Abstracts of Sikh Studies – Issue 1
The oft-repeated sermon of Guru Nanak to the devotees who came. to
him for enlightenment, spiritual solace and worldly worries was:
- Naam Japo -Meditate on God, All Pervading, The Doer,
- Kirt Karo- Engage in honest earnings
- Vand Chhako -Share your wealth, material as well as spiritual, with
The congregations in the times of Guru Nanak were made up; as in
the present times, of persons harassed by economic and social problems,
and some seekers of Truth. They all must have approached him to get
answers to their complex as well as simple problems bothering them
Virle kau sojhi pae.
Rare ones get enlightened.
It is also obvious that many of them considered a visit, a dialogue
with the Great Master of immense contentment for straight and abiding
solutions, since his path was simple and factual. The available literature of
his times, in Janam Sakhis depicts Guru Nanak as an outstanding miracle man, showing super-natural feats at every turn. People in those days valued
the super-natural and expected a holy man to exhibit miracles, to prove his
worth. This was the essential test which, both Hindus and Muslims had
adopted to evaluate a man of God. This yard-stick is still applicable to
common people that God-men must demonstrate miracles. In Christianity,
Catholics ‘decide to confer sainthood on the basis of miracles performed.
The emphasis and urgency of the super-natural in Janam Sakhis and other
accounts may be seen in this light.
Guru Nanak started a crusade five hundred years ago to purge
superstition ridden society of any false expectations, magical solutions and
practices which were harming their inhrent energies and dampening their
capacity to improve their social and family lives. He started by denouncing
division of men into tight compartments of practice rclIgion – Hinduism
and Islam. He declared himself neither Hindu nor Muslim. His campaign
was to usher in a new social order for the people, who were stumbling for
light and knowledge in the dark, in ignorance and fear psychosis, as imposed
by pseudo god men.
Man-hath budhee ketia kete Bed bichar
Kete bandhanjia ke gurmukh mokh duar ;
Sachoh aure sabh ko upper sach achar
How many wisdoms cross the mind~ how many discuss the Vedas
How many bindings are there on Mind, but Guru’s Way leads to Release
Truth is high, but higher still is Truthful Living.
The three point formula of Guru Nanak demolished the edifice of
Hindu karam-kand and rituals and Muslim set of prohibitions and approvals.
Foremost, he held the merger of individual ego with the Creator, the All
Pervading Doer as the unquestioned duty and life’s function of one and all.
Yet, he held equally important, the ideal of honesty and sincerity in personal
and public dealings, for ushering in a clean social order as well as fraternity
of willing and motivated persons who would uplift the down-trodden.
Pcerhaps a willing cooperative atmosphere would succeed where draconian
state imposed laws on equality of opportunity have already tottered and
Therefore, of the three point plan of Guru Nanak, the first is for spiritual
upgrading, while the remaining two are closely related to the practical
behaviour. of a spiritually enlightened and uplifted soul. In Guru Nanak’s
religion, honest and clean living is more important than customary devotion
to God. A person who meditates on God but remains dishonest in his
profession is a greater sinner than the ego-centric who goes by that label.
This was a complete break with the existing systems which expected a
person to complete formalities of his religious duties and indulge in mundane
life as best it suited to his gainful pursuits. The dogma of “Give to God
what is his, and unto Caesar what is his due” was rejected by Guru Nanak.
Honesty in life and in actions and intent was to be total, and
uncompromising. This is the aspect of doctrine of Miri-Piri, which is seen
so suspiciously by those who want to confine religion as an individual’s
personal matter. As a man becomes strictly truthful, and draws back from
fraud in his daily functions and behaviour, he sheds from his personality,
deceit, self-advancement at the cost of others, ruthless selfishness, betrayal
on small and big matters. When good intentions prevail over greed, anger and lust, society is upgraded. This was the utopia and the programme placed
by the Guru before the Sikhs congregating in his guidance, in building a
Sikh’s life style.
Sabhe sanjhval sadain. koi n disey bahra lea.
All are called our co-sharers,
No body is perceived as stranger.
Refer to the famous couplet o IX Nanak:
Bhey kahu ko del neh
Na bheymanat aan.
Frighten none Fear none
When Guru Nanak set out to show his grand design to the people who
had been blindly and unquestioningly observing fixed rituals for centuries
in this country and abroad, he met with stiff resistance. There were
Brahmins, Maulvis, Quazis, tantriks, magicians, thugs, power hungry
siddhas, arrogant yogis, mendicants, who opposed and criticised him.
Koi aakhey bhutna, ko kahe betala
Koi akhey admi Nanak vichara
Some call him a demon, others as discordant
Some say, Nanak is a poor soul.
Guru Nanak reflected and observed that there were very few who
would be God-centric and be committed Sikhs.
Virle ko Cur sabad sunaya
Rare ones listen to Guru’s Word
Today, we look at matters as an organised group of Sikhs and have set
values of our religion. In those days, there were very few who heard and
joined the faith on Guru Nanak’s terms. The semi-converts, five hundred
years ago, must have tried to compromise their existing values with Sikh
terms. It is still the game of common Sikhs to circumvent and adapt Guru’s
wisdom to their own requirements and beliefs. It is sad that it has become
a ritual to place Guru Granth Sahib in a distant comer of a house where the
paid granthis meekly read through as a duty for wages, coming and going
through prancing and dancing drunken house holders, at birth, weddings
and on other auspicious occasions. Alternative is to pay costs to a gurdwara
where a reading is organ1sed without involving the family who indulge in
their merry making. The hapless priests can be replaced if they decline the recitation by a set of more docile pathis.
Sakt jaye niveh Cur Gage
The ego-centric bow before the Master, their minds fraudulent and
When Guru asks them to rise, they sit mingling like cranes
True Master resides in the hearts of True devotees, He picks them out,
They try hiding themselves, but cannot conceal their rapacity
Their kind belongs not there, they are content in company of sheep
If you feed and care for the egoist, he spits out poison!
For God sake, do not associate with egoist, they are cursed by All
The point is that Guru Nanak, in those initial days must have borne
with such people patiently, while we common mortals do not have such
forbearance for hypocrites and egocentrics.
Nichan ander neech jati neechu hon atneech
Nanak tin ke sang saath vadian sean kya rees
SGGS 15, 1348
Nanak is companion of the lowly among the lowest
Why to imitate the high and mighty?
God is gracious to those who protect the lowly.
It is a challenge to make saints out of sinners. Doors of Guru are
always open to all whom Guru’s Call beckons. It seems that the fault lies
more with those who are expected to set tradition of exemplary behaviour
but instead are totally ineffective, whereas Gurus and the good Sikhs of
yore did not preach but set examples by their own lives and sacrifices.
We have the puritans who are wrapped up in their spirituality which
happens to be one of the three precepts of Guru Nanak’s Plan. The other
two, of social behaviour and promotion have been generally given the gobye. Guru Nanak persuaded the Sidhhas staying in deep mountains to return
to active participation in uplifting the dredges of society. Priority was given
by Guru to an honest, fruitful career, a happy home and service of the havenots. These were the three pillars of his ideology; a balance was all important
to strike so that one did not sway towards anyone side at the cost of the
other two. Guru has warned us to use worldly materials and situations as
necessary attachments under control of our good senses. Guru Hargobind,
the Sixth Nanak explained the point with clarity when objection was raised
by Samrath Guru Ramdass of Maharashtra on his life style of a monarch.
He proclaimed that Guru Nanak had renounced Maya, Illusion, and not the
The outcome of sidhas, Buddhist and Jain detachment and renunciation
was a collapse of social and political order which cost India its freedom to
the marauding hordes of Muslim invaders.
During the brief Sikh rule in Northern India, the imbalance of the
three precepts of Guru Nanak’s religion played havoc. It was, otherwise, a
meticulously well oiled machinery of administration created and nurtured
by Maharaja Ranjit Singh, civil or military, which collapsed like a house of
cards leading to total disarray. It is a sad record of deceit, fraud, chicanery
with blood curdling villainy, as Sikhs got embroiled in selfish power games,
totally retracting from those hallowed maxims of Guru Nanak.
Whenever, Sikhs forsake God’s name, honesty and common weal from
their character and attitude, the aura and energy infused by Guru will
diminish or terminate. Then there will not be any difference between a
Sikh and non-Sikh.
There are more Sikhs today in the world than ever before, there are
more research papers and Sikh seats world-wide in the universities on Sikh
Faith, more Gurdwaras are being set-up, more akhand paths are being
performed, more money is being spent on magnificence of architecture of
Gurdwaras, more sant-deras attracting crowds of inquisitive seekers and
more questions being posed by depleted faithful to get to the crux of Sikhism.
Yet all these efforts are missing the mark. Guru Nanak’s emphasis
unquestioningly was on the practical application of the knowledge and
essence of the three pronged formula for a balanced life style.
The second precept of honestly working is the backbone of any
economic order. All or any of the qualifications possessed by a man cannot
measure up to sincerity and honesty. The fruit of honest labour builds a
happy contented home as well as a benign society.
Be gum pura sehr ko nao
Sharing one’s earnings is very different to the vedic concept of danG
as it is not a ritualistic or customary alms giving exercise which the donor
does to earn merit hereafter and as per dictates of his dharma. Guru Nanak
asked the Sikhs to adopt sharing as a common habit and normal activity for
the erni and common weal. As all Sikhs responded enthusiastically, every
one is benefitted and enjoys the amity of sharing, without exploitation or
expectancy of a good deed done for its future trurts hereafter.
Hereafter is, for a devout Sikh, his merger with the Creator and unlike
other systems, he does not look over his shoulder for the list of merits or
de-merits in his balance sheet.