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  • Malkiat Singh Duhra

Baba Nanak

Baba Nanak was the founder of Sikhism and the first of the Ten Gurus. Baba Nanak was not a God, nor a messenger of God, he was a man enlightened with the knowledge for human welfare. Nanak did not practice normal Hindu austerities, meditation, or yoga, he only sang songs of love, expressing truthfulness and worship in the beautiful poetic form of that time. Singing became his meditation. He criticized the citadel of the Hindu caste system and condemned the theocracy of Mughal rulers. He was absolutely forthright in raising his voice against invaders, oppressors, and exploiters in the best interest of the people of India. Nanak rejected the path of renunciation, emphasizing householder’s life based on honest conduct, selfless service, and constant devotion and remembrance of God. He promoted the equality of all mankind and upheld the causes of the downtrodden and the poor, laying special emphasis to assert the equality of women.

Baba Nanak was born into a Khatri Hindu family (1469-1539) at Rai Bhoi ki Talwandi village (Nankana Sahib) 60 Km west of Lahore in Punjab, Pakistan. His father Kalyan Chand Das Bedi, was a tax collector (patwari) and businessman. His father engaged a Brahmin to teach Devanagari and Maulvi to teach Persian, Arabic, Arithmetic, and Accountancy. Nanak got married at the age of 18 years. His father’s efforts to direct his interest to trade, rearing cattle, and setting up shop failed. His sister Nanki took him with her to Sultanpur where her husband Jairam arranged for a storekeeper’s job at the modikhana of Daulat Khan Ludhi. He met Murdana, a Muslim minstrel who remained his companion for his whole life. Nanak worked in modikhana for seven years and then left for four long Udasi along with Mardana and Bala. He visited different places in all of India, South East Asia, and Arabic countries for 25 years, learned the languages of different areas, and went through the literature to gather information regarding different religions. He studied both Hindu and Muslim religions extensively. He was Guru of Hindus and Peer of Muslims. In later life, at the age of 55 years, Baba Nanak settled at Kartarpur and farmed to earn his own honest living by cultivating the land. Followers came from near and far to listen to the master. He introduced the instruction of langur at Kartarpur. By the time of death, Guru Nanak had acquired several followers in the Punjab region. Guru Nanak appointed Bahai Lehna (Guru Angad) as his successor on a merit basis, even ignoring his sons. He died on September 22, 1539, at Kartarpur at the age of 70 years. Guru Nanak had great respect for Hindu, Muslim, and other religions and he never asked any of his followers to change their religion, he did not ask Mardana to change his religion either. He was in favor of a casteless society. He gave emphasis on three things: 1. Vand Shako; share with others and help those who are in need. 2. Kirt Karo; earn an honest living, without exploiting or fraud. 3. Naam Japo; meditate on God’s name, to feel his presence so that you can control your anger, greed, ego, attachment, and lust.

The sabads in Guru Granth Sahib are the supreme authority of Sikhism and are considered the final and perpetual guru of Sikhism. Guru Nanak emphasized the importance of listening, understanding, and practicing the philosophy embodied in the Bani. Baba Nanak contributed 975 hymns to the Granth. It was compiled systematically by the Guru Arjandev. It was composed predominantly by six Sikh Gurus: Guru Nanak, Guru Angat, Guru Amar Das, Guru Ram Das, Guru Arjun Dev and Guru Tegbhadar. It also contains the poetic teaching of thirteen Hindu Bhakti movement saint poets and two Sufi Muslim poets. It consists of 1430 angs (pages) and 5894 sabads which are poetically rendered and set to rhythmic ancient North Indian classical form of music.

Sikhism believes in one God which is omnipresent. God is truth, love, respect, and nature. Principles of Sikhism are being spread all over the world. Canada, America, Australia, England, and many European countries have adopted some basic principles of Sikhism. Disability pension, old age pension, welfare are different types of help for persons in need. In India, its principles have been adopted such as pension for poor senior citizens, reservations for oppressed people, and supply of rice and wheat at very low rates to poor and people in need. It is expected that in the next ten years, the principles of Sikhism will be adopted in the whole world. The whole world will be a classless society, people will earn their livelihood honestly and share with people in need. Ultimately Nanak’s dream will be fulfilled and we will have a great ecosystem on earth to live happily. Baba Nanak promoted simple living and this act will help to decrease global warming.

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