Insights into Editorial: Guru Nanak’s teachings provide a road to a better future
India and Pakistan agreed to build the Kartarpur Sahib corridor for Sikh pilgrims to visit the Gurdwara in Kartarpur (Pakistan).
India had first proposed the Kartarpur Sahib corridor in 1999 when the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee took a bus ride to Lahore.
Both the countries exchanged letters committing to build the required infrastructure for visa-free direct travel by Sikh pilgrims to Pakistan’s Kartarpur Sahib gurdwara. This year November 2019 marks 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev.
In a landmark decision, the Union Cabinet also approved the building and development of the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor from Dera Baba Nanak to the International Boundary, to facilitate pilgrims from India to visit Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur, round the year, in a smooth and easy manner.
About Guru Nanak Dev:
Guru Nanak Dev (1469-1539) was born in a village, Talwandi Rai Bhoe, near Lahore (it was renamed later as Nankana Sahib).
Guru Nanak Dev initiated inter-faith dialogue way back in the 16th century and had conversations with most of the religious denominations of his times.
His written compositions were included in the Adi Granth compiled by Guru Arjan (1563-1606), the fifth Sikh guru.
This came to be known as Guru Granth Sahib after the additions made by the 10th guru Guru Gobind Singh (1666-1708).
In compiling the Adi Granth, Guru Arjan showed a remarkable commitment to pluralism while retaining the unity of thought initiated by Guru Nanak Dev.
Guru Nanak was a great champion of equality:
- Our worldview has been continually broadened by the timeless messages of enlightened pathfinders like Guru Nanak.
- Guru Nanak was a great champion of equality. For him, the differences and multiple identities based on caste, creed, religion and language were irrelevant. He had said, “Preposterous is caste, vain the distinction of birth. The Lord gives shelter to all beings”.
- He aimed at creating a casteless society in which there is no hierarchy.
- Guru Nanak Dev ji, saint-composer and amongst the great spiritual leaders, his ideas, thoughts and teachings assume far greater relevance today than ever before. They can promote peace, equality and prosperity across the globe.
- In a world that is increasingly fragmented with a narrow, tunnel vision, bigotry and dogmatism, we have to walk on the path shown to us by Nanak and other illustrious gurus to dispel the darkness that constantly threatens to envelop individuals, communities and nations.
Respect for women and gender equality:
Referring to women, the Guru says: “How can they be inferior when they give birth to men? Women as well as men share in the grace of God and are equally responsible for their actions to Him.”
Echoing the Sanskrit saying “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” that describes the whole world as one family, Guru Nanak Dev goes on to say:
The spirit of living together and harmoniously working together is a consistent thread of thought that runs through Guru Nanak hymns.
What is remarkable about Guru Nanak is the fact that he not only formulated the principal doctrines of Sikhism, but took care to ensure that his teachings would endure.
Guru Nanak’s teachings hold out hope for us all:
- The time when Guru Nanak was born was a period of great strife in Indian society, especially in the Punjab region.
- Guru Nanak responded as all great thinkers, philosophers and those whom we call prophets respond to the historical crisis of the society in which he was born.
- However, it is also vital to grasp how he transcended the limitations of geographical space and historical time in delivering a message that had universal relevance.
- The fact that in his own lifetime, communities of his followers had emerged in what are today India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Nepal, Tibet and Sri Lanka and even in Iraq and Iran illustrates that his message had transcended the geographical boundaries of Punjab.
- He consciously went on long journeys (called uddasian) to far off places along with his two companions Bhai Bala, a Hindu, and Bhai Mardana, a Muslim, to hold dialogues with many saints and Sufis even, some charlatans who claimed some spiritual powers and had some social following.
- The ecological message of his teachings, which has strong relevance for our times, is perhaps, the best illustration of the universalism of his teachings.
PM Modi even thanked the Pakistani workers who had built the corridor in double-quick time.
Imran, on the other side of the corridor, did bring up Kashmir, but added effusively that, “Today we are not only opening the border, but also our hearts to the Sikh community.”
The ideal of equality was given a concrete institutional form in the community meal, “langar”, where all devotees, irrespective of caste, creed, region and religion sit in a row called “pangat” to share a meal.
The place of their meeting, called “dharmsal”, is regarded as sacred and the common religious congregation “sangat” was open to all.
The best way of understanding Guru Nanak’s universal vision is to read the Guru Granth Sahib.