muslim zealots that the 'One God' is omnipresent Guru Sahib went to sleep at night with his feet towards Kaaba. In the morning, a Hajji named Jewna from India seeing Guru Sahibís feet towards Kaaba went berserk and kicked the Guru Sahib saying, "who is this Kaffir sleeping with his feet towards Kaaba?" The unperturbed Guru Sahib responded by asking the gathering of pilgrims to point his feet to the direction where the all-pervading God is not present. The Guru Sahibís un-assailable logic prevailed.

The anonymous and pseudonymous Sikh writers and zealous preachers with propensity for mythology have distorted the episode into a wizardly act in which Guru Nanak Sahib is supposed to have moved the Kaaba to the same direction to which his feet were moved.

Nanak Shah Fakir, Hinduís Guru; Muslimís Pir

Because his universal message transcended all racial, social and religious boundaries, peoples of all denominations including some Hindu and Muslim holy men readily became his disciples without changing religion or denomination. The people fondly called him "Nanak Shah Fakir, Hinduís Guru; Muslimís Pir." The Gurdwaras (Temples) built at the numerous Hindu and Muslim holy places of his sojourns during his odysseys bear witness to universal acceptance of Guru Nanak Sahibís transcendental religious message.

A monument built by the successors and followers of an eminent Muslim Sage Abdul Kadir better known as Pir Dastgir (1078-1166 AD) and Behlol stands one and a half miles east of railway station in Baghdad. The translation of the Arabic inscription on a tablet on the wall behind the monument, where Guru Nanak had discourse with the Muslim sage Behlol, reads some-what like this-

"In Guru, that is the divine sage Baba Nanak Fakir's commemoration, this monument has been rebuilt. The holy sage bestowed the spring of divine benediction in 927 Hijri, 1520/1 AD"

Although endowed with august personality and exalted spiritual consciousness he did not (nor did any of other Sikh Gurus or Hindu and Muslim venerated holy Sages whose Scriptures are compiled in the Guru Granth Sahib), project himself as a demigod, clairvoyant, prophet, or Avatar. To discourage cultism Nanak Sahib advised Sikhs to regard his illuminating Word as the Guru not his persona.

Through discourses, discussions and self-composed inspirational songs Guru Sahib inspired one and all to praise the Lord; earn an honest living, share with the needy and live a harmonious socio-religious domestic life. Essentially Guru Nanak Sahib inspired man to be a noble and pious human being, whether he was a ruler, an aristocrat, a Brahmin, a Mullah, a Muslim, a Hindu or a Sikh. In other words his unique message to the mankind was to blend religion with Humanism and consider it as a way of noble socio-religious life as opposed to monasticism, asceticism, ritualism, occultism, etc. He proscribed Idolatry, dogmatic rituals, barbaric animal/human sacrifices, witchcraft; wizardry and blind faith taboos and superstitions, etc.

Impressed by the Guru Nanak Sahibís pragmatic, liberal, rational and progressive religious approach to spirituality many people from all castes, creeds, social statuses and walks of life became the followers of Nanakís universal Faith, Sikhism. Some Brahmins, holy men, businessmen, tradesmen, hard-core criminals, etc. became dedicated Sikh preachers. In almost all of the places, including the Hindu and Muslim prominent holy centers the Guru Nanak Sahib visited, the inspired followers established centers to preach the universal Faith, Sikhism. Eventually at these centers and other places associated with Guru Nanak Sahibís birth, travel destinations and sojourns Sikh Gurdwaras (Temples) were built.

To exemplify that he practiced what he preached Guru Nanak Sahib started small-scale agriculture and Dairy farming at the end of the fourth odyssey in the village Kartarpur that he had founded after returning from the first odyssey. From his own small farm and dairy produce he started sharing food with the needy and urged others to do the same. That act of philanthropy was traditionalized into the Sikhismís charitable institution called Guruís Langar where everyone irrespective of caste, creed, color, gender or status is welcome.