Guru Nanak was a reformer. He attacked the vicious tentacles of corruptions in society. He strongly protested against formalism and ritualism. He carried the message of peace and of love to everybody. He was very liberal in his views. He did not observe the rules of caste. He tried his level best to remove the superstitions of the people. He preached purity, justice, goodness and the love of God. He introduced the singing of God’s praise, along with music, as a means of linking the soul of man with God.
Guru Nanak had great reverence for women. He allowed them to join all religious gatherings and conferences and to sing the praises of God. He gave them their full share in religious functions.
To him, there are no barriers of race, class, caste, creed or color which check the progress of any in reaching the goal. He
realized the great truth of the brotherhood of religions. He preached the universal brotherhood of man and the fatherhood of God to all people.
Guru Nanak points out that the road to the abode of God is long and arduous. There are no short cuts for rich people. Everyone must undergo the same discipline. All human beings must live according to the will of the Lord without grumbling or murmuring. The best way to find God is to make His will your own. Be in tune with the Infinite. The first stage in making the divine will one’s own is attained through prayer for divine grace or
favor. Guru Nanak attaches very great importance to prayer. He says that nothing can be achieved by man without divine
favor. He says: "Approach God with perfect humility. Throw yourself on His mercy. Give up pride, show and egoism. Beg for His kindness and
favor. Do not think of your own merits, abilities, faculties and capacities. Be prepared to die in the pursuit of His love and union with Him".
The beautiful composition of mystic poems uttered by Nanak is contained in ‘Japji’. It is sung by every Sikh at daybreak. In ‘Japji’, Guru Nanak has given a vivid description of the stages through which man must pass in order to reach the final resting place or abode of eternal bliss. There are five stages or Khandas. The first is called Dharm Khand or "The Realm of Duty". Everyone must tread the path of righteousness. Everyone will be judged according to his actions.
The next stage is Gyan Khand or "The Realm of Knowledge" where the spirit of divine knowledge reigns. The aspirant does his duty with intense faith and sincerity. He has the knowledge now, that only by doing his duty in a perfect manner, he can reach the abode of bliss or the goal of life.
The third stage is Sharam Khand. This is "The Realm of Ecstasy". There is the spiritual rapture here. There is beauty. The Dharma has become a part of one’s own nature. It has become an ingrained habit. It is no more a mere matter of duty or knowledge.
The fourth stage is Karam Khand or "The Realm of Power". The God of power rules over this realm. The aspirant acquires power. He becomes a mighty hero. He becomes invincible. The fear of death vanishes.
The fifth or the final stage is Sach Khand or "The Realm of Truth". The formless One reigns here. Here the aspirant becomes one with God. He has attained Godhead. He has transmuted himself into Divinity. He has attained the goal of his life. He has found out his permanent resting place. Now ends the arduous journey of the soul.
Nanak has given a beautiful summary of his teachings in one of his hymns as follows:—
Love the saints of every faith:
Put away thy pride.
Remember the essence of religion
Is meekness and sympathy,
Not fine clothes,
Not the Yogi’s garb and ashes,
Not the blowing of the horns,
Not the shaven head,
Not long prayers,
Not recitations and torturings,
Not the ascetic way,
But a life of goodness and purity,
Amid the world’s temptations.
"Vahe Guru" is the Guru Mantra for the followers of Guru Nanak.
The Granth Sahib :
Guru Nanak invented the Gurumukhi characters by simplifying the Sanskrit characters. The holy Granth of the Sikhs is in Gurumukhi. It is worshipped by the Sikhs and the Sindhis. Every Gurudwara has a Granth Sahib. The holy Granth, popularly known as Adi Granth, contains the hymns of the first five Gurus. They were all collected, arranged and formed into one volume called Guru Granth Sahib by the fifth Guru. It contains a few selections from the hymns of Kabir and other contemporary Vaishnavite saints. Later on, the hymns of the ninth Guru were incorporated in the holy Granth by the tenth Guru. The compositions of Guru Nanak are very extensive.
The Granth Sahib begins with the following: "There is but one God whose name is true—the Creator". It contains a code of high morals. Purity of life, obedience to Guru, mercy, charity, temperance, justice, straightforwardness, truthfulness, sacrifice, service, love and abstinence from animal food are among the virtues on which great emphasis is laid; while lust, anger, pride, hatred, egoism, greed, selfishness, cruelty, backbiting and falsehood are vehemently condemned.