It was midnight and a leper was sleeping in his solitary hut. His disease had given him the status of an outcaste. Suddenly, he heard a voice — serene and divine. “Who is it?” said the leper. Guru Nanak, the only visitor he had after a long time, recited a shabad,
“It is but for a night, as the birds rest on the tree;
For at earliest dawn we go — no talk of me and thee!
A night on the roadside — a night and a day;
It is but as the meeting of travellers on their way!
Each noisy bird of passage from its branch its bearings takes:
Then every bough is silent; we’re flown as morning breaks!”
The song sung by the Guru embraced the leper completely, melting his heart and purifying his soul. When everyone, including his family members, refused to meet him, he was graced by the Guru’s blissful presence. Guru Nanak blessed him with the nam (shabad) and said, “When in the song of nam, we cry aloud, all our past suffering is seen to come of our forgetfulness of the beloved. Suffering sets us on fire, makes us, as it were, red hot, and cools us again, until we pass through a hundred fires!” Through the passage or way of nam-simran, one can remove all his past sins and attain salvation.
One’s physical ailments or status or caste differences do not make a person impure or outcaste, it is rather the impurities of the mind in the form of greed, lust, hatred which should make a person an outcaste. Guru Nanak, born in 1469, was a man of a rational and practical approach. He always questioned all forms of social practices, rituals and norms. When he was young and a ceremony was performed to don a sacred thread, Guru Nanak refused to wear it, saying it was just a futile ritual. He advised the priest to give him a thread which is imbued with the divine name. He said, “Let mercy be the cotton, contentment the thread, continence the knot and truth the twist”.
Oh priest! If you have such a thread, do give it to me. It will not wear out, nor get soiled, nor be burnt, nor lost. Nanak says, blessed are those who go about wearing such a thread. The divine thread is namsimran or nam japna.
But nam or the remembrance of the Almighty remains incomplete without seva or service to fellow beings. “Nothing is fruitful without service, for that is the essence of the matter”, said Guru Nanak. Seva helps the devotees remove ego, vanity and pride and acquire the traits of compassion, love, sympathy, kindness and mercy. Such a person turns from a manmukh (self-centred) into a gurmukh (imbibing the saintly traits).
To serve others is as important as sharing your earnings. Nam japna, vand chhakna (sharing) and kirt karna (honest way of earning) are the basic ethics of the Sikh religion.
This simple yet practical way of religion is a way of life of every Sikh. A true Sikh does not discriminate individuals on the basis of religion, caste, race and gender because the God is One-Ikk Onkar. The Akal-Purukh is both Satnam (true name) and Nirankar (formless). If God is one, true, merciful — why should we discriminate and divide people in the name of God? “What can humble Nanak say when all men have been made equal”, said Guru Nanak.
On the occasion of the celebration of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev, we should truly embrace the philosophy of the Guru and make this world a better place to live in....