Sunday, August 5, 2012

A Background On Guru Nanak The Founder Of Sikhism


Regrettably we have another mass murder shooting, this time in Oak Creek outside of Milwaukee, Wisconsin at a house of worship.

It is clear, simply from watching broadcasts of events, that there is almost no knowledge of the religion that has been victimized by this event.

I feel somewhat compelled to provide some information on this tragic incident since my ex-wife was, in fact, a Sikh. 

I will depart from my usual practice and produce in its entirety the excerpt from Wikipedia on Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh religion.

I am not doing this to engage in theological disputation. I am doing it simply for the purpose of, I hope, shining a light on a subject that is clearly not understood by the vast majority of those who are witnessing this tragedy.

Guru Nanak[1] (Punjabiਗੁਰੂ ਨਾਨਕHindiगुरु नानकUrduگرونانک [ˈɡʊɾu ˈnɑnək] Gurū Nānak) (15 April 1469 – 22 September 1539) was the founder of the religion of Sikhism and the first of the ten Sikh Gurus.
The Sikhs believe that all subsequent Gurus possessed Guru Nanak’s divinity and religious authority, and were named "Nanak" in the line of succession.

Early life

Guru Nanak was born on 15 April 1469,[2] now celebrated as Prakash Divas of Guru Nanak Dev, into a Hindu Khatri family in the village of Rāi Bhōi dīTalwandī, now called Nankana Sahib, near Lahore, Pakistan.[3] Today, his birthplace is marked by Gurdwara Janam Asthan. Some are of the opinion that 20 October is his enlightenment day rather than his birthday. His father, Kalyan Chand Das Bedi, popularly shortened to Kalu Mehta,[4] was thepatwari (accountant) of crop revenue for the village of Talwandi in the employment of a Muslim landlord of that area, Rai Bular Bhatti.[5] Guru Nanak’s mother was Tripta Devi and he had one elder sister, Bibi Nanaki who became a spiritual figure in her own right.

Nanaki married Jai Ram and went to his town of Sultanpur, where he was the steward (modi) to Daulat Khan Lodi, the eventual governor of Lahore. Guru Nanak was attached to his older sister, and, in traditional Indian fashion, he followed her to Sultanpur to live with her and her husband. Guru Nanak also found work with Daulat Khan, when he was around 16 years old. This was a formative time for Guru Nanak, as the Puratan Janam Sakhi suggests, and in his numerous allusions to governmental structure in his hymns, most likely gained at this time.[6]

Commentaries on his life give details of his blossoming awareness from a young age. At the age of five, Guru Nanak is said to have voiced interest in divinesubjects. At age seven, his father, Kalu Mehta, enrolled him at the village school as was the custom.[7] Notable lore recounts that as a child Guru Nanak astonished his teacher by describing the implicit symbolism of the first letter of the alphabet, which is an almost straight stroke in Persian or Arabic, resembling the mathematical version of one, as denoting the unity or oneness of God.[8] Other childhood accounts refer to strange and miraculous events about Guru Nanak witnessed by Rai Bular such as a poisonous cobra being seen to shield the sleeping child’s head from the harsh sunlight.

Biographies

The earliest biographical sources on the life of Guru Nanak recognised today are the Janamsākhīs (life accounts) and the vārs (expounding verses) of the scribe Bhai Gurdas. The most popular Janamsākhī were allegedly written by a close companion of the Guru, Bhai Bala.[9] However, the writing style and language employed have left scholars such as Max Arthur Macauliffe certain that they were composed after his death.[10]

Bhai Gurdas, a purported scribe of the Gurū Granth Sahib, also wrote about Guru Nanak’s life in his vārs. Although these too were compiled some time after Guru Nanak’s time, they are less detailed than the Janamsākhīs. The Janamsākhīs recount in minute detail the circumstances of the birth of the guru. The Janamsakhis state that at his birth an astrologer, who came to write his horoscope, insisted on seeing the child. On seeing the infant, he is said to have worshipped him with clasped hands and remarked that "I regret that I shall never live to see young Guru Nanak as an adult.”

Sikhism and travels

Rai Bular, the local landlord and Guru Nanak’s sister Bibi Nanaki were the first people who recognised divine qualities in the boy. They encouraged and supported him to study and travel. Sikh tradition states that at around 1499, at the age of 30, he had a vision. After he failed to return from his ablutions, his clothes were found on the bank of a local stream called the Kali Bein. The townspeople assumed he had drowned in the river; Daulat Khan had the river dragged, but no body was found. Three days after disappearing, Guru Nanak reappeared, staying silent. The next day, he spoke to pronounce, "There is neither Hindu nor Mussulman (Muslim) so whose path shall I follow? I shall follow God's path. God is neither Hindu nor Mussulman and the path which I follow is God's."[6] Guru Nanak said that he had been taken to God's court. There, he was offered a cup filled with amrit (nectar) and given the command "This is the cup of the adoration of God's name. Drink it. I am with you. I bless you and raise you up. Whoever remembers you will enjoy my favour. Go, rejoice of my name and teach others to do so. I have bestowed the gift of my name upon you. Let this be your calling." From this point onwards, Nanak is described in accounts as a Guru, and Sikhism was born.[11]

Although the exact account of his itinerary is disputed, he is widely acknowledged to have made four major journeys, spanning thousands of kilometres, the first tour being east towards Bengaland Assam, the second south towards Tamil Nadu, the third north towards KashmirLadakh, and Tibet, and the final tour west towards BaghdadMecca and Medina on the Arabian Peninsula.[12]

Guru Nanak crossed into Arunachal Pradesh and visited most of the part. First while going to Lhasa (Tibet) he passed through Tawang after crossing from Bhutan and entered Tibet from Samdurang Chu. He returned from Lhasa and went to the famous monastery Samye and entered Pemoshubu Menchukha in Arunachal Pradesh. He meditated for some time at this location. From Menchukha he went back to Tibet, brought the residents of Southern Tibet and got them settled in Menchukha. Thereafter through Gelling and Tuiting he proceeded to Saidya and Braham-Kund, before entering the state of Assam again. Guru Nanak is the founder of the Sikh religion.

Personal life

Guru Nanak was married to Mata Sulakhni at about 16 years of age.[6] His marriage to her took place in the town of Batala. The marriage party had come from the town of Sultanpur Lodhi. The couple had two sons, Sri Chand and Lakhmi Chand.

Succession

Guru Nanak appointed Bhai Lehna as the successor Guru, renaming him as Guru Angad, meaning "one’s very own" or "part of you". Shortly after proclaiming Bhai Lehna as his successor, Guru Nanak Dev died on 22 September 1539 in Kartarpur, at the age of 70.[13]

Teachings

Guru Nanak’s teachings can be found in the Sikh scripture Guru Granth Sahib, as a vast collection of revelatory verses recorded in Gurmukhi.

From these some common principles seem discernible. Firstly a supreme Godhead who although incomprehensible, manifests in all major religions, the Singular "Doer" and formless. It is described as the indestructible (undying) form.

Guru Nanak describes the dangers of the Egotism (haumai- "I am") and calls upon devotees to engage in worship through the word of God (Naam, implies God, the Reality, mystical word or formula to recite or meditate upon (shabad in Gurbani), divine order (hukam) and at places divine teacher (guru) and guru’s instructions)[14] and singing of God’s qualities, discarding doubt in the process. However, such worship must be selfless (sewa). The word of God, cleanses the individual to make such worship possible. This is related to the revelation that God is the Doer and without God there is no other. Guru Nanak warned against hypocrisy and falsehood saying that these are pervasive in humanity and that religious actions can also be in vain. It may also be said that ascetic practices are disfavoured by Guru Nanak who suggests remaining inwardly detached whilst living as a householder.

Through popular tradition, Guru Nanak’s teaching is understood to be practised in three ways:
  • Vaṇḍ Chakkō: Sharing with others, helping those with less who are in need
  • Kirat Karō: Earning/making a living honestly, without exploitation or fraud
  • Naam Japna: Chanting the Holy Name and thus remembering God at all times (ceaseless devotion to God)
Guru Nanak put the greatest emphasis on the worship of the Word of God (Naam Japna).[14] One should follow the direction of awakened individuals (Gurmukh or God willed) rather than the mind (state of Manmukh- being led by Self will)- the latter being perilous and leading only to frustration.

Reforms that occurred in the institution and both Godhead and Devotion, are seen as transcending any religious consideration or divide, as God is not separate from any individual.

Guru Nanak was moved by the plight of the people of world and wanted to tell them about the "real message of God". The peoples of the world were confused by the conflicting message given by priests, pundits, qazis, mullahs, etc. He was determined to bring his message to the masses; so in 1499, he decided to set out on his sacred mission to spread the holy message of peace and compassion to all of mankind.

It is believed that Guru Nanak is the the second most travelled person in the world; most of his journeys were made on foot with his companion Bhai Mardana. He travelled in all four directions - North, East, West and South. The founder Sikh Guru is believed to have travelled more than 28,000 Kms in five major tours of the world during the period from 1500 to 1524. The record for the most travelled person is held by Ibn Battuta of Morocco.

Guru Nanak saw the world suffering out of hatred, fanaticism, falsehood and hypocrisy. The world had sunk in wickedness and sin. So he decided that he had to travel and educate and press home the message of Almighty Lord. So he set out in 1499 on his mission for the regeneration of humanity on this earth. He carried the torch of truth, heavenly love, peace and joy for mankind. For 1 year he spread his message of peace, compassion, righteousness and truth to the people in and around his home.

Guru Nanak's Divine Journeys

Then in 1500, he embarked on his Divine Mission and went towards east, west, north and south and visited various centers of Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, Jainis, Sufis, Yogis and Sidhas. He met people of different religions, tribes, cultures and races. He travelled on foot with his Muslim companion named Bhai Mardana, a minstrel. His travels are called Udasis. In his first Udasi (travel), Guru Nanak covered east of India and returned home after spending about 6 years. He started from Sultanpur in 1500 and went to his village Talwandi to meet and inform his parents about his long journey. His parents wanted their young son to provide comfort and protection for them in their old age and so they told him they would prefer it if he did not go. But he told them that the world was burning in the fire of Kalyug and that thousands and thousands were waiting for the Divine message of the Almighty for comfort, love and salvation. The Guru, therefore, told his parents, "There is a call from Heaven, I must go whither He directs me to go." Upon hearing these words, his parents agreed and gave their blessings. So Guru Nanak started his mission and the roots of Sikhism were laid down first towards the east of India.

According to the Puratan Janamsakhi, which is one of the oldest accounts of the life history of Guru Nanak, Guru Ji undertook five missionary journeys (udasiya) to the far away places of Ceylon (Sri Lanka), Mecca, Baghdad, Kamroop (Assam), Tashkand and many more. Guru ji travelled far and wide to spread the word of Gurbani and covered most of India, present day Bangladesh, Pakistan, Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan, South West China, Afganistan, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Syria, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan.

The five journeys

Below is a brief summary of the confirmed places where Guru Nanak visited:
  • First Udasi: (1500-1506 AD) Lasted about 7 years and covered the following towns and regions: Sultanpur, Tulamba (modern Makhdumpur, zila Multan), Panipat, Delhi, Banaras (Varanasi), Nanakmata (zila Nainital, U.P.), Tanda Vanjara (zila Rampur), Kamrup (Assam), Asa Desh (Assam), Saidpur (modern Eminabad, Pakistan), Pasrur (Pakistan), Sialkot (Pakistan).
  • Second Udasi: (1506-1513 AD) Lasted about 7 years and covered the following towns and regions: Dhanasri Valley, Sangladip (Ceylon).
  • Third Udasi: (1514-1518 AD) Lasted about 5 years and covered the following towns and regions: Kashmir, Sumer Parbat, Nepal, Tashkand, Sikkim, Tibet.
  • Fourth Udasi: (1519-1521 AD) Lasted about 3 years and covered the following towns and regions: Mecca and the Arab countries.
  • Fifth Udasi: (1523-1524 AD) Lasted about 2 years and covered the following towns and regions: Places within the Punjab.
To spread his gospel, Gur Nanak ji traveled widely throughout Asia . To this end he undertook four Udasis (Tours). The first udasi (1500-1505) was to the central and eastern parts of India. Second udasi (1506-1509) took him to important towns and religious centers of south India, including Sri Lanka. During the third Udasi (1514-1516) Guru Nanak traveled to the Gangetic plains, Bihar, Nepal, Lahsa, Leh, as far as Tashkand and then back to Punjab via the Kashmir valley. The fourth Udasi (1518-1521) took him to various Arab countries.

Guru Nanak in Shikarpur?

"A significant factor in the survival of the Hindu religion in Sindh during the Muslim period, in reasonably good shape, was the rise of the Sikh religion in the Punjab. With Sanatan Dharma having gone, more or less, moribund under prolonged Muslim rule, Sikhism came as a fresh breeze in the stale Sindhi atmosphere. The fact that the two provinces were neighbours, their people, kin and their languages allied, made Sikhism tick very well in Sindh.

It is believed that Guru Nanak Dev visited Shikarpur in his wide-ranging travels. One Kanayalal of Sindh joined Guru Govind Singh, who made it his duty to serve water to the wounded on the battle-field. Kanayalal gave water not only to the Hindu wounded but also to thc Muslim wounded. Some Sikhs thought it wrong to revive enemy soldiers. They took Kanayalal to the Guru, who appre- ciated his action and asked him to go and preach Sikh Dharma in Sindh. He came to be known as ``Khat Waro Bao (Khaat wala Bawa) because he gave his sermon while sitting on a cot."
See also
References
  1. ^ Guru Nanak may be referred to by many other names and titles such as Baba Nanak orNanak Shah.
  2. ^ Macauliffe, Max Arthur (2004) [1909]. The Sikh Religion — Its Gurus, Sacred Writings and Authors. India: Low Price Publications. p. 1. ISBN 81-86142-31-2. "The third day of the light-half of the month of Baisakh (April–May) in the year AD 1469, but, some historians believe that the Guru was born on 15 April 1469 A.D.". Generally thought to be the third day of Baisakh (or Vaisakh) of Vikram Samvat 1526.
  3. ^ Singh, Khushwant (2006). The Illustrated History of the Sikhs. India: Oxford University Press. pp. 12–13. ISBN 0-19-567747-1. Also, according to the Purātan Janamsākhī (the birth stories of Guru Nanak).
  4. ^ "Guru Nanak Sahib, Guru Nanak Ji, First Sikh Guru, First Guru Of Sikhs, Sahib Shri Guru Nanak Ji, India". Sgpc.net. Retrieved 9 August 2009.
  5. ^ "The Bhatti's of Guru Nanak's Order". Nankana.com. Retrieved 9 August 2009.
  6. a b c Cole, W. Owen; Sambhi, Piara Singh (1978). The Sikhs: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. 9. ISBN 0-7100-8842-6.
  7. ^ Macauliffe, Max Arthur (2004) [1909]. The Sikh Religion — Its Gurus, Sacred Writings and Authors. India: Low Price Publications. p. 2. ISBN 81-86142-31-2.
  8. ^ Cunningham, Joseph Davey (1853). A History Of The Sikhs. London: John Murray. pp. 37–38.
  9. ^ "Early Gursikhs: Bhai Bala Ji | Gateway to Sikhism-Gateway to Sikhism". Allaboutsikhs.com. Retrieved 2 May 2010.
  10. ^ Macauliffe, Max Arthur (2004) [1909]. The Sikh Religion — Its Gurus, Sacred Writings and Authors. India: Low Price Publications. lxxix. ISBN 81-86142-31-2.
  11. ^ Cole, W. Owen; Sambhi, Piara Singh (1978). The Sikhs: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. 9–10. ISBN 0-7100-8842-6.
  12. ^ Dr Harjinder Singh Dilgeer (2008). Sikh Twareekh. Belgium & India: The Sikh University Press.
  13. ^ "The Sikhism Home Page: Guru Nanak". Sikhs.org. Retrieved 9 August 2009.
  14. a b "The Sikhism Home Page". Sikhs.org. Retrieved 2 May 2010.

1 comment:

  1. I've worked with several Sikhs during my career. They've all been upstanding people and I feel fortunate to have known them.

    ReplyDelete

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