This month, Sikhs around the world are celebrating the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak, the first teacher and founder of the Sikh faith.
Here is his story the way it was passed down to me —
Five hundred years ago, in what is now India and Pakistan, a man named Nanak was distraught by the violence he saw around him. In the face of the political and moral crisis of his day, he disappeared by a river for three days. People thought he had drowned, that he was a dead man. But on the third day Nanak emerged from the river with a vision, birthed anew.
“I see no stranger,” Nanak said. “I see no enemy.” And he began singing a song of Oneness, the heart of the Sikh faith. He had learned that within each of us is a voice that lives only for itself. It is the voice that names itself as separate from others, the voice that divides us from them.
Guru Nanak taught that if we learn to quiet this voice—through music and meditation, prayer and poetry—something marvelous happens. We enter into love. And when we are in love we see with new eyes. We ourselves can say, I see no stranger. I see no enemy.
Just as we look at the people closest to us with love, we can also to look upon the faces of those we do not know and say: Sister. Brother. Cousin. Uncle. I see you. I choose to love you. And I will fight for you when you are in harm’s way.
And so, inspired by Guru Nanak, we hold these questions in our hearts in quiet contemplation:
How will we answer the call of love today? What will we risk? Who will we fight for? And how will we sustain ourselves in the struggle?