Nanak, Guru

Nanak, Guru
   founder of the Sikh religion
   Guru Nanak was a charismatic religious and social reformer. He tried to bridge the gap between K 302 namaste
   Hindus and Muslims but instead founded a new religion, SIKHISM. Guru Nanak was born on April 15, 1469, in Talwandi-Rai-Bhoe in the district of Shekhupur, now in Pakistan. His father, Mehta Kalu, was a land surveyor and small farmer of the Khatri caste of the Bedi tribe.
   In his early life Nanak showed great devotion to God and was often enveloped in spiritual medi-tation while watching over cattle. From age five he began to utter mysterious sayings; at seven, when taken to a teacher to learn to read, he would lapse into silence. Myths of miracles have been associ-ated with his childhood. In response to such signs of withdrawal the local community suggested to his parents that he be married. His wife, Sulakhani, a Khatri of the Chona subcaste, eventually gave birth to two sons, Lakhmi Das and Siri Chand.
   Nanak studied reading and writing in the local dialect, traditional scripture in SANSKRIT, and poetry in Persian. Throughout his life he had many mystical experiences; one story recounts how he went to the river to bathe and was vis-ited by “messengers of God” who took him to a divine court and fed him nectar. For three days he remained missing, and upon his return he declared that there are no Hindus or Muslims, that all people are equal. His inner experiences gave him equanimity. He taught love, equality, justice, selfless service, and the worship of God. His teaching renounced religious hypocrisy.
   Guru Nanak was considered to be a leader in the BHAKTI (path of devotion) movement but was also active in calling for reform of Indian social and religious customs that he saw as unjust. He was outspoken against caste oppression, discrimi-nation, and injustice and committed to awakening the consciousness of people.
   Guru Nanak criticized what he considered the empty rituals and sacrifices of Hinduism in his time. Working in the villages near his own he founded and developed the SIKH tradition, which integrated Buddhist, Hindu, and Islamic ideals of the virtuous life and enlightenment. According to Nanak, the process of realization involves the grace of both God and GURU. the spiritual mas-ter. The Sikh tradition maintains that the goal of all human beings is to achieve self-perfection in their lifetime and to help others do the same. Sikh philosophy states that self-transformation occurs through guru, guru’s grace, guru’s will, devotion, discernment, and detachment. He composed the Adi Granth, the sacred text later revered by Sikhs as the last guru. Today the Adi Granth is the only guru honored among traditional Sikhs. Guru Nanak died on September 7, 1539.
   Further reading: Anil Chandra Banerjee, Guru Nanak and His Times (Patalia: Punjabi University, 1971); Prithipal Singh Kapur, ed., The Divine Master: Life and Teachings of Guru Nanak (Jalandhar, India: ABS, 1988); W. H. McLeod, Guru Nanak and the Sikh Religion (Lon-don: Oxford University Press, 1968); Gurbachan Singh Talib, Guru Nanak: His Personality and Vision (Delhi: Gur Das Kapur & Sons, 1969).

Encyclopedia of Hinduism. . 2007.

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