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Posted at: Nov 10, 2019, 2:08 AM; last updated: Nov 10, 2019, 2:08 AM (IST)

Metamorphosis of human mind...

... to the mind of the gods was the objective of human life for the first Guru of the Sikhs
Metamorphosis of human mind...
Siddhas: When was the beginning of your dharma, and, for what period was it meant? Nanak: Gurmat, Guru’s path/wisdom, began along with the advent of humanity. The divinely inspired hymns became Guru (illumination in darkness) of the human consciousness. Guru Granth Sahib, p 942

Harbans Lal

Guru Nanak (1469-1539) held the first-ever known interfaith dialogue in the history of religions. Until then, the religious echelons were out to exploit their followers by imprisoning them within the iron-clad walls of their religious divides. Across faiths, dialogues were unheard of. The Sultanpur dialogue was held on the banks of river Bein in Sultanpur Lodhi in 1499. It all began with Nanak extending his daily morning dip in the river to three days of meditative trance. When he came out of the trance, he startled the waiting crowd by saying that he was summoned to the divine mission of sharing the divine message with the suffering world. 

The religious leaders of the region were alarmed. The mullahs complained that Nanak was claiming to be a new Prophet. The Hindus felt challenged that their religiosity would be questioned. The town head, Daulat Khan, responded and gathered the leaders of both major religions to interrogate Nanak about their concerns. 

The Sultanpur dialogue, extended over days, was chaired by the head mullah of Islam and moderated by the town head, Qazi Daulat Khan. There, Nanak was given the title of ‘Guru’.

According to B40 Janamsakhi, now in India Office Library, the dialogue mesmerised all.

...Imam, the chief Muslim religious interrogator, was wonderstruck. Then, Khan told the Imam that further questioning would be arrogant and declared that Nanak was a prophet of Khudaa…

Guru Nanak emphasised that people should not be profiled by their religious affiliations as those were the practices of empty religiosities and most divisive. Instead, people may connect with the One Reality through its manifestations in the creations all around 
Guru Nanak spent nearly 25 years of his life travelling nearly 38,000 km in his pursuit to dialogue with peoples’ leadership of many shades, belief systems, and geographical orientations
At the outset in Sultanpur,  Guru Nanak made it known that the divine had summoned him and assigned him the task of reaching the people of the world for sharing the divine wisdom. Further, he made several pronouncements.

Guru Nanak emphasised that people should not be profiled by their religious affiliations as those were the practices of empty religiosities and most divisive. Instead, people may connect with the One Reality through its manifestations in the creations all around. Guru Nanak gave us the symbol, Ek Onkar. 

Following the universal icon for the divine, Guru Nanak gave the commencing verse of the Granth, popularly known as Mool Mantar. It detailed those divine attributes that may be emulated by people towards the metamorphosis of their mind into the mind of gods. To Guru Nanak, the metamorphosis of the human mind to the mind of the gods was the objective of human life.

Prophet Muhammad said the same in the following verse. 

To God belongs the East and the West, wherever you turn there is the face of God. Indeed, God is all-embracing and all-knowing. (Koran, 2:115). Thus, all creations, as manifestations of divine, are beautiful and creative, even in the face of our own partialities.

Mool Mantar

Following Guru Nanak is to engage in the worship of the divine through Mool Mantar, that is to cultivate inner attributes so that they mirror divine attributes. 

At the same time, Guru Nanak gave the people of the world three doctrinal terms to live by; these were: Naan, Daan, Isnaan. Translated into today’s idiom, Naam — Mindful awareness of divine presence; Daan — Live out the culture of altruism while, at the same time, seek divine benevolence; and, Isnaan — Practice ethics of good deeds that may cleanse both body and mind.

Guru Nanak further announced that the theology that was meant for the people of his times and times to come will be enunciated only by Shabad or divinely inspired hymns. 

Those hymns later found a permanent home in Guru Granth Sahib. Thus, all aspects of the Sikhism belief system, including Sikhi tenets, values, practices, and institutions, would owe their origin and life to the sacred scripture included in Guru Granth Sahib. The Sikh communities later became the custodian of Guru Granth Sahib, both to propagate Sikhi theology and to guard the same against any intrusion by the vagaries of ever-changing history and its cultural interpretations. 

Avid traveller

After the miraculous event on the banks of Bein river, Guru Nanak spent nearly 25 years of his life travelling nearly 38,000 km in his pursuit to dialogue with peoples' leadership of many shades, belief systems, and geographical orientations. Mind you, in Guru Nanak’s time all religions that we know today were in existence. 

Among the major religions, Hinduism, the Siddha denomination, was the most popular and flourishing. Thus, Guru Nanak began with paying a visit to Siddha’s leadership, particularly the one led by a famous Siddha yogi, Gorakh Nath.

Guru Nanak first visited Siddhas at a place at the foothills of the Himalayas. It was later renamed as Nanak Matta. The meetings between Guru Nanak and yogis of the Nath sect continued in various parts of India. Gorakh Nath and Macchendra Nath, with their teams, met Guru Nanak two to three times. Nearly two centuries after meeting Guru Nanak, the Nath sect leaders came again to see Guru Gobind Singh. 

The Siddh Goshti

The question-answer sessions between Guru Nanak and Hindu Siddhas are known as Siddh Goshti. In that composition, nearly 150 selected questions by yogis and their answers by Guru Nanak are recorded in Guru Granth and in various Sikh history books.

Among the questions the yogis asked, one was about Guru Nanak’s competence in showing a miracle. As it has been recorded in the anecdotes about the prophets and the saints, the miracles were often displayed as the validity of their claims of being divine or the divine's agents. Following the same tradition, in their call, the Siddhas asked Guru Nanak for a miracle. They wanted to make sure that Guru Nanak was worthy of prophetic authority.  

In response thus spoke Guru Nanak, as recalled by the famous Sikh theologian Bhai Gurdas:

Siddhas spoke to Guru Nanak, ‘Listen, O Nanak! You seemed to have convinced the world of your prophetic rank by showing your miracles (Siddhas apparently thought that Guru Nanak had shown miracles to people in order to recruit such an impressive following), you must show us some miracle too. Why are you delaying this?’

Baba spoke in response, ‘Oh Nath ji! Listen to me as I am telling you in the truthful words. Other than to make people realise that the eternal truth of divine presence and its realisation is through all creations, I have no other miracle to show.

Bhai Gurdas, Vaar 1. Pauri 43

It is similar to what Guru Nanak said in his own composition of the Asa di Var. 

A hundred times a day, I am a sacrifice to my Guru; He made angels out of humans, without taking much time. 

Guru Granth Sahib p. 462

This very dialogue convinced Siddhas of Guru Nanak’s preeminence, as informed  by Bhai Gurdas. 

Siddhas spoke their sacred words praising the Guru: ‘Oh Nanak, you had achieved great accomplishments. You are a great illuminating personality that enlightened the people in these difficult times of kalyug, the Age of Downfall.’

Bhai Gurdas. Vaar 1. Pauri 44.

Similar sentiments about Guru's miraculous powers were expressed later by Guru Arjan in Guru Granth Sahib.

Says Nanak, the Guru has revealed this miracle; within my mind, I adore the Creator and Sustainer, Har, Har 

Guru Granth Sahib, p.1018

I often tell this story in order to bring to the notice of the movers of the interfaith dialogues of today that it was Guru Nanak who promoted the culture of interfaith dialogue over five centuries ago. I further illustrate that the founders of Sikhi did believe in miracles. Yes, they did use the ancient terminology of miracles. But to them, the greatest miracle was the metamorphosis of the human mind and not the magicians' tricks to convince people of their occult powers.  Guru Nanak wrote that the mind of the Guru oriented would be awakened to the devotion towards the divine attributes. 

Further, Guru Nanak wrote that when one blends with the Supreme Being, only then one’s awareness is awakened. 

Guru Granth Sahib, p. 1328.

And, so said Kabir in Guru Granth Sahib on page 1,372, the humble servant of the divine should be just like the divine. 

After his travels, Guru Nanak settled in a town that he named as Kartarpur, the Creator-Ville. There he collected and further composed his bani (sacred verses). He also founded the tradition of sangat, meaning congregations of seekers to learn, contemplate, and practice the Guru's way, Gurmat. There, masses of people came to Guru Nanak; in today's terminology, the Hindus were becoming his Sikhs and Muslims his Mureeds. Today, it is estimated that nearly 300 million people in the world ascribe their religious adherence to Gurmat. Even though many of them may not identify themselves as Sikh or Mureed. 

— The writer is Professor  Emeritus, the University of North Texas Health Science Center, USA,  and Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar

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