By Stuti Malhotra
May 1, 2019
The year 2019, on the occasion of 550 years
of Guru Nanak Dev’s birth, is a good time to remind ourselves of the revered
master’s teachings. He spoke of one God, universal brotherhood, love, humility,
simplicity, equality and tolerance. He did not restrict himself to one
religion; he chose to embrace the good teachings of all faiths that have
universal applicability and validity for all times to come. Hence it was said,
“Guru Nanak Shah Fakir /Hindu ka Guru, /Mussalman ka Pir.”
Guru Nanak did not believe in division
between people on the basis of caste, colour, religion and race. He saw only
two kinds of people: Gurmukh, the God-oriented and Manmukh, those who are
self-oriented. A Gurmukh devotes himself to God. He practises truth and works
for the welfare of humankind. Whereas a Manmukh follows his own thinking and
practises falsehood and selfishness.
Guru Nanak bestowed on Mardana, the title
of ‘Bhai’ meaning ‘brother’. Bhai Mardana was a Muslim, and he was the disciple
of Nanak Dev. As mentioned in the Janamsakhi – which literally means ‘birth
stories of Guru Nanak Dev’ – by the act of honouring Mardana, Guru Nanak
demonstrated that neither caste, class, affluence, poverty nor religion were
the criteria to follow Sikhism. All men are equal. The only prerequisite was to
have faith in one God, purification of soul and dedication to God.
Guru Nanak gave us the following three
pillars of Sikhism: Naam japna, Kirat karni and Vand chakhna.
Naam japna is to recite and repeat the name
of God. When somebody recites the name of God, he is in communion with the
Lord. In Sikhism, everything is connected with the name of God. One can take
the Name while being in Sangat – congregation of holy saints – or in private meditation.
In both cases, one should not follow a ritual but with deep concentration
recite the name of God. Contemplation in solitude is as important as being in
Kirat karni is earning one’s livelihood
with honest labour. Kirat is central to the Sikh concept of seva, service.
Janamsakhi tells us that the Guru preferred a coarse meal earned through hard
labour than a sumptuous meal at a wealthy Zamindar’s place.
Vand chakhna is best explained as ‘sharing
is caring’. On one occasion, when Guru Nanak was with his two sons and Lehna
(Guru Angad Dev), there was a corpse covered with cloth. He asked who will eat
this, nobody responded, but Lehna, having full faith in his Master, accepted it
and when he removed the cloth, he saw there was a tray full of sacred food,
which he served to his master and ate the leftovers. On this, Guru Nanak said,
“Lehna, you were blessed with sacred food because you shared it. Similarly,
people should use wealth not only for themselves but share it with others. If
one consumes it only for himself then it is like a corpse. But when we share it
with others, it becomes sacred.” This constitutes the basis of Langar,
community kitchen, and Dasvandh, sharing one-tenth of one’s earnings with the
When a person follows these three
principles, he is well on his way to realising the potential and purpose of his
Stuti Malhotra is a research scholar at
Punjabi University, Patiala