10 Key Lessons we can learn from Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s Life

India is known to be a land of diverse people, cultures and religions. Sikhism is one such religion. Out of the ten Sikh Gurus, Guru Nanak Dev Ji is the First Sikh Guru and is known to be the founder of the religion. Guru Nanak Dev Ji was born in Talwandi, Nankana Sahib (now in Pakistan) in 1469 A.D. to Mehta Kaloo Ji and Mata Tripta Ji. Bebe Nanki was Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s elder sister.

Since his very childhood, Guru Nanak Dev Ji had an unusual calm demeanor and was very spiritual by nature. He spent his time in meditation and exhibited some extraordinary traits. He slept only for a few hours, ate small quantities of food and spoke only when required. He led an exemplary life and his principles are even valid in the present day world. Here is a list of 10 key lessons that we can learn from Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s life –

10. Honesty

Guru Nanak Dev Ji emphasized on the fact that one should earn their living with utmost honesty and commitment. He professed that one’s way of life should be honest and corruption free. He exemplified that bread earned with corruption and dishonesty can never bring satisfaction and fulfillment in one’s life. Guru Nanak Dev Ji believed in the fact that an essential part of one’s duty and reverence to God is honest hard work.

9. Sharing

When Guru Nanak came of age his father decided to teach him business. He wanted him to earn a decent living, marry and raise a family like any ordinary man. His father handed him 20 rupees and packed him off to try out his luck in business. He wanted him to strike a profitable deal.
Instead, Guru Nanak spent the 20 rupees to feed the poor holy men who were hungry. According to him, it was the best bargain he could strike with those 20 rupees. This was known as the ‘Sachcha Sauda’ or ‘true business.’ Guru Nanak always spread the message that those who are well off must share their resources with those in need. This incident could also be related to the principle of ‘Langar’, or common kitchen, where people are provided with free food irrespective of their caste, race or religion.

Young Guru Nanak serving holy men

Young Guru Nanak serving holy men

8. Equality

This is one of the most important lessons that can be derived from Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s life. Guru Nanak Dev Ji saw all human beings as equals, a thought which he also composed in one of his verses-
“Maanas Ki Jaat Sabey Eke Pehchaanbo” which can be translated as “Recognise all human race as one.”
Guru Nanak Dev Ji never differentiated between human beings based on their caste, religion, race, colour or financial status. He readily shared his food and belongings with those in need and no needy human being ever went empty handed from Guru Nanak Ji’s house.
If only we were to imbibe this simple principle and recognise all human race as one, the world would be a much better place.

7. Respect Women

Back in 15th century, this was a revolutionary thought. Guru Nanak Ji not only preached this principle but also practiced it. He also mentioned this principle in one of his verses –
“So Kyo Mandaa Aakhiye Jitt Jammeh Raajaan” or “Why disrespect the one who gives birth to majestic kings of the world.”
Sadly, we have forgotten the teachings of Guru Nanak, keeping in mind the crimes that are prevalent against women in the modern times. We need to stop merely worshipping the Gods and instead should start following the principles that they taught.

Verses composed by Guru Nanak

Verses composed by Guru Nanak

6. Seva – Selfless Service

In an era where no one is willing to work for free, or without certain profit, Guru Nanak Ji’s principle of Seva is of utmost importance. Seva means selfless service, serving the other without any greed or personal profit. According to Guru Nanak Ji, seva was the source of immense spiritual satisfaction. When one indulges in Seva, without any motive of earning profit, one gets attuned with their higher being and achieves mental peace. ‘Langar’ is one example of seva. One performs seva with an unconditional devotion to serve the community. During his entire life, Guru Nanak performed Seva, with the aim of betterment of mankind.

5. The Five Evils

Guru Nanak Dev Ji listed five evils that lead to Maya, which is illusionary. According to Guru Nanak, the true meaning of life is attained when one achieves oneness with the Supreme Being. The five evils that Guru Nanak Dev Ji listed were Ego (Ahankaar), Anger (Krodh), Greed (Lobh), Attachment (Moh) and Lust (Kaam). When one gets rid of these five evils, one becomes closer to the Supreme Lord God. These vices prove to be a hindrance in attaining oneness with the Lord and meditating on the lord’s name helps one get rid of these vices.

4. Fight Superstitions

When Guru Nanak Dev Ji was of 9 years of age, his father organized a ceremony wherein he was to be invested with ‘Janeu’ or the sacred Hindu thread. He refused to wear it, questioning its significance. The Janeu also signified that one belonged to a higher caste and was deemed a Shudra if he refused to wear a Janeu. He questioned the Pandit about the Janeu and the also that why don’t women wear a Janeu. The repeated questions of Guru Nanak perplexed the Pandit and after a point of time, offended him.
This is when Guru Nanak explained that the Janeu is only a medium to divide people into different castes and in no way helped one to achieve the ultimate goal in life. It does not help one to strengthen their spiritual life. Guru Nanak looked for rationale behind every ritual and shunned blind faith in superstitions.

3. God is omnipresent

Guru Nanak Ji believed in the fact that God is omnipresent and does not merely reside in temples and mosques. During the 15th century, the caste system was extremely prevalent and people from the lower castes did not have access to temples and mosques. Religious places followed strict rules and all pilgrims had to abide by a certain code of conduct.
Guru Nanak Ji taught that the omnipresence of God is even stated in the Quran. “To Allah belongs the East and the West. Wherever you turn there is the presence of God…”

2. Kindness

Once while on his travels, Guru Nanak encountered the cannibal named Kauda. Kauda has a twisted mind and his mind was not at peace. Kauda was excited when he saw Guru Nanak Ji. Guru Nanak was not afraid of the cannibal and remained extremely calm. He looked at the cannibal with kindness and compassion in his eyes. He did not even have to speak anything. He only radiated love and positivity.
Kauda was confused and moved at the same time with Guru Nanak’s kindness. He broke down and began to cry. He felt helpless. He begged for forgiveness for his actions and promised Guru Nanak that he will lead an honest life and chant God’s name.
Guru Nanak exemplified the fact that even the toughest of the souls can be transformed for the better by acts of love and kindness. Anger and fear only generates more anger.

1. Music as a tool to connect to God

Guru Nanak usually travelled with two of his companions and musicians, Bala and Mardana. They used to wake up early morning with Guru Nanak and sing mystical and melodious tunes in the praise of God, called ‘Kirtan’. Most of his teachings are in forms of devotional hymns and verses. He believed that music is the essential tool that helps one attain a spiritual connection with God. Since then, the tradition of Kirtan is of utmost importance in Sikhism.

Guru Nanak Dev Ji placed humanity above all religions

Guru Nanak Dev Ji placed humanity above all religions

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Gursimran Kaur