What were the major teachings of Guru Nanak? Explain their relevance in the contemporary world. (150 words)

The question What were the major teachings of Guru Nanak? Explain their relevance in the contemporary world." was asked in the Mains 2023 GS Paper 4.  Let us look at the model answer to this question.

Answer: Guru Nanak was an Indian spiritual teacher and the founder of Sikhism. Sikhism, founded on the Nanak’s mantra of  Ik Onkar (one God), is a monotheistic religion combining the influences of Hinduism and Sufi Islam. His teachings are embodied in Guru Granth Sahib and are very relevant in contemporary times when humanity is passing through all shades of serious conflicts.

Core Teachings of Guru Nanak and Their Relevance

  • Vaand Chhako (Sharing): Its basic meaning is to share what we have, and consume it together. One should not be greedy and share its wealth with others in the community by charity.
    • Relevance: His emphasis on selfless service through Sangat and Pangat calls for universal brotherhood and community services.
    • It aims to promote tolerance, mutual respect and peaceful co-existence in society.
    • It is relevant not merely for individuals, but also for making an egalitarian society and even peaceful world through promoting ideal international relations.
  • Kirat Karo (Honest living): The term means to earn an honest, pure, and dedicated living by exercising one’s God-given skills, abilities, talents, and hard labour for the benefit and improvement of the individual, their family and society at large.
    • Relevance: It is very important to create a just society. These teachings are important in promoting integrity and morality in government service with the absence of corruption and dishonesty.
  • Naam Japo (Recite God’s name): It means one should recite and repeat God’s name by doing Kirtan (singing hymns), chanting, or Simran (meditating with mantra).
    • Relevance: It focuses on leading a spiritual life with temperance, which would provide a solace in case of stress and anxiety.
  • Sarbat daa bhalaa (Goodwill for all): It means to ask God for everyone's happiness. He emphasised the concept of universal brotherhood. With this prayer, one requests the Lord for the welfare of the whole of humanity and not just of our own community or family alone.
    • Relevance: The core of this teaching is to be kind and tolerant to others. Its emphasis on thinking about the goodwill of others rhymes with the Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam of Hinduism.
  • No Discrimination: He opposed all artificially created divisions and all discrimination, both in word and deed.
    • Relevance: The uniqueness of his deep philosophical insights emphasises ‘secularism’. He was among the first who said, there is no Hindu and Muslim and all are the creation of the Almighty. He was also against gender discrimination.
    • Thus, his teachings are very effective to create an egalitarian and just society.
  • Salvation through internal purification: According to him, salvation occurs from the heart, spirit, and soul and not from the pilgrimage and the Guru is the true source of knowledge and salvation, who shows the path of truth and enlightenment.
    • Relevance: In this way, he supported spiritualism in place of ritual practices which is relevant today in the backdrop of commercialisation of religions and religious intolerance.

In present time, Guru Nanak’s teachings are important for living a virtuous life. In today’s intolerant world, his philosophy, based on equality and fraternity, are more relevant than ever.