Based on excerpts from a forthcoming book by Sardar Anup Singh Choudry.
Where Guru Nanak (ਗੁਰੂ ਨਾਨਕ,1469 - 1539) and his teachings and accomplishments are compared with western science and the spread of Islam into India.
Guru Nanak's Philosophy
In the 15th century Sir Nicholas Bacon , a member of Corpus Christi College Cambridge gave modern science its first born son, in the days when Elizabethan England flourished at its peak. When that son Francis Bacon (1561 – 1626), a member of Trinity College Cambridge became Lord Chancellor, the highest law officer in England , he was already recognised as a philosopher. He was endowed with the wisdom of universal thought. He then laid the foundation of modern science.
The great Renaissance of learning began with Roger Bacon (1214–1294) in the 13th century. The torch of genius was then taken up by Leonardo da Vinci (1452 – 1519). It was thrown into the sky by Galileo (1564 – 1642) and Copernicus (1473 – 1543). Christopher Columbus (1451 – 1506) had entered the far horizons of one of the world's mighty oceans.
Galileo had believed Copernicus's theory that planets orbit the sun. For his views Galileo was placed under house arrest by the Inquisition by the Holy Office of Rome. This conflict with the Church is a major early example of the conflict of authority and freedom of thought, in Europe, particularly with science.
Galileo defied directives delivered to him by the Church not to hold or defend the idea that the earth moves and the sun stands still at the centre. His book "Two new sciences" was to be the genesis of modern physics.
Prince Machiavelli (1469 ) an Italian statesman, and political writer showed an acute understanding of human nature , with such genius which was regarded as the work of the devil. The research of William Gilbert and Vesalius called out the slumbering genius before reformation days, and then came Francis Bacon to call the training school of Europe. It was a time of general awakening from the dark night of medieval ignorance. Savonarola and Martin Luther. John Knox and John Wesley, came into the general stir not so much to inculcate science but to awaken the stupefied spirit.
At about the same time Guru Nanak (1469 AD) who founded the Sikh religion, was doing the same and more in the sub continent. On the science front Nanak told us the distance to the moon which is exactly what the scientists tell us today. He also disclosed that there are universes upon universes, and spheres upon spheres and many planets had existence like ours. Our Astronomers have yet to discover these spheres and they should do so once the instruments of telescope are further refined to see infinite distances.
While Christopher Columbus was voyaging the seas, Guru Nanak walked the land spreading his teachings in the same manner as had Jesus some 1400 years before. Though Jesus and Guru Nanak may have walked through some of the same territories Guru Nanak's journeys were both further and more far flung. In fact he walked enough to circle the earth 3 times over.
On the Social Front
On the social front Nanak challenged the Indian caste system, which shared some commonalities with the apartheid of South Africa, which was the corner stone of Hindu India at the time. He endorsed women’s rights and became a pioneer in championing the cause of women’s liberation; he promoted education for all men, women and children by introducing the Gurmukhi script, simplifying the Devanagari script of the privileged upper castes, which became accessible to all and sundry- it is the script of the Holy Adi Granth- the Sikh scriptures and the vehicle of written communication for the most glorious Punjabi language in the Indian Union.
Guru Nanak introduced an agenda of reconciliation and community cohesion to make an inclusive society and a just world possible. He believed that integrity, respect and trust between different communities would lead to dignity for all people.
Science of the Word, Naam
But his biggest contribution to mankind was the teaching of "science of the Word" (Naam) which unlike other science disciplines is a perfect science which forms the subject matter of 1430 pages of the Adi Granth compiled and composed by the Sikh prophets – "The ten Nanaks". This gift of Naam was the ultimate in Sikh mysticism . It has a very pure and special message for the whole world in that by communion with the Word ( Shabad) shall be attained the vision unattainable- the personal realization of God, and hence the sole and sure way to salvation. Sikhism is thus a super monotheistic faith.
For the first time [[Wikipedia:Asia produced a monotheistic civilisation that was indigenous to its people. The people of sub continent were polytheistic in their outlook and beliefs- the worship of gods, animals, and idols was an integral part of that society as it is today. Muslims called them [[Wikipedia:infidels or [[Wikipedia:kafirs and the bible described these non believers as Wikipedia:Heathens.
The Coming of Islam
The spread of Islam in North Western India in the 11th century had been mainly through military conquest at the point of a sword. The ancient Hindu and Buddhist temples and places of learning were destroyed en mass with new Houses (Masjids) of the Islamic form ofMonotheism being built over their ruins which were, all to often, assembled from their very columns and broken walls. This naturally slated reactions in the polytheistic and sensitive Indian mind mainly Hindus, that resulted in seemingly impassable barriers of hatred and prejudice, between world cultural currents. All of this has left irritating and unfortunate monuments of bigotry, and misunderstanding, spiritual and physical, that still mark the Indian scene.
Sikhism shared a common spiritual bond with Muslims in their monotheistic outlook and also shared the Indian culture in common with the Hindus and Buddhists. The new born Sikhism was to be the common meeting ground between these three world culture streams, and that is why a prominent Muslim divine was asked to lay the foundation of the Golden Temple by Guru Ram Das, which in the embrace of the waters of Immortality the (Amrit-saar), this was intended to be the a profound symbol for a future confluence of world culture into a universal culture for all of mankind.
Guru Nanak’s teachings of love, compassion , mercy, kindness , forgiveness ,tolerance and mutual respect flowed from his teachings of love for our Compassionate Father through the, Word or Logos or unstruck melody:
"In the House of Nanak subscribe only to the Word ( Naam)" (Adi Granth)
Nanak was an embodiment of love. All creatures loved him. Snakes stood up to provide him shade when he was a young boy; lions and tigers waged their tails in affection upon seeing him negotiate the thick forests in their midst, the trees moved to provide him shade. And a boulder near Ladakh became miraculously plastic and enveloped the body of Nanak after it was rolled down at him by an evil demon which had haunted a local village.
People of all faiths loved him too – Sikhs , Muslims , Hindus , Buddhists . On his death the flowers of both the Muslims and the Hindus were put over his demised body and the community whose flowers remained fresh would have the custody of the body for the last rites. The following morning both the flowers remained fresh but the body was missing - it had ascended to the heavens. The incident was a befitting reminder of his teachings to love God by meditation on the Word or unstuck melody ( naam) and not to adore his physical body, and it is ever more a glaring example to the mankind not to quarrel over religion or God for there is only one God ( the creator) who cannot be personalised because He created out of Himself all the individual souls Guru Nanak had reached heights of spiritual exaltations rarely reached in any age and his teachings have parallel in the bible:
"In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. All things were made by Him and without Him was not anything made that was made" ( St john 1:1.23).
- Based on excerpts from a fortcoming book by Sardar Anup Singh Choudry, London, 20th April 2007
- Is there one God for the Rich, and one for the Poor?