"Baba Nanak Shah Faqeer - Hindu Ka Guru, Musalman Ka Peer"
The celebration of festivals as given by natural rather than man-made calendars is not encountered very often anymore. It would seem inconvenient to our economy-driven global society if weekday and date of a festival or holiday change every year. Today, we enjoy life with precise and predictable time management rather than according to the rhythms of nature.
For this reason most holy days have been fixed in the calendar, with few exceptions, one of which is Guru Nanak’s birthday, which is nowadays celebrated on the full moon in November. I imagine this to be very much to his liking, thinking of him as a thought-provoking reformist in Divine Spirit.
Living in Divine Will (Hukam) is what Guru Nanak inspired and embodied in his songs, poetry and teachings. I understand it as conscious, continuous communication with truth and reality, here and now, and a responsible living in acceptance, agreement and rapport accordingly, infused with trust and faith, and accompanied by an effort to uphold a joyous, positive outlook and to grow consciousness and intelligence of heart and mind (Cherdi Kala). This transcends modern understanding of how to measure time and what has to happen when.
The Bhagti movement of those centuries in India was a movement of complete surrender to the Divine and renunciation of personal agenda. “You, the Creator, act, I can do nothing – if I try, nothing happens.” (Guru Nanak) Bhagti poetry infuses a spirit of rebellion against the manifestations of entitlement and self-importance of the human ego.
Guru Nanak’s teachings suggest a lifestyle of simplicity, honesty and humility. He unmasked much of the make-believe of mysterious rituals as hypocrisy, politics and compensation for lack of true union. Instead, he infused the immediacy and excitement of true and timeless consciousness into people by his spontaneous song and poetry, filled with wonder, devotion, and praise of the One Divine Existence.
His practical teachings are intriguingly short, natural and universal: First, meditate continuously with a mantra of Divine Identity (Naam Japu); second, live and work in the world with honesty (Kirat Karni); and third, share what you have with others and consume in community (Vand Chhakna).
Guru Nanak was a cross-dresser. In order to help people stop thinking in labels of differences – like “Hindu” and “Muslim,” two very popular categories of his time – but make them see that there is a much more important common essence within all of us, he used to wear garments of both traditions at the same time. To complete the confusion of onlookers, one of the two disciples who accompanied him on his extensive journeys was Muslim, the other Hindu.
Singing spontaneous Divine poetry was his preferred way of communicating. Musical singing – as opposed to theoretical lecturing – seems to be more efficient to bring the human mind into a space where essential questions, personal worries and suffering are transformed and filled with surrender, devotion and the bliss of pure presence. He channelled Divine Word which he recognised as the authority of “Shabad Guru.”
Complication and confusion are signs of this age of iron and darkness (Kali Jug). Since the illusions (Maya) of personal success, possession, power and fame have become more and more prevalent as we “progressed” through the ages, we have bought in and worshipped Maya to such an extent that the cycles of desire and satisfaction define and consume us. But their transiency and artificiality leave us with a sense of confusion, depression and lack. Today, simplicity is sometimes turned on it’s head and seen as fast-food instead of home-grown produce, social media instead of meeting people, pills instead of healing, artificial intelligence instead of human service.
Simplicity does not mean that meditating and living in Divine Will is easy, but it makes a statement about priorities: Make meditation – mastering the mind and raising consciousness – the foundation, essence and centre of life and have everything else revolve around it. This may be difficult enough to achieve, but life and it’s manifold decisions might be easier if you have a point of reference to love and live by. To have such priorities and simplicity in life can be liberating and relaxing; it might help to shift one’s perspective on problems and worries and their actual unimportance.
May our efforts serve the Soul’s journey and spread ever-rising consciousness, healing and prosperity for all. Satnam.
“Burn emotional attachment, and grind it into ink.
Transform your intelligence into the purest of paper.
Make the love for the Divine your pen,
and let your consciousness be the scribe.
Then, seek Divine instructions and record them.
Write the Praises of the Name,
write over and over again that Divinity has no end or limitation.”
– Guru Nanak, SGGS, Siri Raag, ang 16
Addendum: From Spring to Autumn
Max Arthur MacAuliffe (1838-1913) was a senior British administrator, prolific scholar and author. He is renowned for his partial translation of Sikh scripture Siri Guru Granth Sahib into English and for one of the most seminal and widely acclaimed comprehensive books on the history of the Sikh religion in English language by a sympathising foreigner, the six volume The Sikh Religion, first published in 1909.
In the introduction to Volume 1 of his The Sikh Religion, MacAuliffe sheds light on possible reasons and the circumstances for why Guru Nanak’s birthday is celebrated in the month of Kartik (Octover-November), when there is actually little doubt among historians that he was born in the month of Baisakh (April-May).