Guru Nanak & Srimanta Sankar Dev ~ A Comparative Study of Their Life and Philosophy

Sankar Dev's followers came to pay obeisance to Guru Nanak on the auspicious occasion....

Assam which has now boundaries touching Bhutan, Arunachal Pradesh, Burma, Nagaland, Meghalya, Bangladesh and West Bengal is one of the eastern most state of India. It is known by its bewitching natural beauty, beautiful tea gardens, production of petroleum products and coal and famous Kamakhya temple at Guwahati and Haygarva Madhva temple at Hajo. In Sixteenth century it could be roughly divided into Assam and Kamproop. Ahom ruled Assam while Kamrup was under various local rulers. The boundary of Assam then was mentioned as: Bhutan in the north, the districts of Darrang and Nowgong in the east, Khasi hills in the south and Goalpara in the west.

This researcher has been in the area of Assam, Kamroop and North Bengal from 1970-1972 and 1985- 1992 and have been researching Guru Nanak's travels to these areas. Information about Guru's visit to Dhubri, Guwahati, Kamkhya temple, Hajo in Kamroop and number of places in Assam including Nazira near Sibsagar and Brahmkund (Parsu Ram Kund) is given by these local sources but firsthand account or any reliable secondary source is yet to be found. During this researcher's stay in Assam near Tinsukhia, he came in contact with Srimanta Sankar Dev's followers. It was the occasion of Guru Nanak's birthday. Sankar Dev's followers came to pay obeisance to Guru Nanak on the auspicious occasion. During discussions with them they revealed that it is their regular feature as they hold Guru Nanak in the same esteem as Srimanta Sankar Dev. They in fact consider Sikhs as Gurubhai. According to them Guru Nanak and Sankar Dev preached the same thing; held discussions and were impressed by each other and hence came very close. This happened during Guru Nanak's visit to Assam. The researcher has the recorded the statements of the people from these areas who have been confirming that Guru Nanak visited Kamroop and Assam along with Shankra Deva.

With curiosity increasing, this researcher studied the material available in various libraries including at Dibrugarh University and various universities in Punjab. Two major books on Guru Nanak's life; Travels of Guru Nanak written by Dr Surinder Singh Kohli and Jeevan Charitar Guru Nanak Dev written by Dr Tarlochan Singh, (1972) had recorded Guru Nanak's meeting Srimanta Sankar Dev. Dr Arjan Singh Mann too has recorded Guru Nanak's visit to Kamroop in his book "Guru Tegh Bahadur and Assam Pradesh; 1959". Concrete evidence about the meeting of the two however, could not be found from books or any manuscripts in Assam as yet. I visited Nazira Girgaon where I was told of the discussions between Ghankar Dev and the Ahom King

Interview with Sardar Harpal Singh of Nazira

SrHarpalSingh (85K)


This is a brief of the interview by: Dr Dalvinder Singh Grewal (Interviewer) (DSG) this researcher with S Harpal Singh of Nazira(HS) about Guru Nanak's visit to the place.

DSG: Since when are you settled in Nazira?
HS: I am in Nazira since last 35 years.
DSG: Do you know that Guru Nanak visited this area?
HS: It is generally believed that Guru Nanak visited this area. From here he went to Golaghat and Nagaland (earlier Cachar state) area where he met Kauda Rakshash.
DSG: Have you any idea as to why Guru came to this area?
HS: Nazira is a halting place for the boats passing in Dikhow river. Nazira was also the first capital of Ahom kings. Guru Nanak visited the Ahom king here. He also met Srimanta Sankar Deb, the chief saint of Assam and held discussions with him and the King.
DSG: Where did he hold discussions with Srimanta Sankar Deb?
HS: It is believed that he held discussions with Srimant Sankra Deb at the bank of Dikhow river close to the ancient temple next to the bridge and opposite to Gaushala.
DSG: What proof have you got of this discussion?
HS: It is believed that Nazira name is a modified name from Nanak Zirah meaning Zirah (discussions) with Nanak. There is a monument of Loonia Siddh with his name written on it. Loonia Siddh was a follower of Baba Sri Chand and had met Guru Tegh Bahadur at Dhubri and Guru Gobind Singh in Maharashtra. He looked after the dharamsal in honour of Guru's visit. There was not much following because Loonia Siddh remained visiting India. The place came into disuse and was destroyed with time. You can see its ruins around the ancient temple.
DSG: How many Sikh families are there in Nazira?
HS: We are the only two families residing since last 35 years. I was employed in ONGC and retired from Nazira and got settled here. We also came here from Hoshiarpur, Punjab.
DSG: How did you come to know about Guru Nanak's visit to the place?
HS: All the local people talk of Guru Nanak's visit to the place and his discussions with Sri Manta Sankar Deb. If you see their teachings you will find no difference in their teaching.

The researcher also visited Brahmkund in Arunachal Pradesh. I was surprised at the statement given by Pandit Ram Saran Das head priest; extract of which are given below:

DSG: Ram Ram Pandit Ji. You appear to be getting up very early in the morning.
PHSD: God and nature is there to wake me up. I generally do not need sleep.
DSG: How old are you?
PHSD: I am now 86 years old.
DSG: You look very active and healthy for your age?
PHSD: I came here in 1961; 53 years ago when I was young. I have never fallen sick ever since. The climate here is so clean and pure that it keeps one away from all diseases. You get pure air, pure water, pure milk from the cows of the Gau Shala and pure food from local fields. There is no pollution. Our thought are also pure here and we after always tuned to God and are in His service. What better do you want to live?
DSG: Where did you come from?
PHSD: Benaras Chaubepur, Basti Draim
DSG: What brought you here?
PHSD: I came here to have Darsan of Parsu Ram Kund. Seeing the natural beauty here I could not go back thereafter and has been in service of the temple ever since now performing the duties of head priest and the organiser of the temple complex and the Gau Shala. I have never missed any Puja ever since I came here.
DSG: Why is this place so important?
PHSD: This place is God's place. Brahm Kund also known as Parsu Ram Kund is the originator of Lohit River which is the key tributary of Brahmputra in India. You can feel God in every matter and in the air where ever you go here. A fair is held every Makr Sankranti (13 January) to celebrate Parsu Ram's redemption from his curse. Many great saints have been coming here ever since. Even Guru Nanak and Srimant Sankar Dev came here.
DSG. Did Guru Nanak Dev Ji and Srimant Sankar Dev Ji come here?
PHSD: They came here together on the fair of Makar Sankranti came here together from Saidya side and went towards Tinsukhia.
DSG: Do you have record of his visit?
PHSD: No! We do not keep record like Benaras and Kamkhya but this is very well known here and the story of their visit is passed from generations to generations. I was also told of the same by my senior Pandits. We have a Pandit even elder to me here who can vouch for the same.

Dr Tarlochan Singh devotes half a page (p.173) in his book Jeevan Charitar Guru Nanak Dev Ji, (1972) and says: "We have not yet got a solid proof of as to when and where Guru Nanak met Sankar Dev but the format given by Shankar Dev to Vaishanav thought makes it clear that he met Guru Nanak and was impressed by the meeting so much that the effect of their meeting is found in his faith. 1. Sankardev's followers are the only one who do not follow in idealism. 2. They are the only ones who like Sri Guru Granth of Sikhs keep Bhagwat at the place of worship and bow before the Word of the great men (Mahapursha) than before any individual. 3. In their prayer (aarti) Guru Nanak's name appears 4. They do not believe in castes and creeds and Brahmanical rituals. Despite this we do not have the proof as to when and where Sankardeva met Guru Nanak. It is however sure that when Guru Nanak went to Assam, Sankardeva was there at the time. Thus there is a possibility that both of met otherwise Sankardeva could not have shed the rituals of Vaishnav faith. It could have been under the faith of Guru Nanak only." [1]

On the other hand, Dr Surinder Singh Kohli appears sure of Guru Nanak having met Srimant Sankardeva. His book Travels of Guru Nanak mentions (p.46-47)[2]: "Guru Nanak met Srimanta Sankar Dev (1449-1569) at Dhubri who had come from Barpeta. Both of them discussed the main points of their faith. Sankradeva's faith is known as Eksarna Dharma and his sect is called Mahapursa sect. Eksarna Dharma lays emphasis on dasya aspect of the devotion to God. ……He was greatly responsible for bringing peace and unity in the area by starting a religious movement of universal brotherhood through congregational prayer. Sankra Devi is said to have shaped the religious, social, cultural and literary life of the Province for the ages to come. Dr Kohli mentions further (p.47): "A Gurdwara was constructed at the place where the Guru Nanank rested at Dhubri".[2]

Dr Arjan Singh Mann who travelled Assam extensively writes: "This Gurdwara was named Damdama Sahib and the Sikhs of the Guru were known as Damdamias" [3] He further writes: " The Guru stayed here for a few days. After Dhubri the Guru visited Gauripur, Rangmati, Jogigopha, Goalpara and then reached Kamakhya where he stayed with the high priest form some time and left his message which is still preserved with him. He then went to Manikarneshwara hills near the present town of Hajo and stayed there at Matsyadhwaja where it is said that Vishnu in Fish incarnation resided. The river Sarvat flows from there and it has Kama lake on the banks of which the Guru built another temple and resided there for some time. The Kund is called Mardana Kund but some say it is Madhna Kund." [4]

Dr Mann writes further [5]: "He practically visited all the towns of lower and upper Assam and reached Saidya from where Sri Krishanji married Rukmani. Then he went to Brahma Kund, where saint Paras Ram, after taking bath retained his sainthood after fulfilling his vow to kill all Kshatriyas of the land with his axe. Then he travelled through Tibet, China, Japan, Java, Sumatra, Philippines and Manipur state through Burma.'

Dr. Suniti Kumar Chatterji says about the faith of Sankra Dev and Guru Nanak: "During the long life, there were six contemporaries of Sankra Deva in the religious world of India-Chaitanya of Bengal (1485-1533), Vallabhacharya of Andhra andVrajamandala (1479-1531), Kabir of Benaras (1398-1518), Nanak of the Punjab (1469-1539) and Tulsi Dasa of the United Provinces (1523-1623?). Sankra Deva's Eka-sarna Dharma, or Mahapursha sect as it is also called (because its leaders beginning with Sankra Deva were great men-Mahapursa by virtue not of birth but of faith in God} agreed more with the robust and manly path favoured by Kabir and Nanak and later by Tulsi Dasa: it was the path of a man's straight- forward faith in the master, without his assuming the nature of a woman." [6]

Later during researcher's further study on the subject he interviewed various people at Dibrugarh, Gwahati, Dhubri and Braham Kund (Parsu Ram Kund). In general almost all the people who had some knowledge about Guru Nanak Dev and Srimanta Sankar Dev were of the view that Guru Nanak and Srimanta Sankar Dev had met and discussed their philosophies. even they claimed that Guru Nanak and Srimanta Sankar Dev visited Assam together and held discussions at various places. He found almost all unanimous that Guru Nanak visited Assam and most of them agreed that Srimanta Sankardev was throughout with him during his travels in Assam.

Guru Nanak (1469-1539 AD) and Srimant Sankar Dev (1449-1569 AD) are the two great saint-scholar visionaries of the Bhakti Movement period between 15th and 16th centuries - the period of Delhi Sultanate and Mughals. It was the period when, on the one hand, the people were divided into castes, sects and factions and, on the other hand, the invaders perpetrated atrocities on the public and the weaker sections of society. The masses in their hardships and miseries cried for a savior.

The objective of Bhakti movement was the reformation of society by showing the true path - that all are equal; there is no big or small; God and God alone being the Creator, Developer and Destroyer of the entire universe. It was to enlighten the people about their inner strengths; and draw out the fear ridden folk to make them stand against mayhem and injustice perpetrated by invaders. The advocates of the Bhakti movement succeeded to a considerable extent in uplifting the moral tone of the community and bridging the gap between communities.

Through Guru Nanak, the Bhakti movement became a vehicle of social change. Similarly through Srimanta Sankar Dev the people of Assam stood against the ritualism and other evils of society and brought about a reformation. Guru Nanak and Srimanta Sankar Dev came as God's messengers in the common man's hour of dire need. It was a period of transition from medievalism to modernism. Men of action and men of thought explored the world of matter and spirit. Both these saints revealed the secret of man's spiritual potentiality. At the same time, they accepted the struggles and hardships of life and pioneered a movement of reform in social and religious conduct. The means by which they reformed the dregs of society were argument, conviction and personal example.

The philosophy of the two was nearly the same as can be found out from the Comparative study of the two given below.

Philosophy of Guru Nanak

The philosophy of Guru Nanak is developed on total faith in One God; the Creator, Developer, Saviour and the Assimilator of the entire universe. He defined Him as the One Universal Creator God, whose Name is Truth; He is personified as a Creative Being; fearing and hating none; ever living and never dies. He is self existent hence beyond birth. He can be attained by the grace of the Guru; the enlightener. He is the only Truth; all the rest are transitory because of the nature of change. Beings are caught in the falsehood of maya and aspire to reach the Ultimate Truth. One has to love and please Him by remembering every moment ceaselessly until one is assimilated into Him.

The base of Guru Nanak's philosophy is spiritual and humanistic unity. It builds up the relationship of man with God and on the other of one man with the other. It does not break away from humanism while tuned to spirituality; in fact it leads to spirituality through humanism. His philosophy was original which provided a new direction to the world philosophy. He propagated the unity in One God who is Creator, Preserver, Protector, Developer and Assimilator. There is no reality higher than God who has infinite names. He created the universe of his free will; He orders and sustains it; He governs and rules over it. He is generous and benevolent; He is just and merciful; He loves and forgives. He hears prayers, fulfills requests and leads those who seek his guidance. he inspires and commands, inspires and punishes. he is not only to be contemplated, admired and praised but also to be feared, loved and trusted. For Nanak God is primarily the object of obedience, love, devotion and worship.[7]

Guru Nanak believed that it is the truth and truth alone which must prevail. Being the creator of everyone He is the father of all and we all are the sons of the same father. All are brothers; therefore there should be common brotherhood among all. For Him, all are equal, irrespective of the caste, age, creed or sex. One must be compassionate towards all living beings and serve the humanity considering it to be the service to God. The race, caste, colour, creed, sex, place, religion; all are misnomers and the divisions created by the human beings falsely. Guru Nanak spread the message of universal brotherhood, love and equality. This is how Guru Nanak reasoned out the equality and the relationship of brotherhood of the humanity. Those who were performing according to His Will were performing truthfully. Those who lived on others' labour were the scavengers and not acceptable to God. The scavengers' especially the kings and their courtiers, the qazis, the mullahs and the pundits had created their own fiefdoms against God's Will. They were not following the system of God. Guru Nanak advocated intense love towards God and towards his beings. He believed that loving and serving His beings is the true service to God. He found that a wall of falsehood had been created by these vested interests. They had become the self-appointed interpreters of God. Guru Nanak felt that the wall of falsehood should be broken by following God's order i.e. the natural laws and not the man made laws. The natural laws equate everyone. Guru Nanak propagated this philosophy to kings and slaves, high and low, rich and poor alike. He reached out to all and communicated with the maximum which he could. For this he travelled widely around the globe; met the kings and courtiers, qazis, mullahs, siddhas and pundits, the controllers of states as well as the religious leaders along with the ordinary people. He conveyed to the powerful that they being the creation of the same God as others; are in no way higher and better than others. All have equal right on God; all have equal right to survive and to live peacefully and enjoy their hard labour. They must share rather than snatch. He thus conveyed the message of Truth, Truthful Conduct, Unity of God, brotherhood, service to humanity and peaceful living to all which was instantly accepted by all.

He explained that there was only One God from whom the entire universe originated; and the Order of the same God prevails all over the universe. He is superior to all. To convey his superiority the Guru named God Raja (ruler), Rajan-Raja, Shah, Sultan, Patshah (King), Shahan Shah (Emperor). The Guru saw before his eyes kings defeating kings and devouring their empires. This led to say that Guru was a True King- Sacha Patshah and his empire was everlasting-Nischal Raj.[8] 'My Lord is perfect, His throne is secure-God's palace is beautiful; it is adorned with bright gems, rubies, pearls and diamonds. It is surrounded by a golden fortress and is an abode of pleasure.[9] There is only One Father (God) and we all are His children. Various paths (religions) have been adopted by various people to reach the One and the Same God. Only an expert guide (Guru) can help one understand His Order through His Word.

The duality of Maya dwells in the consciousness of the people of the world.
They are destroyed by sexual desire, anger and egotism. || 1 ||
Whom should I call the second, when there is only the One?
The One Immaculate Lord is pervading among all. || 1 || Pause ||
The dual-minded evil intellect speaks of a second.
One who harbors duality comes and goes and dies. || 2 ||
In the earth and in the sky, I do not see any second.
Among all the women and the men, His Light is shining. || 3 ||
In the lamps of the sun and the moon, I see His Light.
Dwelling among all is my ever-youthful Beloved. || 4 ||
In His Mercy, He attuned my consciousness to the Lord.
The True Guru has led me to understand the One Lord. || 5 ||
The Gurmukh knows the One Immaculate Lord.
Subduing duality, one comes to realize the Word of the Shabad. || 6 ||
The Command of the One Lord prevails throughout all the worlds.
From the One, all have arisen. || 7 ||
There are two routes, but remember that their Lord and Master is only One.
Through the Word of the Guru's Shabad, recognize the Hukam of the Lord's Command. || 8 || He is contained in all forms, colors and minds. Says Nanak, praise the One Lord. || 9 || 5 || (SGGS, p.223)

Those who fight adopting different paths to reach Him are merely engaging in unnecessary controversies. (p.688:13)


To give practical shape to this philosophy of equality of the entire humanity, Guru Nanak started the institutions of sangat (congregation of the holy) and pangat (all having meals together on one platform). He practically tried to remove the differences of caste, creed, high-low etc. [10]

Analyzing the philosophy of Guru Nanak, Dr. Rattan Singh Jaggi wrote: Guru Nanak did not enter into the theories of philosophy. Full of love for God, his soul uttered certain sounds which turned out to be the philosophy of Guru Nanak.[11] Guru Nanak's philosophy can thus be termed as that of love for the God and His creation. It can be considered from three main aspects: (a) God, soul and the universe (maya) (b) Name of God, Guru and the mind (c) Good conduct both religious and social

The entire creation is not dependent on any one else since he created all the world with one word.

All creation is His word manifest. (Japji, 19)
Eko kavao, keeta pasao: Tis te hoi lakh dariao (Japuji, step 16)
All creation emerged from one word; flowing out like a multitude of rivers


The mystery of God's creation is in Maya

Maya, the mythical goddess, Sprang from the one, and her womb brought forth
Three acceptable disciples of the one:
Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva.
Brahma, it is said, bodies forth the world,
Vishnu who sustains; Shiva the destroyer who absorbs;
He controls death and judgment.
God makes them to work as he wills,
He sees them ever, they see Him not;
That of all is the greatest wonder. (Japji, step 30)


The One God who creates also rules over the world. Every one, low and high, seers, angels and gods are his humble servants. He does not belong to a particular caste, creed or class; He belongs to all equally. He created the entire universe single handed and there was no deities to help. The beings are created as per order and function, develop and assimilate as per His orders. The entire universe is in a system, built on Truth and Love, devoid of evil and enmity. It propagated the people to ......

He alone is the Master and the Lord of all. God's Will is all pervasive and absolute.

What He wills He ordains,
To Him no one can give an order:
For He is the king of kings, O Nanak,
As He wills so we must live (Japji, 27)


Sorrow and joy, happiness and misery, success and failure, good and evil, knowledge and ignorance, virtue and vice, liberation and bondage, hell and heaven, all are governed according to the Etrnal writ of God. Everything is preordained and destined by the Master of Destiny

Whatever a man's portion is
God at the creation
Apportioned him that share once and for all. (Japji, 31)


The absoluteness of God's will is emphasized in Nanak's compositions in such strong words that the human will and strong words that the human will and freedom almost pale into insignificance. Ansari 1970, p.9)

God

God's first revelation to Guru Nanak is recorded in Walait Wali Janam Sakhi: Having enlightened in Vein river at Kartarpur, Guru Nanak got his mission clear: "God is the only Truth, God is of and for all: all belong to Him". He was to propagate God's Name in the world. His first reaction was, 'Na ko Hindu na Musalman'; meaning that, 'There is no difference between Hindu or Muslim'; all are created by the One and the same God; hence are brothers.[12]

"On the instructions of God, Nanak Bhagat was presented, a cup of nectar (amrit). He received Order: "Nanak! This nectar is the cup of My Name; Drink it." Guru Nanak bowed and drank the cup. God was very kind, "Nanak, I am with you. I have blessed you. Whosoever takes your name will also be blessed. Go and recite My Name and convince others also to recite. Be unattached with the world and remain with nam, dan, isnan and sewa simran. I have given you my name. You practice this"… "Nanak! Whosoever you bless, my blessing will be on Him as well."[13]

The entire creation is not dependent on any one else since he created all the world with one word. All creation is His Word manifest. (Japji, 19). All creation emerged from one Word; flowing out like a multitude of rivers.

The One God who creates also rules over the world. Every one, low and high, seers, angels and gods are his humble servants. He does not belong to a particular caste, creed or class; He belongs to all equally. He created the entire universe single handed and there was no deities to help. The beings are created as per order and function, develop and assimilate as per His orders. The entire universe is in a system, built on Truth and love, devoid of evil and enmity. He alone is the Master and the Lord of all. God's will is all pervasive and absolute.

What He wills He ordains,
To Him no one can give an order:
For He is the king of kings, O Nanak,
As He wills so we must live (Japji, 27)


Sorrow and joy, happiness and misery, success and failure, good and evil, knowledge and ignorance, virtue and vice, liberation and bondage, hell and heaven, all are governed according to the Etrnal writ of God. Everything is preordained and destined by the Master of Destiny

Whatever a man's portion is God at the creation
Apportioned him that share once and for all. (Japji, 31)


The absoluteness of God's will is emphasized in Nanak's compositions in such strong words that the human will and strong words that the human will and freedom almost pale into insignificance. Ansari 1970, p.9) Guru Nanak's concept of God is that of Truth. He being the only one who created the entire universe has the only true identity (Satnam). He only had been the Truth before ages, during all ages, is a truth now and shall ever remain truth. God's existence, Creation of the universe and its Truth, the basis and purpose of life of human beings and the mystery of life and death, the ethical values; are all explained by him clearly. The existence of God is not a mere dream but factual Truth. He has been, is and will always be true. (Shalok, p.1)

Guru Nanak's belief is that God exists not merely as an idea or concept but as Real Being, indescribable but not knowable. He is invisible as well as visible, un-manifest and manifest. He is prevalent every where and in everything i.e., in His creation. Thus entire universe is His abode. He is settled in it to enjoy His creation. Only those can know the Universe and its parts, who have realised Him through His Word with the guidance of the Guru. His Word can be realised by practicing Truth and self-restraint acting upon Guru's teaching and contemplating over Lord's praises. By Contemplating the True Name, man gets at his own home (man's true home is Lord's abode) and obtains the exalted Lord.

He has created Himself and created a Name too. This is a fact because He neither dies nor is reborn. He is immortal, ever living, beyond life and death and will continue so forever. He fears none as there is none equal to Him and all are His creation and subordinate to Him. They all serve as per His Order and according to His Will. Thus He has no enemy or enmity either. The Lord is Independent, Limitless and Infinite. One can reach Him with His Grace. The fact that Oangkar is preceded by 1 shows that, despite of the many-ness of the revealed world, its oneness is not lost sight of. The Lord who created the universe is the sole Master of all. It is monistic in character, though pluralistic in content. One depicts the unity in invisibility of the God which is visible in the vast multitudes. The entire world belongs to the same God and there is no second. (p.634)

The Oneness of the Originator has brought out the concepts of relationships based on equality, brotherhood, kinship, love and closeness. It also kindles the souls; creates the sense of belongingness and enlightenment for the purpose of setting aims and objectives for the life. The equality and fraternity removes the fear from God and also from His creation. Since all are brethren; there has to be no enmity. The pagan religions were based on fear and a bind against common enemies. Guru Nanak started with reduction of all fears and all enmities between human beings. The permanency of God is depicted by the word Akaal Moorti; The One who never dies or is ever living, hence does not require to pass through various life cycles. He was also self-created. He came into light by His own Will. (p.463) He is in everyone in the form of Light (life). With His light everyone in the universe is lighted. (p.13:5)

Though the God is One and the same for all yet conflicts and fights occur between various faiths because He is not visible and is not rightly understood. He advocated that though God is One but he has innumerable forms. He is both manifest and un-manifest. He is not visible Himself hence is un-manifest; but those with special sight can experience him in His Creation, hence he is manifest as well. (Nirgun Sargun Nirankar). Those who have attained the bliss of God are able to see Him and explain Him like Guru Nanak did. God is within everyone as fragrance abides in the flower and the reflection is within the mirror. The God can never be established or created; the Formless One is limitlessly complete in Himself. (Japuji, p.2)

Faith in God to the exclusion of concern for man has never been the forte of the Guru Nanak. Spiritualism has value, not for God, but for man. If ethico-spiritual is one major theme of the thought-content of Guru Nanak Bani, socio-cultural is the other. Both share a common objective, namely, welfare of man through recitation of God's Name. (p.17)

He is known by different names in different religions. Whether you call Him, Ram, Allah, or by many other of the multitude of names but He is the same God for all. Even Kings and emperors with heaps of wealth and vast dominion cannot compare with an ant filled with the love of God. (p.6:5)

He did not believe in the multiplicity of Gods and denounced the worship of idols. Though he used many names to describe God yet to avoid the impression of acceptance of idols worship, he openly criticized idolism. To know these facts about Him one has to reach the heights of God Himself. Since no one can become as great and high as God, no one can assess, guess or state His value or give out His details. (p.5) One cannot say how much He is beyond all values. (5) No one describe Him. Even if someone describes Him repents later that he has not been described as required. (p.8)

To attain Him one has to obtain His Grace. This needs developing love for Him by continuously remembering Him; meditating on Him. Once He is pleased His Grace can be obtained.

Soul and Mind

The Lord is spread in all his creation in the form of soul (atma). This atma is thus mini-parmatma having all the characteristics of partmatma (the Lord). It does not die and ever lives. It only changes places. It is only salvaged when it gets merged with the creator the true Lord. It cannot find peace away from Him. However unlike the God it has an end. It ends up by getting united with the parmatma. Atma is like rays of sun;the beginning and ending of the rays is the sun. Similarly the beginning and ending of the atma is parmatma. The existence of spirit (atma) cannot be known by naked eye but through realisation. The relationship between the spirit and body is very deep. It comes to the body to acquire good deeds keeping in His Name with it. It gets merged with the Lord as a result of good deeds and continuously keeping a link with the Lord through Name. However if it does not do the good deed and remember the originator it keeps on changing bodies. The mind is the subtle body of the soul. It enjoys the pleasures with the help of sensory outlets. These sensory outlets connect us to the outside world. These sensory outlets are for the purpose of knowing Him through His great Creation and appreciating Him and nature, but these sensory outlets become involved in the worldly pleasures, desire and ego, the maya. A man lost in maya does not care to direct his mind towards tuning to the Lord's Name and remains lost in the world. He thus is unable to get relieved from the circle of life and death.

All the shapes/ forms are created by His Order. By the order of the True Lord the man comes into existence. A human body is obtained due to the good deeds in previous birth. The human life is the best time for the spirit to do good deeds and remember Him. A human only remembers Him if he does good deeds and gets His blessings. With His blessings and order he realises his self and recognises the light of the Lord in the body. The man must recognise the true light. The man lives till he breathes. Breathing and soul too are thus very closely related. The soul enters the body through the breathing and goes out with the breathing. It only lives in the body till the body is breathing. The moment the breathing is stopped, the soul leaves the body. The breath is the life of the body. The functioning of the body stops once the breathing stops. This life and death cycle an end only after the true Guru communicates the True Name.

In Japuji, the breath is called the as the air and is equated with Guru. If there is no air all the life will come to an end. The body is controlled by the mind. To put the body into good deeds the mind must be controlled effectively. Winning of mind and concentrating it to link to the God is the effective control of the mind. Controlling the mind is the only method to win the maya of the world. But this control can only be achieved by the God's Grace. To obtain God's grace the mind must get attached to the True Lord. When God's love becomes the life the man gets truly emancipated and he is not beaten by the worldly attachments. The stage of winning the mind is a very high stage called 'karam khand' in Japuji. Only the true warrior and powerful who can win over their mind can reach there.

The world is a game of nature and mind. We come to know of the world through self-consciousness. Thoughts of 'I' and 'he' give us the knowledge of the world. Mind and nature help us understand through mental faculties, In Indian culture this is called maya.[14]

Guru Nanak has not clearly differentiated the mind from the soul and used the word 'man' for both. Soul has been termed as jot. He has stated that the mind is in light and light has soul in it. The five elements and the five parts of the body i.e., body, pran (breath or energy), the mind, the intellect and the soul are all brothers. (p.879:4) All the beings have got the same intellect/soul. There is no one without the intelect/soul. (p. 24:19) It is the blooming of lotus inside (p.22.1) It is the gem of immeasurable valuable.(p.22:15) . It is ever existent. It is in continuity with the God.

The God is omnipresent. He can only be understood and reached through a true guru. Under true guru's guidance the continuity of the light (soul) can be known naturally (p.55:6) and the one who gets merged in this light never dies. (p.152:7)

The human soul is separated from the main source; the light; the God. The soul is always a part of the God. Being the part of God the human soul has the same characteristics as that of God i.e., it is True, creator of bodies, without fear or enmity etc. All the lights belong to the God and He is the creator of all souls everywhere. He is doer of everything. (p.1022:15) He is also the One in whom all the souls merge.(p.411:16)

It enters the body smoothly like a swan that swims on the water and leaves the body smoothly. (p.139:16) Once one merges one's conscience with super-consciousness, the light merges into light. The meeting of the soul with the God is like Light meeting the Light. (p.21:17)

Relationship of soul gets established with the body through its attachment to ego. Ego too is as per His order. The ego ties up the soul with the activities of the universe and the multitude of creation. Despite the waywardness of the ego; the soul remains attached to the God in the form of light and always tries to pull ego towards the God. However once it is separated from God it goes through the cycles of transmigration, but meets the God in the life of a human being. Soul thus is God again. Mind, ego and intellect are the links between the body and the soul. It is the true light in the mind. The soul is internal pilgrimage.

Mind intellect, ego and heart: all are various forms of nature. Though them the soul as a light helps them. Mind too is a form of light. It is in the heart in the form of a seed. All the continents, constellations and netherworlds are within the body. the life giver God is also within body who takes care of all. The body is always worth living if a Guruward remembers God's name. (p.754)

The importance of mind with relationship to ego, id, intellect, knowledge and thoughts has been explained well. The Naam, the Name of the Lord, is the wealth and support of all; It is enshrined in the heart, by Guru's Grace. One who gathers this imperishable wealth is fulfilled, and through intuitive meditation, is lovingly focused on the Lord. One must focus one's consciousness on devotional worship of the Lord. As Guruward meditate on the Name of the Lord in his heart, and he shall reach lord's home with intuitive ease. He sees God both within and outside and makes no difference within God's creation (p.1127). With the knowledge of the God his intellect is sharpened and he sings the praises of the Lord and bears the garland of Name of the Lord. (p.317). In Bani Siddh Goshti the cause of origin of universe is shown as ego (haumai). Ego was born on the orders of the God and the universe was born out of this ego. This ego could be removed only by remembering God's name. (p.946)

Ego is the base of human life. Even though it was created according to God's Will but it stops the human beings to perform according to His Will. It acts like a satan. The need and importance of ethics originates from this contradiction. When the maya is not conquered, and the mind is not subdued; the waves of desire in the world-ocean act as intoxicating wine. If one is attached to the truth the boat crosses over the water, carrying the true merchandise. The jewel within the mind subdues the mind; attached to the Truth, it is not broken. (p.922)

He considered haumai (ego), kaam, karodh, lobh, moh (sexual lust, anger, greed and attachment to the world) as impediments in meeting God. His concept of 'Sehaj' (Intuitive ease) is probably unique to Sikhism. "Sehaj" may be called a state of mind that determines how one acts and deals with any situation. This state can only be achieved when one believes that in the ultimate analysis what ever happens is the Will of God and one's responsibility is to take the right steps in a calm and peaceful manner in harmony with the environment.

Guru Nanak believed in unity of God and universe. One must not get attracted to the glare of maya and waste his life in mayajaal and get entrapped in to the life cycles. To attain salvation one has to get rid of this mayaja:l and the life cycles. Guru Nanak preached the ideal of salvation known as jivan-mukti which is composed of two components-'jivan' (life) and 'mukti' (emancipation). It refers to the highest spiritual state of the individual, in tune with the Ultimate and at peace with human society. One, who attains to such a state of liberation in his or her lifetime, is called jivan-mukta. One has not to die for attaining salvation. One can attain salvation while living. Guru Nanak advocated the love for God and his beings from the core of the heart and compared God to the beloved and says God is in the heart of every individual. Nanak had belief in a personal and merciful God. The mind when attached to desires and maya, speaks of good and evil. Intoxicated in wine of maya none can get satisfied. Only the True mind can achieve salvation and satisfaction. (p.832:2)

Universe and Maya

God is the creator of the entire universe. God created the universe out of nothingness. (p.1035) This nothingness was actually the concentration of energy which spread on His orders making different forms through matter. It is continuously spreading; though remaining the same in quantity. His creation is certainly a wonder; not understandable by an ordinary being. The mystery of God's creation is in Maya.

Maya, the mythical goddess, Sprang from the one,
and her womb brought forth
Three acceptable disciples of the one:
Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva.
Brahma, it is said, bodies forth the world,
Vishnu who sustains; Shiva the destroyer who absorbs;
He controls death and judgment.
God makes them to work as he wills,
He sees them ever, they see Him not;
That of all is the greatest wonder. (Japji, step 30)


He created the universe by sounding His order. The matter is a creation out of five elements with the three qualities of rajas, tamas and satav. These three qualities are the creation of the God and emerge out of Him and assimilate into Him on His order. The entire nature is the part of God which he created for His play is maya with which he created the entire universe. The universe was created in ego but it will die when it forgets God's Name (p.946:3)

God fashioned the world by creating human maya in various colours and kinds. The colours and kinds are many and varied. Whatever is seen or heard is in the order of Nature; so is the consciousness of fear and comfort. The nether regions, the heavens, and all the forms in creation came in the course of Nature; so did the Vedas, the Puranas, the Western Books, and all the ways of thought, and all the ways of eating, drinking, dressing, and all the ways of love. Nature prevails in the animal kingdom, its species, genera and colours. It works in the virtues and evils of men, in their feelings and honour and dishonour; it works everywhere. The Lord is the Master of the Nature: He Himself knows his nature and does everything Himself. His ways are inscrutable. He watches all the nature in a glance from within because He lives in the nature itself in the form of light. His light is in all orders of beings and all orders are in His light. He fills all things by an art that is artless. He distribution is thus most fair. He works most intelligently in planning, organising, directing and controlling the nature. It is all His power; his energy behind all the creation. By His Power we see, by His Power we hear; by His Power we have fear, and the essence of happiness. By His Power the nether worlds exist, and the Akashic ethers; by His Power the entire creation exists. By His Power the Vedas and the Puranas exist, and the Holy Scriptures of the Jewish, Christian and Islamic religions. By His Power all deliberations exist. By His Power we eat, drink and dress; by His Power all love exists. By His Power come the species of all kinds and colors; by His Power the living beings of the world exist. By His Power virtues exist, and by His Power vices exist. By His Power come honor and dishonor. By His Power wind, water and fire exist; by His Power earth and dust exist. (p.463)

However it is extremely difficult to explain its nature. One gets wonder struck at the site of it. Wonderful is the sound current of the naad, wonderful is the knowledge of the Vedas. Wonderful are the beings, wonderful are the species. Wonderful are the forms, wonderful are the colors. Wonderful are the beings who wander around naked. Wonderful is the wind, wonderful is the water. Wonderful is fire, which works wonders. Wonderful is the earth, wonderful the sources of creation. Wonderful are the tastes to which mortals are attached. Wonderful is union, and wonderful is separation. Wonderful is hunger, wonderful is satisfaction. Wonderful is His Praise, wonderful is His adoration. Wonderful is the wilderness, wonderful is the path. Wonderful is closeness, wonderful is distance. How wonderful to behold the Lord, ever-present here. (p.464) Guru Nanak further says: Beholding His wonders, I am wonder-struck. Those who understand this are blessed with perfect destiny. (p.464)

The strangeness of nature becomes the cause of wonder of a human being and he sings praises of the God and in a sudden desire to meet Him he gets restless. The existence of One Creaor God is the Truth of spirituality of Guru Nanak hymns. The truth gained through experience is larger than the one perceived through various theories. According to Guru Nanak, the existence of God and His universe is always Truth. The reality of One God is the Truth of experience of Guru Nanak. The knowledge of experience is the lifelong truth and far better than the theoretical scientific knowledge. This trurth is beyond change as it is the permanent truth. According to Guru Nanak the existence of God and His creation both are the Truth since the entire creation is created by Him. (p.294)

Guru Nanak's hymns achieve their aim by depicting the uniqueness of nature and making the human being to wonder and sing praises in honour of the God are extremely eager. The entire universe was created on His Order. (p.3)) There is no other power than that of the Lord. All the five elements originated from Him. He creates by joining various elements and then destroys these by separating these elements. It is a play of the God created by Him like a dream. (p.18) He alone is the Cause and Effect of creation of the universe. He alone is doing everything since he is prevalent everywhere. No one can explain His creative activity. (p.37)

Guru Nanak further says: Everything is in Your Power, Lord; You are the all-powerful Creator. Your Name is the Holiest of the Holy. Through Your Command You behold and pervade the creation. Everything is under your order and everything is being watched by You. (p.464)

He Himself creates and fashions the world, and He Himself keeps it in order. Having created the beings within it, He oversees their birth and death. Unto whom should we say anything when He Himself is all-in-all? (p.475:7-9) One who merges his form into the Formless Lord, abides in the True Lord, the Powerful, beyond power. Such a person does not enter into the cycle of transmigration again. (p.414:18)

Life has been described as a combination of mind and matter. As a result of this combination being comes into existence and it goes on changing until dissolution takes place.[15] However God's reflection remains in everything whatever exists in the world. Guru Nanak has rightly attributed it as 'Jag tiski chhaya.'[16]

God Realization and Recitation of Name of God (Nam Simran)

Guru Nanak considered God-realization as the chief objective of human life. The human body is the only medium, through which this objective can be fulfilled. The qualities or virtues form the foundation on which the spiritual edifice can be raised. With these qualities, the self shines like a mirror, in which the Higher Soul manifests itself. The selfless action, devotion and knowledge put us on the right pathway, because the Grace of the God begins at the very outset and the resultant is God-realization. The Guru gives us knowledge; the word given by him creates devotion and the selfless action. By the Grace of the God, we meet the Guru and the Grace of the Guru we meet the God. The state of God realisation is known as sahaj. It is also known as chautha pad (the Fourth State) and the param pad or the supreme state. It is called the Fourth State because it is beyond the other three states of awakening (Jagrit), dream (swapan) and dreamless sleep (sushupti). It is also beyond the three qualities of Rajas, Tamas and Satva, which are the constituents of Maya. There are some obstacles in the way of God-realisation and the remembrance of the Name of the Lord. These obstacles are illness, worldly thoughts, sleep and power to perform miracles. The Guru has cautioned the disciples about these ills. The Union of the soul and the Higher Soul is known as Yoga in Indian Philosophy. The Yoga as propagated by Guru Nanak is the Sahaj Yoga. Guru Nanak preached meditation on God with total devotion and love. Self control and word recitation are the keys to it. (p.8)

Through the guidance of the Guru one can experience the sight of the God and even reach the realm of Truth. Before this one has to do character building, self control, knowledge acquisition, self realization and thereafter meditate on God relentlessly from every pore of one's body, and receives the Word; the name of the God in reality. Experience is the base of self knowledge.

Guru Nanak had the experience from his childhood. He was a mystic from an early age and a searcher of truth. Through devotion to God and meditation, he achieved union with God, the ultimate reality. Guru Nanak's spiritual destiny seemed to have started after he disappeared for three days as he went for a morning bath and meditation in the Vein River close to Sultanpur Lodhi. People of the town presumed him to be dead, but he appeared uttering the words "Na koi Hindu na Musalman". It was a depiction of the philosophy that the entire humanity is the creation of the One and the only One God. All are brothers and sisters. All religions are meant for propagating One God though they have different methodologies to reach Him. He prescribed the path of nam simran while at home since God is everywhere. He did not approve of doing penance in jungles or remote places. God can be found at any place; one has not to go searching for him in jungles etc. He also emphasized earning livelihood by right means and sharing it with the less fortunate. Guru Nanak in his bani lays out the principals of right social and spiritual conduct instead of writing rigid rules. Thus his message is timeless and adaptable to different environments.

Guru

The one who has known the God is the true guru. The follower is exalted with him, and sings the attributes of the God. If one has no Guru, one wanders in pitch darkness; the understanding of the truth is not obtained without the Sabd from the Guru. (p.55:15)

The light which is in everything is Yours, O Lord of Light.'
From its brilliancy everything is brilliant;
By the Gur's teaching the light becomes manifest
What pleases You is gteh real worship.
Sohila Rag Dhanasri)


The True Guru is the one who teaches the Sabd. He teaches that without the Sabd, the God, the True One, there is no one else at all. Through Him, the Sabd is enshrined within the mind. One who dies while yet alive, and contemplates the Guru's Sabd, is rid of this filth of ego. By meeting the Perfect True Guru, one obtains the Treasure of the Sabd as only the true Guru tells us the Sabd. Guru's Sabd is Ambrosial Nectar. It banishes all hunger and thirst.

What do we achieve by getting the true Sabd from a true Guru? Serving the True Guru, the mind becomes humble forever, egotism is subdued, and the heart-lotus blossoms forth. The True Guru then blesses his follower with the True Word. Once the Guru grants the gift of the Sabd; one must contemplate and reflect upon it. (p. 843: 11)

By realizing the Guru's Sabd, one meditates on Nam, reaches the Sach Khand; the True Mansion of the God and enjoys being in His Presence. Guru thus helps the departed to meet the God and to reside in the God's presence.(p.957) Without serving the True Guru, the gurmukh is not blessed with the Sabd (p. 946:8); the Nam cannot be found; meditation is not possible; and one cannot be liberated. (p.946:8

The one who does not realize the Guru's Sabd remains in the cycle of life and death. Thus the Sabd is itself the Guru, upon whom one should lovingly focus consciousness. The mind is the disciple of Sabd. (p.943:11)

The Guru's Sabd is eternal and unchanging it must abide in the mind. Through it, one merges in the True Lord. The mind is naturally attracted towards evil; it is stopped from this evil from Guru's Sabd. The Gurmukh practices the Sabd, and the Lord comes to dwell within the mind. One must meditate on the God's word to find peace. Those who subdue their minds, through the Guru's Sabd, are absorbed in God. One cannot comprehend Him through reason, even if one reasoned for ages. (japuji, p.1) Without a Guru none can cross over to the other shore and be in comfort.. (p.20:3)

He who shows the real home in this body is the Guru. He makes the five sounded word reverberate in man. Whoever, styling himself as a teacher lives on the charity of others, is not worth bowing. He who earns his livelihood by the sweat of hard labour and shares it with others is the true person. He considers the word as the Guru and the Guru as the Word, as all the nectar is enshrined in the word. Blessed is the word which reveals the Lord's Name. The more blessed is the one who reach Him by the Guru's grace.

Good Conduct

Fundamental of every religion is good conduct. Religion assists the human beings to live better and together as a brotherhood and to have no enmity. Religion is not for creating barriers and differences. The religion which creates dissensions is not God's religion but a shop of self seekers. The Hindus and Islamic rituals and rites were being enforced by brahmins and mullahs as means for living dubiously; they were earning by cheating others by feeding myth. He criticized these and proved their worthlessness giving practical examples.

Guru Nanak endeavored to remove the cloud of ignorance and superstitions from the minds of people. He had faith that all the beings are equal and the truth and purity is the common religion for all. One must be pure in thought and have good conduct as it is higher than the Truth itself. (p.62:12) One must follow Guru's teachings and adopt path of austerity and honesty; leading simple life. One should not be scared of anything but must keep on performing good deeds. Guru Nanak was bold in condemning social evils and described the right practical path through examples.

Religion is to provide path to the followers to reach God. No religion is of any worth if it does not help reaching the God. In this I-Thou relationship of love between man and God, the pole of human love is expressed in terms of loving devotion, and the other pole, of God's love for man, in terms of his Grace. On one side is bhakti or loving devotion; on the other side is moral act. Both are complementary to each other; both taken together constitute the make-up of ideal person of the Guru's conception. Guru Nanak's baani: commends the blending of simran and voluntary service to humanity called sewa; both are essential for a balanced life.

He said: no particular place is more sacred, all places and every being are equally sacred. This way he introduced the concept of tolerance and respect for all religions. He propagated equality and respect for women as well. Until Guru Nanak appeared, prevailing religious theory considered women temptresses and treated as subhuman. The Almighty would judge one only on the basis of one's actions; therefore, Nanak's teachings were to be practiced in deed more importantly than in word. Guru Nanak went beyond only preaching such concepts. Equality, tolerance, and respect for all were commanded not just in word but were incorporated into daily practice.

In this I-Thou relationship of love between man and God, the pole of human love is expressed in terms of loving devotion, and the other pole, of God's love for man, in terms of his Grace. On one side is bhakti or loving devotion; on the other side is moral act. Both are complementary to each other; both taken together constitute the make-up of ideal person of the Guru's conception. Guru Nanak's bani: commends the blending of simran and voluntary service to humanity called sewa; both are essential for a balanced life.

Guru Nanak's philosophy can be summarized [17] as under:

God is the only Creator of the entire universe and none else. Only God's order is prevalent everywhere and no else. (p.223:1, 223:7).He only is worth worshipping; no one else; other gods or idols are not to be worshipped. Human light is part of the Eternal Light. Merging back into the same light is the only purpose of life of human beings. (p.222). The Eternal Truth can only be attained by destroying ego and understanding God's Order. To act according to His Will is the only true way of life.. To move on the above path one has to recite God's Name. (Naam Simran). Through regular recitation only one can create the environment for acceptance of God's Will. One must serve the humanity and attach the mind to the God. (p.222) Only a Guru can guide one on this path and become a true model. On his guided path one can unite with the God. For Sikhs this Guru is the Sabd Guru now. (p.635) Man is a social being; for him a good company helps immensely in life change. Guru Nanak stressed on the need of the company of the holy. It is a congregation where the holymen get together and discuss Guru's Word and perform kirtan.(p.72)

World is a place of work for the human beings. To be work oriented is the right way of life. Escapism is not the right attitude.(p.1245) To get rid of attachments to maya is essential. One must live attached to God even in the world thereby he can save himself from the attachment to maya. (p.226:7). He propagated good conduct. The essence of good conduct is acquisition of goodness and shunning from evil. (p.418, p.766) Worshipping gods and idols, casteism, ritualistic baths, heaven and hell, purity and impurity, fasts, good and bad omens, mantra and jantras etc., are all must be shunned. Combining knowledge, effort and meditation, he created Nam Marg a common path for all. He combined knowledge and practice and preferred meditation with love.[18]

One must not desert the world. One must live in the world and take part in the religious and social development and act towards service of the people.[p.26]

But one must live in the world without getting attached as a lotus or duck remains unattached from the water. [p.938] While living a social life one must work towards welfare of all. [p.661]

Special characteristics of Guru Nanak's philosophy are meditation with love of God and sacrificing the self oriented meditation. He propagated Nam Japna (Reciting God's Name), Kirt Karna (earning through hard labour) and Vand Chhaka (sharing with needy).

It was the intensity and depth of Guru Nanak's message, fortified and consolidated by successor Gurus that served as an edifice on which the super-structure of Sikhism was built. Guru Nanak's genius lay specifically in integrating the contemporary Bhakti-Sufi tradition of spiritual quest with the social milieu in the totality of the medieval Indian life. His followers, called 'Sikhs', formed a group of God-fearing men and women devoted to the service of the people. He laid down simple rules of conduct through which man could lead a humane and meaningful life and find his own fulfillment. His life is an inspiring example of the practice of truth, love and humility. His primary message to society was recorded to be "devotion of thought and excellence of conduct as the first of duties".

His religion was a people's movement based on modern conceptions of secularism and socialism, a common brotherhood of all human beings. Like Rousseau, Nanak felt 250 years earlier that it was the common people who made up the human race They had always toiled and tussled for princes, priests and politicians. What did not concern the common people was hardly worth considering.

Nanak's work, to begin with, assumed the form of an agrarian movement. His teachings were purely in Punjabi language mostly spoken by cultivators. They appealed to the downtrodden and the oppressed peasants and petty traders as they were grinded down between the two mill stones of Government tyranny and the new Muslims' brutality. Nanak's f aith was simple and sublime. It was the life lived. His religion was not a system of philosophy like Hinduism. It was a discipline, a way of life, a force, which connected one Sikh with another as well as with the Guru.

"In Nanak's time, Indian society was based on caste and was divided into countless watertight compartments. Men were considered high and low on account of their birth and not according to their deeds. Equality of human beings was a dream. There was no spirit of national unity except feelings of community fellowship. In Nanak's views, men's love of God was the criterion to judge whether a person was good or bad, high or low. As the caste system was not based on divine love, he condemned it. Nanak aimed at creating a casteless and classless society similar to the modern type of socialist society in which all were equal and where one member did not exploit the other.

Nanak insisted that every Sikh house should serve as a place of love and devotion, a true guest house (Sachi dharamshala). Every Sikh was enjoined to welcome a traveller or a needy person and to share his meals and other comforts with him. "Guru Nanak aimed at uplifting the individual as well as building a nation". Guru Nanak's hymns are compiled in 'Sri Guru Granth Sahib, the supreme Sikh scripture.'

The base of Guru Nanak's philosophy is spiritual and humanistic unity. It builds up the relationship of man with God and on the other of one man with the other. It does not break away from humanism while tuned to spirituality; in fact it leads to spirituality through humanism. His philosophy was original which provided a new direction to the world philosophy. He propagated the unity in One God who is Creator, Preserver, Protector, Developer and Assimilator. There is no reality higher than God who has infinite names. He created the universe of his free will; He orders and sustains it; He governs and rules over it. He is generous and benevolent; He is just and merciful; He loves and forgives. He hears prayers, fulfills requests and leads those who seek his guidance. He inspires and commands, inspires and punishes. he is not only to be contemplated, admired and praised but also to be feared, loved and trusted. For Nanak God is primarily the object of obedience, love, devotion and worship.[19]

Guru Nanak profoundly influenced the history of Punjab. For Sikhs and Hindus, he was a Prophet who gave to the world the gospel of love, goodwill and reconciliation. Dr H.R. Gupta, the well-known historian, writes, "Nanak's religion consisted in the love of God, love of man and love of godly living. His religion was above the limits of caste, creed and country. He gave his love to all, Hindus, Muslims" [20]

Srimanta Sankar Dev

Srimanta Sankardev [21] (1449-1568) was a saint-scholar, poet, playwright, social-religious reformer and a figure of importance in the cultural and religious history of Assam. He is widely credited with building on past cultural relics and devising new forms of music, theatrical performance, dance and a literary language. He also trans-created scriptures like Bhagvat of Shankardeva and poetry and theological works written in Sanskrit, Assamese and Brajavali, a laguage he found. He started Eksarana Dharma and started it as a Neo-Vaishnavite movement. [22] He influenced both the Koch and the Ahom; the two medieval kingdoms. He started assemblies of devotees and initiated Sattras as socio-religious institutions which covered not only Assam but later spread to North Bengal. Sankardev led the Bhakti movememtn in Assam just as Guru Nanak, Ramananda, kabir and Chaitanya Mahaprabhu inspired it elsewhere in India.[23] His literary and artistic contributions are living traditions in Assam today. The religion he preached is practised by a large population, and Sattras (monasteries) that he and his followers established continue to flourish and sustain his legacy.

Philosophy of Srimanta Shankar Dev

Sankardev like Guru Nanak preaches devotion to a single God (ekasarana), who can be worshipped solely by uttering His various names (naam). In contrast to other bhakti forms, ekasarana follows the dasya attitude (a slave to God). Moreover, unlike the 'Gaudiya Vaishnavism' of Bengal, Radha is not worshiped along with Krishna. In uttering the name of God, Hari, Rama, Narayana and Krishna are most often used. He started a system of initiation (Sarana) into his religion. He caused a huge Social revolution by fighting against anti-social elements like casteism prevailing at that time. He initiated people of all castes and religions, including Muslims. After initiation, the devotee is expected to adhere to the religious tenets of Ekasarana. He lived a family life but took upon long travels up to 12 years to various religious centres in India. The people who practice his religion are called variously as Mahapurushia, Sarania or Sankari. A major characteristic of Srimanta Sankaradeva's philosophy is that it preaches equality of the Nirguna Brahma and Saguna Iswara. He says this categorically in a verse of his magnum opus Kirtana-ghoshâ,

Srimanta Sankaradeva's is an integral philosophy as it contains elements from different perspectives. It became possible only because he had an integral view of life. He even went beyond monotheism when he equated Brahma and Iswara. It is significant that he paid obeisance to the Eternal Entity in the form of Brahma at the very outset of his book Kirtana-ghoshâ. His philosophy could facilitate a journey from the gross to the subtle for the devotee as it covers ideas ranging from dualism to monism. It stresses on spiritual evolution of the devotee. Evolution is an important theme in Srimanta Sankaradeva's writings. In fact he started his Kirtana-ghoshâ with descriptions of the incarnations of

Comparative table showing salient-points of life of Guru Nanak Dev and Srimanta Sankar Dev:

TableCompare (204K)


Dr Borkakoti, gives the key features of philosophy of Srimanta Sankardeva in his book Mahapursha Srimanta Sankaradeva, 2005, as under:

1. Sat Sangat: 'He derived the concept of sat sang (holy company)…. he enjoined upon all people in all books to have company of such persons, who were pious and devoted to God. Good company elevates one, while bad company pulls one down from meritorious life. (p.29)

2. High moral character: People of high moral character have tremendous will power, whereby they can inculcate good values in others. (p.29)

3. Glorifying God's Name: God's Name is nothing but His own representative. It makes Him available to the devotee. One can elevate on the ladder of spirituality by chanting God's Name religiously. Chanting His Name arouses the dormant spirituality in one. God's Name dispels ignorance and cuts asunder the bonds of attachment to the worldly life and things. Incessant chanting His Name creates an atmosphere of purity and sacredness wherein dawn in the devotee. (p.29)

4. Absolute self surrender to God: One should dedicate everything belonging to one to the Almighty God and submit oneself at the same time at his disposal. God then takes the entire responsibility of the devotee. (p.30)

5. Actually it is God's Will only that prevails. The self surrender enables the seekers of to understand that.

6. Elimination of Ego: The devotee also becomes capable of getting over his ego, which is a great handicap in the path of spiritual development. The perfect devotee should not have even an iota of ego as it keeps him away from God. (p.30)

7. Man as a tool in God's hands: He should consider himself as a mere tool in the hands of God. (p.30)

8. Importance of pious company, chanting the God's Name and absolute surrender to God: Such an orientation in the devotee's attitude can be possible only when he follows the triple advice of - pious company, chanting the God's Name and absolute surrender to God. (p.30)

9. Original View: He proffered an original view of his own and only substantiated that with materials from other sources. (p.30)

10. Ek Sarna: His main idea was that of Ek Sarna (p.30)

11. Bhakti Yoga: He ignored many other ideas incorporated in Sri Madbhagwat Geeta i.e., worship of deities, Yagna and various types of Yogas. He believed only in Bhakti yoga. (p. 30)

12. Importance of God, God's Name, Bhakta and Guru: Srimanta Samkardevea talked about three basic needs for the devotees. These were Deva (God), Naam (Name of God) and Bhakta (devotee) with the fourth requisite of the Guru (preceptor) incorporated later. he set an ideal example of devotion and loyalty to his preceptor in order to drive example of devotion and loyalty to his preceptor in order to drive home the importance of Guru-sewa 9servic to preceptor) in the path of devotion.

13. Knowledge of self: Enlightenment by knowledge of the self together with pure devotion to the Supreme God. (p.31)

14. Sadhna methods: Concept of surrender and the chanting of God's name as the main mode of Sadhna. (p.32)

God, God's Name, Bhakta, Guru, Good Conduct, Sat Sangat, Knowledge of Self, Absolute Surrender to God's Will etc., are all exactly the same as Guru Nanak has philosophized and propagated. Chanting the God's Name was Guru Nanak's main mode of Bhakti as well.

The salient points found in Srimata Sankradeva's extensive writings, which have philosophical bearing and summarized in the book Mahapursha Srimanta Sankradeva by Dr Sanjib Kumar Borkakoti, 2005, p.32 [40] are as under:

1. Brahma is the Supreme Truth.
2. Brahma and Iswara (God) are the same.
3. Brahma or Iswara is there in everything.
4. Iswara and His creations are not different.
5. Jivas (creature) is a component of God. The former constitutes the body of the latter.
6. The creation is temporary, but not exactly unreal as it is projection of God. So it cannot be ignored.
7. Maya (illusion) is an act of God and its influence can be avoided by the grace of God.
8. One becomes God as one realizes the identity of God and the five elements.

A Comparative of the above salient points of Srimanta Sankar Deva with Guru Nanak's philosophy

TableCompare1 (231K)


From the two comparisons carried out above, there appears to be no difference between the philosophy of Guru Nanak and Srimanta Sankar Deva. This could only be so if one has imparted or discussed his philosophy with the other and impressed with his thought process. It clearly indicates that they have met each other at one place or the other. It may be either outside Kamroop or Assam or in Kamroop or Assam itself. Dr Kohli mentions the meeting point as Dhubri. to this point Dr Sanjib Kumar Borkakoti, Mahapurusha Srimanta Sankaradeva and Guru Nanak: in his 'A Comparative Study' does not agrees and states that:

"Similarities in the ideologies of both the saints make us strongly feel that they met each other, even though the hagiographies of both the saints are silent on it. Such a meeting was certainly possible because Guru Nanak visited Assam in 1505. He went also to Sadiya and then upto Itanagar in Arunachal Pradesh during that visit. A meeting between the two saints took place in this visit although it was not recorded in the hagiographies. Another earlier meeting was also possible during Srimanta Sankaradeva's first pilgrimage in 1481-1493 when Guru Nanak was in the age period 12-24 years. The fact that the Sikh Guru entered seriously into the realm of spiritualism almost after this time is a significant fact. May be that was why Guru Nanak came here in 1505 to meet Srimanta Sankaradeva again. This needs further research. The Sikhs of Assam firmly believe that such a meeting actually took place. It is also believed that the two saints discussed the way to counter the Tantric cult, which had led to moral decay in the society. The place of the meeting is generally believed by them to be Damdama Sahib at Dhubri, which we do not find tenable as Srimanta Sankaradeva was staying at Bardowa at that time, busy with guiding his disciples, creating literary and cultural outputs, as well as managing the Bhuyan kingdom. He was also settling down with his second wife Kalindi, whom he had married two years ago in 1503. Moreover in the medieval period inter-kingdom journey was few and far between; in the case of a stalwart and erstwhile ruler (Shiromani Bhuyan) like Srimanta Sankaradeva every major movement was certain to be duly recorded, Dhubri and Bardowa coming under separate kingdoms in those times. So the place of the meeting between the two saints was certainly Bardowa".

The period of this meeting taken by Borkakoti is 1505, but this researcher found the possibility of Guru Nanak visiting the area between1515-1517 AD during his third itinerary to Himalayas and beyond. During this period, Srimanta Sankardev had settled at Majuli near Dibrugarh-Sibsagar area and he had established good relations with Ahom Kings, with his son-in-law having been appointed in Ahom court. The indications received by this researcher during his travels to Assam are that the meeting place was either at the Ahom capital or near it. Nazira, the earlier capital of Ahom Kings and the place claimed by the locals there to be the place of discussions of Guru Nanak and Srimanta Sankar Dev appears to be the reasonable claim. Srimant Sankar Dev and Guru Nanak would have travelled this part of Assam including Saidya and Parsu Ram Kund together for considerable exchange of thought. This theory and the new evidence thus need to be studied further.


References

[1] Tarlochan Singh (Dr.), 1972, Jeevan Charitar Guru Nanak Dev Ji, Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Board, Delhi, p.173
[2] Surinder Singh Kohli (Dr), 1997, Travels of Guru Nanak, Punjab University, Chandigarh, 3rd Edition, p.46-47
[3] Arjan Singh Mann (Dr), 1959, Guru Tegh Bahadur and Assam Pradesh, p.92
[4] op cit
[5] Mann, pp.92-94
[6] Suniti Kumar Chatterji (Dr), 1954, 'The place of Assam in History and Civilisation of India"
[7] Ansari A.H. (Dr), 1970, Guru Nanak's View of God, The Sikh Review, Vol. XVIIII, No. 197, Feb-Mar, p.8)
[8] Sher Singh, Philosophy of Sikhism, SGPC, Sri Amritsar, 1944 (Aug 2003), p.176
[9] SGGS, M.1., p. 262.
[10] Gurwinder Kaur (Dr.), Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji de tatt-Mi:ma:nsk Sankalp, Aka:l Purukh, Srishti: ate Ji:v Atma:, Gurmati Parka:sh, 10 Feb 2008.
[11] Rattan Singh Jaggi: (Dr.), Guru Nanak di: Vicha:rdha:ra:, p. 113
[12] Janamsakhi Prampra, Walait Wali Janam Sakhi, Karpal Singh Punjabi University Patiala, Dec1969, p.9
[13] ibid
[14] Sardul Singh Kaveeshar, Sikh Dharam Darshan, Punjabi Univresity Patiala, 2nd Edn, 1981, p. 119
[15] Shamsher Singh Puri, Sikh Philosophy and Spiritual Life, National Book Shop, 1999, p.15.
[16] SGGS, M.1, 1038:14
[17] Piara Singh Padam, Sri Guru Granth Sahib- Sidhantak Vichardhara:, Gurmati Parkash, 10 February 2008.
[18] Op cit.
[19] A.H.Ansari (Dr.), 1970, Guru Nanak's View of God, The Sikh Review, Vol. XVIIII, No. 197, Feb-mar 1970, p.8)
[20] H.R. Gupta (Dr.)
[21] P. 372 Religious History of Arunachal Pradesh edited by Byomakesh Tripathy, Sristidhar Dutta
[22] Neog, Maheshwar (1980), Early Hisgtory of the Vaishnava Faith and Movement in Assam Delhi: Motilal Banarasidass.ISBN 9788120800076, p.2
[23] Neog, 1980, p. 3
[24] Neog, 1980, p. 101f
[25] Neog, 1980, p. 102
[26] Kirttna Ghosha-Translations Retrieved 27 October 2012.
[27] The name is spelt variously as Sankardev, Sankardeva and Sankaradeva.
[28] Sankardev's Religion-Mahapurusism retrieved 27 October 2012.
[29] Byomakesh Tripathy 7 Sristidhar Dutta, Religious History of Arunachal Pradesh edited by, P. 372
[30] Neog, 1980, p. 2)
[31] Neog, 1980, p. 3)
[32] Neog, 1980, pp. 22-24)
[33] Neog, 1980. p. 4)
[34] Sarma, 1990, p. 38)
[35] Neog, 1980, p. 101)
[36] Neog, 1980 The traditional date of Sankardev's birth, generally considered correct, is in the month of Ashwin-Kartika (October) 1449 (p. 98) Assuming the middle of October as his birthdate in that year, his life span was 118 years, 10 months and a few days(p. 100).
[37] Neog, 1980, p. 101
[38] Neog, 1980, p. 101f
[39] Neog, 1980, p. 67
[40] Neog, 1980, p. 102)
[41] Neog, 1980, pp. 102-103)
[42] Barman, Sivnath (1999), An Unsung Colossus: An Introduction to the Life and Works of Sankardev, Guwahati: Forum for Sankardev Studies
Barman 1999, p. 120)
[43] Neog, 1980, p. 69)
[44] Sarma, S N (1966). The Neo-Vaisnavite Movement and the Satra Institution of Assam. Gauhati University. "Ere long, the inroads of the Bhutanese and the Koches compelled them to shift their residence to Dhuwahat-Belaguri, where the Ahom monarch settled them with land and estate." (p. 13)
[45] Barman 1999, p. 12)
[46] Neog, 1980, The early biographers are silent on Cihna-yatra. Katha-guru-carita and Borduwa-carita, both late biographies, say Cihna-yatra was performed after Sankardev's first pilgrimage; only Ramcaran says Sankardev arranged it when he was 19 years old, which is unlikely according to maheshwar Neog, p. 107.
[47] Borkakoti, Sanjib Kumar, 2005, p.17 Mahapurusha Srimanta Sankaradeva, Guwahati: Bani Mandir "But Bhuban Chandra Bhuyan, Dr. Sanjib Kumar Borkakoti etc have opined that Cihna yatra was enacted before the pilgrimage, to be precise in 1468 AD".
[48] Neog, 1980, p. 108)
[49] Neog, 1980, pp. 108-109)
[50] Sarma, S N, 1966, The Neo-Vaisnavite Movement and the Satra Institution of Assam. Gauhati University. (Barakokti, 2006, p. 23)
[51] Sarma , 1966, "It is not know from biographical or contemporary literature of the period whether the sattra of Sankardev besides containing the prayer-hall and the shrine did really contain the system of cari-hati like that of later-day sattras". 1966, p. 105
[52} Neof, 1980, It may be recalled (Daityari, Katha-guru-carit) that in Sankardev's days, the daily sittings...were held in the open or under shades of trees", p. 312
[53] Sarma 1966, p. 93)

Bibliography

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  • Internet
  • University of Gauhati, 1953, Dr B Kakati Commemoration Volume etrieved 30 May 2013.
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  • Wikipedia

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