Five hundred years ago in Northern India, Guru Nanak preached a beautiful universal message of faith, love and truthful living. His message was not meant for a particular religious or ethnic group. He addressed all humanity. Let us look at his teachings and life in the context of the current global environment and the challenges that face us, and see what kind of insights and prescriptions he offers to us in today’s flat, interconnected world.
Long before jet travel and the World Wide Web, Guru Nanak set out to do the next best thing – he physically traveled much of the world on foot and by boat, for many years, making four epic journeys known as “Udasis”. He journeyed west through Mecca and Baghdad, north to Afghanistan and Tibet, East as far as Assam and South all the way to Sri Lanka. There have been no more than a handful of people besides Guru Nanak and Marco Polo who are known to have traveled through so much of the pre-Industrial Revolution world. Everywhere he went he “networked”, in current parlance, with a wide range of spiritual seekers, scholars and leaders of many different faiths and sects.
We will see how Guru Nanak’s message and values, formulated hundreds of years ago, are truly in tune with the modern notions of an egalitarian, democratic society which values individual freedom and dignity, coupled with personal responsibility and social awareness. His revolutionary universal approach to the conflicting religious movements of his time provide a compelling roadmap for the promotion of interfaith engagement and mutual respect and for overcoming the barriers that divide humanity in today’s global environment.
Guru Nanak’s message focused on the core principles of spirituality, which are at the heart of most faiths. He proclaimed faith in one loving and just God who creates and nurtures all living beings. God as described by Guru Nanak is a formless, all-pervading spiritual force shared by all religions, who is beyond our human limitations of fear, hatred or greed. We should focus on the shared essential elements of all faiths rather than the more superficial differences that separate them: