Nanak, Divinity Personified

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By T Sher Singh | Opinion |

How does one even begin to fathom the man called Nanak? Each time I try, I lose myself. Like when lying down, staring up at the night-sky and wondering what else lies beyond the stars that we can see with our naked eyes.

We call him ‘Guru’. The Teacher. Some call him Baba, Grand Old Man. Or Hazrat, the Presence.

I know him differently each day, depending on the thoughts I’m immersed in on that day.

As Mehta Kalu’s and Tripta’s son. Nanaki’s brother.

As the householder and a family man. Sulakhni’s husband. Sri Chand’s and Lakhmi Chand’s father. A man who lived his life just like you and me, starting with an apprenticeship with his father, the trader, all the way to his final years as a farmer.

He had no pretensions, nor did he boast any ostentations. He claimed no special status. Declared that all are One God’s creatures, hailing all humans as sons and daughters of the same God. Dared the world by proclaiming unequivocally that women are no less than men. In anything.

He sought no wealth, and acquired none. He craved for no worldly power, and claimed none. Yet, he stood tall in front of the tyrant Babur and looked him in the eye, loudly indicting the founder of the Mughal empire for his crimes.

He preferred to rub shoulders only with the pious and the poor, and gave succour to the hungry and the weak and the oppressed. He gave his all to them, and then claimed to have had the better part of the bargain. He made a bee-line for the worst purveyors of evil, engaged with them, challenged them and brought them to their senses.

Never fell into the trap of saying, “Follow me!” Rather, he taught each to see the best in his or her own faith and to live up to its purest ideals. A teacher like no other, he never preached. Instead, he taught by example. To shed ritual and superstition, and to live … simply! To use common sense, not dogma. To rely on no ritual, to waste no time over idols.

To pray, toil, share. To serve and protect.

He sang. He wrote. He carried a book with him wherever he went, and jotted into it poetry of the highest order. He composed the Aarti, a paean to the universe, the only true anthem for the multi-faith world we live.

He travelled the known world, seeking out believers of all faiths and had a dialogue with each. In the upper Himalayas, in Ladakh and Tibet. All the way to Mecca and Baghdad. Further north, and then, further eastwards. Southwards, to Sri Lanka. Westwards, we’ve recently discovered, to Rome.

He taught us so much. Do you know, for example, that he bypassed his errant sons and the man he annointed to be Guru Angad was a sevadar. Lehna?

I like it that we revere Nanak to no end but never worship him. Otherwise, it would erase the miracle of his message that you and I and all of us, no matter which belief system we follow, have Divinity within us, and each one us can aspire to be like Nanak himself.

T. Sher Singh, born September 11, 1949, at Patna, Bihar, India. Have worn various hats (actually, turbans), including as Police Commissioner, Lawyer/Attorney, Speaker, TV Host, Radio commentator, Newspaper Columnist on current affairs for Toronto Star et al, World Traveler, and travel writer. Canadian citizen, and resident of Canada since 1971. He was also the editor and publisher at sikhchic.com. This article was adapted from his LinkedIn posting. Go here for more of such entries.

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