Guru Nanak (1469-1539) was born at a time when the true essence of Hinduism and Islam had been lost. His mission was to unite the two communities and teach them to overcome their differences through the essence of truth, love, unity and compassion. SHILPY AHUJA brings to you his simple teachings
Spirituality and mysticism are common across diverse races, ethnicities, regions and religions. Understanding the nonphysical aspect of our existence is a humbling and uplifting realisation that fills humans with the greatest wisdom, and the thought that our physical existence is engineered with a nonphysical, blissful spiritual soul, which is a tiny dimension of the all-pervading Universal Soul.
Human birth is rare, so treat it as a God-sent opportunity to seek wisdom and blissful Unification, but ego proves to be the biggest hindrance in this endeavour.
Ego is the individuality that creates duality and expresses itself through desires. Through ego, we acquire a name, family, profession, material assets, status, titles, and form experiences, which ultimately become our attachments.
The ego finds security and stability by these very attachments. Its power lies in the domain of Maya. The ego can only give an illusion of happiness, which is not real. Ego obeys the laws of change and is subject to limitations of space, time, knowledge, power, and happiness. The happiness given by our worldly ego can never be everlasting or true. At the very thought of losing its ‘hard-earned’ attachments and possessions, ego manifests fear and unhappiness.
Fear, in turn, creates anger, hatred, arrogance, a sense of superiority, depression and so on. In the rush of life, we forget that our spiritual core is above the law of change and that it is without fear; is serene and blissful.
The mind is full of memories of valuable learning experiences. Only for some rare, exalted Souls, unlearning these thoughts that the ego has taught to the mind, is what adds up to a priceless experience!
The Revered Guru Nanak Saheb considers Haumai (I am, myself), as the biggest hindrance obstructing the mind in realising Ik Onkaar. Guru Nanak speaks of panj chor or the five thieves — the five vices that rob the tranquillity of the mind and hinder our spiritual growth.
These vices are kaam (desire), krodh (anger), lobh (greed), moh (worldly attachments to ideas, things or people) and ahankaar (pride, ego). It is ego that manifests fear and unhappiness.
Guru Nanak gifted the profound Mool Mantra and the timeless wisdom of Ik Onkaar to all. This lofty wisdom presents the beautiful reality of the Oneness of all creation.
Ik Onkaar is present everywhere, accessible to all. Ang 930 of the Granth Sahib says, “Realise Ik Onkaar, the Formless Creator, who is present inside and outside. The mansion of his presence is within the home of our heart.” The Creator or God lives deep within the nucleus of each and every heart, a place where love blossoms and compassion thrives.
Baba Nanak says that by listening to Shabad Gurbani, the Word of the Gurbani with complete attention, contemplation and repetition, Naam Simran or remembrance of the divine Name with heartfelt love while practising Sewa or selflessness, one imbibes absolute focus and evolves to become untainted or Niranjan.
Fear, ego, hatred and vices are subdued and replaced with purity of heart and mind.
To illuminate the spiritual path with wisdom for followers, Guru Nanak extolls the virtues of Ik Onkaar, for everyone to contemplate on.
The Mool Mantra states:
Ik Onkaar, Sat naam, karta purakh, nir bhau, nirvair, akal murat, Ajuni saibhang, Gurprasad.
Translated, it means:
The Ik in Ik Onkaar represents the numerical denomination of One, which expresses Unity. The attribute of Unity is that it is indivisible. Ik implies there is only One reality, One source and One principle of all origin. One light, One soul, pervades the three worlds. (Ang 930, Guru Granth Saheb)
When Ik begins to create, it becomes Onkaar. Kaar refers to the One who is creating the shilp (art) + kaar = shilpkaar. The artist who creates.
Ik created the universe by the One Word, the sound. By It, thousands of oceans manifested.
(Japji Sahib, Pauri 16)
The Ik Onkaar is the One formless reality, the all-pervading Oneness that creates all that is seen and unseen. It is beyond the ego of man and man-made religions. The principle of Ik suggests that the One creator, is not separate from the created and is present in all creation.
Sat Naam: the eternal Truth.
Karta Purakh: the creator and doer of all that remains unmanifested or is manifested as creation.
Nir bhau: the One who remains without fear.
Nir Vair: the one devoid of hatred or enmity.
Akal Murat: the immortal formless entity is beyond time.
Ajuni saibhang: is beyond birth and death, that which is self-existent.
Gurprasad: He, who is realised by Guru’s grace.
He gives the message and encourages each to imbibe and ingrain the good virtues found in Ik Onkaar. Through the right practices, one attains purity of mind and heart to reach the fearless state, leading to blissful Unification, the right of every human. Guru Nanak rejects middle men and ignorant guides to realise Ik Onkaar.
Baba Nanak expresses that without love towards the all-pervading Naam (the divine name), all religious rituals are worthless.
Guru Nanak spoke of the need and guidance of the Guru to dispel ignorance and lead followers onto the path of understanding the wisdom of Oneness.
For Sikhs, the Guru Granth Sahib is their living Guru and contains the Shabad Gurbani, the spoken and written words of all the Gurus in the Gurmukhi script. It is recited in the poetic tradition and the shabad kirtan is composed in ‘raag’ form, a musical score.
The word Guru is mentioned in several contexts in the Guru Granth Sahib. When the heart is pure, the Shabad (word, sound) becomes the Guru who dispels ignorance and carries us to the Divine who resides within us.
Guru Nanak was a philosopher and a social reformer who sought to remove the ignorance and fear that causes injustice and hateful divisions that plague society.
The Guru laid the foundation for the city of Kartarpur, where Hindus, Muslims and people from all diverse backgrounds could come together to form a community. He organised the first commune, a group that followed the teachings of their Guru and practised his teachings as their way of life. (To be Continued)
Part 2 of Shilpy Ahuja’s article on the teachings of Guru Nanak will be published on June 9, 2023.
Shilpy Ahuja is a poet, writer and painter. She considers spirituality and family as the most important dimensions of her life. Shilpy is a bachelor of science from Delhi University, and pursued business studies. She is self-employed.
Image Courtesy: Art Heritage. The painting shows Guru Nanak as a wandering minstrel singing shabad kirtan on his travels with his followers, Bhai Mardana and Bhai Bala.