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Image: detail from painting of Guru Nanak on his Udasis (World Travels), by Jaswant Singh.


Guru Nanak and I





I remember when Guru Nanak became real to me.

I first discovered the genius of the child Nanak in Nanakana Sahib. I can still hear two Muslims singing, “God descended on this earth, He knows each heart!” 

Janamsakhis (life accounts) became so real, so close. I had no sense of time, I remember being woken up in panic by my parents. I was in deep sleep on the grass at the house where Daulata delivered a laughing “paragon of light” confusing Hardyal’s astrological charts. Thus was I lost in Nankana.

My brother and I loved the waters of Hasan Abdal where the Panja (hand) still signifies how the coolness of Guru Nanak was victorious over Vali Kandhari’s ego.

In Lahore, I tried to comprehend as a pre-teen why the Fifth Nanak was tortured and martyred, why so many genocidal campaigns against Sikhs? Then, via Pakistani TV, I learned about the Indian army sealing and invading Punjab and turning it into a bhatti (furnace) on the very same Gurpurab Day commemorating the 16th century martyrdom of the Fifth Nanak.

It was June 1984 … Déjà vu?

I remember when Guru Nanak became Sahib (sovereign) to me. I was the sole being asking to be initiated in the House of Nanak in Kansas City in 1988. I had a lot of questions for the Five Enthroned, for that is what Guru Nanak taught me: To ask tough questions. I was attracted to the Jagat Guru’s (World-Prophet) mindset: There are no condemned people and the Creator’s compassion is not exclusive.

In the spirit of Alamah Iqbal I was getting tired of day dreaming:

Once again the voice of Oneness has arisen from Punjab; and thus, a perfect man has awakened India from her dogmatic slumber.”

I remember when Guru Nanak’s sister, Bebe Nanaki, first touched my soul. It was 1998, on a fieldtrip to her haveli (mansion) at Sultanpur Lodhi. It is no coincidence that Guru Nanak’s divine revelation occurred at the River Bein where the dynamic flow of their sibling relationship transcended cultural norms.

I remember when Guru Nanak became more than a spiritualist wishing to remain silent, or content to maintain status quo. Puran Singh’s exploration moves me: “Guru Nanak condemns false creeds and crooked politics and unjust social order. He condemns the hollow scriptures and isms of the times; he condemns barren pieties, asceticisms, trances, sound-hearing yogas, bead-telling, namazes’ fasts, and all formal vagaries of religious and political hypocrisies. He
condemns them without sparing any, for it was all darkness in the world and men.”

Guru Nanak invokes gyan – wisdom – when talking about genocidal campaigns and critiques leadership which is merely religious or political leadership. He asked me to invoke both within me, concurrenlty.

Guru Nanak’s advent isn’t about Kattak (November) or Vaisakh (April) anymore. As much as I am troubled by how the Brahmins keep deciding when to commemorate my Guru, it is not about just birth. It is about parkash – the Enlightenment. And this phenomenon -- the dispelling of darkness – I was able to visualize through Bhai Gurdas:

“The mist cleared and the light scattered. The Sun rose, the stars disappeared, and the darkness dispelled. The Lion roared, the flock of deer ran away.”

Guru Nanak’s revolution extended beyond sharing the message (Guru Granth Sahib), or putting together the organization (Guru Khalsa Panth) to enact the message. An apt tribute to Guru Nanak’s advent, beyond customary felicitations, will require introspection: Am I furthering dead forms and perverted social orders in the guise of religiosity? Is the law of Love dominating all spheres of human activity? Is my journey starting with where the Creator dwells -- Kartarpur?

Is the Sikh collective working towards realizing the Guru’s City of Joy -- Anandpur?


[The author is a co-founder & CEO of the Sikh Research Institute.]

November 17, 2013

Conversation about this article

1: Jaspreet Kaur (Surrey, British Columbia, Canada), November 17, 2013, 1:12 PM.

So true an explanation. Actually one who feels love for Guru Nanak enjoys his parkash everyday. It is not about celebrations but to inculcate his teachings in one's life.

2: Inni Kaur (Fairfield, Connecticut, USA), November 17, 2013, 9:50 PM.

Truly, a joy to read!

3: Harminder Singh (Jalandhar, Punjab), November 18, 2013, 5:11 AM.

Beautiful explanation by S. Harinder Singh. We should try to follow the teachings of Guru Nanak. God is One and truth is His name. We should seek everything from Him and not bow before any individual.

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