Guru Nanak Dev Ji - An Eclectic Arahat

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Dr. S.S. Sodhi & Dr. J.S. Mann In this paper, we would like to explore the eclecticism of Guru Nanak after he evolved into the personality of an Arahat. Buddhist psychology gives a very practical definition to study the evolution of an Arahat. These are some of the characteristics of an Arahat, which we have been in a position to gather from the traditional books written in Sanskrit and Pali. 1. An Arahat successfully destroys his obsessions. 2. He breaks the fetters of becoming and wins freedom by acquiring perfect knowledge. 3. An Arahat is capable of examining the minds (citta) of others and by means of his superknowledge finds out whether they have been freed or not. 4. Arahat’s mind is either freed by understanding or freed through various “de-automatization” process such as meditation. 5. The changes of personality affected through the attainment of arahatship are profound. 6. An Arahat internalizes the universal virtues through his experiences with truth. These virtues then become his second nature. 7. Arahat speech and writings become blameless, pleasing to the ear. His sayings go to the heart. 8. Arahat believes that “Faith is the seed, austerity the rain”. 9. Arahat eyes reflect a Samadhi state, filled with Karna (compassion). 10. The perceptual and cognitive process of an Arahat are different from the normal persons. His perceptions do not change to suit his personal interests and they are not allowed to disturb his peace of mind. His mediational processes are different from the normal persons. His constellations of feeling and emotion and congitations are under his conscious control. 11. Through the practice of meditation he acquires various kinds of supernatural knowledge which includes: a) Knowledge of the destruction of the obsessions; b) Retro-cognition, i.e., knowledge of the past experiences; c) Clair-audience, by which he hears sounds of both human and celestial beings. Guru Nanak’s range of cognition was vast. He had experienced cosmic consciousness when he went into a trance at the bank of the river. Through this, he came in touch with the incomprehensible and infinitely marvellous Universe and the colossal but familiar world within. He was lifted beyond the confines of time and space when a radiant kind of vital energy gave him a fleeting glimpse of the Almighty. Guru Nanak as an Arahat transcended the limitation of the senses and knew about the non-material world. After reaching this stage of liberation, he developed his eclectic philosophy. Briefly stated, eclecticism is an approach where one looks at the parts, does not allow any one part to dominate but tries to organize a whole (a Gestalt) which dominates the parts. The whole, so organized assimilates and accommodates experiences to produce original responses. It is the belief of the present authors that this is what Guru Nanak tried to do. He was exposed to Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. He was a genius who appeared to have internalized this all, added the new currents to it, modified it, and rejected whatever was thought to be “strait-jacketing” the human mind. Guru Nanak was a genius of unquestioned originality, presumed facility and spontaneity. He saw no lines in religions and through his self-willed fiercely defiant writings created his own vision of reality which manifests all his works. His skills with words (which he chose from all languages including folk languages of India) reflected his vibrant eclecticism. The harmony and clarity of his thought reflected his reality of cosmic consciousness. Guru Nanak during his travels outside of India, came into contact with the followers of Islam and Sufism. The features which appear common to Islam and the teaching of Guru Nanak are: a) Belief in one God, not to be represented by any physical symbol; b) The equality of all persons as persons; c) The organic fusion of the spiritual and worldly life and worship with the fulfilment of social obligation; d) Organized community life as an expression of the religious ideal; e) The repetition of God’s name as a form of prayer (dhikr). Similarly, one can see that Guru Nanak looked at our Buddhist legacy and assimilated some significant points. Pali word for the follower is Sekkha and for the teacher is Garu (Sanskrit Guru). Buddhist talk about ‘Akaliko Dhammo’ which means timeless reality. Also, they talk about the ultimate Truth (Sat) as the timeless reality. Guru Nanak's Mulmantra and Sikh greeting message of Sat Sri Akal may have roots in some aspects of Buddhist literature. Furthermore, Sikh concepts of Nirlep, (living without attachment, Nam Simran to achieve Nirvana, Sunna (void), Sahaj, Guru-Bani, Sangat, Siddha Ghosti may have roots in Pali literature and Buddhist philosophy. Guru Nanak’s emphasis on the Grace of God rather than Karmic forces, his firm belief in ethical monotheism (which gives God such attributes as love, justice, holiness, goodness, mercy and truth) and regions of spiritual experience (khands) makes one conclude that during his travels he did break bread with the followers of Christianity. Conversion in Christianity applies to a marked change of heart which according to Guru Nanak makes Manmukh to a Gurmukh. One can take examples from other religions to demonstrate the eclectic approach used by Guru Nanak because he did not see lines between religions, once he reached Arahathood. Guru Nanak believed that religion should not be measured through rationalistic sticks. It is a realization (Anubhava). He anticipated and developed the philosophy of ecumenism in his shabads which became an integral part of the Adi Granth. As if he was saying through his Bani, “I am not interested in refuting one another, but I am interested in sharing the insights of other Arahats.” His insights might take us away from the terrible predicament in which humanity finds itself these days.