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Guru Nanak Dev Ji – the Light of the World

Pritpal Singh Khalsa | November 15, 2018 05:58 PM
Guru Nanak Dev ji Painting by Sewa Singh

Nanak was born into a middle-class Hindu family in 1469 in a small village near Lahore, Pakistan. As a boy, he rejected commonly held spiritual conventions and spent as much time as he could in the company of traveling sadhus, mystics, and spiritual teachers. Although well versed in Sanskrit, Persian, and the sacred texts of both Hinduism and Islam, young Nanak never embraced only one religious tradition.

One day in 1496, after his usual daily bathing in the river in the early morning, he experienced Divine Union (Samadhi), disappearing for three days. As he was much loved by all who knew him, people searched in vain all around the river. When he was found three days later, he was reciting MulMantra and telling everyone, “Na ko Hindu, Na koMussalman” (“There is no Hindu, there is no Muslim”). This was more than just a denial of strident adherence to one of the two major religions of that region; it was a denial of duality, a cry to all people to embrace Oneness. This proclamation was to form the foundation of Guru Nanak’s teachings from that day forward.

Guru Nanaklater described his experience of going into the presence of the personification of Infinite Oneness (God), how the Divine explained to him that he had a mission to spread the love of the Divinefar and wide,and to spread the practice of Naam Simran (chanting or reciting sacred words). Nanak was now “Guru” Nanak, who’s guru was the Shabad, the sacred wordor sound current. After this powerful awakening and transformation, Guru Nanak grew into a dynamic mystic poet and musician. He enlightened the world as a divine philosopher, a spiritual teacherand a social reformer.

Soon after his revelation, Guru Nanak, together with a Muslim musician and life-long friendMardana, embarked on a series of travels reaching far and wide sharing the sacred teachings he had acquired in the form of sacred songs. These compositions imparted the power of the Shabad Guruand offered a direct experience of the Divine to both the singer and the listener. Together they spent most of the next 20 years traveling in four major journeys or “Udassis,” walking over 17,000 miles.

Kalijug baabay taariaa
Guru Nanak saved the people of the Dark Age
Sat Nam par mantra sunaaiaa
He taught us the mantra Sat Nam
Kal Taran Guru Nanak Aya
He came to save the people of the Dark Age
     – Bhai Gur Das



Alternately dressing in Hindu or Muslim clothing,or sometimes with ambiguous religious identities, Guru Nanak and Mardana were received into many diverse cultural and religious gatherings. They traveled to Mecca and Bagdad in addition to traveling throughout the Northern and Southern regions of ancient India. Everywhere they went they discoursed with spiritual adepts and leaders, sharing the wisdom of Guru Nanak’s teachings.

Upon returning home Guru Nanak founded the city of Kartarpur where thousands of people gathered to be close to the Guru. It became a large thriving spiritual community where people lived and practiced the teachings of Guru Nanak.His teachings formed into a Dharma; a set of practices intended to elevate the individual consciousness to the Divine.

Although succeeded by nine more Gurus in human form, Guru Nanak established the basis of what is known today as Sikh Dharma. He taught about acceptance of Divine Will and equality of all people. He taught about righteous living (Karam) as a path to break the tyranny of the ego (Kam), so as to live in accord with the Divine order (Hukam) of the Universe. He encouraged people to serve each other (Seva) and seek the company of other spiritual people (Sat Sangat).He taught us to remember Sat Nam (True Name) with each breath.

Japji Sahib is Guru Nanak’s most well known composition. In it he establishes the highest values and virtues to be embraced by anyone seeking to live in Oneness with the Divine. Today, Guru Nanak is known throughout the world and his words are still tremendously impactful, both with the powerful Naad (sound current) and with theiruplifting, inspiring message. For those of us who already know Guru Nanak he continues to shine as an example of the Divine, manifested in human form. The radiance of his spirit comes through in his Bani and lifts us each day as we recite those words.

It is hard to imagine the majestic nature of a man such as Guru Nanak: Spiritual Master, reformer, revolutionary, and visionary. His words and teachings continue to reverberate and are, even 550 years later, profoundly cherished around the world. Guru Nanak’s impact is stronger than ever, inspiring and lifting the spirits of millions of people. In his words is the promise of spiritual awakeningas the individual soul of each person connects to the blazing brightness of the Infinite Universal Soul through Japji Sahib.


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