Guru Nanak’s Message

Guru Nanak’sGuru Nanak (1469-1539) was the first teacher of the community of disciples that became known as the Sikhs. His songs in praise of the formless and transcendent God are a cherished part of the Sikh scripture, the Adi Granth. understanding of GodGod is a term used to refer to the Divine, the Supreme being, Transcendent deity, or Ultimate reality. is summed up in the Mul Mantar. It is the opening stanza of what is called the JapjiSikhs recite five prayers daily, the most important being the morning prayer, the “Japji,” which was recited by Guru Nanak (1469-1539) each morning. The opening stanza of the Japji, known as the “Mul Mantar” affirms that there is one God, without ..., the morning prayerPrayer is the vocal or silent address to the Divine. It may consist of fixed words, spontaneous words, or rest in silence with no words at all. Some forms of prayer are accompanied with specific postures or gestures, while others are not. recited by Guru NanakGuru Nanak (1469-1539) was the first teacher of the community of disciples that became known as the Sikhs. His songs in praise of the formless and transcendent God are a cherished part of the Sikh scripture, the Adi Granth. and by all SikhsSikhs call their tradition the “Sikh Panth,” meaning the “community (panth) of the disciples of the Guru.” The tradition reveres a lineage of ten Gurus, beginning with Guru Nanak in the 16th century and coming to a clos. with the death of Guru Gob... everywhere. The Mul Mantar, a root teaching of the SikhSikhs call their tradition the “Sikh Panth,” meaning the “community (panth) of the disciples of the Guru.” The tradition reveres a lineage of ten Gurus, beginning with Guru Nanak in the 16th century and coming to a clos. with the death of Guru Gob... tradition, lays a foundation for a universal religious vision:

There is one GodThe term god with a small “g” is used to refer to a deity or class of deities whose power is understood to be circumscribed or localized rather than universal, or to refer to a plurality of deities.,
Eternal truth is his name,
Creator of all things and the all-pervading spirit.
Fearless and without hatred,
Timeless and formless.
Beyond birth and death, Self-created.
By the grace of the Guru he is known.

Guru Nanak emphasized the “formless” God, spoken of as NirankarAccording to the Sikh tradition, God cannot be known in any image for God, the Nirankar, is invisible, infinite, beyond the confines of form. This transcendent God can nonetheless be known through the voice, or “unstuck sound,” that has been mediated .... God may be spoken of in many ways—as AllahAllah is the word for God in Arabic, used by Arabic-speaking Christians, Jews, and Muslims. According to Islam, Allah is the creator and ruler of the entire universe, the ultimate judge of all human beings, characterized by mercy and compassion. By means ... or BrahmanBrahman is a term used in the Hindu tradition to refer to the Supreme Reality that is the source of all being and all knowing, pervading and yet transcending all that is. Brahman is said to be one with Atman, the inner reality of the self or soul., Ram or RahimRahim was popular name for God among the Muslims of North India.. But the great name of God is Truth. God cannot be known in any image or form for the Nirankar is invisible, infinite, beyond the confines of form. Even so, this transcendent God can be known by the grace of the Guru. The love of God is the highest goal of humanity. God dwells within the human heart. The nectar of the Divine name, heard and sung, fills the heart to the brim. Thus, the very center of Sikh worship is the singing and hearing of God’sGod is a term used to refer to the Divine, the Supreme being, Transcendent deity, or Ultimate reality. word in the form of the shabads, or devotional songs.

Guru Nanak’s God-centered teachings had strong social implications. He was outspoken in his critique of hypocrisy and superficiality in religious practice. To Hindus he insisted, for example, that bathing in holy rivers alone cannot wash away sins of injustice and greed. The most important thing is not ritual purity, but purity of words and deeds. Similarly, to the Muslims of his day he insisted that required prayersPrayer is the vocal or silent address to the Divine. It may consist of fixed words, spontaneous words, or rest in silence with no words at all. Some forms of prayer are accompanied with specific postures or gestures, while others are not. alone would be ineffective if those who offered them had their minds on worldly problems, instead of on God. “Make mercy your mosqueMasjid (plural masajid) in Arabic means “place of prostration,” or the place where Muslims bow in prayer; in English, this word has become “mosque.” A masjid contains a prayer hall in which there is a mihrab or prayer niche, and a minbar or pulpit... and devotion your prayer matThe prayer area or hall in a masjid (mosque) is called a musalla, although any open and clean space may serve as a musalla.,” he said.

He taught that all people, whether rich or poor, women or men, kings or peasants, can approach God equally. In one of his hymns, he sings:

The lowest among the low castesCaste comes from a Portuguese word “casta” which was used by early traders to describe India’s complex class structure of varnas. The four major inherited varnas are the Brahmins (priests), Kshatriyas (kings, warriors), vaishyas (merchants), and shu...,
lower than the lowliest,
Nanak is with them:
He envies not those with worldly greatness.
Lord! The glance of grace falls on the land
where the humble are cherished.

Guru Nanak opposed the BrahminA brahmin is a member of the priestly class, charged with the duties of learning the Vedas, teaching the Vedas, and performing rituals. It is the highest of the four general castes of Hindu society. priesthood and the casteCaste comes from a Portuguese word “casta” which was used by early traders to describe India’s complex class structure of varnas. The four major inherited varnas are the Brahmins (priests), Kshatriyas (kings, warriors), vaishyas (merchants), and shu... hierarchy of Hindu society. He established the precedent for what became the langarLangar is the communal meal shared by Sikhs and all visitors to the gurdwara. For Sikhs, eating together in this way is expressive of the rejection of the Hindu caste system to reaffirm the equality and oneness of all humankind., the “community meal,” specifically to make manifest the Sikh rejection of Hindu caste. Everyone coming to the langar must sit together as equals, even if this might violate caste rules for the Hindus. The leveling experience of eating a common meal became symbolic of the Sikh ethos and essential to the life of the Sikh community. Those who became part of the Sikh PanthSikhs call their tradition the “Sikh Panth,” meaning the “community (panth) of the disciples of the Guru.” The tradition reveres a lineage of ten Gurus, beginning with Guru Nanak in the 16th century and coming to a clos. with the death of Guru Gob... were expected to give up social inequality.

Guru Nanak was a householder, not an ascetic or a yogi. Kartarpur was a community of simple living, honest work, charity, and hospitality. Thus, the path of the Sikhs is insistently not “other-worldly,” but fully engaged in the world. Its dominant note is not asceticism, but activity and service. It is a path of householders, not renunciants. It is said that Guru Nanak passed over his own son, Sri Chand, as his successor because of his rather ascetic bent.


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