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Founder of Sikhism

Jogindar Singh Kanwal
Friday, November 20, 2015

The Sikh community of Fiji will organise birthday celebrations of Guru Nanak, founder of Sikh religion, on Wednesday, November 25.

Although the population of the Sikhs is very small in Fiji, they have built Gurudwaras, Sikh temples in Suva, Lautoka, Ba, Labasa and Nasinu and also a few Khalsa primary and secondary schools.

The birthday celebrations will most probably take place in almost all the Sikh temples. The programs, it is expected, may include speeches on Guru Nanak's life, his teachings, and singing of hymns (kirtan) written by him.

Guru Nanak (1469 - 1539) was born in Talwandi which is also known as Nankana Sahib, situated in the district of Sheikhupura, now in Pakistan.

From an early age, Guru Nanak began to take deep interest in religious matters, of both Hindus and Muslims but those times were very critical in the history of India.

It was passing through political turmoil and religious intolerance. The rulers of that period were corrupt and unjust, using threats and treachery. According to Guru Nanak, "The moon of truth was totally eclipsed."

Guru Nanak saw the moral degradation in the Indian society of those days. He considered ethical greatness as a basis for spiritual greatness and therefore he called upon his followers to do good deeds in their lives.

He preached practical morality like Lord Buddha, but unlike him laid great emphasis on the unity of God and the essential duty of man to remember His Name.

Whereas saint Kabir was of the opinion that either one should become householder and do good actions or he should become a vairagi and renounce the world but Guru Nanak asserted that the path of religion can be attained only by a householder. He told the people they could worship the Lord, while doing their household jobs.

He proclaimed that everybody was required to earn his livelihood by fair means and hard work and advised his followers to observe the following five principles in their daily lives:

1. Naam or singing praises of the Lord.

2. Daan or charity for the needy ones.

3. Ashnaan or daily bath to keep oneself clean.

4. Seva or service of humanity.

5. Simran or constant prayers for the deliverance of the soul.

Guru Nanak realised the Divine Presence in all people and so valued every human being. He practised universal brotherhood and regarded all mankind as one family. To him, brotherhood meant giving to those in need and helping the helpless.

The present day scholars consider Guru Nanak one of the greatest poets of the Bhakti era. Almost all his writings are recorded in Guru Granth Sahib, holy book of the Sikhs. As it has been translated into many other languages, it is accessible to lovers of poetry.

A few decades back, United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation published a book in English, titled 'The Sacred Writings of the Sikhs', and the editors included some of the hymns of Guru Nanak in it. When we read them, we find in them rich images from nature and also from daily indoor life of the people.

He wrote on weather and its changes, the seasons and the sky, the sunrise and dawn, the clouds, rain and wind, sunshine and shadows, the garden, flowers and trees, the seas and rivers etc.

Mr G. Lacey May in his book English Religious Verses comments, "The great poetry touches the universal longing for the perfect world. It maintains the idealism which lies somewhere in the heart of every man. The idealism is not that of a perfect machinery or culture, but of perfect love, justice, peace and righteousness."

And the poetry of Guru Nanak is appealing and ever-fresh. The metaphors and similes make his verses beautiful and elevating. It is the outflow of a sincere and brave heart, always aiming at truth.

Guru Nanak was not only a poet of nature, he wrote on almost every aspect of human life. Summary of some of his teachings are given below:

* Man occupies a central place in the whole of the universe and human life is the most precious gift given by God to man which is not to be wasted.

* He opposed religious dogmas, useless rituals and superstitious beliefs. According to him, human birth is a rare opportunity and we should make its best use.

* There is only one God and He is everywhere. He is great. Words fail to describe Him. His light shines in every heart.

* God should be remembered at all times and on all occasions. 'If I were to live in a palace, built of walls, studded with pearls and rubies, fragrant with odours of musk and saffron, smeared with agar and sandal; MY Lord! Let not mine eyes be deceived by them and I should not forget thy Name."

* Throughout his life Guru Nanak emphasised that the entire universe was the creation of God and all of us his children, therefore, every human being is equal in the eyes of God.

* As God is present everywhere, Guru Nanak advised his followers not to run to the forests and mountains or go to solitary places for meditations.

* He rejected the notion that a woman was an inferior creature. He wrote, "Condemn her not, call her not evil. She gives birth to great men."

* He equated truth with God. Truth is was not to be taken as a mere theory but something that was practicable and was to be experimented daily in the laboratory of life. He wrote that "Truth is high but still higher is truthful living."

* Jogindar Singh Kanwal, a former principal of Khalsa College, Ba and author of many Hindi and English books writes frequently for The Fiji Times. The views expressed in this report are his, not of this newspaper.

His email address is:

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