Guru Nanak — The prophet
We find in Guru Nanak all the essentials of prophethood delineated by Max Weber and Wach. A prophet does not receive his mission from any human agency; personal “call”, or direct communion with deity (i.e., God, in the case of Guru Nanak) is the hallmark of prophethood; this personal “call” is usually connected with a particular moment (kairos) of the prophet’s life. The prophet’s mission is a consequence of divine revelation and his charisma is a divine gift; and, most important of all, the prophet’s mission is mandatory.
There is no mention in Sikh tradition and history of Guru Nanak having been initiated into the mystic path by a known person; i.e., he had no human being as his guru, murshid, or teacher. The yogis asked him pointedly : “Who is your Guru, and whose disciple are you ?” To this question Guru Nanak gave a categoric answer : "Sabad (‘Word’ or Immanent God) is my Guru, and the mind attuned to the ‘Word’ (Surat) is the disciple.”
“Tera kawan guru jis ka tu chela
... ... ...
Sabad guru surat dhun chela”.1
Again, “The transcendent Lord, God, is the Guru whom Nanak has met.”2
Guru Nanak himself claims direct communion with God, and that his mission is a consequence of divine revelation. “O Lalo, as I receive the word of the Lord, so do I utter.”3
The accounts of Guru Nanak’s life (Janam-sakhis)4 record that he received his revelation as a gift from God. “Then God said : ‘I have blessed you and bless the world for your sake.’ Then God bade goodbye to Nanak. He sent him after blessing him with His devotion, ‘Nam’, and Praise.”5 Bhai Gurdas confirms this : “First Baba (Guru Nanak) received (God’s) blessings (Bakshdar); and put in strenuous effort afterwards.”6 Guru Nanak himself says in one of his hymns :
“What sort of gift is that which is earned by one’s own effort ?
Nanak, that is Kramat (i.e., miracle or charisma)
What is received (as a gift) by Lord’s blessing.”7
The Janam-sakhis also record that Guru Nanak received his revelation at a particular moment of his life (kairos) when he disappeared for some time at the bank of a rivulet called Waieen.8 There is a gurdwara built of old at this place to commemorate this event.
The most important aspects of Guru Nanak’s prophethood for the purpose of our study, however, are the essence of his prophecy and the mandatory character of his revelation.
1. The Prophecy
The Janam-sakhis mention three important features of Guru Nanak’s revelation, and their version is supported by other evidence and considerations.
“O, Nanak! you make people in Kaliyug (the dark age) utter or remember (Japavana) My Nam; Drive home (Dirrawna) Nam, Dan (charity) and Isnan (bathing) to the world; praise (Me) and make others praise. Establish noble Dharma (sudharm), spread (it) so that the world is benefited and becomes Mukat.”9
Bhai Gurdas confirms this Janam-sakhi version :
“The Benevolent God heard the cry of anguish and deputed Guru Nanak to the world;
(He) made (people) in the Kaliyug see one Absolute God;
He made Dharm (Dharma) perfect by fusing the four castes into one;
He put the prince and the pauper on equal footing…;
Baba (Guru Nanak) salvaged Kaliyug through the mantra of True Nam;
Guru Nanak came to save Kaliyug.”10
(b) The Panth
The second prominent feature of Guru Nanak’s prophetic mandate is that, “The Great God granted (Nanak) leave for the purpose of creating the Panth.”11 Bhai Gurdas has referred, to this mandate Guru Nanak received, at a number of places. “Nanak struck a (new) coin in the world and initiated the immaculate (nirmal) Panth,12 and enrolled disciples from the four castes and established the pure Panth.”13
(c) No hindu, no mussalman
The third feature recorded by the Janam-sakhis is that the very first words Guru Nanak uttered after receiving his revelation were : “There is no Hindu, no Mussalman.”14 Then, common folk began to say : “Nanak! Now you are a changed person; previously you were different. Now you are expressing different ideas. One path is that of Hindus, the other that of Mussalmans. Which of these is your path ?” Then Guru Baba Nanak said : “No one is Hindu; no one is Mussalman. Whose path I should follow ? I follow God’s path. God is neither Hindu, nor Mussalman.”15 Here, again, Bhai Gurdas not only confirms this feature of Guru Nanak’s mandate, but also elaborates it, in a way :
“There are four castes and four religions (sects) in the world — the Hindus and Muslims; ... (They) utter Ram and Rahim, and misguide themselves into two (separate) paths in the name of one God (Nam); ... By-passing the Truth, the Brahmins and Maulvis are locked into (inconsequential) disputations.”16
When asked as to who is better, Hindu or Muslim, Guru Nanak replied : “Without good deeds, both lament; … Ram and Rahim are equal (or the same), and people hate one another (in their names for nothing).”17
Elaborating Guru Nanak’s mission further, Bhai Gurdas writes :
“(Guru Nanak) welded the four dharms (i.e., the four different codes of conduct set up for the four castes) and the four castes into one;
(He) put the prince and the pauper on equal footing and propagated the rule of humility in the world; …
Baba (Guru Nanak) emancipated Kaliyug
Through the mantra of the True Nam (Sat Nam).”18
In fact, the aforesaid three features of Guru Nanak’s revelation or prophecy need no outside verification or substantiation. These laid the ideological foundations of the Sikh movement; and were, as such, its basic constituents to such an extent that these are reflected all around in its development. The quotations given from the Janam-sakhis and Bhai Gurdas serve just to show that these features can be traced to the earliest roots of Sikh tradition.
Moreover, in the discussion that follows, we are not concentrating on establishing the historical validity of the Sikh movement, which has been attempted in earlier works, or tracing its serial development. Here, in this work, our main concern is to probe the salient characteristics of the movement from the angle of some disciplines, other than that of history, to show that :
(a) Guru Nanak’s revelation was of a mandatory character, and its mandatory potential and momentum provided the driving, compulsive force which distinguished the Sikh Movement from other Indian reform movements, in its development and consequences.
(b) That the three features noted above were interwoven and inter-dependent, and constituted, as integral parts, one composite whole of Guru Nanak’s prophecy or revelation. It is in their integrated form that these features provided the ideological inspiration, direction, and strength to the Sikh revolutionary movement.
1. Guru Granth Sahib, pp. 942, 943.
2. Ibid., p. 599.
3. Ibid., p. 722.
4. The Janam-sakhis are, no doubt, written in hagiographical idiom, but so are the life-accounts of most of other prophets. Also, the Janam-sakhis reduced to writing the oral traditions current then approximately sixty years after the death of Guru Nanak; and so were the life-accounts of Jesus Christ and Prophet Muhammed recorded after their deaths even after a longer lapse of time.
5. Janam-sakhi of Meharban, p. 89.
6. Varan Bhai Gurdas, Var One, Pauri 24.
7. Guru Granth Sahib, pp. 474-75.
8. God’s name was revealed in the early hours of Bhadon Sudi 15 Punnyan, Sammat 1564 (AD 1507). God met Baba Nanak face to face in the midst of the stream (Janam-sakhi of Meharban, p. 89).
9. Janam-sakhi of Meharban, p. 89.
10. Varan : Var 1, Pauri 23.
11. Janam-sakhi of Meharban, p. 89.
12. Varan, Bhai Gurdas; Var One, Pauri 45.
13. Ibid, Var 29, Pauri 1; Var 6, Pauri 1; Var 23; Pauri 1; Var 24, Pauri 2.
14. Janam-sakhi, edited by Piara Singh, p. 43.
15. Janam-sakhi, of Meharban, p. 92.
16. Varan, Bhai Gurdas; Var 1, Pauri 21.
17. Ibid, Var 1, Pauri 33.
18. Ibid., Var 1, Pauri 23.