Thoughts on 550-th Birth Anniversary of the Founder of Sikhi
Dr Surjit Singh Bhatti, Retired Professor of Physics
Are we really living in the 21st century ?
We Sikhs are living in the technology-driven 21st century where children teach their parents and grandparents how to use advanced smart phones, computers, cameras and other sophisticated scientific and technical devices. What are these elders in some countries teaching the youngsters ? Blind beliefs and superstitions continue even today. Soothsayers are still being consulted. Some so-called godmen are still befooling the people. Guru Nanak was totally against all these practices.
The Unscientific Practices Prevail even Today
Unfortunately, even some of the educated people are falling a prey to these charlatans. Unscientific and illogical thoughts are prevailing and are being perpetuated merrily in many societies. Shockingly, some of the people from under-developed and developing countries, who have migrated to America, Canada and Europe, continue with their centuries-old irrational concepts.
Today, it is time to introspect: If Science and Technology have made any difference in our ways of thinking and attitudes to Life.
On this historic occasion, when the 550-th Birth Anniversary of Guru Nanak is being celebrated all over the world, it is relevant to review if we have a Scientific Thinking, though we are living in a Scientific Age.
Guru Nanak Dev was a fearless and revolutionary leader and social reformer who emerged in the East. People in both East and West were torn apart by class and caste divisions, with blinding superstitions and rituals foisted upon them. Guru Nanak challenged the exploiting upper strata of society and stood boldly with the poor and the oppressed, against the unjust and cruel.
Guru Nanak was far Ahead of the Western Philosophers
Guru Nanak (1469-1539) fought for the rights of all people to Freedom of Expression, Equality and Liberty, especially for the (so-called) lower castes, the poor and women. This he did much before the French Revolution that spread the ideas of a casteless and classless modern social order. Two centuries before Voltaire (1694-1778) and Rousseau (1712-1778) came on the scene, Guru Nanak stressed the need of a fair, rational and scientific attitude to life. He adopted logic–based scientific concepts, a century ahead of Rene Descartes (1596-1650) and Spinoza (1632-1677).
Logical Thinking of Guru Nanak
Guru Nanak was not a scientist in the conventional sense but had Knowledge with which he convinced people, using irrefutable logic. This can be seen from some of the instances from his life. When Guru Nanak observed the people offering water to the Sun, he started throwing water towards his fields at Kartarpur, in the opposite direction. To the shocked people there, his logical reply was that if their water can reach the Sun millions of miles away, surely it can reach his fields a few hundred miles away easily. Their act was unscientific.
At another place, the people objected when they saw Guru Nanak’s feet pointing in a particular direction while sleeping. He asked them to turn his feet in the direction where God does not reside. They realized that God is present everywhere. All directions and all places are equally good. There are no special days or times more sacred than the other days or times.
Guru Nanak gave Scientific Concept of Big Bang Theory before Scientists did
Guru Nanak debunked the unscientific theory, prevailing then, that Earth is balanced on the horns of a bull. That there is no upper limit on the number of universes, has been confirmed now by scientists, like Hawking. Guru Nanak recorded in detail, the concept of the Big Bang Theory1 of the evolution of the universe, in Gurbani verses, much earlier than the modern scientists, who have found evidence that supports this theory. He also mentions the Continuous Creation Theory2 of how the universe was created. He talked five centuries ago of plants having life, proved later by the Indian scientist J. C. Bose.
Guru Nanak was Aware of Atomic Nature of Matter and Speed of Light
Guru Nanak knew that the smallest particle of matter is the atom. This concept was actually given two centuries later by John Dalton. Guru Nanak said, even if one reduces himself to the size of an atom3 and can travel through the universe in the blinking of an eye, one does not get knowledge without the guidance of the True Guru. Obviously, he knew that only atoms or sub-atomic particles could travel at the incredibly high speed of light (upper limit for material entities, according to the Theory of Relativity given by Einstein in 1905).
Guru Nanak Loved Nature and Advocated Protection of the Environment
Guru Nanak undertook four long odysseys and visited many countries. He rested in groves of trees and wrote verses portraying the importance of rivers, mountains, flora, fauna and lakes. In fact, he exhorted human beings to learn from them as they have several good qualities. He stressed the need to protect forests and water resources. This scientific reality needs to be realized by all as an essential prerequisite for not only Survival of Nature but also for the Survival of Humanity. The Guru says : God resides in Nature4. There is no worship greater than or more important than the protection of God’s Abode : Nature.
Have we learnt anything from Guru Nanak’s Teachings ? Have we given up superstitions ? Do we have a Scientific Attitude?