Knowing Nanak – Dialogue 1
By Naginder S. Sehmi
A dialogue presented by Kabir and Sunita Sehmi and Navjeet Nagi at
Centre Védantique, Geneva, Switzerland, Sunday 5 November 2006
Also presented by Gurleen, Harleen and Naginder Sehmi, at
Ladies Sat Sang (hymns singing), Nairobi, Kenya, 26 December 2006
|Nav:||Kabir, tell me was Nanak a guru and a leader of the Sikhs?|
|Kabir:||Navjeet, he was a guru, not a leader. And there were no Sikhs then.|
|Nav:||What’s the difference?|
|Kab:||Leaders want us to follow, and in following they want us to believe. This in the main thing, they want us to believe.|
|Nav:||And a guru?|
|Kab:||A guru is a teacher. A teacher wants to help us see the truth and think for ourselves. He wants us to understand. He is not looking for followers as leaders do.|
“If you listen to the Guru’s teachings, even once,
Your mind will shine like gems, jewels and rubies”. (AG.2)
|Nav:||We celebrate Nanak’s birthday. We sing his songs. Are we not his followers?|
|Kab:||Those persons who sing or read but do not understand what the guru wants to teach us are considered to be followers. In his song Nanak said:“One may read a cartload of books|
And spend every month of the year in reading only;
And thus read all ones life,
Right up to his last breath.
A thoughtful life is really what matters”. (AG.467)
|Sun:||Nanak also said:|
|“A person will be known good or bad.|
Judged by his actions and deeds”.
|Nav:||You said there were no Sikhs during Nanak’s time. Where were they?|
|Kab:||The word “sikh” comes from the Sanskrit word “shishya” that means a student, learner or disciple. So anybody who is ready to learn from the guru is a sikh. Nanak explained:|
“Understanding and accepting the Name,
A student of the guru saves himself and others”.(AG.3)
|Sun:||“Manai trai tare gur sikh”.|
|Nav:||In the Gita, Krishna is the teacher and answers questions put by his student, Arjun.|
|Kab:||Yes, Arjun was not a follower of Krishna. He listened to Krishna’s advice carefully, understood it and then he acted upon it. He was a true sikh or learner.|
|Nav:||So the Sikhs must be the most learned people in the world?|
|Kab:||Why do you say that?|
|Nav:||Because they are Sikhs. They are expected to learn all the time. I also know that they read the entire Granth non-stop more than people of other religions read their holy books.|
|Kab:||I wish you were right. Sikhs have become followers and believe that by simply reading the book every problem will be solved. That is not what the Granth and other similar books say.|
|Nav:||Aren’t they like salesmen. When they tell us to drink Coca Cola they want us to believe that it’s a magic potion; that if we drink Coke we’ll be young, popular, and we’ll have plenty of fun as well. They don’t want us to understand that it’s really only sugar water with a little flavour.|
|Kab:||Exactly, we’re almost back to Nanak’s times when people and even their teachers didn’t properly understand the advice given in holy books.|
“They read the Simritees, the Shastras and the Puranas; they argue and debate, but do not know the true meaning of reality”. (AG.1033)Well, people continue to recite and sing from these writings in prayers, ceremonies, and marriages. These songs continue to serve a useful way of worship and social purpose and give us mental comfort and peace.
|Nav:||Why did Nanak start writing and preaching when all knowledge and ideas were already there?|
|Kab:||Don’t you know that all previous sacred writings were in Sanskrit and Arabic? Only a few could speak or read these languages. Those who could read could not understand the ideas contained in them. Well they serve no useful purpose.|
|So Nanak and others started writing in the language of their people and informed the ordinary people of the ideas contained in old books. Most Pundits and Mullahs did not like this.|
|Nav:||Don’t tell me that Nanak and others went to school to learn Sanskrit? I’m told that they learnt many languages without going to school. They knew them when they were born. Is that possible?|
|Kab:||These are stories that have convinced many followers. But that is not true. Nanak put in a lot of effort to learn not only different languages but also many other things about people, their customs, beliefs, traditions, rituals, and about nature, animals, and forests.|
|Nav:||They must be very gifted and interested. That’s why they learnt very fast.|
|Kab:||Yes, in addition Nanak travelled to many countries to see for himself and expand his experience and be able to teach better. He believed in the old saying “doing is knowing”. For him acquiring knowledge, gyan, was the basis for leading a good active life.|
|Nav:||Did he not care for heaven and hell or salvation and nirvana?|
|Kab:||You know what Nanak said:|
“He who has the company of God, what has he to do with salvation or heaven”. (AG. 360)
|Nav:||Didn’t Nanak start the Sikh religion?|
|Kab:||Nanak did not accept that religions are different. There is only one religion. That’s why he proclaimed:|
“There is neither Hindu nor Muslim”
|Nav:||If Nanak were with us now would he have said that there are no Sikhs either?|
|Kab:||Because most Sikhs have also become blind followers using the songs from the Granth mainly to perform ceremonies without getting the meaning and acting on it, he would, if he were with us, certainly include them in the list, as well as Christians, Buddhists and others.|
|Sun:||Nanak wanted peace among religions and nations. He sang:|
“I have made a pact with the Supreme Lord
All other pacts are for worldly power.
For worldly gains the fools dispute and struggle.
In this Dark Age, five dominant passions cause factions:
Lust, anger, greed, attachment, and self-will.
I am in the Lord’s faction,
Who has destroyed all other factions!
False is all love besides that of God
That divides men into warring groups”.
|Nav:||Kabir, What exactly did Nanak want to Teach?|
|Kab:||There’s an old story about a Greek philosopher who went about with a lighted lamp in the daytime. People asked, “What are you looking for?” He said, “I’m looking for human beings.” Well Nanak was also looking for loving human beings. But he saw only Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, and Muslims.|
We ourselves create problems of all sorts. We want to resolve these problems by reading some verse from the Granth. According to Nanak the solution depends on putting those words to use. Nanak always dealt with every issue practically.
|Nav:||But what good are these stories about Nanak if we don’t take them to heart and if we don’t live them?|
|Kab:||Many stories about Nanak are teaching tales. They might not be true. We do not have to believe them. We should use our imagination so that from the unreal in the story we take something that we can apply to our life.|
|Sun:||Nanak has written a lot about ego or “I” “haumain”. He says. (“haunmain dheerag rog hai daru bhi is mahe”) which means, I-ness is a grave disease and the medicine is also in it. What is “I” and our bodies? According to him we are not our bodies. We are our consciousness, the thing that sparks us, which uses our muscles, our eyes, our ears, and our brains through which we function. And, without that consciousness we die. In fact that is life itself.|
Now, if the life in us is the same as the life in everything else then we must, truly, identify not with our skins and our physical shells but with the real, the thing that moves all of us, the life in all of us. That spark, that fire, that life thing, that consciousness is the same in you and me and everyone else*. That is the reason why Nanak proclaimed:
|Nav & Kab||“There is neither Hindu nor Muslim”|
|Sun:||And he added,|
|Nav & Kab:||“but only the brotherhood of human beings”.|
|Kab:||Did Nanak write only about life and people and nothing else?|
|Sun:||Nanak was an outstanding poet. No other poet can write like him. In his songs he embraces nature in all its aspects: sky and stars, birds and animals, seasons and seasonal activities of people around him. He has written in many local dialects and in Persian. He acquired first hand knowledge by travelling all over India, Afghanistan, Arabia, Iraq, Iran, Tibet and Sri Lanka. In the Himalayas he specifically went to meet and dialogue with highly learned and respected Charpat yogis. He has recorded his dialogue with them in the Granth. His knowledge was vast because he was one with nature. He was one with the power that we call God. Nanak repeats: “I am that. That is I.” Listen to some of his poetry: first the spring:|
“It is the month of Chet
It is spring. All is seemly,
The beautiful honeybee can be seen,
In the flower adorned woodland,
The home of my childhood days.
But there is sorrow of separation in my soul,
Longing I wait for the Lord”.
In Asad the sun scorches,
Skies are hot,
The earth burns like an oven,
Waters give up their vapours,
It burns and scorches the earth relentlessly.
“The season of rain has come;
My heart is full of joy,
Rivers and land are one expanse of water
For it is the monsoon, the season of merry-making.
Peacocks cry with joy,
The papiha calls … peeoo, peeoo,
The fangs of serpents that crawl,
The stings of mosquitoes that fly
The seas have burst their bounds in the ecstasy of fulfilment
I alone am deprived of joy”. (AG. 1107-10)
|Kab:||A beautiful evening worship!|
“The sky is the plate;
In it, the sun and the moon are the lamps
And the celestial stars are like pearls.
The sandalwood scented wind from the Malai hills is the incense,
It sways like a whisk;
The entire plant life supplies sacred flowers for You, O Light.
What a wonderful evening worship!” (AG.13)
|Sun:||Most songs in the Granth are easy to understand, but the desire to make that little effort to understand seems to be lacking. So, let’s pray.|
|All:||O Vahiguru help us to learn to translate and reinterpret old writings and traditions and make them applicable to the daily lives of human beings in the present times and where they live.|
There is neither Hindu nor Muslim,
nor Christian nor Buddhist nor Sikh nor any other similar bodies but only the brotherhood of human beings.
|Sun:||A poem by Ibn Arabi conveys Nanak’s message beautifully.|
“My heart has become capable of every form:
It is a pasture for gazelles,
And a convent for Christian monks,
And a temple for idols and the pilgrim’s Ka’bah,
And the tables of the Torah, and the book of the Koran,
I follow the religion of love:
Whatever way love’s camels take,
That is my religion and my faith”. (Interpreter of Ardent Desires)
(Reference: “Message from Sparrows-Engaging Consciousness” by Taylor Morris)