Guru Nanak’s Life
November 1, 20197 Minutes

The night was dark and thunderous. The moon remained in hiding behind the thick black clouds and the cool winds kissed the earth. In the year 1469, inside a small house in the town of Talwandi near Lahore, a woman gave birth to a baby boy. Surrounded by his proud parents and elder sister, the child gazed at his family and smiled.

The baby was named Nanak after his elder sister Nanaki. Little did they know, he would grow up to become a visionary, a revolutionary, a feminist, and one of the most revered human beings to have walked the Earth.

From an early age, Nanak showed interest in meditation. At every chance he had, he would close his eyes and meditate. Once his father told him to watch their cattle. Nanak went into meditation and forgot about the cattle who wandered into the neighboring field and ate the crops. Scolded by his father he, nonetheless, continued meditating whenever he could. Nanak caught the attention of another villager, Rai Bullar, who persuaded his father to enroll him in formal schooling where he could receive education in religious studies. Nanak surprised everyone with his quick learning abilities and understanding of the religious texts convincing the teachers of his divine grace.

The brilliant light of Nanak was starting to get noticed.

As a customary ritual, when Nanak came of age, he was asked by his father to tie a sacred thread of God. Young Nanak refused, stating that the thread would wear out and he would only wear one that will not wear when his body does. He continued, that people wear a thread and still indulge in immoral activities and when the thread becomes old and starts to wear, it is thrown away and replaced by a new one. Only through praising God’s name can one obtain a thread that will not break and accompany the soul when it leaves the body and enters the heavenly abode. A child’s words that were rebellious yet wise.  In another incident, Nanak’s father gave him 20 rupees – a princely sum then – to buy things that he would later trade and make a profit. Nanak, instead, found a group of frail saints and bought food for them. In this, he found a bigger profit than the business trade. His father was furious but then the brilliance of divinity is seldom appreciated so soon.

Nanak entered the holy bond of marriage with a woman named Sulakhni who bore him two sons. He went to live with his elder sister, Nanaki, in the city of Sultanpur where he worked as an accountant at the government’s granary. He treated everyone nicely and people grew fond of the mild natured man who spoke with humility.

Nanak used to pray and sing hymns during early mornings and late nights. On one such fateful morning, he along with his childhood friend, Bhai Mardana, went to meditate beside the ‘Vain Nadi’. Nanak went to take a dip but didn’t return for 3 days. While everyone assumed he had drowned, Nanaki, his elder sister, knew her brother would return. And after 3 days, Nanak emerged from the water, and said, ‘Na koe Hindu, Na koe Musalman.’ Witnessing this divine episode, the people started to revere him and address him as ‘Guru’ Nanak.

The light of Guru Nanak was shining brightly and he knew he had to share it with everyone.

Following his enlightenment, Guru Nanak devoted his life to spreading the word of the one God and the divinity within all humans. He made arrangements for his wife and children and donated everything he had to the poor. Accompanied by Bhai Mardana, he undertook 4 major spiritual journeys, also known as Udasis, covering about 30,000 kilometers on foot. He shunned idolatry, condemned the caste system, and voiced against the prevalent discrimination in the society. He preached three practices that his fellow humans should follow to achieve true joy. They were Naam Japna (meditating God’s name), Kirat Karna (living as honourable householders and earning livelihood through honest means), and Vand Chakna (sharing and consuming together as a community). He also championed feminism stating that through a woman man is born and without her there would be nothing and she should be treated as an equal.

After completing his Udasis, Guru Nanak settled in the town of Kartarpur where he eventually left for his heavenly abode. Here he institutionalized the concept of Langar or community kitchen where people volunteered to serve others food regardless of their caste, gender, age, or social status thus practicing equality among all human beings. He continued preaching equality and living together as a community.

Guru Nanak was a visionary, a reformer, a feminist, a traveler, a philanthropist, and a thinker whose words and teachings are still relevant. He envisioned a society devoid of discrimination and living together as one unit. Today, when the world is in the dark we need the guiding light of Guru Nanak. His words, though spoken five centuries ago, are more relevant than ever and can be followed for a simpler, happier, and more meaningful life.