Guru Nanak's caring communities

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Guru Nanak's caring community

Guru Nanak taught us the importance of caring and loving communities and promoted and encouraged their birth and establishment; the concept of fellowship; of closeness and affection; of non-discrimination and fairness; of openness and transparency; of caring for others; of protecting and guardianship; of loving all are paramount to Sikhi and necessary for a rewarding and fruitful spiritual life.

The Guru helped to established many communities where the principles of caring, of community cohesion, of kindness and forgiveness, of sharing and respect for all were strongly emphasised. The fact that we all belong to the one same God, the Creator, Sustainer and the Destroyer is the root and the primary message of the Guru Granth, the Sikh holy scripture.

The code of behaviour and self-discipline of the individual was the first step - to have control over ones own vices and to establish ones virtues; then comes the duties to live and play an important and useful role in the family unit; and subsequently one was to play a coherent and systematic part in their local community and society at large. The person's role in each situation has been outlined in Gurbani; the pages of Guru Granth Sahib which provide guidance to help us all live an elevated and spiritually healthy life, with contentment and satisfaction; the message of how to derive maximum benefits from this "jewel of a human life" can be found in pages of the holy Granth.

The message of kindness and love

Main article: Guru Granth Sahib on kindness

A non-caring environment is not compatible with the philosophy of Guru Nanak. The elimination of negativity from ones heart is highlighted frequently by the Sikh Gurus. The need to protect the weak; to help the young; to support women is central to the wishes of the Sikh Gurus; they denounce anyone who brings hatred and hardship to any innocent member of the community. The Guru ask us to be kind - " ਸਤੁ ਸੰਤੋਖੁ ਦਇਆ ਕਮਾਵੈ ਏਹ ਕਰਣੀ ਸਾਰ ॥ Practice truth, contentment and kindness; this is the most excellent way of life" (SGGS p 51). By living with kindness in your heart you fulfil one of your important duties to yourself, to your family and to your community.

Guru Nanak stressed the importance of personal codes of living; self-discipline was very important for everyone and was given highlighted frequently by the Guru. Individuals were not to follow the urges of their own senses and their personal traits but thing more about their community and help to safeguard its health. The Guru laid down code for these God-abiding individuals to follow. These individuals were referred to by the Guru as Gurmukhs - ones who follow the code laid down by the Guru. One of the important messages to these Gurmukhs is: " ਗੁਰਮੁਖੀਆ ਸੋਹਾਗਣੀ ਤਿਨ ਦਇਆ ਪਈ ਮਨਿ ਆਇ ॥ The Gurmukhs are the happy soul-brides; their minds are filled with kindness." (SGGS p 41) The Guru abiding souls are to give importance to others and keep kindness in their hearts.

Caring for the weak and disadvantaged

The caring of the weak and disadvantaged; the looking after of children and the young in the community; the protecting and guardianship of the weak and sick who are unable to take care of themselves; the support for the elderly who through infirmity, confinement or illness cannot do so themselves; the support and assistance for women who do not have a voice in the community are some of the vast spectrum of members in the community who need to be support as per Gurmat values. This is a duty of each member of the community; not to be left to others or to the "community" itself. The Guru warns us: "ਖਬਰਿ ਨ ਕਰਹਿ ਦੀਨ ਕੇ ਬਉਰੇ ਤਾ ਤੇ ਜਨਮੁ ਅਲੇਖੈ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥ You do not care for others, you are a religious fanatic, and your life is of no account at all. (1)(Pause)" (SGGS p 483)

The need to be supportive to other and to share resources is an important concept of Guru Nanak's humanity; the principle of Langar or free food for all and of Seva or free service to others are parts of this concept of sharing. The way of life introduced by Guru Nanak was revolutionary and difficult for the Mughal rulers to accept. While they were dictator practising the evils of gross discrimination and annihilation of others, these fanatics totally failed to share the wisdom of Guru Nanak.

However, the Guru reminds us that where there is a caring community, there will be the blessings of the Lord thus: "ਜਿਥੈ ਨੀਚ ਸਮਾਲੀਅਨਿ ਤਿਥੈ ਨਦਰਿ ਤੇਰੀ ਬਖਸੀਸ ॥੪॥੩॥ In that place where the lowly are cared for - there, the Blessings of Your Grace rain down (4)(3)" (SGGS p 15). So the establishment of a caring community is the beginning of a community which will thrive as the Blessing of God will fall upon such a caring society.

Increase in criminality and brutality

The practise in the West of strict Criminal laws and streamlined Corporal punishments has failed to bring solace to society; more and more laws are passed everyday and newer and better ways of punishment are introduced all the time. However, the tide of criminality and brutality continues to grow; new prisons are built every month and more criminals are confirmed in these jails each month. The mountain of criminals has continued to expand on a yearly basis with no prospect of slowing down; new records are set every year of crimes by younger and younger criminals and for harsher and harsher crimes.

The limit of criminality has reached a new high as time progresses; one commonly hears about children as young as 10 years old killing others younger than them; of young students murdering tens of their teachers and fellow students by gunning them down; of parents torturing and killing their young children; of mothers killing their babies; planes being used to kill people on a massive scale; there is something new and more brutal every year! How can this be stopped?

Message of the Gurus

The Guru tells us how this spiral of criminality and brutality can be controlled; by instilling the codes of self-discipline in all our citizens so that they themselves know clearly the difference between right and wrong. In this way they will only step on the path of righteousness and will not follow the route of wrong which will lead to their own destruction.

In the following section the shabads from the Guru Granth Sahib tell us the way that a person should behave and live. In this first shabad which is from Sukhmani Sahib, the Guru say that the God-aware person should delight in doing good to others - the word used here is parupkar which means 'to do good to a stranger'; 'to be generous to a foreign entity'; 'to be nice to someone who you do not know'

SGGS Page 273 Full Shabad
ਬ੍ਰਹਮ ਗਿਆਨੀ ਪਰਉਪਕਾਰ ਉਮਾਹਾ ॥

Barahm giānī parupkār omāhā.
The God-conscious person delights in doing good to others.


ਬ੍ਰਹਮ ਗਿਆਨੀ ਕੈ ਹੋਇ ਸੁ ਭਲਾ ॥
Barahm giānī kai hoe so bẖalā.
The God-conscious person acts in the common good.

SGGS Page 356 Full Shabad
ਵਿਦਿਆ ਵੀਚਾਰੀ ਤਾਂ ਪਰਉਪਕਾਰੀ ॥

viḏiā vīcẖārī ṯāʼn parupkārī.
Contemplate and reflect upon knowledge, and you will become a benefactor to others.

SGGS Page 69 Full Shabad
ਸਚੁ ਵੇਖਣੁ ਸਚੁ ਬੋਲਣਾ ਤਨੁ ਮਨੁ ਸਚਾ ਹੋਇ ॥

Sacẖ vekẖaṇ sacẖ bolṇā ṯan man sacẖā hoe.
They see the Truth, and they speak the Truth; their bodies and minds are True.

ਸਚੀ ਸਾਖੀ ਉਪਦੇਸੁ ਸਚੁ ਸਚੇ ਸਚੀ ਸੋਇ ॥
Sacẖī sākẖī upḏes sacẖ sacẖe sacẖī so▫e.
True are their teachings, and True are their instructions; True are the reputations of the true ones.

ਜਿੰਨੀ ਸਚੁ ਵਿਸਾਰਿਆ ਸੇ ਦੁਖੀਏ ਚਲੇ ਰੋਇ ॥੪॥
Jinnī sacẖ visāriā se ḏukẖīe cẖale roe. (4)
Those who have forgotten the True One are miserable-they depart weeping and wailing. (4)

Follow the code laid down by Gurbani and elevate your life to higher spiritual plane where you will experience self satisfaction, a much peaceful state of mind; contentment and a complete state of bliss. Your confidence will increase and your doubts will disappear; you will become the humble Gurmukh of the mighty Guru.

Material benefits to the community

In a recent project carried in about 2005-2006 where the community had adopted plans for a more "caring community" the member when surveyed reported the following benefits:

  • 1. A safer and more secure community environment.
  • 2. A stronger, more prosperous and thriving local economy.
  • 3. A better health and state of well-being.
  • 4. An environment that is appreciated, protected and sustained for future generations
  • 5. Members felt more supported, better cared and a valued community member.
  • 6. A stronger local leadership and a sense of belonging.
  • 7. More safer and accessible recreational facilities; a safe and better integrated transport system.
  • 8. A community that values and promotes its culture, religions and heritage

See also