Someone who used to be a client of mine and who is now a friend of mine on Facebook recently posted a link to an article on India Times called, “10 Guru Nanak Lessons That Make Sense Even Today.” That article can be accessed here. It’s an easy and quick read, but I’ll share the ten lessons here below anyway.
1) Never Forget the Poor. I’m sure the good Guru had more than these ten lessons and I have no proof that this is “Lesson Number One.” But, I’m pleased that this lesson is Number One here and now. There’s a brief story about Nanak receiving some rupees from his dad when he was only 12 and was encouraged by his father to start a business. What Nanak did was to spend the entire amount on food and then gave that food away to the poor. His father’s questioning led him to state that what he had done is “true business.”
2) There is One God. The first sentence in the details of this lesson is, “Using religion to segregate people into categories is awful.” That pretty well speaks for itself. Before coming across this article today, I happened upon a Facebook post that surprised me. It was a post by a transgendered (M-to-F) devotee of Krishna. I would think that someone born into an exterior that didn’t match their interior would lend that person toward being more open, forgiving, compassionate, and accepting of those who are different even from herself. However, according to her post which I think might inspire a post here on Sthapati, none or very little of that seems to be true.
3) Women are Equal to Men. You wouldn’t think this would need to be said but in the Guru’s time this was practically revolutionary and in many places even today this is still something that is missed.
4) Running Away to a Forest Won’t Give You Enlightenment. Just about any time people reference going off to a forest to attain enlightenment I scratch my mental head. I know this tradition is ancient and often productive. But I feel like, at this point in human history, this is misunderstood or something. It feels similar to situations where Christians or Muslims take a verse from their holy scriptures too literally and then attempt to apply it too literally. Guru Nanak ( and my own gurus from within the Sahaj Marg) teach that it isn’t necessary to physically separate from the common and mundane life to achieve mystical union with The One or to attain moksha or even that which is beyond moksha. Whether you see common life as filled with pitfalls or temptations or distractions, there is no better place to transcend.
5) These Five Evils are Probably Ruining your Life. The list includes: Ego, Anger, Greed, Attachment, and Lust. I think these are pretty universally recognized among religions as at least the roots of evil. In my own view, I think any definition of “evil” should be investigated thoroughly because categorizing one thing or another as evil, has almost always meant the creation of misery and hatred. Still, the Guru is probably right. I think “Anger” is a composite emotion that necessarily requires inspection. Attachment, Greed, and Lust feel very closely related – and could even be considered different shades of the same color. And Ego is likely the one behind the wheel where these five are considered.
6) Find Your Own Guru. The photo that accompanies this lesson in the article is a man who, I think, holds the world record for the world’s largest or heaviest (or something) turban. I’ve seen him in videos and he is clearly a kind, compassionate, and devout Sikh. Where this lesson is concerned, the key to it that stands out for me is this: Your Own. There’s nothing the matter with having a Guide that you share with many (even millions) of other devotees. But these two words seem to imply something deeper: Why is your teacher your teacher? I would suggest that if you have adopted a guru, or been accepted by one, for reasons like satisfying the need for a feeling of community, or because of how “visible” this guru is to the masses of humanity, or because the guru seems to promise success in progression toward and attainment of liberation from the wheel of samsara, then your guru isn’t your own. It’s probably your ego’s guru.
7) Be Selfless. Apparently, “For Nanak, the concept of selfless service was a way of life.” I think this is tough for humans today. Too often, we’re concerned with how much we’ve been wronged or how much has been taken from us. It’s not about that. Or shouldn’t be.
8) Fight Superstition of Any Kind. I love this one. So many branches of Hinduism and Buddhism – and many other paths! – are infiltrated with superstitiousness that is too soon wrongly understood as legit. Many of our religious and spiritual rituals are of great value and worth, but they are also too often taken with understandings that don’t challenge the practitioner to see beyond the obvious.
9) Simplicity is Beautiful. This article states that for one to practice Sikhism there are only three “rules,” which are: Sharing with others, Making an honest living, Remembering God at all times. Sahaj Marg has a maxim that somewhat parallels this lesson on the beauty of simplicity. We’re advised to be simple, as Nature is simple.
10) Travel. Nanak was clear that pilgrimages weren’t mandatory but he still taught that much learning can be gained by experiences had in traveling. Guru Nanak was quite the trekker!
Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha