GURU NANAK DEV: A BRILLIANT SPIRITUAL LIGHT FOR HUMANITY
Indianapolis, Indiana USA, Nov. 10,.2011
Kanwal Prakash "KP" Singh
The Sikh community around the world, with family and friends from other faith traditions, will gather in homes, Gurdwaras (Sikh Temples), and at religious forums in early November to celebrate the 542nd Parkash Divas (Birthday) of Guru Nanak Devji, the Founder of Sikh faith: an Illumined Teacher, Enlightened Man of Peace, a humble Messenger of God, and a brilliant Spiritual Light for all humanity. Guru Nanak was born in 1469 at Nankana Sahib, India (now in Pakistan).
My earliest recollection of this high holy day for the Sikhs comes from my childhood, when my father Giani Joginder Singh from Jaranwala, India (now in Pakistan) would take a group of his friends to do the Joray Seva (taking care of the shoes) of lakhs of pilgrims that would gather in Nanakana Sahib, the birthplace of Guru Nanak. Each time I think about venerable Ragi Bhai Summund Singhjee singing the hymn: “SutGuru Nanak Purgattiya, Mittee Dhund Jugg Channun Hoyaa” around midnight, close to the hour of Guru Nanak’s Parkash in this temporal world, my heart and spirit is moved to tears by the beauty of that moment and Bhai Sahib’s divinely-blessed and hauntingly serene voice. For one brief moment, one saw a celestial Light descend in that sacred space of the Janam Asthan of Nanak, our heart and spirit swept away by the awesome spiritual exultation of the moment. This memory is one of the few treasures that I cherish from my early childhood, and my pride that my illustrious father remains, and was my early mentor.
The Partition of India in August 1947 separated millions of Sikhs from that annual pilgrimage to the Sikh’s St.Peter’s, now in Pakistan. Today, the Pakistani Government allows only a few hundred Sikhs each year to visit Nankana Sahib for the high holy day of Guru Nanak’s birth.
Sikhs would be enthusiastically celebrating and commemorating the occasion: the life and times of Guru Nanak, his revelations, travels, and commandments; Guru’s all-embracing message in Shabad-Keertan, religious discourses and prayers for humanity; and sharing a community meal (Langar), a tradition that Guru Nanak introduced to the world at a very young age.
Prominent Sikh and non-Sikh scholars have been engaged in for centuries and today are studying the life, times, and the sacred writings of Guru Nanak. I am not qualified to make any such claim. I am among the millions of admirers of the Great Guru and I humbly offer my tribute inspired by my very limited understanding of the Guru’s message and its significance to our times and place in the spiritual journey of human civilization.
REFLECTING UPON THE GURU’S CENTRAL MESSAGE
When we study the spiritual revelations and central anchors of the Sikh faith, the message of Oneness, Unity, and Universality seem to radiate and echo across the sacred Word, as enshrined in Siri Guru Granth Sahib, and is reflected unmistakenly in Sikh history, heritage, and tradition:
- Oneness, Unity, and Universality (Monotheistic Faith Doctrine, Commandments, and practice)
- Sanctity of all Life and all Faiths (God as the Father and Mother of all Creation and Source of all Divine Knowledge and Spiritual Wisdom)
- Meditating upon God’s Name: Naam-Simran (a Way to know God and Eternal Emancipation)
- Upholding equality, justice, and dignity of all life (affirmation of One Race, One Brotherhood)
- The special place for tireless and selfless service: Seva (a Path to God)
- Making our daily living through righteous endeavors: Kirut Karni (righteous labor)
- Sharing our blessings with the needy: Vund Chhakna (sharing gifts that God has entrusted us)
GURU NANAK’S REVELATION AND AFFIRMATION IN JAPJI SAHIB
In the sacred composition, Japji Sahib, one of the traditional daily prayers and meditations for the Sikhs, Guru Nanak introduces us to the Nature and Magnificence of God; he reveals an eyewitness account of the Celestial granadeur and Man’s relationship to God; he leads us to the emancipating ideals to know God; and carries our imagination to sacred regions and realms:
- One Supreme Immortal Reality, manifested in Naam, Shabad
- Creator: Father and Mother to all beings and the Unfathomable Creation
- Benevolent King: Without animosity and rancor against anyone
- Self-Created, Self-Illuminated: Free from the Cycles of Transmigration.
- Eternal Truth: Imamaculate, Immanent, without Limit or Measure
- True through the Ages: From before the beginnings to the ends of Time, Life, Creation
Five hundred years later, Guru Nanak’s message remains timely, urgent, and universal. Today his message of peaceful accommodation with our fellow human beings is finding resonance with people and scholars of other faiths and spiritual traditions. We should build upon this change.
As we remember and honor the life of Guru Nanak on this sacred occasion, may we discover our own responsibility to share his message, live his commandments; serve the cause of Life: liberty, universal civic and spiritual freedoms; pray for the well-being of fellow humans across diverse cultural and traditional divides; and dismantle all unworthy and unconconscionable boundaries.
May we remember Guru Nanak’s message of humility, sweetness in temper; his call to conquer formidable temporal distractions and challenges; honor Truth and practice Truthful Living; and relating to, and respecting one another, as One God’s Children.
May the Light of Guru’s Divine Message and Wisdom, as revealed in his marvelous hymns and sacred compositions that are incorporated in the Sri Guru Granth Sahib (the Sikh Sacred Scripture), shine upon us through the ages in message and music, and in places and forums that we could not have imagined a few decades earlier. May we enshrine the essence of faith deep within our souls to guide our lives towards the paths that may lead to knowing God, serving His Wonderful Creation, and fulfilling the supreme goal of human birth: righteously earn and be blessed an ultimate reunion with Waheguru (One Wonderful Lord) through eternity.
During his lifetime, Guru Nanak extensively traveled the world: throughout India, Sri Lanka, Tibet (China), Mecca (Saudi Arabia), Baghdad (Iraq), [some believe also Jerusalem (Israel) and Cairo (Egypt)], Bosphorus (Turkey), Tehran (Iran), and Kandhar and Kabul (Afghanistan) among many other places. We can be certain that Guru Nanak encountered rough terrain and dangers, hostile tribes, unfriendly kingdoms, unfamiliar languages, and also unexpected positive responses and audiences during his travels to spread the message of a new faith: of peace and love, the unity of human spirit, and all Creation as the masterwork of One Immaculate Reality.
GOING FORWARD IN A SPIRIT OF CHARHDIKALA
Today, the Great Guru’s over 30 million followers (Sikhism is the fifth largest faith in the world) are on every continent and in many countries, including nearly one million in U.S.A. As the newest pioneer generation on the move, we have a responsibility to share the universal message of Guru Nanak, and Sikh history and traditions with generations that will follow in new lands and times: feed and serve the hungry, dispossessed, and disenchanted; be champions for those who suffer under tyranny, injustice, denied basic rights and human dignity; and help to safeguard the life-sustaining and natural environment for all living beings and as an honor to the Supreme Creator who is present all around in His myriad manifestations. We must make these urgent challenges a testament to our faiths, intertwined destiny, collective spiritual and cultural heritage.
It is important to build bridges towards other major faiths and spiritual traditions; seek peace with one another across long-standing faith, cultural, and ethnic divides. Discover common threads that unify humanity at our shared, interconnected, and unfolding crossroads.
Create an environment where learning from each other, as the Great Guru taught (the word Sikh means a disciple and eternal student), remains a central focus and principal commitment of our lives. Ignorance of our history, proud legacy, and indifference or neglect towards our heritage are areas that need urgent attention. The Sikh faith, particularly in Diaspora, is at significant and unfamiliar thresholds, facing new struggles and strife that comes with being thrust into a very different and changing world. There are unprovoked threats to the Sikh identity and faith-mandated sacred articles of Sikh faith. We must address these challenges by learning about the governing laws, constitutional safeguards, civic guarantees, culture and traditions in place, and mainstream our dreams and commitments to overcome the present problems in our lifetime.
Let the Light of Sikh faith, the strengths and wisdom from our collective sacred heritage, lift the spiritual and cultural fog that often separates us from one another and pray that we may recognize the God-Light that knows no limits or distinctions in each being.
May the Supreme Truth, Divine Wisdom, as revealed to Guru Nanak and succeeding Nine Gurus who nurtured the Sikh faith and reverentially enshrined in the Eternal Guru of the Sikhs: Guru Granth Sahib (The Sikh Holy Scripture), be our Guiding Light and Teacher in all things, at all times, as commanded by the Tenth Master, Guru Gobind Singhjee, in 1708.
Divine Messengers, Enlightened Souls, illumine our path and connection to God and belong to the entire human race. Congratulations to the followers of Sikh faith and members of all faith communities on the Gurpurab (Birthday) of Guru Nanak, a brilliant Spiritual Light for all humanity.