Guru Nanak is named founder of the Sikh religion. ‘Sikh’ means ‘disciple’ and Guru Nanak believed that one can evolve or achieve salvation only through direct contact with a true master or a ‘sadguru’. His religion has spread not only in North India but also in America, Singapore and Africa. Many Sikhs now live in other countries. The 552nd anniversary of Guru Nanak occurs on Friday, 19 November 2021.
Guru Nanak was born on April 15, 1469, at Talwandi, 40 miles from Lahore. As a tribute to him, this place is now called ‘Nankana Sahib’ and is in present Pakistan. His father Kaluchand was a Patwari and his mother’s name was Tripta Devi. An astrologer had predicted that Nanak was a born devotee of God and would achieve spiritual heights and be acknowledged by both Hindus and Muslims alike.
At seven months, the Miharban Janam Sakhi (life story) states, he would already sit in the posture of a yogi. The same account also tells of his education in Sanskrit at the hands of the village pandit and in Persian and Arabic in the Talwandi Muslim school. He rejected the sacred thread ceremony at the age of ten and thwarted his father’s ambition that his son should become an accountant. Though some narratives emphasise his rejection of all things worldly it is more probable that by the time Nanak came to the end of his teens he was an educated man already dissatisfied with the formal Hinduism which was his heritage. Descriptions of his meetings with yogis, sadhus and sants may at very least point to a serious religious quest, supported as they are by a considerable number of references to the terminology, practices and beliefs of such groups in his compositions which are preserved in the Guru Granth Sahib.
The Teachings of Guru Nanak
Guru Nanak taught that there is only one God, Akal Purak, meaning ‘a timeless being that never dies’ (also known as Waheguru and Satnam), to whom everyone can have direct access. This, combined with the other bedrock teachings of Sikhism – that everyone is equal regardless of race, colour, ability, religion or gender — was extremely controversial, and in complete opposition to the Hindu faith with its extensive rituals, priests, Sanskrit texts and hierarchical caste system, which he denounced.
While Guru Nanak still believed in reincarnation, he believed that spiritual progress and mukti (liberation) from awagaun (the cycle of life, death and rebirth) came through living a productive and moral life in service to God and the community. He rejected the notion that being celibate and living the ascetic life of a sadhu (a holy man who relies on others for food and shelter) was a quicker path.
He taught that the aim of a Sikh was to overcome his haumai (ego) by meditating on God’s name. Far from renouncing life, this meant living among people and being an agent for change. Earth was a place to practise dharmsal (righteousness) and move away from being manmukh (self-centred) with the negative human temptations of lobh (greed), kam (lust), karodh (anger), ahankar (pride) and moh (attachment), towards becoming guru-sikh (guru- oriented). This in tum would create harmonious living with hukam, the Divine Will that shapes everything, while accepting that we also have free will to create our destiny both in this life and in the lives to come.
The Shepparton Interfaith Network greets the Sikh Community with “Wahe guru” on occasion of the 552nd anniversary of Guru Nanak, founder of Sikhi.