Guru Nanak Dev

Monday, 23 January 2017 12:11 Written by

Guru Nanak Dev[1] (Punjabi) is the central figure in Sikhism, and is the first of the ten Sikh Gurus.


Early life

Guru Nanak Dev Jee was born on 15th april 1469[2][3], now celebrated as Prakash Dihara of Guru Nanak, into a Hindu Khatri family of the highest caste,[4] in the village of Rāi Bhōi dī Talwandī, now called Nankana Sahib, near Lahore, Pakistan.[5] Today, his birthplace is marked by Gurdwara Janam Asthan. His father, Mehta Kalyan Das, popularly short upp as Mehta Kalu[6], was the patwari (accountant) of crop revenue for the village of Talwandi in the employment of a Muslim landlord of that area, Rai Bular Bhatti [7]. Guru Nanak's mother was Tripta Devi and he had one elder sister, Bebe Nanaki.

Gurdwara Nankana Sahib, Pakistan

The earliest biographical sources on the life of Guru Nanak recognized today are the Janamsākhīs (life accounts) and the vārs (expounding verses) of the scribe Bhai Gurdas. The most popular Janamsākhī are written by a close companion of the Guru, Bhai Bala.

Bhai Gurdas, a purported scribe of the Gurū Granth, also wrote about Nanak's life in his vārs. Although these too were compiled some time after Guru Nanak's time, they are less detailed than the Janamsākhīs. The Janamsākhīs recount in minute detail the circumstances of the birth of the guru. The Janamsakhis claim that at his birth an astrologer, who came to write his horoscope, insisted on seeing the child. On seeing the infant, he is said to have worshipped him with clasped hands and remarked that "I regret that I shall never live to see young Guru Nanak as an adult.

At the age of five years Nanak is said to have voiced interest in divine subjects. At age seven, his father, Mehta Kalu, enrolled him at the village school as was the custom.[8] Notable lore recounts that as a child Nanak astonished his teacher by describing the implicit symbolism of the first letter of the alphabet, which is an almost straight stroke in Persian or Arabic, resembling the mathematical version of one, as denoting the unity or oneness of God[9]. Other childhood accounts refer to strange and miraculous events about Nanak witnessed by Rai Bular such as a poisonous cobra being seen to shield the sleeping child's head from the harsh sunlight.

Marriage and family

Guru Nanak Dev was married to Mata Sulakhni. His marriage to her took place in the town of Batala. The marriage party had come from the town of Sultanpur Lodhi. He had two sons from this marriage; Sri Chand and Lakhmi Chand. Sri Chand founded a renunciate/ascetic sect known today as Udasis when Nanak did not choose him as his successor.

Foundation of Sikhism and travels

Rai Bular Bhatti, the local landlord and Nanak's sister Bibi Nanaki were the first people who recognised divine qualities in Guru Nanak. They encouraged and supported Nanak to study and travel. Around c. 1499 at the age of thirty, Sikh tradition stated that Nanak went missing and was presumed to have drowned after going for one of his morning baths to a local stream called the Kali Bein. One day, he declared: "There is no hindu, there is no muslim" (in Punjabi, "nā kōi hindū nā kōi musalmān").The true meaning of this declaration was that "human being can not be bound by his religion because the Almighty is in everywhere whether it is the human being or the beast.He is the soul in everyone." The Universe is the Will of the Almighty. God is the absolute Truth, He can not be bound by a particular religion. If one looks in himself with deep insight and the condensed state of mind, this truth will be revealed itself.[10] It was from this moment that Nanak would begin to spread the teachings of what was then the beginning of Sikhism.

Although the exact account of his itinerary is disputed, he is widely acknowledged to have made four major journeys, spanning thousands of kilometres, the first tour being east towards Bengal and Assam, the second south towards Tamil Nadu, the third north towards Kashmir, Ladakh, and Tibet, and the final tour west towards Baghdad and Mecca on the Arabian Peninsula.[11].

Last years

As the end approached Guru Nanak would frequently test the devotion of his sons and nearest followers and in doing so demonstrate their state of mind to one another. There were numerous such occasions and one particular devotee, Baba Lehna, rose to eminence because he never faltered in his faith in Guru Nanak.

Guru Nanak appointed Baba Lehna as the successor Guru, renaming him as Guru Angad Dev, meaning 'one's very own' or 'part of you'. This succession wasn't a mere gesture. Via a transformation, compared in Sikh tradition as the passing of a flame from one candle to another, the Guru-aspect of Guru Nanak descended upon Guru Angad. Guru Angad became Guru Nanak. In the Guru Granth Sahib this is described as having even a physical manifestation whereby Angad in person suddenly appeared to look like Nanak.[12]

Shortly after proclaiming Baba Lehna as the next Guru, Nanak announced that His time to leave Earth had arrived, and retreated to a tree whereby he sat in the lotus position and the praan (life-force) was guided upwards and outwards from his body. This was said to have happened on 22 September 1539 in Kartarpur, Punjab, Pakistan at the age of 70.


Guru Nanak Dev was a practitioner of the ancient Yoga system which is to mentally directs the life energy to revolve, upward and downward, around the six spinal centers (medullary, cervical, dorsal, lumbar, sacral, and coccygeal plexuses) which correspond to the twelve astral signs of the zodiac, the symbolic Cosmic Man. One-half minute of this revolution of energy around the sensitive spinal cord of man effects subtle progress in his evolution; that half-minute of this revolution equals one year of natural spiritual unfoldment.Liberation can be accomplished by this inner pranayama which is attained by disjoining the course of inspiration and expiration.This is called Gurmukhi Vidya(Knowledge that is confined within Guru Disciple relationship).This Yoga system consists of a number of levels of Pranayama based techniques that are intended to rapidly accelerate spiritual development and engender a profound state of tranquility and God-communion...

One of Guru Nanak's famous sayings was, "There is no Hindu, there is no Muslim,so whose path shall I follow? I shall follow the path of God". Every living being in this world has a common activity which is respiration.Praan(The Universal Cosmic Energy) that governs all including this respiration process, bundles up everything in this Universe into unity. Offering inhaling breath into the outgoing breath, and offering the outgoing breath into the inhaling breath, the yogi neutralizes both these breaths; he thus releases praan the life force from the heart and brings it under his control.Then he realizes that He is not bound by any name or attribute,He pervades everywhere in the Universe and everything whether it is material or immaterial pervades in Him, He has no limit, He is beyond the space. If one see himself in every-one then how he feel envy towards man/beast? Being united with the God, his presence makes the environment free from all malices. This is why Rai Bular saw a poisonous cobra shielded the sleeping child's(Guru Nanak Dev) head from the harsh sunlight.

Among the various teachings of Guru Nanak Dev the fundamental one was "It is absolutely necessary for all to totally surrender to their Guru. The more one can surrender to the Guru, the more he can ascertain the subtlest of the subtle techniques of yoga from his Guru. Without surrender, nothing can be derived from the Guru."---Baba Lahina proved this. He said: Always remember that you belong to no one, and no one belongs to you. Reflect that some day you will suddenly have to leave everything in this world–so make the acquaintanceship of God now. Prepare yourself for the coming astral journey of death by daily riding in the balloon of God-perception. Through delusion you are perceiving yourself as a bundle of flesh and bones, which at best is a nest of troubles. Meditate unceasingly, that you may quickly behold yourself as the Infinite Essence, free from every form of misery. Cease being a prisoner of the body; using the secret key of yoga, learn to escape into Spirit. He taught this secret technique to very rare sincere seekers, Baba Lahina was one of them.

Guru Nanak's teachings can be found in the Sikh scripture Guru Granth, a vast collection of revelatory verses recorded in Gurmukhi.

From these some common principles seem discernible. Firstly a supreme Godhead who although incomprehensible manifests in a variety of religious forms, the Singular 'Doer' and formless source of all forms. It is described as the indestructible or timeless form and in both impersonal and personal forms. Salvation or liberation depends on the grace ('nadir'- glance) of God alone and although outside the power of the individual, manifests through the individual whom is seen to be unceasing in their efforts. Religious awakening is compared to undergoing a living death.

Guru Nanak describes the dangers of the self (haumai- 'I am') and calls upon devotees to engage in worship through God's name[dubious – discuss] and singing of God's qualities, discarding doubt in the process. However such worship must be selfless (sewa). God's name cleanses the individual to make such worship possible. This is related to the revelation that God is the Doer and without God there is no other. Guru Nanak warned against hypocrisy and falsehood saying that these are pervasive in humanity and that religious actions can also be in vain. However the practice of satsang is considered exalted. It may also be said that ascetic practices are disfavoured by Guru Nanak who suggests remaining inwardly detached whilst living as a householder.

Through popular tradition, Guru Nanak's teaching is understood to be practiced in three ways:

  • Naam Japna: Chanting the Holy Name and thus remembering God at all times (ceaseless devotion to God)
  • Kirat Karō: Earning/making a living honestly, without exploitation or fraud
  • Vaṇḍ Chakkō: Sharing with others, helping those with less who are in need

Guru Nanak put the greatest emphasis on the worship of the True Name (Naam Japna)[clarification needed]. One should follow the direction of awakened individuals rather than the mind (state of manmukh- being led by the mind)- the latter being perilous and leading only to frustration.

In the context of his times, reforms that occurred in the wake of Nanak's teachings and the bhakti movement at large included Bhakti devotion being open to all castes, women not to be marginalized from its institutions, and both Godhead and Devotion transcending any religious consideration or divide, as God is not separate from any individual.


Baburbani (Bani on Babar) - pronounced BaaburBaani - are verses in a hymn composed by Guru Nanak and found in the Guru Granth Sahib that refer to the Moghul invasion of India, an event that occurred during Nanak's lifetime.[13] The notable aspect of these verses is that we do not usually find such elaborate descriptions to outside events in bhakti verses of many bhagats, despite this being such a tumultuous time in Indian history. In this hymn Guru Nanak uses the metaphor of a marriage party in describing the invasion of Babur. The ironic use of terms associated with marriage customs seems to be a subversion of the populist and widespread archetype of 'the beloved' that preoccupied Northern Indian religious and artistic thought at the time.

" As descendeth the Lord's word to me, so do I deliver it unto you, O Lalo: (Babar) leading a wedding-array of sin hath descended from Kabul and demandeth by force the bride(India), O Lalo. decency and righteousness have vanished, and falsehood struts abroad, O Lalo. Gone are the days of Qazis and Brahmans, satan now conducts the nuptials, O Lalo. The Muslim women recite the Qur'an and in distress remember their God, O Lalo. Similar is the fate of Hindu women of castes high and low, O Lalo. They sing paeans of blood, O Nanak, and by blood, not saffron, ointment is made, O Lalo. In this city of corpses, Nanak proclaimeth God's praises, and uttereth this true saying: The Lord who created men and put them to their tasks watcheth them from His seclusion. True is that Lord, true His verdict, and true is the justice He dealeth. As her body's vesture is torn to shreds, India shall remember my words. In seventy-eight they come, in ninety seven shall depart; another man of destiny shall arise. Nanak pronounceth words of truth, Truth he uttereth; truth the time calls for."[14]

Guru Nanak puts the event up to the prospect of a merciful yet all-powerful God, describing powerfully yet with muted economy the state of events and how this related to questions of suffering and oppression, and the transcience of life.


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