Creating the path of Enlightenment – The Udasis of Guru Nanak
October 22, 20195 Minutes

We often hear that travel brings knowledge – the more you travel, the more you realise there’s so much left to learn. Every journey opens a new page in the book of life, taking the learning curve upwards and opening our minds to new perspectives.
Guru Nanak’s tales of travel are told all over the world because his journeys acted as beacons for change, hope, and love.
Seeing the darkness of ignorance and false-knowledge, Guru Nanak decided to embark on five spiritual journeys – known as Udasis – to spread the message of love, equality, kindness, community, true knowledge, and selfless seva. He travelled on foot for two decades covering most of Asia. During these journeys, he communicated with people of different faiths, talking about human realities, spiritual values, and spreading the message of ‘One God, One Humanity’.
In his travels, he guided people to lead a simpler, honest life. He taught people through music and through his example. He spoke with compassion and kindness and preached people to live together as a community, be selfless in their service, treat fellow beings with equality, and remove superstitions and false beliefs.
On one of his journeys, during his first stop at Eminabad, he met Bhai Lalo, a humble carpenter. He accepted Bhai Lalo’s invitation to have food and stay overnight at his place. The chief of the village, Malik Bhago, wasn’t too happy to hear that Guru Nanak wasn’t staying with him. When Guru Nanak finally met Malik, he told him, “I cannot eat your food because your bread is ill-begotten and has been made with money sucked from the poor through unfair means, while Lalo’s bread is made from hard-earned money. Malik Bhago was completely shaken by his guilt and asked for forgiveness. The Guru asked him to distribute his ill-gotten wealth among the poor and live an honest life.
He also visited the towns of Mecca and Arab countries where he preached the omnipresence of the Almighty. One such tale tells the story of his feet pointing towards Kabba, the holy stone of worship, while he was meditating. The Muslims took offence and tried pushing his feet away. Every direction they pushed, his feet would face the Kabba. Guru Nanak asked what harm he was causing and they replied saying that his feet shouldn’t face the Kabba since it is considered holy. His response was simple and revelatory, “If you can tell me where God is NOT, I will gladly put my feet there.”
The last stretch of his journey saw him settle in Kartarpur and travel to towns within a 200-mile radius. Here, he institutionalized the concept of ‘Langar’ or community kitchen where people would sit on the ground and have food together regardless of their caste, color, race, or social status. In this way, he drove home the importance of equality and ‘Seva’ (service).
The five Udasis helped Guru Nanak initiate an ethical and spiritual dialogue with people and religious leaders about humanity and beliefs. It marked a shift from hypocrisy, confusion and a depreciating world, to towns filled with love and compassion. One of his compositions sums up the purpose of his Udasis –
“Let no man in the world live in delusion. Without a Guru, none can cross over to the other shore.”