June 22, 2021 | By Prof. Puran Singh
THE CHILD NANAK – He came like a song of Heaven, and began singing as he felt the touch of the breez and saw the blue expanse of sky.
He was a child of smiles, and his eyes were silent and wise; he loved quiet of soul. He loved joy and thought. Whoever saw the child, or touched him accidentally, praised God. A thrill of unknown delight came to anyone who lifted the child, or played with him. But. none knew whence came to him that gladness of soul.
Everyone saw that he was the child of Heaven; he was so beautiful, so mysteriously fair in colour and form, with a radiance that was new to earth. He cast a spell that none could escape. Rai Bular, the Moslem Governor of the place of his birth, loved him both as a child and as a boy; the Brahman teacher loved him; whoever came in contact with him was irresistibly drawn to him.
His sister Nanaki saw from his very infancy in him the light of God, and kept her discovery a profound secret. She was the very first inspired by Heaven to be his disciple. Rai Bular was the second; he had seen that gleam of soul in Nanak, which is seen only once in many centuries, and even then by the rarest chance. In his old age Rai Bular cried like a child for his saviour.
Nanak the child gave the signs of Nanak the Saint and Guru at a very early age. He composed music, he talked of God and life; his untutored mind was a marvel to everyone.
THE BOY NANAK – He ate little, slept little, and shut himself in his own thought for days and days; and no one could understand him. He was sent to the school, but he could not learn anything. “Teach me,” said he to his teachers, “only this one large letter of life. Tell me of the Creator, and the wonder of this Great World.”
Thinking he might do as a trader, his father gave him. a few silver coins to set him up in that way of livelihood. But no! Having started out, he feasted the saints of God, and returned empty-handed. Then he was sent to take the cattle out to graze; he drove out the herds upon the green sward, and left them free to graze by themselves as he sat alone. The solitude of the Indian noon was good for him, for then the whole creation taught him the language of the gods. He heard the songs of the shade. Every blade of grass intoned a hymn in his ears. His animals loved him, came near him, touched him, looked at him; they knew nothing of any man’s ownership of meadows that, for them, all appertained to God. The cows could make no difference between “his” grass and “my” grass; so a clamour arose, and they drove our Nanak and his cattle from the fields. He was declared a failure as a cowherd; though he loved to sit alone with stars, and to talk to animals when they were in distress.
People anxious about his health brought a physician, for to them Nanak’s unworldliness appeared insane. When the physician put his fingers on the pulse of Nanak, the boy’s voice, which had been silent for days, came “thrilling with a new and unsurpassed sweetness:
“They have called the physician to me !
The poor doctor feels my pulse !
What can a pulse disclose?
The pang is in my heart !
Their life is a disease, and they seek nothing else.
The doctors come to cure, when there is no cure for the pain of death.
Oh, physician! why touch my pulse when the pain is in my heart? Go back! go back whence you came!
None has a cure for the pang of love.
I pine for my Beloved : Who gave the pain, will cure it.
Oh, poor physician, what can a pulse disclose?
You have no cure for me.”
When the family Brahman came to invest him with the sacred thread, he spoke again, subduing all that heard:
“Oh, Brahman! You have no sacred thread.
If you have, Give me the forgiveness of the Creator,
Draw round me a sacred line that no desires dare cross,
Unfold the Divine in me,
Which then will be a sacred thread
Never showing wear or break.
Fires shall not bum it, nor the storms destory !
Blessed of God, 0 Brahman, is the man such thread surrounds!
That is salvation.”
NANAK THE STRANGE YOUTH – They married him, believing marriage and home-lifewould bring him back to earth. And they asked him to set out and earn a living for his wife. Nanak started to Sultanpur, where his loving sister Nanaki lived. It was thought that Jai Ram, Nanaki’s husband, would get him some employment. As he was setting out from Talwandi, his native place, his wife came to him and said, ‘-‘Pray, take me, too, with you.” “Dear lady,” said he, “I go in search of work; if I succeed, I will send for you.”
Jai Ram got Nanak the position of officer-in-charge of the storehouse of Daulat Khan Lodi, Nawab of Sultanpur. Nanak loved to distribute the provisions; it is here that he began distributing himself also. None begged at Nanak’s storehouse in vain, he lavished his goodness on every comer. It is said of him in a Punjabi proverb that God gave him His stores and then forgot all about them; key, lock, all were with Nanak.
It is here that he sang his famous song of one word. In Punjabi language, the word Tera means, both the arithmetical figure thirteen and the phrase I am thine. Once Nanak, weighing out wheat flour, counted the weighings-“one, two three”-till he reached the number thirteen; but at this he forgot all his counting and went on weighing and calling out: “Tera ! Tera ! Tera! Tera! Tera! Tera …..” “Thine! Thine! Thine! Thine! Thine! Thine !”
NANAK THE WORLD-TEACHER – He was lost in this flood of his own thought and wonder, a river that flowed out of him and at the same time engulfed him, so that he was looked on as one dead. What they saw of him was but as his garment cast upon the shore of life, while Nanak himself was swallowed by the Infinite. Truly, never did they see him again in the form in which they knew him so well. He came out and spoke as Guru Nanak the world-teacher, to the awe of everyone. Said he, “There is no Hindu, no Mussalman !”-a heresy so paralysing that. they felt bound to suppose he had now lost every particle of sense. He could no longer take an interest in his work, and shortly afterwards left it altogether. He was not Nanak now, but Guru Nanak.
His father came to counsel him, but without effect. Ofthe many conversations that he had with his parents, on different occasions when he returned to his native place again and again from his travels abroad, we faithfully preserve the following few, without attempting chronological order:
Father: My son ! They say you do nothing, I am ashamed of you. Why not plough the fields if you can do nothing else?
Nanak: I do something that others cannot understand father. I, too, plough, but my ploughing is different from theirs. Isow the seeds ofHari Nam; my heart is my fields and my mind is my plough, and God waters my fields. I plough both day and night, and I sow my songs.
Father: Why not have a village-shop and sit there and rest and sell merchandise?
Nanak: Time and space are ~y shop, and I sit and deal in song. I praise Him who has made all this.
Father: None can understand what you say, your speech is so difficult. Why not enter again into the Government service, which is fairly easy?
Nanak : I have already entered His’service. I cannot serve another. I go whither He takes me and I do as He bids me. At another time, when he met his mother after a long interval, the following conversation took place.
Mother: My son! Do not go away now, but come and live in your house as of old.
Son: My house is His Temple, mother! God is my home and His grace is my family. His pleasure is my utmost riches, mother! He judges me not; He is kind and merciful as none else is. He blesses and blesses without end. He provides me with everything, and I am for ever happy in him.
Of what use is this life of houses, wherein a thousand desires -consume the man; and there is no rest, neither in waking nor in dreams, mother?
Mother: Wear clothes such as we wear; and be not so sad, so strange; go not away from us.
Son : My clothes are white and stainless, mother; for I live in love of Him who has given me so much love. I am made to wear His Presence and His Beauty, mother !
He is my food and raiment. The thought of Him, mother, is my covering of honour.
His treasures contain everything.
My clothes are eternal youth,
I wear the perpetual Spring.
Of what use are these clothes, the wearing of which gives so much trouble And then a thousand desires consume the man; and there is no rest, in w:aking or in dream.
Mother: Oh ! Why do you not live like us and eat what we eat?
Son: I drink His very Presence, I eat of His precious Substance, and partake of His Light.
In His glance is my heavenly sustenance-. 1ha”ve neither hunger nor thirst. Of what use is this bread, mother, the eating of which gives so much trouble? And a thousand desires consume the man; and there is no rest, neither in waking nor in dreams.
To the Hindus he said, “You are not Hindus”; to the Mussalmans, “You are not Moslems”; to the Yogis, “You are not Yogis”; and so was it wherever he went. He not only withheld these names, but by his very presence changed those that had borne them into men. When he left the place, his eye seemed to be still upon them, keeping their minds steadfast. A new life came to the people, in him they found their God, their world, and their lost souls. In him they began anew; and in him they ended.
NANAK AND HIS SISTER – When he prepared to go on his long journeys into the trackless lands around, usually on foot, Nanaki (his elder sister and his disciple> could not brook even the thought of such a long separation from him.
She said, “0, divine one! what will be our condition then ?How shall thy lotuseslive and breathe without thee !”
“Bibi,” said the brother, “this is Heaven’s call, I must go whither it leads my feet. Many will attain the heavenly life if you forego for a while your own yearnings. I would not be gone from you. Whenever you will think of me, I will be with you.”
Guru Nanak did return to her frequently, interrupting his travels. Mardana, the rebec player, joined him; and Nanak took up his royal residence under the stars.
He went to Sangaladeep and other isles in the south of India, he visited the Nilgiri hills. He crossed the borders of Assam in the east and the Trans-Himalayas in the north, and went by Baghdad and Bokhara right up to the Caucasian mountains. He visited Mecca, whither he came by way of Baluchistan. He travelled throughout the northwestern frontier of India and the Kashmir. None ever travelled so much with one single purpose; namely, to thrill the earth from pole to pole with the working of his spirit.
NANAK AND DUNI CHAND – A banker named Duni Chand lived in Lahore in the times of Nanak. He flew many flags over his house, each flag representing ten millions. One day he came to see the Master, and Nanak gave to him a needle, which he said he would receive again from him in the world beyond this after death. Duni Chand took the needle home, and told his wife of the Master’s strange speech, and still stranger request to keep a needle for him in his books. Both went to the Guru again, and said, “Sire, how can we carry a needle with us beyond death, when all we have shall be left behind ?” “Of what use is your all, then,” said Nanak, “if it will be of no use to you in regions beyond death where you will hpve to pass long centuries ?: “Pray, then, tell us what we can take with us,” said they.
“The wealth of loving Him,” said the Guru: ”Hari Nam will go with you.”
“How can we have that wealth ?” said they.
“Just as you have this, if the Guru so pleaseth, if he giveth the gain of life, if he favoureth ye.” said the Guru. Both Duni Chand and his wife entered the path of discipleship.
NANAK AND A JEWELLER – The Mastersat as usual under a tree, outside a city onthe Gangetic plain in Eastern India. He gave Mardana a jewel, and asked him to go and get it valued in the city. None could value it truly; some offered gold for it, and some mere silver. Mardana atlast meta jeweller, who, when he saw theGuru’s jewel, brought all his jewels and offered them to Mardana, and said, “Who can pay the price of “this priceless jewel ? Who can buy Beauty? I offer my all for the joy of its auspicious sight. It is the beginning of my luck. It is the favour of God that I have seen it to-day.” The jeweller Salis Rai and his wife followed Mardana and sought the refuge of the Guru. They were initiated into the path of discipleship.
NANAK AT EMINABAD – There at Eminabad in the Punjab, lived in those times, a carpenter who used to make pegs of wood and other implements for the village. He lived in “pure poverty,” as the Japanese would say. His life was simple, his needs were few, and he was happy. He was a disciple of the Master, but full of natural simplicity. Nanak went straight to his house and lived with him for days. He neglected the table of the king and preferred plain bread and water at the house of this man of God. The king sent for Nanak and asked, “Why do you refuse my bread and eat at the house of a low-easte though they say you are a Saint?” “Your bread is blood and his bread is milk,” replied Guru Nanak.
NANAK AND THE TANTRIK KODA – In a thick forest of India, Koda met Guru Nanak under strange circumstances. Mardana had lost his way and fallen into the hands of Koda; Mardana was just what he wanted for his man sacrifice. Koda bound him hand and foot, and began his preparations, lighting a fire under a huge cauldron of oil. The wind blew, the rain came, and the fIre went out. He tried again with the same result; and he knew not why the elements went against him that day. He looked up and there stood Guru Nanak. His look disconcerted Koda, who went info his cave to consult his mirror. The mirror gave him the image of man, and he came out and asked for forgiveness.
Nanak said: “Koda ! Sing His great Name.
” Koda entered the path of discipleship.
NANAK AND SAJJAN THUG – Sajjan kept a Moslem mosque and a Hindu shrine side by side for the weary travellers to rest in a lonely jungle pathway. There lay the bones ofmany a travellers that came hither to rest in the midst of the temple or the mosque. Once Nanak was the guest of Sajjan for a night. Sajjan served the Guru with the utmost devotion, for he took him to be a very rich man. He saw the sparkle of a million jewels on the Guru’s forehead. Late at night, Sajjan, as usual, invited the Guru to retire to rest. Such heavenly music was uttered by the Guru when Mardana began playing his rebec, that Sajjan was over whelmed with remorse; he was washed with music. He cried, “Save me ! even me, 0 Divine One !” “Be pure,” said the Guru, “and sing His Name !”
NANAK AND VALI QANDHARI – once Nanak was near the ancient Buddhist city of Taxila. A bleak mountain now called Vali Qandhari (the prophet of Qandhar) stands with its bare peak at a little distance from Taxila, towards the Peshawar side on the Grand Trunk Road by which came Alexander the Great and other invaders to India. This mountain is so called because in the times of Guru Nanak, there lived a Vali-a prophet-a native of Qandhar, on its high summit. He had built himself a house by the side of a little spring of crystal fresh water on the top of the mountain. This was the only spring of water near the place where once encamped Guru Nanak and Bhai Mardana. Mardana was very thirsty. The Guru asked him to go up and drink water from the fountain of VaH Qandhari. Mardana went up, but the reception of the VaH was very indifferent. “Who are you ?” said he. “My name is Mardana, and I am a disciple of Nanak,” replied Bhai Mardana. “What brings you here ?” “I feel thirsty, and wish to have some water from your spring.” “There is no water here for such as you; go back and ask your Master for it.” Nanak asked Mardana to go again, saying that they were simple folk of God and wanted some water from his spring. Mardana went three times as bidden by the Guru, but to no purpose. The last time when he came back, Guru Nanak said, “Never mind, Mardana ! Dig here. There is a fountain of water flowing at your feet.” The spring w,as there, it came with its cool crystal waters kissing the feet of the Master. Vali Qandhari, too, came down to see Guru Nanak who so naturally attracted everyone. Guru Nanak spoke to Vali Qandhari saying, “0 friend, those who live so high, should not be rock-like dry.” Vali Qandhari was enriched with the wisdom of the Master, and blessed with poverty; he too, drank the waters that flowed at the Master’s feet.
KAMAL AND BRAHAMDAS ENTER DISCIPLESHIP – Nanak was in Kashmir, living in the forest near the great lake. Kamal, a Mohammedan faqir, lived nearby on milk that the wandering shepherds gave him; he was very pious and sad, pining for the life of the Spirit. He pined for that celestial goodness which comes to man only through the grace of God. He was an old man now, and looked at the setting sun and the rising moon with feelings as of a beggar whom, when he came to them with his bowl, they had turned out of doors. Brahamdas and Kamal were friends; one an orthodox Brahman, and the other a Pathan with glowing eyes. Pandit Brahamdas always had three camels following him, loaded with volumes of ancient wisdom. He always carried his stone-god hung by a thread round his neck. Brahamdas informed Kamal of the strange visitor to Kashmir who “wore leather and ate fish.” He said, “It is strange. Many a man who has gone and tasted the nectar of his kindness is transfigured.” Kamal, who had been thirsty all his life, sought the presence of Nanak,fell at his feet, and fainted with joy. As he rose, he found in his own heart, the light which he had sought in vain’ in the forests. Kamal followed the Master. Nanak asked him to settle in the Kurram valley! (now the tribal frontier of India), it was from here that the song of Nam spread towards the West. Kamal was the servant of his Master, the soldier of his King, a temple of holy song. Mardana entered his final rest here; passing away in the great concourse of the disciples of Kabul, Qandhar and Tirah, when Nanak paid his second visit to Kamal.
Brahamdas wished at first to discuss his lore with the Guru, and began thus:
Brahamdas : Where was God before Creation? and how were things created ?
Nanak: He opens His eyes and He closes them, according to His pleasure. He knows.
Brahamdas : Who are you, who being a teacher of religion, wear leather?
The discussion ended in a trance. Like dawn singing through every leaf of the forests of Kashmir, came the Guru’s heavenly voice:
“Blessed·is the disciple that hath met the Master! He is gay as the face of earth adorned with flower and leaf,
He seeth this world, the garden ofBeauty, in full bloom! All lakes are brimful of nectar. He is inly made divine and rich in colouring as a garment with madder dye;
The Mystic body of the Master has melted into his silver limbs. And the lotus of life bursts in full blossom in the heartlake of the disciple.
NANAK AND A POOR MAN – (One of thousands of such who met Him) Once Guru Nanak lived with a poor man. On leaving, he burnt the poor man’s hut, the walls and the thatching of grass and all he had. When the Guru came again, there was a palace for him in place ofthe hut, and there was a bed of gold for him to rest upon, when singing in ecstatic elation the Vision of God. Whosoever met him, the Guru burnt his poverty and his clinging thereto and made him rich.
NANAK AND THE LEPER – The leper was in his hut; and late ~t night the Guru called him out; it was a moonlit night. “Who is it ?” said the leper. The song flowed from the Guru as soft loving light from the moon.
“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 !”
How could the leper believe that he could have a guest! He came out and saw him. The song descended on the leper as the moonlight clothed him with affection. Nanak 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, till we pass through a hundred fires !” Nanak gave him the song and went away.
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