Me and My God: Guru Nanak Enlightened Me on the Walls of Separation

Harbans Lal, Ph.D. D.Litt. (Hons).

It was during a study circle at the Gurdwara of the Medical College Amritsar in 1951 or so that Dr. Harbhajan Singh asked this question, “Will the predicted expansion of knowledge in science hurt or help the spread of Sikhism worldwide?” Putting it another way, will scientists be attracted to Sikhi or they will begin ignoring it.

The late Dr. Harbhajan Singh was the Professor of Surgery, and the Study Circle was a regular weekly feature of the Gurdwara.

My answer was that, undoubtedly, the expansion of knowledge about the universe and the natural laws would help Sikhi to attract more adherents.

My answer was considered so startling that it was reported by the major Sikh newspaper of the day because most people in those days believed that modern science and education would drive people towards atheism and agnosticism. Moreover, the Sikh youth, in particular, will be impacted adversely; they will abandon Sikhism. So much so that many parents would not send their children to college for fear of their abandoning Sikhi.

Guru Nanak and the Expanse of Knowledge

Since the days of those Amritsar study circles, our knowledge of the creations has expanded substantially; billions of Galaxies, new worlds in Blackhole, intelligence in the brain and heart cells, on and on. I have been in the thick of it. I obtained my doctorate in Biomedical Sciences, and since then I pursued the scientific discoveries as my profession as well as my pastime.

Further, I was born in the house of Guru Nanak. That is a story in itself that I published elsewhere (Sikh Review). Here I must acknowledge that I am one of many who is and had been overwhelmingly grateful to be blessed with the association of Guru Nanak for the past 550 years. It makes me humble every day as I appreciate intriguing Guru Wisdom ever.

To date, we are among the oceans of knowledge that religion and science have amassed in front of us. It is because of that expansion in the knowledge that we also seem to be at the verge of really seeing God.  It is in the vertex of that knowledge by which I comprehend Nanak’s telling me that the reality of creation is the home in which God lives, manifested, and revealed.

ਗੁਰ ਮਿਲਿ ਨਾਨਕ ਠਾਕੁਰੁ ਜਾਤਾ ॥ ਜਲਿ ਥਲਿ ਮਹੀਅਲਿ ਪੂਰਨ ਬਿਧਾਤਾ ॥ SGGS p. 739

Meeting the Guru, Says Nanak, now comprehended my Icon of Worship. I see The Perfect Architect of Creations pervading and permeating the water, the land, and the sky.

Nanak invented an icon in which he embedded the implication of the above verse. We exhibit it prominently in all our religious places and at homes. It is ੴ- Ek Onkaar. It literally means, One Reality manifested in all creations.

Walls Between Me and My God

Five hundred fifty years ago, in 1469, Guru Nanak appeared on this earth. With him, he brought the Divine Wisdom to shine on this earth. He named it “Gurmat.”  Whereas Gurmat showed us, God, it also pointed out two walls or prevailing deceptions that keep us separated from God. These walls of separation are harder than steel to break.

Wall of Narcissism

Narcissism or egotism closes the human mind so that we think that we know it all and we are the center of everything. As said Deepak Chopra, “the ego is not who you really are. The ego is your Self-image; it is your social mask; it is the role you are playing. Your social mask thrives on approval. It wants control, and it is sustained by power because it lives in fear”. Thus, our narcissism becomes a wall between us and our Creator.

To learn more on ego, I may direct you to read Dr. IJ Singh ( ). Here I emphasize that narcissism is a wall that separates us from our Creator. Guru told us of this wall as the following verse.

ਧਨ ਪਿਰ ਕਾ ਇਕ ਹੀ ਸੰਗਿ ਵਾਸਾ ਵਿਚਿ ਹਉਮੈ ਭੀਤਿ ਕਰਾਰੀ ॥ SGGS, p.1263

The soul-bride and the Divine spouse live together as one, but there is a hard wall of egotism standing between them. The closed-mindedness barricades the path to reach the Creator even when He is manifested in the creation around us.

Walls of Religiosities Invented by Professional Clergy

Although not intended by the founders of various religions, definitely not by the Founders of Sikhi, the professional clergies have attained a status of God’s ambassadors or agents in every religion. In Sikhism, they are known as Baba, Bhai, Granthi, Saint, etc. Invariably, they are ill-educated. They bring into the religion, worst kind of religiosity.

These clergies scare the congregations into modes of worshiping the SABD Guru as the SABD was a human deity. For example, they invoke their deity with a variety of tasty foods, expensive clothing, and currency. Their anthropomorphic Guru needs heating and cooling of the room, expensive bedding, and restriction on access. Some ban the Guru from traveling overseas. Some are known to prescribe specific language to communicate, discuss, or do vichaar.   Similarly, some promote specific dress culture that is ethnic and not universally adaptable.

The Guru condemned such inroads of religiosity in the harshest language. Let me cite a few examples of Guru’s disapproval; SGGS says:

ਵੇਸ ਕਰੇ ਕੁਰੂਪਿ ਕੁਲਖਣੀ ਮਨਿ ਖੋਟੈ ਕੂੜਿਆਰਿ ॥ ਪਿਰ ਕੈ ਭਾਣੈ ਨਾ ਚਲੈ ਹੁਕਮੁ ਕਰੇ ਗਾਵਾਰਿ ॥ SGGS p.89

She may wear good clothes, but the bride is still ugly and rude when her mind is false and impure. When the spouse does not walk in harmony with the Will of the God spouse, it is foolish to ask for favors.

ਕਰਿ ਪੰਜੀਰੁ ਖਵਾਇਓ ਚੋਰ ॥ ਓਹੁ ਜਨਮਿ ਨ ਮਰੈ ਰੇ ਸਾਕਤ ਢੋਰ ॥ SGGS, p. 1136

You prepare sweet treats and feed them to your stone god. God is not born, and He does not die, you foolish, faithless cynic!

ਪੰਡਿਤ ਮੁਲਾਂ ਜੋ ਲਿਖਿ ਦੀਆ ॥ ਛਾਡਿ ਚਲੇ ਹਮ ਕਛੂ ਨ ਲੀਆ ॥ SGGS, p.1159

Whatever the Pandit and the Mullan have written (the path of religiosity), I have abandoned all of that; I have not taken any of it.

Send all communications to:

Harbans Lal, Ph.D.; D.Litt (Hons)

Professor Emeritus & Chairman, Dept of Pharmacology & Neurosciences, University of North Texas Health Science Center.
Professor Emeritus, Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar, India.
President, Academy of Guru Granth Studies.


17 thoughts on “Me and My God: Guru Nanak Enlightened Me on the Walls of Separation

    1. Dear Bhandari Ji, this is the Gurbani’s edict:

      • ਕੀਨ੍ਹ੍ਹੀ ਦੇ ਕੈ ਛਾਤੀ ਪਾਉ ॥ ਜੇ ਏਹ ਮੂਰਤਿ ਸਾਚੀ ਹੈ ਤਉ ਗੜ੍ਹਣਹਾਰੇ ਖਾਉ ॥੩॥: ||3|| The sculptor carves the stone and fashions it into an idol, placing his feet upon its chest. If this stone sculptor was true god, it would devour the sculptor for this! ||3|| (sggs 479).
      • ਏਕੈ ਪਾਥਰ ਕੀਜੈ ਭਾਉ ॥ ਦੂਜੈ ਪਾਥਰ ਧਰੀਐ ਪਾਉ ॥ ਜੇ ਓਹੁ ਦੇਉ ਤ ਓਹੁ ਭੀ ਦੇਵਾ ॥ ਕਹਿ ਨਾਮਦੇਉ ਹਮ ਹਰਿ ਕੀ ਸੇਵਾ ॥੪॥੧॥: One stone is lovingly adored; while another stone is walked upon. If one (stone that’s worshipped) is a god, then the other (the one trodden under the feet) must also be a god. Says Says Namdev — I serve ‘Hari’ alone (Mool, Jot, Raam, Gobind, Prabh…). ||4||1|| (sggs 525).
      • ਨ ਪਾਥਰੁ ਬੋਲੈ ਨਾ ਕਿਛੁ ਦੇਇ ॥ ਫੋਕਟ ਕਰਮ ਨਿਹਫਲ ਹੈ ਸੇਵ ॥੨॥: The stone neither speaks; nor gives anything (i.e., spiritual Knowledge, Aatam Giaan, etc.). .(1160).
      • ਕਰਮ ਕਰਤ ਬਧੇ ਅਹੰਮੇਵ ॥: Ritual practices bind people in egotism. meeting together, (people) worship stones. ||3|| (sggs 324).

  1. Wow…. An article by some one who can put the ocean in a small pot and offers you to drink the nectar, which is beyond comprehension of ordinary people like me. Thank you. I am grateful for sharing your loved enlightenment…. Love and regards.👏👏👏👏👏

  2. Bhai Harbans Lal Ji,
    I am a great fan of your writings and love the simple way you explain the meanings.
    I do take exception when you quote present day individuals, who have set up shop, to explain Gurbani, whilst plenty examples can be found within the Guru Granth.
    Anyway, here’s my two cents worth:
    How to be a seeker of truth, how the WALL OF FILTH” be demolished?
    ਕਿਵ ਸਚਿਆਰਾ ਹੋਈਐ ਕਿਵ ਕੂੜੈ ਤੁਟੈ ਪਾਲਿ।।


  3. Science and religion are two different methodologies of understanding universal and natural phenomena. They are not in conflict with each other, but, seeking different roads for human destiny, not destination. The difficult problems for several religious approaches are their inability to explain the differences between destiny and destination. Heaven and hell are not destinies, they are destinations to them; some are pre-destined and others are sinful and condemned. Guru Nanak taught us a clear way and believed in human destiny, believing in one God, reciting His name in your own way and on your own term. Doing an honest work, sharing your earnings with poor and helpless individuals and performing “seva”. There is no middleman, no Bohdisatva, Brahmin, or a priest to show you the right path.

    The scientific discoveries will continue to grow, but, they would have little impact on the basic tenants of Sikhism, because, it believes in the destiny of humankind to live in peace, mutual respect, and equal treatment of all.

    Thank you, Professor Lal for covering this important topic on the relationship between science and religion. Historically, philosophers and theologians, have ignored the Sikh philosophy and its relationship with science. They always included us under the Vedic umbrella of polytheism, which has a doubtful path to human destiny.

  4. Very precise and crystal clear presentation of Sikhi view point by Bhai Harbans Lal. I am going to quote it in my presentation tomorrow at Punjabi University, Patiala.

  5. Wonder is wonderful, neither now in nor before was and afterwords; Who! was, is, and shall be after me; Perfect is in perfection of creation but beyond the time of vision’ s. Who is the Timeless, Wonderful, the Lord of lords beyond supports or to condom. The Guru, Scripture, His Word are ours faith, religion, vision otherwise the philosophy of yuga Yog beyond of anyone’s the mastery or mastering.

  6. Good article with a factual interpretation of prevailing Sikhi. Guru Nanak in the 15th century realized that the ‘TRUTH’ is very significant in comprehending the evolved creation ministered by the Creator. At the time (15th-century era), humanity was engrossed in the praxis of falsity more than the reality promulgated by the religious prophets. Falsity exploited even more in religious practices and otherwise is rampant in modern humanity. To comprehend the Truth promulgated by Guru Nanak, one has to compare the results of preconceived opinions of the ‘Unknown’ by historical interpreters based on Theology against the scientific approach appreciated and adopted by Guru Nanak himself.
    Guru Nanak applied all available evidence at the time including religious/non-religious literature and praxis in search of the Truth and realized that ultimate explanation of Reality lies in accepting the freedom of natural phenomena and living by abiding it. Most religious authorities with their clever, but often abstruse meanings have been shielding ancient interpretations of the Reality from humanity. They have been promulgating presence of fearful and judgmental God in the very midst of human ignorance, doubts, fears, and sinfulness; in other words, many of the superfluous and superstitious beliefs had been adapted into daily religious praxis. Guru Nanak and the succeeding Sikh Gurus did not approve any of this praxis.
    Guru Nanak critically reviewed the available literature and religious praxis of Indic origin, as well as Islam that was injected into India and established by Islamic invaders from the Middle East; he found that there was lack of Truth in understanding ultimate Reality. Considering falsity rampant in every aspect of humanity, Guru Nanak wrote:
    ਸਲੋਕੁ ਮਃ ੧ ॥ ਕੂੜੁ1 ਰਾਜਾ2 ਕੂੜੁ ਪਰਜਾ3 ਕੂੜੁ ਸਭੁ4 ਸੰਸਾਰੁ5 ॥ ਕੂੜੁ ਮੰਡਪ6 ਕੂੜੁ ਮਾੜੀ7 ਕੂੜੁ ਬੈਸਣਹਾਰੁ8 ॥ ਕੂੜੁ ਸੁਇਨਾ9 ਕੂੜੁ ਰੁਪਾ10 ਕੂੜੁ ਪੈਨੑਣਹਾਰੁ11 ॥ ਕੂੜੁ ਕਾਇਆ12 ਕੂੜੁ ਕਪੜੁ13 ਕੂੜੁ ਰੂਪੁ14 ਅਪਾਰੁ15 ॥ ਕੂੜੁ ਮੀਆ16 ਕੂੜੁ ਬੀਬੀ17 ਖਪਿ18 ਹੋਏ19 ਖਾਰੁ20 ॥ ਕੂੜਿ ਕੂੜੈ21 ਨੇਹੁ22 ਲਗਾ23 ਵਿਸਰਿਆ24 ਕਰਤਾਰੁ25॥ ਕਿਸੁ26 ਨਾਲਿ26 ਕੀਚੈ27 ਦੋਸਤੀ28 ਸਭੁ29 ਜਗੁ30 ਚਲਣਹਾਰੁ31 ॥ ਕੂੜੁ ਮਿਠਾ32 ਕੂੜੁ ਮਾਖਿਉ33 ਕੂੜੁ ਡੋਬੇ34 ਪੂਰੁ35 ॥ ਨਾਨਕੁ36 ਵਖਾਣੈ37 ਬੇਨਤੀ38 ਤੁਧੁ39 ਬਾਝੁ40 ਕੂੜੋ41 ਕੂੜੁ ॥ ੧ ॥ (ਪੰਨਾ ੪੬੮)
    False1 is the king2, false1 are the subjects3; false is the whole4 world5.
    False is the mansion6, false is the skyscrapers7, and false are those who live in them8.
    False is gold9, false is silver10, false are those who11 wear them.
    False is the body12, false is the clothes13, false is incomparable15 beauty14.
    False is the husband16, false is the wife17, they just mourn18 and waste20 away19.
    The false ones love22 falsehood21, and forget24 their creator25,
    Whom26 should26 be called a friend27 when the whole29 world30 is known to perish31.
    False is the sweetness32, false is the honey33, through falsehood, boat-loads35 of people have drowned34.
    Nanak36 prays37-38: without40 You39 O God, falsity41 prevails everywhere.
    AGGS. M1, p.468

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