Shri Guru Nanak Dev Ji

Waheguru ji ka khalsa, waheguru ji ki fateh.

Today is the birthday (gurpurab) of the founder of Sikhi, Shri Guru Nanak Dev Ji. For ease, I shall refer to him as Guru Ji a lot in the post. He lived from 1469-1539. Technically he was born on April 15 according to reports. So why are Sikhs celebrating his birthday in November? This is unclear, but it is celebrated on the full moon that falls in November every year. So the date changes annually.

When he was born, the main religions at the time in North India were Hinduism and Islam. He was born in the state now known as Punjab. As a young child, he actively chose not to listen to the teachings of priests and his parents, and chose not to be indoctrinated into the practices of Hindusim. He immediately began to question his seniors about why they acted in certain ways and why they weren’t focusing on God.

Guru Ji started to preach a belief in one God. He wanted all who practised their religion to realise that all they needed to do was keep God central in their thoughts. Moreover, he said that in God’s eyes, there is no Hindu and there is no Muslim. We are all His children. His following became quite varied and he had followers from both religions. Although not aggressively controversial, the things he was saying were certainly not in line with thoughts and preaching of the day. He spoke out against a practise in Hinduism at the time called sati. This is where if a married man died, his wife was expected to throw herself onto his funeral pyre. Guruji actively made it known that this should not happen and sought equality for women.

There were three main tenets he left his followers with – naam japna, kirat karna, wand ke chhakna. Naam japna means to repeat the name of God. This means that we are meant to meditate on God when we can, repeat His name, and keep Him at the forefront of all our thoughts. Guru Ji gave us the name of God as Waheguru. Kirat karna means to live an honourable life. This means to be a householder, and carry out work which is beneficial to others. Living a life which has high social, ethical and moral values is the ideal to aim for. Wand ke chhakna means to share with others what you have. This is where the concept of community for Sikhs is core. It is called Sadh Sangat – the community of the holy. We can find counsel, help, blessings and support from the community we are part of.

As Guru Nanak Dev Ji was nearing the end of his time, he wanted to choose a successor who would continue his teachings. Although he was married and had two sons to whom he could have passed the responsibility to, he instead chose a devotee of his to pass the Gurgaddi on to. From the second to the tenth Guru, their names are:
Guru Angad Dev Ji
Guru Amar Das Ji
Guru Ram Das Ji
Guru Arjan Dev Ji
Guru Har Gobind Ji
Guru Har Rai Ji
Guru Har Krishan Ji
Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji
Guru Gobind Singh Ji

As the Gurgaddi has been passed on this fashion from one to the next, it is said the light of Nanak was present in each successor. In our teachings and the holy book in Sikhi, verses often end with a saying such as ‘Nanak has said this is the Truth’. It is worth noting, after Guru Gobind Singh Ji, he decided the responsibility of the Gurgaddi could not fall to one person any longer. As such he declared all teachings written in the Guru Granth Sahib to be the word of the Guru. In Sikhi, we call this gurbani – the teachings of the Guru.

For me, Guru Nanak Dev Ji did not just start a new way of thinking, he started a way of life which I’ve known all of mine so far. In personal reflections I will often think about his teachings, and what he wanted Sikhs to believe and do. This was a man who saw in man a desire to be good and in turn a desire to find God in all we do. Although miracles have been attributed to Guru Ji, it’s often difficult to verify these. Instead, I choose to reflect on the difference one man made to a country and the heart with which he did this.

Waheguru ji ka khalsa, waheguru ji ki fateh.