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Guru Nanak - The Founder of Sikh Religion


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    [By the Grace of Supreme True Entity]


    Guru Nanak Sahib is the Founder of Sikh Religion. According to the Sikh Historians - Scholars, Guru Sahib was born at “Rai Bhoay Dee Talwandi (now known as Nankana Sahib in Pakistan), on 27th March 1469. He was followed by nine successors namely, Guru Angad Sahib, Guru Amardas Sahib, Guru Ramdas Sahib, Guru Arjun Sahib, Guru Hargobind Sahib, Guru Har Rai Sahib, Guru Harkishan Sahib, Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib and Guru Gobind Singh Sahib, who breathed his last on 7th October 1708. There was thus a continuous and unbroken period of 239 years during which the teachings of Guru Nanak Sahib were assimilated and practised. The followers of Sikh religion are known as “Sikhs or Khalsa”. Although, the great majority of the Sikhs live in the northern state of Punjab, others reside in Chandigarh, Haryana, Delhi, and scattered in other parts of India. A large number of Sikhs have also settled in Canada, UK, USA, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, East Africa, Australia, Fiji and New Zealand, etc.

    According to the “2004 Encyclopaedia Britannica Book of the Year”, World population of the Sikhs is reported to be “24.295 millions” i. e. 6th major religion of the World. Region-wise, “Sikh” population is reproduced as follows: -



    23,410,000 243,000 551,000 59,000 33,000 24,295,000

    As per the Census held on 7th August 2001, there are “17,401” Sikhs in Australia.

    The Sikhs revere their Gurus (Divine Spiritual Enlighteners) as the followers of other religions do: Moses for Jews, Gautam Buddha for Buddhists, Jesus Christ for Christians, Prophet Muhammad for Muslims, and Brahma-Vishnu-Shiva-Rama-Krishna & other numerous gods for Hindus.

    The Medieval India was vitiated by various conflicts of cults and creeds. Moreover, the rigidity of caste and concept of ‘Ahimsa’ were responsible for the consequent raids by the foreign adventurers. In the eleventh century, when Muslim raiders became the rulers of India, entire Hindu population was subject to slavery. There was neither any one to challenge the cruel rulers nor to enlighten and ameliorate the suffering masses. From his early childhood, Guru Nanak Sahib showed a meditative and contemplative nature. He was thus loved both by the Hindus and Muslims. In spite of the difficult means of transport and communications during the 15th and 16th centuries, Guru Sahib travelled as far as Assam in the East, Sri Lanka in the South, Tibet in the North and Mecca in the West. He met a lot of people including rulers and priests of other religions and had fruitful discussions with the main object to share the message of the Almighty God, Who equally loves all. His teachings (Divine Word) are enshrined in the “Guru Granth Sahib” - the most sacred Scripture of the Sikhs. While sharing his message of love, peace, dignity, equality and sharing, etc., he was very lucid, polite, humble but at the same time logical, clear, convincing, firm and fearless.

    GURU NANAK’S BELIEF IN GOD: Guru Nanak Sahib firmly believed that God alone is the Absolutely True Supreme Reality. The concept of God is reflected in Prologue to the Guru Granth Sahib, which reads - “God is the One Immortal Supreme True Entity – the Sole Creator, the everlasting Truth, doer of the entire universe and whole cosmos, neither afraid of anyone nor having any enmity with anyone, the formless and timeless invisible Entity, beyond birth and death but ever existent as self-illumined. By practicing the Revealed Divine Word, Almighty God’s Grace could be attained. Guru Nanak Sahib opines that God is Universal, Who does not belong to any one race, region or nation. God is Mother and Father of all human beings. Guru Nanak Sahib also explained that God does not reside high in sky or on any other planet. He taught: “Why search for God outside, When He is here within us all”

    HIS REVOLT AGAINST CASTE: Guru Nanak Sahib considered all human beings as children of God. He proclaimed that how can the mere incident of birth prejudice and ordain an individual’s career and destiny? He further emphasised that how can any one be high or low when the Divine Potter made all persons of the same basic material? - “All human beings are made out of the same clay. But the Potter fashioned them into vessels of many sorts. The body of all human beings contains five elements. Oh Consider, if any one has more or less in ones composition.” In place of caste - “jaat”, Guru Nanak Sahib emphasised - “joat”, the inner Divine-light possessed by the individual. So, a person’s status depends on his / her evolution, behaviour and good or bad deeds. According to Guru Nanak Sahib, birth or profession of any person does not make anyone as ‘untouchable’ or of high caste. Thus concept of social equality was the lynchpin of the Guru’s faith and he categorically declared: “Religion does not consist in theories and mantras. The person, who considers all as equals is religious.” In fact, when asked by the Maulvi of Mecca – “Who is superior: Hindu or Muslim?” Guru Nanak Sahib replied without any fear or favour: “God cares not for labels. The Creator searches the hearts of all persons and judges them according to their actions. A person’s worth depends on ones deeds and not on creed. Those who perform good deeds are alone accepted in God’s True Court”. Guru Nanak Sahib also stressed that God’s Grace is not restricted to any one nation, region or religion and accordingly, all were encouraged to live in harmony and with love, dignity, equality, mutual trust, understanding and welfare of the whole Universe.

    Thus, Guru Nanak Sahib strove to bring Hindus and Muslims together. His life and teachings are a symbol of harmony. A popular couplet describes him as a Guru for the Hindus and a Pir for the Muslims. Furthermore, Guru Sahib not only verbally pleaded the cause of lowly and socially backward and downtrodden people, but also felt honoured to be as one of them. He says: “Nanak is the lowliest among the lowly, he resides with them and has nothing to do with those who are egoist because of their so called worldly status based on caste or wealth. It is there and there, O’ God, that you look upon so mercifully, where the lowly are looked after and honoured.”

    REVOLT AGAINST SOCIAL PARASITES: Well before the birth of Guru Nanak Sahib, Indian society was surrounded by religious and social parasites. At the one end the cruel rulers, landlords and greedy traders were exploiting the masses for their personal benefits and at the other end, were the religious priests - Brahmins, Mullahs, Yogis and various other mendicants. Guru Sahib raised his voice and condemned them: “Without knowing the True Lord, one sings His praises. A starving Mullah turns his home into a Mosque. To earn a living, one has his ears split; He becomes a mendicant and loses his self-respect. Do not fall at the feet of such a person who calls himself a Yogi or Pir, but lives on begging”. Guru Sahib also exposed the hypocrisy of the promoters of religion and the pious pretenders: “Those who murder men recite the Namaz. Those who use the fatal knife wear the sacred thread”. He preached that to live on the labour of others was irreligious. Guru Nanak Sahib regarded the use of income derived through exploitation as misappropriation: “To misappropriate the share of others, is like beef for a Hindu and pork for a Muslim”. He also admonished the rulers for their misdeeds.

    PROTECTOR OF WOMEN’S CAUSE: In medieval India, women were equated as untouchables and treated as household slaves. They were sold in child marriages, condemned to a miserable widowhood if they escaped ‘suttee immolation’, were regarded unfit for religious instructions or temporal assignments. But Guru Nanak Sahib had the rare courage to equate women with men. Guru says, “Why call them inferior when they give birth to all human beings including the Kings and Prophets?” Thus, Sikh Gents and Ladies practise married family life and they do not share West’s concept of “gay, lesbian and single parents tradition or continue to live for number of years as boy-girl friends.” The Western system has been creating a lot of frustration amongst their children and burden on social welfare activities whereas Sikhs enjoy wholesome of family life with great devotion and satisfaction. It is interesting to mention that currently, a Sikh woman - Bibi Jagir Kaur is the President of the Sikhs’ Supreme elected body, which looks after the administration of “Darbaar Sahib Complex, Amritsar” and other various historical Gurduaras - (Sikhs’ Religious Places - Congregational Halls).

    THE CHAMPION OF NATIONHOOD: Guru Nanak Sahib gave a new concept to his contemporaries – the entity of nationhood. India up to his times was regarded as a conglomeration of various communities and tribes, differing from one another in their social, ethnic and cultural features. Guru Nanak did his best to unify all classes of people under the banner of a single nation. He used the word “Hindustan” to express the entity and identity of the country and her people. Guru Nanak also optimistically noted that the people would certainly rise when they get a competent and suitable leader - “Another, a disciple of the hero will rise in the land.”

    TOWARDS THE OPEN SOCIETY: Guru Nanak Sahib replaced inertia by action, ‘Ahimsa’, by heroic resistance and asceticism by a grapple with life. All the essentials of the open society were carried into daily practice; the joy of the living world, the superiority of the householder to the recluse, the sharing of bread, the sovereignty of the people and equality of all faiths - in short the secularism of human Brotherhood. Guru Nanak Sahib was the Liberator of the mind and the pioneer of the modern renaissance.

    SALVATION THEORY: Guru Nanak Sahib rejected another popular concept that salvation could be acquired only through this “Avataar or that Messiah.” According to him, there are no saviours except the Almighty God’s Order. The socalled saviours only pointed to themselves and thus blasphemed against Almighty God. The Guru absolutely rejected personality-cult, hero-worship, idolatry and all the ritual bathing, penance, mantras, miracles and oracles. Guru Nanak Sahib practised the love of God, the love of man and the world as an entity resident within the Creator. In this world, both Good and Evil have each a role. Light acquires importance on account of darkness. Devil and evil disappear when we fully abide by the Creator’s Will and perform the right deeds based on nothing but “Truthful living” in this world. Guru Sahib says: “Everything is below Truthfulness, but Truthful living is the highest of all virtues.”

    HEAVEN AND HELL: Guru Nanak Sahib did not share others thought of Heaven in the sky and Hell deep under the seas. The Sikhs do not believe in any hell where persons after death are tortured and burnt or they enjoy all luxuries in heaven. Sikhs believe that peace of mind and a state of equipoise attained by performing noble deeds and controlling worldly desires lead us to a heavenly life here in this world. Whereas forgetting the True Lord and excessive indulging in lust, anger, greed, attachment, ego bring misery and despair, which is tantamount to living in a hell.

    FUTILITY OF RITUALS: Guru Nanak Sahib’s approach and way of preaching, sometimes, was very dramatic, just to invite the attention of the people with whom he wanted to have discussion. For instant, the purpose of his throwing water from river Ganges at Hardvaar to the West, and not towards the rising Sun (East) as the Hindu pilgrims were doing, was only to show the futility of the whimsical belief and wrong worship being practised by the Hindus. Similarly, his act of sleeping at Mecca, with his feet towards ‘Kaaba’, did not mean disrespect to the sacred place of the Muslims but was meant to demonstrate quite unassumingly, that God is everywhere and not confined to any particular place or direction, whatsoever. On another occasion when the Brahmins at Kurukshetra insisted on fasting and abstaining from cooking food during the solar eclipse, Guru Nanak’s reply was that there was no merit in such unfounded practices but his message was one of virtuous living and noble deeds. Thus wherever Guru Nanak Sahib went, he preached the need of purity of thought and right actions while always realising the presence of ‘Akaal Purkh’ - because he was a staunch believer in the existence, oneness, omnipotence, omnipresence and omniscience of the Almighty God.

    THE UNIQUE UNIVERSAL APPROACH: The unique and universal religion established by Guru Nanak Sahib can also be the religion of the modern space age. Guru Nanak Sahib, five centuries ago, talked of millions of worlds, universes, suns and moons, as the science does reveal today and still in the process of sighting different planets. His teachings were based on true logic and Divine spiritual wisdom. There is no place for blind faith, religious bigotry or fanaticism in the fundamental principles or actual day-to- day practicing of the Sikh religion. What Guru Nanak Sahib earnestly wished is that a Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jew, Muslim or a Yogi, etc. should become pious and remain faithful to his/her Faith because true religion does not teach to hate or to persecute persons of other faiths.

    THE SIKH IDENTITY: All religions prescribe certain basic principles so dear to the Founders of their respective Faiths. Accordingly, all over the world, a Sikh could also be identified by virtue of the following characteristics –

    Any person, who faithfully believes in:

    a) One Immortal Supreme True Entity, the Almighty God - (Akaal Purkh / Waheguru);

    b) Ten Sikh Gurus from Guru Nanak Sahib to Guru Gobind Singh Sahib (1469-1708);

    c) Guru Granth Sahib (incorporating Divine Word revealed through Gurbaani Hymns);

    d) Teachings & Utterances of the Sikh Gurus (as per a Guide to the Sikh Way of Life);

    e) Amrit Initiation Ceremony bequeathed by Guru Gobind Singh Sahib;

    f) Keeping up the long uncut hair, beard, moustaches and eyebrows, and Turban on head for Singh males and headscarf for Kaur females;

    g) Observance of equality without any distinction of caste, class, colour, creed, gender, profession, race, region or religion and the person is recognizable as a “Singh or Kaur”, who does not owe allegiance to any other religion, is a “SIKH”.

    CONCLUSION: Guru Nanak Sahib ordained a threefold injunction to the Sikhs: (1) ‘Naam Japna’ - Meditation on God, which does not mean sitting cross-legged in abstract contemplation. It means reading, understanding and practising the Divine Word to enable us to get a sense of perspective on life, to distinguish between that which is important and the many trivial things that so easily dominate our lives. (2) ‘Kiret Karnaa’ - means to earn livelihood with honesty and hard work without any exploitation or cheating. (3) ‘Vand Schaknaa’ perhaps the most important of all, is sharing our earnings with other needy persons; not only wealth but also our time, energy and skills. It is a practical approach embodied in the Sikh teaching of ‘Seva’ - Service to others, which leads us to strive for the welfare of entire mankind irrespective of any distinction. I must say that no one can describe the greatness of Guru Nanak Sahib as he lived for the welfare of the whole world.

    {Computerised for free distribution, based on the articles in “The Sikh Messenger, London”}

    [Twice a day, Sikhs all over the world pray for the well being of all]
    Sikh Khalsa Mission Inc; 9 - Hamlin Street, Quakers Hill, N S W - 2763, AUSTRALIA
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