Guru Nanak :
Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh faith, lived at a momentous time in the history of India. His life spanned a period mid-way in ten centuries of foreigen rule in India. The Hindu-Muslim conflict in the society and the rulers of his time underpins much of Guru Nanak's thought. He learned Persian and Arabic, the languages of the elite, but he gave them up in favour of the language of the masses to whom he spoke directly, as did the Sufi mystics- Kabir and Farid- before him. His inspired utterances are known as the 'bani'- from the Sanskrit word 'vani' meaning both sound and speech. So divine were they, far beyond the confines of orthodox thought and the temper of the times, that they became the basis of a fervent spirituality rather than a religion, a spirituality with an universalistic outlook.
The son of a Kshatriya (warrior) family, Guru Nanak studied Hinduism and Islam. He got married but then he abandoned his family and became an ascetic. Wandering for many years he came under the influence of both Hindus and Muslims (especially Sufi). The Muslim teacher Kabir (died in 1398) made a deep impression on Guru Nanak. He said, "There is no Hindu, there is no Musalman".
Born in the month of 'Kartik' (October/November), his birthday is known as Guru Nanak Jayanti. He was born in 1469 A.D. at Tolevandi some 30 miles from Lahore. He was a great seer, saint and mystic. He was a prolific poet and a unique singer of God's laudation. A prophet of peace, love, truth and renaissance, he was centuries ahead of his times. His universal message is as fresh and true even today as it was in the past and Sikhs all over the world practice what Guru Nanak preached, to reaffirm their beliefs in the teachings of their founder.
Guru Nanak's Enlightenment :
It was during his stay in Sultanpur that Nanak attained Enlightenment, at the age of thirty-six. According to popular accounts, when he and Mardana (the Muslim rabab player, his friend from his birthplace, Talwandi, who became his constant companion) went for the customary dip in the river nearby, absorbed in thoughts of God, Nanak mysteriously disappeared. Mardana raised an alarm and searched for him everywhere. His biographers state that on the third day he reappeared changed in
appearance, glowing with an unusual radiance. Nanak said that he had been ushered into Divine Presence, blessed by the Almighty and told to go forth and preach the holy name of God. It was to be the mission of his life thenceforth.
The first words Nanak uttered after his enlightenment were:
"There is no Hindu, there is no Musalman".
At a time when Hindus and Muslims were engaged in conflicts these words formed a major plank in Guru Nanak's evangelism. He spared neither group and expressed his disdain for the obsolete practices and the unthinking performance of rituals the significance of which was lost to sight. Through this statement, he was actually pointing out that differences among various groups had overshadowed the underlying principle of all religions- that the Supreme power is One. To him, Ram and Rahim were not different, they were the same Reality merely expressed differently.
Accompanied by Mardana, Guru Nanak set out on long spiritual journeys to preach the gospel of love and truth. He travelled to all parts of India and neighbouring countries and visited the religious centres of the Hindus and Muslims. Through the power of speech, he convinced people that good actions, morality rather than rituals, alone could ensure salvation. While his stay in Mecca, he was asked who was superior, a Hindu or a Muslim. Nanak answered that without good actions, neither was of any consequence.
"Truth is high but higher still is truthful living," said he.
Guru Nanak preached strict monotheism and described the Creator as "Ikk", the One without a second. His philosophy of God is best described in the 'Japjee, the primal creed of the Sikh faith.' There was no room in his teachings for the worship of any deity or human teacher other than the Formless One. Contrary to the medieval Indian practice of renouncing the world for spiritual elevation, Guru Nanak beleived that the world was the gift of God and worth living in fully.
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