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The Legacy Bestowed By Guru Nanak

Guru Nanak had a definite social purpose before him and in view of that he wanted to mould spirituality and ontology to give a new direction to society of which he himself was a part and parcel. Needless to say that he watched very carefully the social orders prevalent around him and throughout his long joumeys he gathered together almost all the floating traditions of his time and analysed their problems which had made them almost coward before the invading hordes as well as the priestly classes controlling the society. He formulated his ideas, systematised them and also put them into a meaningful mould which could produce far-reaching consequences. In his Var Asa we find him taking note of almost all the socio-spiritual orders of Indian society in which some people after becoming subservient to Pathans and Mughals were leading a dual life; at home as Hindus and at the courts of the emperor as Muslims. After many centuries Guru Nanak gave the people of lndia a system of ideas, images and symbols and a set of discipline, all in precise and clear terms and ina very coherent and consistent manner through the language of the people i.e. Punjabi. In his purpose he not only transcended the Bhakti Movement, the Nath Panth and Sant synthesis, rather he asked people not to think in individual terms but act for the society in a significant way.

The immediate followers of most of the Sants of Bhakti tradition started of their own singing the songs of their masters and followed as well as preached their message. We don't find any conscious attempt on the part of these saints through which they would have thought of creating distinct communities of their devotees, neither they thought of organising and systematising what they experienced and preached for the benefit of their followers. They never thought of institutionalisation of their faith and ultimately one finds that their sects remained as minor sects in the broad ambit of Hinduism. Sri Chaitanya of Orissa and Sri Shankardeva of Assam were the only two contemporaries of Guru Nanak who had a social purpose before them for building up distinct communities. Says Prof. Niharranjan Ray, "the brahmanical interpretation given to Chaitanya's message by the Goswamis of Vrindavan pushed the nascent community back into the wide folds of brahminical Hinduism there to become an inconsequential sect. What happened to Shankardeva's followers was not very much different either." Guru Nanak delved deeper into the socio religious maladies and set before himself clear cut objectives to work effectively and well. His aims became clear when he before his heavenly ascension thought of nominating a Guru to take his place as his spiritual successor so that his ideas and formulations could percolate among the masses. Guru Nanak had given new interpretations to Yogic, Muslim and Hindu terminologies in order to infuse a sense of self-respect and simplicity of thought bereft of unwanted philosophization through the jargon of set phrases and esoteric sentences. Term 'Guru' he took up from the stock of Indian tradition already prevalent but from physical Guru he took it to the word of Guru which means knowledge and then subsequently it was told to the followers by other Gurus that the words of all the Gurus may be collectively called the Guru. However, in the case of Guru Nanak as he accepts in his hymns, God in the form of Shabad was his only Guru. Then the other utterances of Guru Nanak indicate that it was not God himself but the voice of God as revealed to a perceptive soul was also the Guru. Ultimately, Guru Nanak and his successor Gurus could successfully suggest to the people around that the Guru was to be equated with Word which was the Truth or God. However, the formal appointment of a successor by Guru Nanak established for at least nine more generations the principle of formal succession which further facilitated not only the transmission of the word and message of the first Guru but also the integration and consolidation of Sikh community. Gradually when the Granth Sahib was compiled bringing out the words of the Guru, side by side the organised community became conscious of religious freedom and dignity of manhood. Guru Gobind Singh, the last Guru abolished the institution of human Guru and in its place set up the Granth as the Guru which was the embodiment of the words and wisdom of the Gurus and bhaktas recognised by the Sikhs. The Granth was now called Sri Guru Granth Sahib, the Guru as well as the Word. In this chapter we would try to understand the legacy of doctrines left behind for Guru Angad in the form of formulations produced by Guru Nanak.


Economic and social injustice was the cause of the struggle initiated by Rousseau who gave the call of liberty, equality and fraternity at the end of the 18th century which culminated in the French Revolution in the year 1789. Later on the thinkers in other countries also came forward to raise their voices against the injustice being perpetrated on the people in those countries. In India too, a state of social discrimination similar to Europe had been prevailing for a long time. In the name of spiritual elevation, many sects and cults had come to the forefront, yet they had done little good to the masses. In the name of various institutions and on the excuse of the Karma of last birth, people were discriminated against, divided into many classes and sub-classes and were further asked to become passive fatalists. It was tolerable so long as there was interchangeability and flexibility in the well-knit caste system and the caste was recognised on the basis of present Dharma (duty one was engaged in), but when it came to be decided only on the basis of birth and one became a Shudra only because he was born in the Shudra family and one became Brahmin only because he was born in the Brahmin family, the system became horrible and harmful. Tyranny was let loose on the lower classes and social inequality became a fiercely felt phenomenon. First rate and second rate citizens were known to be a reality but Indians enacted a miracle by producing the third rate and fourth rate citizens. Opposing birth based rigid categorisation of humanity, Guru Nanak Dev took up cudgel against these man-made categories which were discriminating man as higher or lower. He wanted the development of everybody in every possible way. Individual man being the fundamental unit of society, Guru Nanak conceived of an ideal individual. He named him Gurmukh, whereas later on Guru Arjan Dev called him the 'Brahm-giani' and Guru Gobind Singh 'Khalsa'. Guru Nanak wished to create a society where surati, mati, mana and budhi co-ordinate to make man a beautiful piece of creation. He wanted to procure a balance among the emotions, desires and thoughts of man. He never conceived of a society, in which on the one side there were only the power and pelf­ hankering polemical elite class and on the other, the superstitious, the mentally backward and the down-trodden people.

Guru Nanak delineates that surati, mati, mana and buddhi are four faculties which known by the general nomenclature of surati work jointly and influence the inner structure of man and the outer structure of society. Surati as the one component of the antahkarna is the faculty which remembers and keeps record of all the events and impressions. It may be called chitta also. Waves of emotions and passions come to mana whereas mati is mamatva, a sense of possession, a sort of ego, which establishes the relation of the individual with the outer objects of the world. Buddhi confirms the work of these two mentioned above, putting forward so many arguments and necessary precedents. These threejointly make Surati; in other words, surati is a unifying thread among all and yet also a separate force. Guru Nanak, at so many places in his hymns, has stressed upon making surati strong as well as pure by the chiseling of mati, mana and buddhi because for living a life of a true Sikh one is required to make surati strong by always abiding in the ascending spirits (charhdikala).

Guru Nanak conceptualized to evolve such a society in which neither mati nor mana nor buddhi should have an over-emphasis. Surati of the individual should be a beautiful and dignified blend of all these faculties, where head and heart should have an equal status. Though the heart has needs of its own which the head can rarely understand, yet we should not overlook the importance of the either, and a reasonable restraint is required for both. Thi3 restraint is possible only when we adopt the Surati-marga or the way of consciousness leading to the super consciousness. The beauty of the life of the individual following this way of surati, is delineated by Dr. Balbir Singh in his Surati Shabad Vichar by saying that equipped with the insight of 'Surta' (suratz) the man is more occupied with the harmony of the universe rather than its unity. Shabda in its primal sense signifies the musical harmony into which the 'Surta' gets easily absorbed. It is thus the aesthetic interest that begins to play on the chords of the soul and through its attunement opens the gateway to self realisation.

Secondly, compartmentalization of humanity into Hindu, Sikh, Muslim, Brahmin, Kshatriya Vaishya or Shudra etc. was not acceptable to the Grand Master Guru Nanak Dev. He saw man as a Jiva who has come to earth to earn goodness through complete surrender before God, and through service to humanity. Sikhism thus consistent to its universalism, refuses to accredit the caste institution in social ethics and its seers, on the basis of their direct intuitive knowledge deny God having favoured a few by bringing them out from the higher parts of His body.

And suppose, it is there as has been enunciated in the Purusha Sukta of Rigveda that Brahmins came out of the mouth, Kshatriyas out of arms, Vaishyas out of thighs and Shudras out of feet of all pervading Purusha, even then discrimination against certain castes is unfounded. One should not forget that though these four varnas came out of different organs of the body yet they came out of the same body. If the feet are hurt or cut away from the body or the arms are no more with the body, the whole of the body suffers and becomes crippled. When one portion of the body is tortured, the agony is felt by the entire body and not merely by a particular organ. So, whether situated at the lower or upper portion, there always remains an organic unity among the different parts of the body. But alas, this was little understood in the later ages and many inequalities were allowed to develop in society.

Not that nobody earlier to Guru Nanak had raised a voice against the inequalities of the caste system. The attitude of almost all the Bhaktas towards caste system was very revolutionary but their onslaughts remained weak as many of them had come from the so-called lower castes. These revered bhaktas inspired many to shatter the dogmas of worship and practical life yet they almost failed to bring about any fruitful change in the caste system. In Guru Granth Sahib when we read the hymns of Namdev (a calico-printer by caste), Ravidas (a chamar, the leather worker by caste) and Kabir (a weaver), we clearly see a melancholic note underlying their hymns as they speak against the injustices and cruelties being perpetrated on the basis of high and low castes. Kabir says that all men mock at him for his low caste. He is fierce when he asks a pandit how was he a Brahmin and Kabir a Shudra and how he could make a distinction between the blood of Kabir and that of his own (GGS, 325). But still we may see that these Bhaktas could not receive enough attention of the so-called high caste people.

Guru Nanak's voice was not a voice from outside for society. Unmindful of the fact that he himself belonged to a higher caste (khatri), he chose from the very beginning of his life, his life-long companion Mardana who not only belonged to a lower caste (Mirasi) but was also a Muslim. Mardana remained day and night with Guru Nanak for forty-seven years up to the end of his (Mardana's) life. Guru Nanak many times was admonished by his father for this type of revolutionary action, but the Guru was firm in his tenet that 'vain is the pride of caste, vain the pride of glory; the Lord alone gives different shades to all' (GGS, 83).

Langar, the Free Kitchen

To mitigate the false pride of the caste system, Guru Nanak established the institution of Langar wherein none is to question as to who has prepared the victuals and who is distributing them. Guru Nanak was not satisfied by mere preaching about equality. He went on to practise that equality in the social life both in the spiritual context as well as in day to day actions. He denounced that spirituality which could not produce self-respect in the hearts of people themselves as well as about their fellow beings at all levels. He himself boldly came forward to achieve this ideal. This is well illustrated by the popularly known story of Malick Bhagchand a merchant and Lalo a lowly born carpenter. While on his tours, Guru Nanak went to Eminabad where he lodged himself at the house of a carpenter Lalo and declined the invitation of Malick Bhagchand. On being asked the reason for it by the rich man Bhagchand, Guru Nanak squeezed the dry bread of Lalo in one hand and the rich victuals of Bhagchand in the other. Drops of milk seemed oozing out of Lalo's food and blood from the food of Bhagchand. It may look like a miracle, but the point Guru Nanak wanted to stress was that though Lalo belonged to a so-called lower caste yet his earning by labour was as pure and worthwhile as milk. In purity of mind and heart there is no question of caste. To confirm this further and to reject the caste criterion, Guru Nanak established the Langar (free kitchen) institution in which he abolished all barriers and freely served food to all the castes while eating himself with them on the same floor. Though he was accepted as the Guru, he sat by the side of all and felt a joy in being equal to them. He proudly says that he is the lowest among the lowly; he is their companion and had nothing to do with the so-called rich elders (GGS, 15). Such an uplifting of the lower castes was a novel experiment upon the Indian masses which culminated in the times of Guru Gobind Singh in the selection of his five beloveds (Panj Piaras) from the various classes and comers of lndia Guru Nanak not only raised his voice against social injustice, he successfully through the institution of Langar demonstrated how his principle of equality could be implemented for the benefit of society.


Guru Nanak during his sojourns to various parts of India observed that hypocrisy, delusions and ostentations in religious and social affairs had become the backbone of Indian masses. The results were exploitation, degeneration and fragmentation of the social order. Upper castes, in order to make all others the dredges, had become loosely united for this cause and consequently one finds abhorred Shudras and ati shudras whose, let alone the touch, even the shadow was held as inauspicious. In view of breaking the unholy and exploitative nexus between the so-called upper-castes, Guru Nanak established sangats wherever he went and in the later period sangat and pangat became the cardinal pillars of Sikh society. Sangat being an holy congregation and matrix of the doctrines preached by Guru Nanak is such an assembly where one learns to live in and for the society. Three aspects of the sangat are worth mentioning. First, in sangat as says Guru Nanak, is the ocean of nam through which Godhood is attainted. Through the teachings received in the sangat, the internal darkness is dispelled away and the illumination attained.

Man gets enlightened in the holy company of others as the iron touched by the philosopher's stone turns out to be gold (GOS, 1244). Secondly, for such attainment one is not required to go to the jungle because the allurement or pretentions of attaining kaivalya (Sankhya idea of final liberation) or loneliness takes man away from the responsibilities towards his surroundings. Bhairvi chakras, in the name of spiritual elevation were already in operation and Guru Nanak must have seen them when he was away to Assam. These so-called congregations in the name of Bhairavi Chakras were undertaking esoteric practices by using five Ms (mans, machhli, madya, maithun and mudra) and herein only few chosen persons were allowed to join the same. But the sangats established by Guru Nanak, were for one and all irrespective of their caste colour and creed. Thirdly, from psychological point of view while being alone in a jungle or cave, one is easily liable to deviate from the right path because nobody is there to check the evil designs of heart and mind as is evident from many ancient stories wherein we find the ascetics living in the forests and observing penances are easily beguiled by the apsaras (nymphs) and even by tribal women. But, if one is there in the society whose further sacred form is sangat, he is sure to elevate himself through an automatic check over the propensities which try to push his senses on evil path. As envisaged by Guru Nanak, sangat is such a place where the energies of body and mind are used for the weal of the needy by working in langar or doing other services (seva) for the society.

Later on, this institution of sangat was further strengthened by manjidars or masands in the different areas and the sangats managed the affairs of the community and even the household affairs of the Sikh Gurus through these masands. The sangats organised the collection of funds and other offerings and sent them to the Gurus through the masands. In fact sangat is such a powerful institution that up to this day the saying is prevalent that if the Guru is twenty times (20 bisave) great, the sangat is twenty-one time (21 bisave). And this saying can be further testified from the Sikh history. Remarks of Chandulal, the minister of Mughal Court about the house of the Guru were resented by the sangat and Guru Arjan Dev, the fifth Guru, obeying the commands of sangat rejected the proposed marriage alliance of his son (Guru) Hargobind with the daughter of Chandu. Prithi Chand, the elder brother of Guru Arjan Dev was ignored by the sangat though he laid his claim for Guruship. Ram Rai, the son of seventh Guru Hari Rai was discarded by the sangat on misinterpretation of the Gurbani and likewise Dhirmal was shunted away from the mainstream of the Sikhs to further prove that only government assistance would not do if the sangat has not given a proper recognition to an act undertaken by a particular person on his own.


Sach being operative form of sati (ਸਤਿ), literally truth as preached by Guru Nanak denoting ever existent consciousness, the ultimate reality, the immutable nature of the omnipotent God and the subtlest basic element of the creation, has always remained as an integral value and powerful force in day to day Sikh life which the great Guru emphasized upon and Bhai Lahina learnt to emulate while being in the holy proximity of Guru Nanak. Scriptural texts propound sati to be constituting eternality, continuity and unicity. Guru Nanak's varied and wide use of the cognate of sati e.g. satsangati, satigur, satinam, sachkhand, sachiar, etc. establish its predominant role in Sikh ethical and spiritual life.

The first and the most appropriate attribute of the one Absolute is sati in the Mu/mantra given by Guru Nanak Dev. All other names of God base on His various actions which limitize His all-encompassing omnipotence. Names based on actions (kirtam names) delineate but one aspect of His phenomenal activity whereas sati represents Him in His wholeness and grandeur, covering all the denominations of time (Kai) and yet not getting fully exhausted in it. Says Guru Nanak, "adi sachu jugadi sachu. hai bhi sachu Nanak hosi bhi sachu." Since the sati is immutable and beyond time and space, life and death, it never gets old or worn out-sachu purana hovai nahi, (GGS, 955) and sachu purana ni thiai, (GGS, 468). The universe, which is transitory, is unreal in the context of sati, i.e. real and ever existent but it is not antithetically unreal in the Vedantic sense of appearance and illusion. Changing, however, does not necessarily mean to be unreal because this universe according to Guru Nanak Dev is the creation of the Supreme who enjoys it by being present in it (dui kudarati sajiai kari asanu ditho chao). This happy blissful joy by sitting amidst the creation is meaningless if this creation is a mere non-existent appearance. In Sukhmani, Guru Arjan Dev also affirms : "He is truth and His creation is true. From that Supreme have emanated all"--api sati kia sabhu sati, tisu prabh te sagali utapati (GGS, 294). He is truth. His truth is all-pervading but this truth is identified rarely by anyone--sachu sachu sachu sabhu kina. koti madhe kinai biralai china (GGS, 279). Sati is rather the ultimate cause behind the creation and not the so-called neutrons electrons and protons. In Guru Granth Sahib, Guru Nanak stresses that the creation of the three worlds has been supposed to have emanated from water which has come into existence due to gases whose primordial cause is Truth the Supreme sach-sache te pavana bhaia pavanai te jalu hoi. Jalu te tribhavanu sajia ghati ghati joti samoi (GGS, 19).

Three prominent dimensions of sati have been taken into consideration in Sikhism. Firstly, the truth is a direct irresistible force which illumines as well as blossoms the jiva as spontaneously as the lotus opens its petals with a feel of sunlight. Truth opens the inner eyes of higher consciousness which makes one feel the direct touch of the Supreme Truth-God. Man feels pointedly, 'beda kateb sansar habhahun bahara, Nanak ka patisahu disai jahara' (GGS, 105). Secondly, when man gets identified with the truth, he goes beyond the illusions of transmigration. Now the atman sharply realises its own separate being from the body and hence remains a mere witness of the actions of the latter, thus getting totally free from the clutches of the so-called philosophical and ritualistic endeavours. Then death and decay of body become meaningless and a dialectical relationship of truth and freedom emerges out. This freedom cultivated by intellect and soul pushes the body to act for the dictum propounded by Guru Nanak. If one loses honour in life, impure is all that one eats--jejivai pati lathijai. sabhu haram jeta kichhu khai (GGS, 122). This dimension of sati begets sacrifice which is the back-bone of Sikh way of life.

The third aspect of the sati is hukam which as such is an interlink between the two dimensions alluded to above. Hukam in the form of outer penal codes is quite explicit but its inner force and nature, apart from regulating the external activities of the entities, impart them their intrinsic essence. The coldness of water and the burning power of fire are not superficially imposed qualities but are their essential internal nature, and hence implicit hukam. Guru Nanak while posing the problem of how to become truthful in the first stanza of Japu asksjiva to listen to and follow this inner voice in the form of hukam which has been perennially an integral part of jiva. When the alloy of such a truth in all its dimensions is allowed to take shape of the truthful scepter, the creation through the same becomes wondrous and awe inspiring. Says Guru Nanak: "The creation of the sceptre of truth made by the steel of truth is incomparable, beauteous and infinite-- sach ki kati sach sabhu sar. gharat tis ki apar apar (GGS, 956).

Sach being basic to the creation, morality and spirituality, Guru Nanak expects of jiva to become sachiar i.e. truth oriented. This seems to be the biggest concern of all the Sikh Gurus, for, we find in the very beginning of the Guru Granth Sahib that the problem of how to become sachiar has been raised by Guru Nanak besides his exposition of the erstwhile methods adopted by the people for the same objective. He concludes his magnum opus Japu (ji) by explaining sach-khand- the abode of truth. His preponderate and pithy propositions regarding Guru, Hukam, gurmukh etc. link the jiva with the society and the world because in Sikhism man is required to pursue the answer to this question through his truthful, meritorious and altruistic actions here in this very world. In the context of sach one finds Sikhism founded by Guru Nanak deeply concerned and involved in activity and not in the spirit of repudiation of actions, which is a corollary of the perusal when one simply goes on probing into the problem what Brahm is. In Indian philosophical thought Brahm is above sati, asat, pap and puny but by linking sati with the nam (rup) , Guru Nanak has made it a repository of all the ethical and spiritual values.

The truth oriented person or sachiar is defined by Guru Nanak as the being, free from superstitious parasitical growth of beliefs cherished by the ordinary populace due to their ill-fed education by the self-aggrandizing persons at the helm of affairs. In sixteenth stanza of Japuji it is told with a pun that the truth oriented (sachiar) understands the mystery that it is not a bull but dharma- begotten of compassion and contentment which supports and sustains the whole humanity on earth. However, the essence of the sach or reality in all its aspects is the life pulse throbbing in the objects of the universe though the thrust of this life force in the undeveloped and underdeveloped ones is not clearly perceptible. "He who apprehends his self in fact reflects upon this essence i.e. the Real (GGS, 421).

Truth Realization

In Japu ji while contemplating on Truth or the abode of Truth, Guru Nanak delves deep into its ethico­ philosophical dimensions in stanzas 34 to 38. While expounding the practical philosophy of delightful life on earth, the problem of how to become and make people truthful (sachiar) seems to be always haunting Guru Nanak as is evident from his almost all the hymns, shorter or longer. Guru Nanak formulates certain steps in the Japu (ii), for attaining the supreme Truth and becoming really truthful. As a first step, the broad visioned understanding of the world around and responsibility towards it has to be accepted first. The world should be firmly accepted as an inn (dharamsal) which is generally considered a resting place while on the way to spiritual realization. Those who take it as the real and the final goal, remain away from the Truth.

In the second stage one should cultivate more knowledge and less information. Real knowledge creates awe, the sense of wonder (vismad) which erases the layers of ego whereas information makes one full of pride and ego. In the third stage with the help of real knowledge, all sorts of virtues are cultivated while chiseling the mati, mana buddhi and surati. Now, through virtuous life the consciousness is uplifted towards super consciousness. Then the domain of Grace of Lord begins and consequently the final height of spiritual development, i.e. Supreme Truth is attained.

Haumai (Ego)

In the Sikh way of life haumai has been taken as the most serious malady of head and heart, which is required to be erased at the earliest possible. Abhiman, ahankar, khudi, guman, apparently look synonyms of haumai but seen minutely, in Sidh Gosti, Guru Nanak avers that this world and its further dialectical relationships all emerge from haumai and in fact the haumai is the root cause of world creation (GGS, 946). Guru Nanak holds that haumai is the basic cloth spread on which the game of oblong dice is played by ahankar. He who sustains the loss of world and the worldly desires in reality wins through the reflection upon the word of the Guru (GGS, 422). To quote Guru Nanak from Var Asa, love of life and attachment is nothing but the tendency of clinging to the physical pleasures which consequently leads man towards the means necessary for their attainment. Man by getting into the grip of these means becomes helpless victim of them which consequently help him keep lost in the cycle of transmigration. As said above, discussing haumai philosophically, says Guru Nanak : haumai vich jagu upajai purakha nam visarai dukh pai (GGS, 946)--the world springs forth and gets created by haumai and undergoes afflictions when forgets nam. Here Guru Nanak differs from the ages-long accepted tradition of the Sankhya in which prakriti is held to be the sole cause of ahankara and reverses the evolutionary table by accepting the prakriti itself and its evolute world as produced by ahankara. Further in the concept of haumai one may find that the concepts of maya and avidya both have been merged in one by Guru Nanak and the same has been elaborated by Guru Angad Dev in his salokas.

Sabad Guru

Contemplating upon the role of Guru and considering him as central to the virtues of contentment, dharma, knowledge, charity and meditation, Guru Nanak says that the 'Guru is part and parcel of life because he is the tree of contentment which flowers in faith and gives fruits of wisdom. Watered by the Lord's love, this tree remains ever green and its fruits ripen through deeds and meditation. Those who taste these fruits are glorious and this tree (Guru) is the Lord's gift of gifts- Nanak guru santokhu rukhu dharamu phulu phal gianu. rasa rasia haria sada pakai karami dhianu. pati ke sad khada lahai dana kai sir danu (GGS, 147). Interpreting the concept of Guru with special reference to Sikhism Prof. Niharranjan Ray explains in detail by saying that, "In all mystical and esoteric religions and religious cults, at any rate in India, we find the guru playing a very important and significant role; indeed no religious and spiritual pursuit in these cults and sects seem to be conceivable without a guru. There is no doubt that Guru Nanak inherited the totality of this tradition, and in his interpretation of doctrine one finds elements from the entire inheritance. In the first place there are utterances of his which show that the Guru was none other than God Himself, a point which is made not only by Guru Nanak but by Guru Arjan Dev and Guru Gobind Singh as well. Whatever may be said of the nine successive Gurus in whose case the predecessor Gurus and their words may be collectively called the Guru, one may not have any doubt that in Guru Nanak's case God Himself was the one and only Guru. Then there are other utterances of Guru Nanak which indicate that it was not only God Himself but the Voice of God as revealed to a perceptive soul, which was also the Guru, an interpretation which was Kabir's as well, it seems. But still there are other utterances of Guru Nanak which would suggest that the Guru was to be equated with the Word or the Truth of God.

But whatever the interpretation, the fact remains that he wanted to give these interpretations a socially institutionalized form and in his life time he accomplished this feat. One may understand it as follows : Let us see how he did it. First, God is the Guru and Guru Nanak had not only heard his Voice but had also listened to and followed His Word which was the Truth. Naturally he could claim to be a Guru himself; indeed guruship had descended on him as God's grace. Here was thus a clear case of spiritual succession. Secondly, therefore, he could legitimately select and nominate one to succeed him as Guru since he had transmitted to him, his voice and word which were but the Voice and Word of God. Guru Angad Dev was selected to further this institution of Guruship.


Hukam or the divine will being central to the doctrines of Guru Nanak every Sikh of the Guru is expected and urged to accept it happily and be in tune with it. Says Guru Nanak Dev, "Whosoever is obedient to the Lord's will, enters into His treasure, the spurious do not find place there and are cast among the defiled ones-hukami rajai Jo chalai so pavai khajanai. khote thavar na paini rale juthanai (GGS, 421). In Sidh Gosti, the Guru while speculating about Hukam, becomes overwhelmed and says that the hukam is the realisation of infinite wonder and whosoever learns to recognise it becomes adept in the art of living and becomes quite competent to take cognizance of the truth. He becomes pure by suppressing his ego and he is a true yogi. In the very beginning of Japu ji the Guru reflects upon hukam and delineates that whole of the creation and its attendant virtues and wiles not only originate but they are sustained too by the hukam. Guru Nanak holds truth and truthful living as the great ideals of life which can be achieved only by accepting the hukam which is ingrained in the innerself of the jiva since the time immemorial hukami rajai chalana Nanak likhia nali (GGS, 2).

Many Arabic Persian equivalents of hukam, namely Qudrat, amr, raza, furman, etc. have been used in the hymns of the Guru. Along with hukam and amaru another very important concept also taken from the Arabic is raza. Raza like hukam is also Divine Will and these two terms are generally employed in the Guru's teaching in conjunction. Among Muslim sufis, who had established their centres of religious practice and propagation in Punjab two to three centuries before Guru Nanak Dev's time, raza was popularly current term and had passed into the thought and speech of the masses. Hence in order to emphasize the religious duty of submission to the Divine Will, Guru Nanak employed hukam and raza consistently in his message. Indeed raza has a twofold meaning: (a) The attitude of submission on man's part to the Divine Will and (b) The Divine will itself. It is in the latter of the senses that raza is mostly employed in the Sikh thought. As the Sikh history tells, even in the face of impending death at the hands of tyrants, in undergoing martyrdom, the Guru's Sikhs felt themselves bound to accept these happenings as hukam and raza and to meet their sufferings in the ascending spirit (charhdikala). Guru Angad epitomized these concepts in practical life to which we will come later. Hukam and Qudrat are other words used to denote shakti of the All-pervasive shaktiman. In fact, Qudrat and hukam are sometimes like warp and weft in Nanak bani, the matrix of the whole spirit and ethical thought developed by the successive Gurus. Qudrat and hukam with their moral undertones in character uphold the right and destroy the evil. Right must endure. The triumph of the right embedded in hukam sustains faith and makes sorrow and sufferings appear only to be temporary phases in the life. This emboldening fact was deeply realized by Guru Angad as we will see that obedience to and total surrender before the Guru was his main stay.