THE FIRST MASTER GURU NANAK
Prof. Puran Singh
- THE CHILD NANAK
- THE BOY NANAK
- NANAK THE STRANGE YOUTH
- NANAK THE WORLD-TEACHER
- NANAK AND HIS SISTER
- NANAK AND DUNICHAND
- NANAK AND A JEWELER
- NANAK AT EMINABAD
- NANAK AND THE TANTRIK KODA
- NANAK AND SAJAN THAG
- NANAK AND VALI QANDHARI
- KAMAL AND BRAHAMDAS ENTER DISCIPLESHIP
- NANAK AND THE LEPER
- NANAK AND GOD'S HOUSE
- NANAK AND TWO CITIES
- NANAK AND THE FOOLS
- NANAK AT HARDWAR
- NANAK AT KURAK-SHETRA
- NANAK AND EMPEROR SIKANDAR LODI
- NANAK AT JAGANNATH
- NANAK AND NUR SHAH OF ASSAM
- NANAK AND THE KING OF SANG LADIP
- NANAK AND BABER'S INVASION OF INDIA
- THE MASSACRE OF SAIDPUR
- THE MASTER AND THE COHORTS OF BABER
- NANAK AND THE EMPEROR BABER
- NANAK AND MARDANA
- NANAK AND HIS WHEAT FARMS AT KARTARPUR
- NANAK AND BROTHER LEHNA
- THE SAFFRON-ANOINTINGS
- NANAK AND HIS DEPARTURE FROM THIS PLANET
He came like a song of Heaven, and began singing as he felt the touch of the breeze and saw the blue expanse of sky. He was a child of smiles, and his eyes were silent and wise; he loved quiet of soul, he loved joy and thought. Whoever saw the child, or touched him accidentally, praised God. A thrill of unknown delight came to anyone who lifted the child, or played with him. But none knew whence came to him that gladness of the soul.
Every one saw that he was the child of Heaven; he was so beautiful, so mysteriously fair in color and form, with a radiance that was new to earth. He cast a spell that none could escape. Rai Bular, the Moslem Governor of the place of his birth, loved him both as a child and a boy; the Brahman teacher loved him; whoever came in contact with him was irresistibly drawn to him.
His sister Nanki saw from his very infancy in him the light of God, and kept her discovery a profound secret. She was the very first inspired by Heaven to be his disciple. Rail Bular was the second; he had seen that gleam of soul in Nanak, which is seen only once in many centuries, an~ even then by the rarest chance. In his old age, Rai Bular cried like a child for his savior. Nanak the child gave the signs of Nanak the Saint and Guru at a very early age. He composed music, he talked of God and life: his untutored mind was a marvel to every one.
He ate little, slept little, and shut himself in his own thought for days and days; and no one could understand him. He was sent to school, but he could not learn anything. "Teach me," said he to his teacher, "only this one large letter of life. Tell me of the Creator, and the wonder of this Great World."
Thinking he might do as a trader, his father gave him a few silver coins to set him up in that way of livelihood. But no! Having started out, he feasted the saints of God, and returned empty-handed. Then he was sent to take the cattle out to graze; he drove out the herds upon the green sward, and left them free to graze by themselves as he sat alone. The solitude of the Indian noon was good for him, for then the whole creation taught him the language of the gods. He heard the songs of the shade. Every blade of grass intoned a hymn in his ears. His animals loved him, came near him, touched him, looked at him; they knew nothing of any man's ownership of meadows that, for them all appertained to God. The cows could make no difference between "his" grass and "my" grass; so a clamor arose, and they drove out Nanak and his cattle from the fields. He was declared a failure as a cowherd; though he loved to sit alone with stars, and to talk to animals when they were in distress.
People anxious about his health brought a physician, for to them Nanak's unworldiness appeared insane. When the physician put his fingers on the pulse of Nanak, the boy's voice, which had been silent for days, came thrilling with a new and unsurpassed sweetness:
"They have called the physician to me!
The poor doctor feels my pulse!
What can a pulse disclose?
The pang is in my heart!
Their life is a disease, and they seek nothing else.
The doctors come to cure, when there is no cure for the pain of death.
Oh, physician! Why touch my pulse when the pain is in my heart? Go back! go back whence you came!
None has a cure for the pang of love. I pine for my Beloved:
Who gave the pain will cure it.
Oh, poor physician, what can a pulse disclose?
You have no cure for me."
When the family Brahman came to invest him with the sacred thread, he spoke again, subduing all that heard:
Oh, Brahman! You have no sacred thread.
If You have,
Give me the forgiveness of the Creator,
Draw round me a sacred line that no desires dare cross,
Unfold the Divine in me,
Which then will be a sacred thread -
Never showing wear or break.
Fires shall not burn it, nor the storms destroy
Blessed of God. O Brahman, is the man such thread surrounds
That is salvation."
They married him believing marriage and home life would bring him back to earth. And they asked him to set out and earn a living for his wife. Nanak started to Sultanpur, where his loving sister, Nanki lived. It was thought that Jai Ram, Nanki's husband, would get him some employment. As he was setting out from Talwandi, his native place, his wife came to him and said:
"Pray, take me, with you." "Dear lady," said he, "I go in search of work; if I succeed, I will send for you."
Jai Ram got Nanak the position of officer in charge of the storehouse of Daulat Khan Lodi, Nawab of Sultanpur. Nanak loved to distribute the provisions; it is here that he began distributing himself also. None begged at Nanak's storehouse in vain, he lavished his goodness on every comer. It is said of him in a Punjabi proverb that God gave him His stores and then forgot all about them; key, lock, all were with Nanak.
It is here that he sang his famous song of one word. In Punjabi language, the word Tera means, both the arithmetical figure thirteen and the phrase I am thine. Once Nanak weighing out wheat flour, counted the weighings - "One, two, three" - until he reached the number thirteen; weighing and calling out:
"Tera! Tera! Tera! Tera! Tera! Tera!." "Thine! Thine! Thine! Thine! Thine! Thine!"
He was lost in this flood of his own thought and wonder, a river that flowed out of him and at the same time engulfed him, so that he was looked on as one dead. What they saw of him was but as his garment cast upon the shore of life, while Nanak himself was swallowed by the Infinite. Truly, never did they see him again in the form in which they knew him so well. He came out and spoke as Guru Nanak the world-teacher, to the awe of everyone.
Said he: "There 'is no Hindu, No Mussalman!" - a heresy so paralyzing they felt bound to suppose he had now lost every particle of sense. He could no longer take an interest in his work, and shortly afterwards left it altogether. He was not Nanak now, but Guru Nanak.
His father came to counsel him, but without effect. Of the many conversations that he had with his parents, on different occasions when he returned to his native place again and again from his travels abroad, we faithfully preserve the following few, without attempting chronological order:
FATHER: My son! They say you do nothing, I am ashamed of you. Why not plough the fields if you can do nothing else!
NANAK: I do something that others cannot understand, father. I, too, plough, but my ploughing is different from theirs. I sow the seeds of Han Nam; my heart is my fields and my mind is my plough, and God waters my fields. I plough both day and night, and I sow my songs.
FATHER: Why not have a village shop and sit there and rest and sell merchandise?
NANAK: Time and space are my shop, and I sit and deal in song. I praise Him who has made all this.
FATHER: None can understand what you say, your speech is so difficult. Why not enter again into the Government service,, which is fairly easy?
NANAK: I have already entered His service, I cannot serve another. I go wither He takes me and I do as He bids me.
At another time, when he met his mother after a long interval, the following conversation took place.
MOTHER: My son! Do not go away now, but come and live in your house as of old.
SON: My house is His Temple, mother! God is my home and His grace is my family. His pleasure is my utmost riches, mother! He judges me not; He is kind and merciful as none else is. He blesses and blesses without end, He provides me with everything, and I am forever happy in Him.
Of what use is this life of houses, wherein a thousand desires consume the man; and there is not rest, neither in waking nor in dreams, mother?
MOTHER: Wear clothes such as we wear; and be not so sad, so strange; go not away from us.
SON: My clothes are white and stainless, mother; for I live in love of Him who has given me so much love.
I am made to wear His Presence and
His Beauty, mother!
He is my food and raiment.
The thought of Him, mother, is my
covering of honor,
His treasures contain everything,
My clothes are eternal youth,
I wear the perpetual Spring
O what use are these clothes, the wearing of which gives so much trouble?
And then a thousand desires consume the man; and there is no rest, in waking or in dream.
MOTHER: Oh! Why do you not live like us and eat what we eat?
SON: I drink His very Presence, I eat of His precious Substance, and partake of His Light.
In His glance is my heavenly sustenance. I have neither hunger or thirst Of what use is this bread, mother the eating of which gives so much trouble? And a thousand desires consume the man; and there is no rest, neither in waking nor in dreams.
To the Hindus he said, "You are not Hindus"' to the Mussalman, "You are not Moslems"; to the Yogis, "You are not Yogis"; and so it was wherever he went. He not only withheld these names, but by his very presence changed those that had borne them into men. When he left the place, his eye seemed to be still upon them, keeping their minds steadfast.
A new life came to the people, in him they found their God, their world, and their lost souls
In him they began anew; and in him they ended.
When he prepared to go on his long journeys into the trackless lands around, usually on foot, Nanki (his elder sister and his disciple) could not brook even the thought of such a longer separation from him.
She said, "0 divine one! What will be our condition then? How shall thy lotuses live and breathe without thee!"
"Bibi," said the brother, "this is Heaven's call, I must go whither it leads my feet. Many will attain the heavenly life if you forego for a while your own yearnings. I would not be gone from you. Whenever you will think of me, I will be with you."
Guru Nanak did return to her frequently, interrupting his travels.
Mardana, the rebec player, joined him and Nanak took up his royal residence under the stars.
He went to Sangaladeep and other isles in the south of India, He visited the Nilgiri hills. He crossed the borders of Assam in the east and the Trans-Himalayas in the North, and went by Baghdad and Bakhara right up to the Caucasian mountains. He visited Mecca, whither he came by way of Baluchistan. He traveled throughout the north-western frontier of India and the Kashmir. None ever traveled so much with one single purpose; namely, to thrill the earth from pole to pole with the working of his spirit.
A banker name Duni Chand lived in Lahore in the times of Nanak. He flew many flags over his house, each flag representing ten millions. One day he came to see the Master, and Nanak gave to him a needle, which he said he would receive again from him in the world beyond this after death. Duni Chand took the needle home, and told his wife of the Master's strange speech, and still stranger request to keep a needle for him in his books. Both went to the Guru again, and said, "Sire, how can we carry a needle with us beyond death, when all we have shall be left behind?" "Of what use is your all, then," sad Nanak, "if it will be of no use to you in regions beyond death, where you will have to pass long centuries?" "Pray, then. tell us what we can take with us," said they.
"The wealth of loving Him," said the Guru; "Han Nam will go with you."
"How can we have that wealth," said they.
'Just as you have this, if the Guru so pleaseth, if He giveth the grain of life, if He favoureth ye," said the Guru.
Both Dun Chand and his wife entered the path of discipleship.
The Master sat as usual under a tree, outside a city on the Gangetic plain in Eastern India. He gave Mardana a jewel, and asked him to go and get it valued in the city. None could value it truly: some offered gold for it, and some mere silver. Mardana at last met a jeweler, who, when he saw the Guru's jewel, brought all his jewels and offered them to Mardana, and said, "Who can say the price of this priceless jewel? Who can buy Beauty? I offer my all for the joy of its auspicious sight. It is the beginning of my luck. It is the favor of God that I have seen it today." The jeweler Salis Rai and his wife followed Mardana and sought the refuge of the Guru. They were initiated into the path of discipleship.
There at Eminabad in the Punjab, lived in those times a carpenter who used to make pegs of wood and other implements for the village. He lived in "pure poverty", as the Japanese would say. His life was simple, his needs were few, and he was happy. He was a disciple of the Master, but full of natural simplicity. Nanak went straight to his house and lived with him for days. He neglected the table of the king and preferred plain bread and water at the house of this man of God. The king sent for Nanak and asked, "why do you refuse my bread and eat at the house of a low-caste, though they say you are a saint?" "Your bread is blood and his bread is milk," replied Guru Nanak.
In a thick forest of India, Koda met Guru Nanak under strange circumstances Mardana had lost his way and fallen into the hands of Koda; Mardana was just what he wanted for his man-sacrifice. Koda bound him hand and foot, and began his preparations, lighting a fire under a huge cauldron of oil. The wind blew, the rain came, and the fire went out. He tried again, with the same result; and he knew not why the elements went against him that day. He looked up and there stood Guru Nanak. His look disconcerted Koda, who went into his cave to consult his mirror. The mirror gave him the image of man, and he came out and asked for forgiveness.
Nanak said: "Koda, Sing His Great Name."
Koda entered the path of discipleship.
Sajan kept a Moslem mosque and a Hindu shrine side by side for the weary travelers to rest in a lonely jungle pathway. There lay the bones of many a traveler that came hither to rest in the midst of the temple or the mosque. Once Nanak was the guest of Sajan for a night. Sajan served the Guru with the utmost devotion, for he took him to be a very rich man. He saw the sparkle of a million jewels on the Guru's forehead. Late at night, Sajan, as usual, invited the Guru to retire to rest.
Such heavenly music was uttered by the Guru when Mardana began playing his rebec, that Sajan was overwhelmed with remorse; He was washed with music. He cried, "Save me! even me, 0 Divine Or1e!" "Be poor," said the Guru, "and sing His Name!"
Once Nanak was near the ancient Buddhist city of Taxila. A bleak mountain now called Vali Qandhari (the prophet of Qandhar) stands with its bare peak at a little distance from Taxila, towards the Peshawar side on the great trunk road by which came Alexander the Great and other invaders to India. This mountain is so called because in the times of Guru Nanak there lived a Vali -a prophet - a native of Qandhar, on its high summit. He had built himself a house by the side of a little spring of crystal fresh water on the top of the mountain. This was the only spring of water near the place where once encamped Guru Nanak and Bhai Mardana. Mardana was very thirsty. The Guru asked him to go up and drink water from the fountain of Vali Qandhari
Mardana went up. but the reception of the Vali was very indifferent you?" said he. "My name is Mardana and I am a disciple of Nanak; replied Bhai Mardana. "What brings you here?" "I feel thirsty, and wish to have some water from your spring." "There is no water here for such as you; go back and ask your Master for it." Nanak asked Mardana to go again, saying that they were simple folk of God and wanted some water from his spring. Mardana went three times as bidden by the Guru. but to no purpose. The last time when he came back, Guru Nanak said "Never mind, Mardana! Dig here. There is a fountain of water flowing at your feet~ The spring was there, it came with its cool crystal waters kissing the feet of the Master. Vali Qandhari, too, came down to see Guru Nanak who so naturally attracted everyone. Guru Nanak spoke to Vali Qandhari saying:
"0 friend, those who live so high, should not be rock-like dry."
Vali Oandhari was enriched with the wisdom of the Master, and blessed with poverty; he too, drank the waters that flowed at the Master's feet.
Nanak was in Kashmir, living in the forest near the great lake. Kamal, a Mohammedan Faquir, lived nearby, on milk that the wandering shepherds gave him; He was very pious and sad, pining for the life of the Spirit. He pined for that celestial goodness which comes to man only through the grace of God. He was an old man now, and looked at the setting sun and the rising moon with feelings as of a beggar whom, when he came to them with his bowl, they had turned out of doors. Brahamdas and Kamal were friends; one an orthodox Brahrnan and the other a Pathan with glowing eyes. Pandit Brahamdas always ~had three camels following him, loaded 'Nith volumes of ancient wisdom. He always carried his stone-god hung by a thread round his neck. Brahamdas informed Kamal of the strange visitor to Kashmir who "wore leather and ate fish." He said, "It is strange. Many a mar. who has gone and tasted the nectar of his kindness is transfigured." Kamal, who had been thirsty all his life, sought the presence of Nanak, fell at his feet. and fainted with joy. As he rose he found in his own heart the light which he had sought in vain in the forests. Kamal followed the Master. Nanak asked him to settle in the Jurram valley (now the tribal frontier of India): it was from here that the song of Nam spread towards the West. Kamal was the servant of his Master, the soldier of his King, a temple of holy song. Mardana entered his final rest here; passing away in the great concourse of the disciples of Kabul, Qandhar, and Tirah, when Nanak paid his second visit to Kamal.
Brahamdas wished at first to discuss his lore with the Guru, and began thus:
BRAHAMDAS: Where was God before Creation, and how were things created?
NANAK: He opens His eyes and He closes them, according to His pleasure. He knows.
BRAHAMDAS: Who are you, who being a teacher of religion, wears leather?
The discussion ended in a trance. Like dawn, singing through every leaf of the forests of Kashmir, came the Guru's heavenly voice:
"Blessed is the disciple that had met the Master;
He is happy as the face of earth adorned with flower and leaf,
He seeth this world, the garden of Beauty, in full bloom!
All lakes are brimful of nectar.
He is only made divine and rich in colouring as a garment with madder dye;
The Mystic body of the Master has melted into his silver limbs.
And the lotus of life bursts in full blossom in the heartache of the disciple. The whole world cries as the antelope caught in a hunter's trap.
Fear and pain and thirst and hunger crowd from all sides;
But blessed is the disciple that hath met the Master!"
The Guru gave him the celestial vision, Brahamdas entered the Path.
He was given the authority to distribute amongst the folk of the Kashmir valley the Divine riches given him by God.
The leper was in his hut; and late at night the Guru called him out - it was a moonlit night. "Who is it?" said the leper. The song flowed from the Guru as soft loving light from the moon.
"It is but for a night, as the birds rest on the tree;
For at earliest dawn we go - no talk of me and thee!
A night on the roadside - a night and a day;
It is but as the meeting of travelers on their way!
Each noisy bird of passage from its branch its bearings takes:
Then every bough is silent; we're flown as morning breaks!"
How could the leper believe that he could have a guest! He came out and saw him. The song descended on the leper as the moonlight clothed him with affection. Nanak said: "When in the song of Nam we cry aloud, all our past suffering is seen to come of our forgetfulness of the Beloved. Suffering sets us on fire, makes us, as it were, red hot, and cools us again, until we pass through a hundred fires!"
Nanak gave him the song and went away.
Nanak the Master was at Mecca. The Master slept out of doors with his feet turned inadvertently towards the Qaaba, the House of God. The chief priest of the place came and said, "0 forgetful stranger! Awake and see your feet are turned toward the House of God!"
The Guru replied: "Is it so? Pray, turn my feet yourself in the direction where the House of God is not."
It is here they asked the Guru: "Pray tell us what does your God eat and wear."
"Music is His food, and the colors of life are His garment," replied the Guru.
Once Nanak was the guest of the City of Light, where lived good people. At the time of departure thence, the Guru cursed them: Be ye scattered, and may there be no city here!" After a white the Guru was the guest of the City of Darkness, where lived evil-minded persons. Nanak, on leaving the city. blessed them: "May this be your settlement for a long time to come!"
Once he was at Multan. Many false hermits lived there, and they were all afraid of some true one coming and disillusioning the crowds that assembled and worshipped them. They thought Nanak had come to deprive them of their living. It is said they sent Nanak a bowl of milk too full to have another drop, meaning thereby there was no room for him. Mardana wished the Guru to accept it, for he was thirsty and hungry after a long dusty tramp. He smiled, and returned the bowl, placing a little flower of jasmine on the surface of the milk. "There is room for me everywhere," said the jasmine flower.
Some people were throwing water towards the Sun while they bathed in the Ganges. "0 men! What are you doing?" said the Guru. "We are offering water to our dead ancestors living in the Sun," said they. At this, the Guru began throwing water in the opposite direction with both his hands. When they asked what strange thing he was doing, He replied, "I am watering my fields of wheat in the Punjab."
The priests of Hardwar collected round Him and said: "Of what caste are you, and of what town?" "My caste is the same as that of wind and fire, and I come from a town whence come both day and night."
During a great fair, the Guru was at Kuruk-Shetra. He asked Mardana to go and get fire to cook his meats, and Mardana went and touched the fire of an "orthodox." The orthodox cried out in a rage, and fell upon Mardana; whereupon the Guru said: "The evil is still in his mind, hatred resides in his heart,' And yet his Cooking Square is pure! Of what use are these lines of the Square when low caste thoughts still sit with him in his mind?"
It was Sikandar Lodi then Emperor of unfortunate India, who, along with others, put Guru Nanak in prison; where he had to labor on the hand-mills. He did the labor; but the music flowed from him in prison, and alt came to listen, and all stood to listen in awe and wonder. Sikandar Lodi also came and stood listening, and asked forgiveness of the Master. The gates were opened, and for the sake of the Master everyone was set at liberty.
The priests of the temple began their hymn to their God. In a huge salver they put many little lamps of ghee, the pearls of the temple, and the offerings and incense; and alt stood to offer it to God. There were priests that held each one a feathery chowne in his hand and stood at the back of the enshrined God to fan it. The priests began the ceremony, but the Guru paid no heed. After the ceremony, the priests were very angry with him. Then came Guru Nanak's voice like the voice of God, and alt stood listening dumb as cattle.
Here Nanak sang his famous hymn, when the night was rich with her stars in full glow.
The whole heaven with its myriad tights goes round and round my Beloved! The little stars are as pearls!
The winds fan him, And there rises in His temple the
Incense from the hearts of a million flowers, The endless music of creation resounds!
A million eyes hath my Beloved! And yet no mortal eyes! A million Lotus-feet are His, And yet no mortal feet!
I die with joy of the perfume of His presence!
His flesh emits a million perfumes! And yet He hath no scent!
He is the Light of Light, By the beams of His face the stars burn bright,
And He is the soul of everything, My Arti is my waiting for things to be as I He willeth.
When the Master comes and stands by, the Divine Light is revealed!
The Moon of His lotus feet draws me like a thirsty sarang whose thirst daily increases.
O God! Come and bend on me Thy saving glance, And let me repose forever in Thy Holy,
Holy Naming Thee.
Guru Nanak was in Assam in the city of Nur Shah, and a woman of black magic, who exercised strange powers over all that locality dwelt there. She fascinated and subordinated many by her spells, compelling them to dance to her tunes. She owned the whole country around, and many a mystic and many a celibate and Yogi had fallen into her snare.
Mardana went into the city to get some bread for himself, and he fell a victim to the machinations of the slaves of Nur Shah. They fed him, worshipped him, but "made him a Iamb." They put him under their spell, and he "drank without water and ate without bread!" Mardana was thus imprisoned in the spell of black magic of Nur