A Tribute to Guru Nanak

The author, the Master’s Representative in Ghana and General Secretary of the Guru Nanak Centre in Accra, gave this talk on 20th November, 1972, in connection with the opening of the Centre. Subscriptions to the quarterly newsletter published by the Centre may be obtained from Sant Bani Ashram at two dollars a year.

I shall start as I did on the Qincentennial Birthday Anniversary of Guru Nanak Sahib on 25th November, 1969, by quoting the great Oriental scholar, Max Muller, who made this belated admission:

If I were asked under what sky the human mind has most fully developed some of its choicest gifts, has most deeply pondered on the greatest problems of life, and has found solutions of some of them which well deserve the attention even of those who have studied Plato and Kant, I should point to India. And if I were to ask myself from what literature we, here in Europe, we who have been nurtured almost exclusively on the thoughts of Greeks and Romans and of one Semitic race, the Jewish, may draw that corrective which is most wanted in order to make our Inner Life more perfect, more comprehensive, more universal, in fact more truly human, a life, not for this life only, but a transfigured and Eternal Life – again I should point to India.

Once again when I was invited to say a few words by way of a tribute to Guru Nanak, my admiration and respect for this precious gift of India to mankind induced me to agree. Once again I realise that it is much easier to accept such a responsibility than to fulfil it. The Saints at one flight are absorbed in immortality even though They may move amongst us as ordinary men. From what source then shall I, a mere speck, derive courage to do honour to a mid-day sun? Such is the great paradox: The Saint, though exalted, is too humble to parade His riches, and His servant whose wish it is to reveal Him does not know enough.

India has bestowed upon mankind great men of piety, like Buddha, Ashoka, Ravi Das, Mahavira, Krishna, Vivekananda, and Gandhi, but perhaps none greater than Nanak (1469–1539) and Kabir (1398–1518), for it is to these two that we owe the evolution of the Science of Spirituality – the development of higher consciousness in man. These two contemporaries, Hindu and Muslim respectively, rose above Their social religions and showed how little effect, if any, rituals have on Inner Spiritual Development.

During Their times the two main religions in India, Hinduism and Islam, could not see eye to eye, but the universality of Their teachings had considerable impact in bringing about national integration. In the end when Nanak left His mortal frame the Muslims claimed Him for burial and the Hindus claimed Him for cremation. They saw in Him a Godman Who united all in brotherhood and harmony.

Nanak, like Kabir, was not only a Great Divine Poet but wrote voluminously. The summary of His teachings is contained in His magnum opus, the ‘Jap Ji’ which forms the prologue to the Adi Granth Sahib, the venerable Sikh scripture. Nanak shows that the reality of the Supreme Being Whom we call God is not based on abstract arguments or scholastic proofs; but it is derived from the specifically religious experience which alone gives peculiar significance to the term God. Man becomes aware of God through experience. Rational arguments establish religious faith only when they are interpreted in the light of that religious experience. Arguments do not reveal God to us but are helpful in removing obstacles to the acceptance by our minds of a revelation mediated by that capacity for the apprehension of the Divine, which is a normal feature of our being. God may be known by acquaintance and not by hearsay.

In the 38 stanzas of the ‘Jap Ji,’ Nanak sets out to illustrate the basic principles of life and how one may consciously step from the known to the unknown through the aid of the Celestial Music under a Competent Guide or a Perfect Living Master. He sees the equality of all men in the sight of God; their proximity to or separation from Him being due to their own actions, good or bad; their final emancipation from the meshes of matter and mind through communion with the Divine Word, the Eternal Song reverberating in all creation; the competence of the Master-Soul, the Guru, to effect this transcension from the conscious to the super-conscious; and the ethical background necessary for treading the Path Godward.

The Prologue is revealing. It reads:

There is One Reality, the Unmanifest-Manifested; Ever-Existent, He is Naam (Conscious Spirit), the Creator; pervading all; without fear; without enmity; the Timeless; the Unborn and the Self-Existent; complete within Itself. Through the favour of His True Servant, the Guru, He may be realised. He was when there was nothing. He was before all ages began; He existeth now, oh Nanak, and shall exist forevermore.

Nanak goes on to hint that the Timeless One, existing before time, in time, and beyond time, is the only object of Eternal Peace and harmony and may be reached only through the favour of His Holy Word in man. It is this emphasis on the Holy Word or Celestial Music that projects Nanak as the father of Spiritual Science; and should anyone doubt that a matter otherwise thought of as subjective can be pursued as a science, he my be humbly reminded that Spirituality is as much a science as mathematics, only more ancient and more accurate than mathematics. The Celestial Music of which Nanak speaks is known to all the extant religions. In the Vedas – the oldest scripture known – this Celestial Music is referred to as Nad or music of the spheres; in Zoroastrian literature It is called Sraosha, the Gospels refer to It as Word, and the Muslims as Bang-i-Asmani, or the voice coming from the heavens.

This Celestial Music, Nanak taught, is the Creator and Sustainer of all that is, and He averred:

They alone are alive who are in tune with the Word; all others are dead.

Thus True Religiosity consists in man reattuning himself with Eternal Music and this cannot be achieved through intellectual disquisition, forced ceremonials, rituals, fasts, and vigils. Nanak reminds us that as social beings we cannot help belonging to one social religion or the other but that is only the first step. Our faith in religion must in time be converted into reality by self-analysis. Men are so unquestioning that they forget that the valuable records in the various scriptural texts are the experiences of Disciplined Souls, and that beyond inspiring us, those experiences cannot be ours without exertion on our part.

The peace of perfection, the joy of higher levels of consciousness, is realisable on earth. Perfection is the prerogative of every man by virtue of his humanity. In the Court of God there is no Christian or Muslim, no believer or infidel; there is only man, and each is judged according to his deeds. We are all members of the heavenly household of the family of God. Even when we are on the brink of the abyss, the everlasting arms will sustain us, for there is nothing, not even an atom of reality, where God does not abide.

Godmen like Guru Nanak take upon Themselves, from time to time, the cross of mankind. They crown Themselves with thorns in order that others may be crowned with life immortal. They go about the world as vagrants, despising the riches of the world to induce us to believe in the riches of Their world. When They gaze into men’s eyes, whatever their condition of life, They see something more than man. They see our faces not merely by the ordinary light of the world, but by the transfigured light of our Divine Possibilities. It is no wonder therefore that They share our joys and sorrows. Was not Jesus the Christ crucified and was not Kabir stoned and Guru Nanak Himself incarcerated? Our own deeds bring to us their fruits. God does not bestow His favours capriciously. As one sows so does one reap.

Such was the message of Guru Nanak Who brought a message of hope and redemption to mankind some five hundred years ago. Guru Nanak bestowed the Science of Spirituality upon mankind; for He indicated a very definite scientific method by which man, any man, who aspires to higher conscious life, may by means of the twin agencies of Light and Sound under a Competent Living Master attain this great boon. Guru Nanak’s legacy to mankind has not been hidden under a bushel. After Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth of the Sikh Gurus, Tulsi Sahib took on the mantle, which has passed through Swami Ji Maharaj, Baba Jaimal Singh Ji, and Hazur Baba Sawan Singh Ji. The mantle is now being held high by the present Living Master, Kirpal Singh Ji Maharaj, and I am happy to say that the Living Master is expected to visit this country in the near future, continuing where Nanak left off in the same scientific vein. Ghana is contributing its bit to this Great Spiritual Renaissance, for indeed mankind has come of age, the age of Spiritual Efflorescence.

As some of you know, the Guru Nanak Centre is already a reality. A ten-acre piece of land has been acquired at Mile 9 on the Accra Nsawam Road for the permanent premises of the Centre. The Sponsor of the Centre is His Holiness Param Sant Kirpal Singh Ji Maharaj, and we are pleased to announce that our present Head of State is the Patron-in-Chief of the Centre, and we are grateful for the services of his predecessor.

We believe that Guru Nanak’s teachings are as relevant now, indeed more so, as when He walked the earth some five hundred years ago. The principles of a True Religion, of a just social order, of a great movement of fellow-feeling in human relations, economic, industrial, political, national, and international, are to be found in the basic principles of life which Nanak admirably and effectively expounds. This is the need of our times. Is this sufficient tribute to that Great Spiritual Luminary called Guru Nanak? You may be better judges.

Thank you.