GURU NANAK

FURTHER INFORMATION FOR:

Students and Seekers

   

Above: picture from popular comic strip series showing Guru Nanak in Kartarput in Chapter 7, 'Are we all equal?'

Below: Two boys in the Punjab countryside in Chapter 4,   'Can our specific experiences teach us universal truths?'

        

         

   Above: Artist's impressio of Guru Nanak as a boy in  

   rural Punjab in Chapter 1, 'Who was Guru Nanak?'

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The word 'Sikh' means a learner or disciple of the Guru.  In a general sense, a Sikh is someone who devotes him- or herself to seeking and serving 'the Truth' through the guidance of an 'enlightened soul'.  Whether you are born into a Sikh family, or curious to learn more about the Sikh faith, you are a learner or a seeker in one way or another.  For the world's 24 million Sikhs, their first Guru was Guru Nanak, Dev Ji, who was born in 1469 in the Punjab, the 'Land of Five Rivers' which lies across northern India and present-day Pakistan.  

Very often we hear about religion being the cause of conflict in the world, of its rules and rituals being shallow and superficial.  This was true of the time Guru Nanak was born in.  With the greatest conviction and deepest humility, he appealed to people to be true to themselves by shedding their hypocrisy, prejudices and all selfish instincts.  He also taught people to connect themselves to a higher 'Truth', that we are all have a spark of divine light in us, a goodness and Godliness that can be kindled.  There is One Creator - Ek Oankar - although the world is full of diversity and our ways of perceiving God are many.  Whereas everything around us is temporary, there is an Eternal Truth behind everything that exists.  Guru Nanak traveled far and wide to share his message.  His four long journeys took him as far as the eastern and southern tips of India, up northwards to Tibet and westwards to the Islamic cities of Makkah, Medina, Baghdad and Afghanistan.  The book will show you some fascinating paintings about these journeys and tell you a bit about the many encounters that Guru Nanak had.  

When Guru Nanak returned to the Punjab after his journeys, he established a community where all the principles of his teachings could be put into practice, such as seva and simran; nam japo, kirat karo, wand ke chhako.  The book will help you find out their meanings and discuss how they are important building blocks for Sikh life today.  Perhaps you will find them to be helpful role models for living, whether one is a Sikh or not.  This helps us to understand how religion can contribute to the welfare of humanity.

We can learn a lot from studying the religions of the world, but it can also raise many questions and seeming contradictions.  Thirteen bite-sized chapter headings - such as 'Are we all equal?’; ‘Are labels and uniforms necessary?’, ‘Does integrity matter?’, ‘Do we need a sense of direction?’ and ‘Can our specific experiences teach us universal truths?’ -  give you a chance to think about your personal responses to such questions. How does society at large seem to respond? What was Guru Nanak’s response? How has his legacy shaped the Sikh community today?

If you enjoy art and photography, there are many fascinating images which interact with the text, ranging from traditional paintings to contemporary artwork, photographs from Sikh life and comic-strip story-telling.  Pictures also help us understand that there are many 'ways of seeing' a religious figure, and many ways of interpreting a religious tradition.  We hope the book offers you many thought-provoking glimpses into the life of Guru Nanak and that they inspire you on your own journey of discovery, whether it's about the Sikh faith, religion in general, or your own 'take' on life.