Contribution of Guru Nanak to Science
– A Comparative Study –
Guru Nanak was a unique inquistive personality who was a keen observer of nature and human behaviour, through which he became an environmentalist, educationist, revolutionary, social reformer, counsellor, scientist and spiritualist. This paper will focus only on contribution of Guru Nanak to science and compare his contribution to science of scientists of his time. Guru Nanak was a researcher and a missionary who spread his message through reason and logic. It was the use of reasoning, logic and observation of nature that led Guru Nanak to say:
ਜੇ ਕੋ ਬੂਝੈ ਹੋਵੈ ਸਚਿਆਰੁ ॥ ਧਵਲੈ ਉਪਰਿ ਕੇਤਾ ਭਾਰੁ ॥
ਧਰਤੀ ਹੋਰੁ ਪਰੈ ਹੋਰੁ ਹੋਰੁ ॥ ਤਿਸ ਤੇ ਭਾਰੁ ਤਲੈ ਕਵਣੁ ਜੋਰੁ ॥
– Sri Guru Granth Sahib, p. 3
Whoever realizes this, enlightened shall be;
How much is the load under which this Bull stands?
The earth extends beyond fartherst limits,
On what support does all this rest?
According to Hindu philosophy earth is supported by a mythical bull and earthquake comes when that bull shifts the weight of the earth from one horn on to the other. Guru asks there would be colossal heavy load, on top of this mythical bull. But our earth is a solitary planet, while all other planets are far away and are completely isolated from it. In that case, what is that mystical power, which is supporting the bull, or all other planets from underneath! He then answered:
ਹੁਕਮੈ ਅੰਦਰਿ ਸਭੁ ਕੋ ਬਾਹਰਿ ਹੁਕਮ ਨ ਕੋਇ ॥
– Sri Guru Granth Sahib, p. 1
All by the Ordinance are governed, none exempt.
Everything is subject to the Cosmic Laws of Nature (Hukam); nothing is beyond it. The earth and all planets are supported by Lord’s Hukam, gravity, the Cosmic Law of Nature.
Guru Nanak was a child prodigy who had a contemplative mind and rational thinking from very young age. He learned Hindi and Sanskrit at the age of seven and Persian by the age thirteen. He studied nature and human behaviour from his early age. Guru Nanak at that age also proved that he was a free thinker who reasoned with logic, the authority, tradition and belief system set up by Hindu Brahmins, which is evident from the fact that he refused to wear ‘Janeu’ (sacred thread) at very young age. That proves how independent and intelligent he was at that tender age.
During Guru Nanak’s era, scientific approach was a neglected field and science was the casualty of orthodoxy. Usually scientists are experts in only one field of science, or sub speciality of that field. Guru Nanak gave contribution to more than one speciality. He gave theories such as: creation of universe akin to Big Bang theory, origin of life in water, evolution of species and reproduction, which goes beyond the scope of one speciality of science. He did all this through keen observation of the cosmic laws of nature and using his intelligence.
Guru Nanak (1469-1539) and Nicolas Copernicus (1473-1543), a Polish Mathematician were contemporaries, who were thousands of miles apart from each other and unknown to each other, hypothesized nearly similar theories about universe. Copernicus hypothesized that the sun is stationary at the center, the earth and other planets are moving in circular orbits around the sun. He was afraid of going against the teachings of the Church (Ptolemy of ancient Greece had explained that the universe was a closed system revolving around the earth, and the Catholic Church concurred), so published his theory anonymously for fear of being charged with heresy. Copernicus summarized it in 1530 and circulated it among European’s scholars, where it was greeted with enthusiasm. His work, titled ”De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium” was finally published in 1543, just a few weeks before he died. Theory of Copernicus was taken up a century later by Kepler and Galileo Galilee. However, around this time of Copernicus, Guru Nanak in India gave his hypothesis as described below. There were no telescopes and modern technology at that time, Guru Nanak and Copernicus both used keen observation of laws of nature and their wisdom in hypothesizing their theories. Copernicus published his theory in 1530; Guru Nanak had put his view more than a decade earlier in his writings (Bani). Where as Copernicus is considered “Founder of Modern Astronomy”, very few people know the contribution of Guru Nanak to astronomy and science.
Creation of the Universe
Like a scientist, Guru Nanak observed laws of nature and hypothesized his observantion about the creation of Universe. It was similar to the “Big Bang Theory”, which was accepted by modern day scientists in 1950, though they did not know that Guru Nanak had hypothesized it much earlier. In the following shabad, Guru Nanak describes ecological conditions before creation of this universe, that there was only void and utter darkness and God was in deep trance. Stephen Hawking, regarded as most brilliant theoretical physicist of the day, wrote in his book “A Brief History of Time”, there was nothing before Big Bang and Gravity created the universe, which Guru Nank had already described almost five centuries ago. Many questions asked by Stephen Hawking in his book had also been answered by Guru Nanak in the following Shabads. Modern day scientists Gregg Eastbrook and Francis Collins also gave same hypothesis that the universe was created out of NOTHING. Guru Nanak says:
ਅਰਬਦ ਨਰਬਦ ਧੁੰਧੂਕਾਰਾ ॥ ਧਰਣਿ ਨ ਗਗਨਾ ਹੁਕਮੁ ਅਪਾਰਾ ॥
ਨਾ ਦਿਨੁ ਰੈਨਿ ਨ ਚੰਦੁ ਨ ਸੂਰਜੁ ਸੁੰਨ ਸਮਾਧਿ ਲਗਾਇਦਾ ॥
– Sri Guru Granth Sahib, p. 1035
For millions upon millions, countless years was spread darkness,
When existed neither earth nor heaven, but only the limitless Divine Ordinance.
Then existed neither day or night, nor sun or moon,
The Creator into unbroken trance was absorbed.
Before creation of this universe for endless time, there was only utter darkness. There was no earth or sky; there was only the infinite Command of Its Hukam. There was no day or night, no moon or sun; Only Lord sat in primal deep trance. That is the answer to Hawking’s question in his book, “What did God do before He created the universe (Hawking: p.9)? Guru Nanak says, from utter darkness and void where Lord was in primal trance, It was the Divine Will that created the universe:
ਜਾ ਤਿਸੁ ਭਾਣਾ ਤਾ ਜਗਤੁ ਉਪਾਇਆ ॥ ਬਾਝੁ ਕਲਾ ਆਡਾਣੁ ਰਹਾਇਆ ॥
– Sri Guru Granth Sahib, p. 1035
As it pleased Him, the world He created,
Without a supporting power the expanse He sustained.
Earlier in his first verse Japji, Guru Nanak had stated that a single verbal sound had given birth to the whole creation. The universe exploded from that one source of energy with a bang and started to expand. Thereafter many things appeared.
ਕੀਤਾ ਪਸਾਉ ਏਕੋ ਕਵਾਉ ॥ ਤਿਸ ਤੇ ਹੋਏ ਲਖ ਦਰੀਆਉ ॥
– Sri Guru Granth Sahib, p. 3
All the endless expanse of creation arose out of one note
Giving rise to millions of streams.
In this shabad, Guru Nanak explains that from the Big Bang, Lord had created this universe including the galaxy where we live. With that came sun, moon, earth, air, water, day, night (time), days, and seasons. Georges Lemaître a Belgian Roman Catholic priest, mathematician, astronomer, and professor of physics at the Catholic University of Louvain, first suggested the Big Bang theory in the 1931, when he theorized that the universe began from a single primordial atom while Guru Nanak theorized it five centuries ago that it came into being from ਸੁੰਨਹੁ ਸੁੰਨੁ ਉਪਾਇਦਾ (Sunnahu Sunn Oupaaeidaa). That’s the answer to Hawking’s questions in his book, “Did God create the universe? (Hawking: p.9); is it right to imagine that the God created the universe at the instant of the big bang (Hawking: p.10)”? Hawking then wrote in his book what Hubble observed that, one may say, that time had a beginning in the big bang in the sense that earlier time simply would not be defined (Hawking: p. 10-11). Guru Nanak had also surmised earlier:
ਸੁੰਨ ਕਲਾ ਅਪਰੰਪਰਿ ਧਾਰੀ ॥ ਆਪਿ ਨਿਰਾਲਮੁ ਅਪਰ ਅਪਾਰੀ ॥
ਆਪੇ ਕੁਦਰਤਿ ਕਰਿ ਕਰਿ ਦੇਖੈ ਸੁੰਨਹੁ ਸੁੰਨੁ ਉਪਾਇਦਾ ॥
ਪਉਣੁ ਪਾਣੀ ਸੁੰਨੈ ਤੇ ਸਾਜੇ ॥ ਸ੍ਰਿਸਟਿ ਉਪਾਇ ਕਾਇਆ ਗੜ ਰਾਜੇ ॥
ਅਗਨਿ ਪਾਣੀ ਜੀਉ ਜੋਤਿ ਤੁਮਾਰੀ ਸੁੰਨੇ ਕਲਾ ਰਹਾਇਦਾ ॥
– Sri Guru Granth Sahib, p. 1037
In the beginning there was only Primal Void. The Infinite, unattached, incomparable Lord assumed Its Power. It exercised Its Creative Power, and created the creation; from the Primal Void, It formed the Void.
From this Primal Void, Lord created air, water and the universe. All living beings are made of water and fire have Lord’s Light in them and Lord reside in them.
Guru Nanak says no one knows the time, day, month and season when this universe was created. That’s the answer to Hawking’s question in his book, “When was the universe created” (Hawking: p.8)?
ਕਵਣੁ ਸੁ ਵੇਲਾ ਵਖਤੁ ਕਵਣੁ ਕਵਣ ਥਿਤਿ ਕਵਣੁ ਵਾਰੁ ॥ ਕਵਣਿ ਸਿ ਰੁਤੀ ਮਾਹੁ ਕਵਣੁ ਜਿਤੁ ਹੋਆ ਆਕਾਰੁ ॥ ਵੇਲ ਨ ਪਾਈਆ ਪੰਡਤੀ ਜਿ ਹੋਵੈ ਲੇਖੁ ਪੁਰਾਣੁ ॥
ਵਖਤੁ ਨ ਪਾਇਓ ਕਾਦੀਆ ਜਿ ਲਿਖਨਿ ਲੇਖੁ ਕੁਰਾਣੁ ॥
– Sri Guru Granth Sahib, p. 4
No one knows what was that time, moment, day, date, season and month when the Universe was created?
The Pandits, the religious scholars, cannot find that time, even if it is written in the Puraanas. That time is not known to the Qazis, who study the Koran.
ਥਿਤਿ ਵਾਰੁ ਨਾ ਜੋਗੀ ਜਾਣੈ ਰੁਤਿ ਮਾਹੁ ਨਾ ਕੋਈ ॥
ਜਾ ਕਰਤਾ ਸਿਰਠੀ ਕਉ ਸਾਜੇ ਆਪੇ ਜਾਣੈ ਸੋਈ ॥
The day, date, month or the season are not known to the Yogis. Only Lord who created the Creation knows.
Guru Nanak says that all planets, including moon, earth and sun are in constant motion under same Cosmic Law. That’s the answer to Hawking’s question in his book, “Were the stars static or moving” (Hawking: p.6)? Guru says that everyone including different demi-gods as described in different religions is under Lord’s Cosmic Law (Hukam).
ਭੈ ਵਿਚਿ ਪਵਣੁ ਵਹੈ ਸਦਵਾਉ ॥ ਭੈ ਵਿਚਿ ਚਲਹਿ ਲਖ ਦਰੀਆਉ ॥
ਭੈ ਵਿਚਿ ਅਗਨਿ ਕਢੈ ਵੇਗਾਰਿ ॥ ਭੈ ਵਿਚਿ ਧਰਤੀ ਦਬੀ ਭਾਰਿ ॥
ਭੈ ਵਿਚਿ ਇੰਦੁ ਫਿਰੈ ਸਿਰ ਭਾਰਿ ॥ ਭੈ ਵਿਚਿ ਰਾਜਾ ਧਰਮੁ ਦੁਆਰੁ ॥
ਭੈ ਵਿਚਿ ਸੂਰਜੁ ਭੈ ਵਿਚਿ ਚੰਦੁ ॥ ਕੋਹ ਕਰੋੜੀ ਚਲਤ ਨ ਅੰਤੁ ॥
– Sri Guru Granth Sahib, p. 464
Under Cosmic Law, the wind blows, thousands of rivers flow, fire burns and earth produce vegetation.
Under Cosmic Law the Righteous Judge of Dharma works, the clouds move across the sky, the sun shines, the moon reflects. They travel millions of miles, endlessly.
Guru Nanak further clarifies that all seasons, time, day and night change with sun when he says:
sUrju eyko ruiq Anyk ] nwnk krqy ky kyqy vys ]
– Sri Guru Granth Sahib, p. 357
As all seasons originate from one sun, O Nanak, so do all forms originate from the One Creator.
That’s the answer to Hawking’s questions in his book “Did time start with a big bang” (Hawking: p 9)? Time started when sun, moon, earth, air, water were created with a Big Bang. Here Guru Nanak also clarified that because seasons originate with sun, all planets revolve around the sun.
Guru Nanak without the use of modern telescopes hypothesized that there are countless number of galaxies in this universe, which has been proved true by modern day scientists. In 1929, Edwin Hubble made observation that “wherever you look, distant galaxies are moving rapidly away from us. In other words, the universe is expanding. This means that at earlier times objects would have been closer together. In fact, it seemed that there was a time, about ten or twenty thousand million years ago, when they were all at exactly same place and when, therefore, the density of the universe was infinite. This discovery finally brought the question of the beginning of the universe into the realm of science (Hawking: p. 9)”. In 2014, astronomers said they had found evidence in the CMB concerning “B-modes,” a sort of polarization generated as the universe got bigger and created gravitational waves. The team spotted evidence of this using an Antarctic telescope called “Background Imaging of Cosmic Extragalactic Polarization”, or BICEP2. Hawking asked questions in his book, “Did the universe have natural boundaries? (Hawking: p. 5); whether the universe is limited in space” (Hawking: p. 8)? Guru Nanak has hypothesized that the Lord’s creation is limitless. The bounds of Lord’s creation and their end are limitless, which has been proved true by science.
ਪਾਤਾਲਾ ਪਾਤਾਲ ਲਖ ਆਗਾਸਾ ਆਗਾਸ ॥ ਓੜਕ ਓੜਕ ਭਾਲਿ ਥਕੇ ਵੇਦ ਕਹਨਿ ਇਕ ਵਾਤ ॥
– Sri Guru Granth Sahib, 5
There are countless co-existing galaxies. All Vedic scriptures blatantly confess their inability, to understand all intricacies of the cosmology.
Guru Nanak without modern technolodgy postulated that the Cosmos has coalesced and reformed several times according to the Cosmic Law (Hukam).
ਕਈ ਬਾਰ ਪਸਰਿਓ ਪਾਸਾਰ ॥
– Sri Guru Granth Sahib, 276
Thus whatever revelations about universes, its creation, its contraction or expansion have been made by so many scientists, physicists, and astronomers, bit by bit through experiments and invention of expensive scientific tools during hundreds of years, almost similar revelations were made by Guru Nanak almost five hundred years ago through the exercise of his individual intuitive mystical powers energized by the benign grace of the ultimate cosmic power.
– Dalvinder Singh, Dr.: Guru Nanak and Modern Science.
– Darwin Charles: “On the Origin of Species”
– Hawking, Stephen: A Brief History of Time.
– Shergill, Hardev Singh: Nanak my Discovery.
– Virk, Hardev Singh: Scientific Vision of Guru Nanak about the Universe and Stephen Hawking.