“I am neither a child, a young man, nor an ancient; nor am I of any caste.”
In a world fraught with hostilities and wars, violence and annihilation, enmity and corruption, the maxim of peace often seems to be an unachievable dream. Whereas organizations like the United Nations are striving towards spreading the message of universal brotherhood globally on the one hand, saboteurs are bent on decimating the very existence of human beings on the other. Amidst all such atrocities, what comes as a decree of peace and love are the words of such benevolent spiritual leaders like Guru Nanak Ji, whose preaching proves to be more relevant than ever, even after five centuries of his birth.
Guru Nanak Dev, the founder of the Sikh religion, was born in Lahore, Pakistan in 1469. His birth anniversary is celebrated the world over as Guru Nanak Jayanti or simply Gurpurab, which embraces a day-long celebration to pay tribute to this great teacher. Revered as the messiah of peace, Guru Nanak is worshipped by not only the Sikh community, but has, over time, spread beyond boundaries and narrow sectarianism to include various other communities including Sindhis and Hindu Punjabis. The celebrations commence with the early morning processions known as “Prabhat Pheris”, which witness throngs of devotees accompanying the palanquin possessing the holy book of the Sikhs, The Holy Guru Granth Sahib, and the Sikh flag hoisted high. Sacred songs preaching the words of the Guru permeate the crisp morning air as the followers assemble at Gurudwaras or the holy places of worship to offer their prayers and be a part of the ‘Langar’ or distribution of food to the gathering.
550 years after the birth of the honoured Guru, his teachings of peace and brotherhood seem to ring in our ears even more. No wonder on the eve of 550th birth anniversary, the whole world is geared up to celebrate his birthday through recitals of hymns and preaching his tenets. The Indian Government has decreed a year-long celebration termed as ‘Universal Brotherhood Year’ wherein the messages by the Founder as well as the other Sikh Gurus will be preached throughout the globe through various small organizations deputed for the same.
Not only in the genre of peace and brotherhood, but Guru Nanak was also a benevolent leader who believed in doing social good as the best and perhaps the only path to salvation. The gospel of ‘Saccha Sauda’ or doing good for the needy and deprived till the time one is capable of helping out is the need of the hour. As William Penn rightly quotes, “I expect to pass through life but once, if therefore there be any kindness, I can show or any good thing I can do to any fellow being, let me do it now and not defer or neglect it, as I shall not pass this way again”.
Like all seers, Guru Nanak believed not in the intangible but in the God that dwells in everyone’s hearts, which have immense potential to bring about positive transformations in the society- a belief that is of utmost significance in today’s world that is plagued by greed and selfish indulgence. Bringing smiles to the lives of others, contributing in your own small way to eradicate poverty, uplifting the living standards of the deprived around you through education are ways in which we can uphold the values preached by the great Guru, and make this world God’s Own Paradise on Earth. Quoting the words of the Guru himself, “If people use the wealth bestowed on them by God for themselves alone or for treasuring it, it is like a corpse. But if they decide to share it with others, it becomes sacred food.” - be the benefactor of those around you, and God will never leave you.