Written and collected by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times
Guru Nanak ([gʊɾuː naːnəkᵊ], pronunciation, IAST: Gurū Nānak) (15 April 1469 – 22 September 1539), also referred to as Baba Nanak (‘father Nanak’), was the founder of Sikhism and the first of the ten Sikh Gurus. His birth is celebrated worldwide as Guru Nanak Gurpurab on Kartik Pooranmashi, the full-moon day in the month of Katak, October–November.
Nanak travelled far and wide teaching people the message of one God who dwells in every one of His creations and constitutes the eternal Truth. He set up a unique spiritual, social, and political platform based on equality, fraternal love, goodness, and virtue.
Nanak’s words are registered in the form of 974 poetic hymns in the holy text of Sikhism, the Guru Granth Sahib, with some of the major prayers being the Japji Sahib, the Asa di Var and the Sidh-Gosht.
According to Encyclopedia Britannica:
Nanak’s message can be briefly summarized as a doctrine of salvation through disciplined meditation on the divine name. Salvation is understood in terms of escape from the transmigratory round of death and rebirth to a mystical union with God. The divine name signifies the total manifestation of God, a single Being, immanent both in the created world and within the human spirit. Meditation must be strictly inward, and all external aids such as idols, temples, mosques, scriptures, and set prayers are explicitly rejected.
Now the Afterlife concept of Baba Nanak is closer to Hinduism but the path to it through single minded devotion to One God is essentially Islam. The form and ritual of the Muslim Salat, five times a day, may differ in detail from meditation but in essence and in principle are no different from the Sikh meditation, as noted above.
In the pursuit of maximizing the understanding of meditation and how it can lead to interfaith tolerance, among all faiths, I have previously written, Doctor’s Orders: 20 Minutes Of Meditation Twice a Day – How about 10 minutes 5 Times a day?, Can You Chant from the Bible or the Quran to Bliss and Happiness? and Zikr Illahi (remembrance of Allah) and the human mind.
Many traditions within Hinduism share the Vedic idea of a metaphysical ultimate reality and truth called Brahman. According to Jan Gonda, Brahman denoted the “power immanent in the sound, words, verses and formulas of Vedas” in the earliest Vedic texts.
There are Monotheistic traditions in Hinduism. It incorporates diverse views on the concept of God. Different traditions of Hinduism have different theistic views, and these views have been described by scholars as polytheism, monotheism, henotheism, panentheism, pantheism, monism, agnostic, — humanism, atheism or Nontheism.
Contemporary Hinduism can be categorized into four major traditions: Vaishnavism, Shaivism, Shaktism, and Smartism. Vaishnavism, Shaivism, and Shaktism worship Vishnu, Shiva, and Devi — the Divine Mother — as the Supreme respectively, or consider all Hindu deities as aspects of the formless Supreme Reality or Brahman. Other minor sects such as Ganapatya and Saura focus on Ganesha and Surya as the Supreme. A sub-tradition within the Vaishnavism school of Hinduism that is an exception is dualistic Dvaita, founded by Madhvacharya in the 13th-century (where Vishnu as Krishna is a monotheistic God). This tradition posits a concept of monotheistic God so similar to Christianity that Christian missionaries in colonial India suggested that Madhvacharya was likely influenced by early Christians who migrated to India, a theory that has been discredited by scholars.
The various concepts of dhyana and its practice originated in the Sramanic movement of ancient India, which started before the 6th century BCE (pre-Buddha, pre-Mahavira), and the practice has been influential within the diverse traditions of Hinduism. It is, in Hinduism, a part of a self-directed awareness and unifying Yoga process by which the yogi realizes Self (Atman, soul), one’s relationship with other living beings, and Ultimate Reality.
Guru Nanak, and other Sikh Gurus emphasised Bhakti, and taught that the spiritual life and secular householder life are intertwined. In Sikh worldview, the everyday world is part of the Infinite Reality, increased spiritual awareness leads to increased and vibrant participation in the everyday world. Guru Nanak, states Sonali Marwaha, described living an “active, creative, and practical life” of “truthfulness, fidelity, self-control and purity” as being higher than the metaphysical truth.
Through popular tradition, Nanak’s teaching is understood to be practised in three ways:
- Vaṇḍ Chakkō: Sharing with others, helping those with less who are in need
- Kirat Karō: Earning/making a living honestly, without exploitation or fraud
- Naam Japna: Meditating on God’s name to control the five weaknesses of the human personality.
So, meditation on One and the Supreme God as emphasized by Baba Guru Nanak can bring the Hindus and the Muslims closer in mutual respect and love.
Japji Sahib is a Sikh prayer, that appears at the beginning of the Guru Granth Sahib – the scripture of the Sikhs. It was composed by Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism. It begins with Mool Mantra, there is one supreme being, the eternal reality (true name), the creator, without fear, devoid of enmity, immortal, never incarnated, self-existent, (known by) the grace of the Guru. and then follow 38 paudis (stanzas) and completed with a final Salok at the end of this composition. The 38 stanzas are in different poetic meters.
Verse 30 states that God watches all, but none can see Him. God is the primal one, the pure light, without beginning, without end, the never changing constant, states Hymn 31.
Let me share the Quranic verses equivalent of verse 30 and Hymn 31.
“Eyes cannot reach Him but He reaches the eyes. And He is the Incomprehensible, the All-Aware.” (Al Quran 6:103/104)
“He is the First and the Last, and the Manifest and the Hidden, and He knows all things full well.” (Al Quran 57:3/4)