By Nithin Sridhar
Guru Nanak was one of the tallest spiritual teachers in the history of India. He showed the path towards God to thousands of people through his simple teachings that revolved around devotion to God and service to humankind.
Though he was born on April 15, 1469, his birth anniversary is celebrated according to the lunar calendar on the day of Kartika Poornima, which this year has fallen on this day i.e. November 25.
A brief outline of the life and teachings of this great spiritual master is given below.
Guru Nanak was born in what is today called as Nankana Sahib in Punjab, Pakistan. His father, Kalyan Chand Das Bedi, worked as an accountant in the Village administration and his mother was Mata Tripta. He was well versed in Sanskrit, Persian, and Arabic. In 1485, at the age of 16, he started working under Daulat Khan Lodhi, the Muslim ruler of the area at Sultanpur.
In 1487, he married Mata Sulakkhani and they had two sons: Sri Chand and Lakshmi Chand. It is widely believed that Nanak attained enlightenment 1496. He went missing for three days and when he returned, he was full of divine love and expression.
It is held that, when he returned, the first thing Nanak uttered was: ‘There is neither Hindu nor Mussulman (Muslim), but only man. So whose path shall I follow? I shall follow God’s path. God is neither Hindu nor Mussulman and the path which I follow is God’s.’ This shows the enormous spiritual wisdom that he was able to manifest within himself.
For spreading the message of devotion and service and lifting the masses from confusion and misery, Guru Nanak undertook four journeys across India and beyond. His first journey was towards east and he covered areas like Bengal and Assam. His second journey was towards South India. In the third, he covered the northern areas of Kashmir and Tibet and in the fifth, he went till Baghdad and Mecca.
Through these extensive travels Guru Nanak spoke against various superstitions and the ills that were present in the society. He spoke against caste discrimination, as well as too much of the ritualism that was crippling the society. He also spoke about equality of all and the upliftment of women.
After returning from the travels, he settled down as a farmer in a village called Kartarpur, and taught for a few years. Many followers belonging to different religions and classes from various geographical locations came to learn from Guru Nanak. He also initiated the practice of common meal where everyone took food together. Guru Nanak finally passed away in 1539.
Guru Nanak taught that God is one, formless, all-powerful Truth and that people should meditate on the name of God to attain emancipation. The three pillars of his teachings are: Naam Japna (meditation on the name of God), Kirat Karni (earning livelihood by honest means), and Vand Chakna (sharing with others).
These teachings are as much relevant today as they were during Nanak’s times. People should internalize these teachings and start living an honest and devoted life.