One of my readers sent me this question: “Do you believe that all the Gurus were special messengers of God?“.
Yes, I replied, there is no reason to believe otherwise.
Guru Nanak was indeed one of these special messengers:
ਜੈਸੀ ਮੈ ਆਵੈ ਖਸਮ ਕੀ ਬਾਣੀ ਤੈਸੜਾ ਕਰੀ ਗਿਆਨੁ ਵੇ ਲਾਲੋ ॥
As the Word of the Lord-Husband comes to me, so do I express it, O Lalo.
However, this question started a chain of thoughts which I share through this post.
First, there are no “all the Gurus”. Sikhism has just one Guru. Shabd (Word) Guru. When Guru Nanak was asked by the siddhas who His Guru was, he replied:
ਸਬਦੁ ਗੁਰੂ ਸੁਰਤਿ ਧੁਨਿ ਚੇਲਾ ॥
The Shabad is the Guru; my mind, my consciousness am the disciple.
The word Guru technically means the destroyer of ignorance, and the light of knowledge. There is no indication that Guru has to be human.
In fact, we can conceptualise the Guru, not as a person but as a tatv (abstract element). In Japuji Sahib, Guru Nanak states “pawan Guru” (Air is the Guru). Sant Maskeenji explains this by saying that words need air for existence. There is no knowledge sharing without air. Prof. Darshan Singh, in one of his talks, says that when Nanak absorbed Shabd (the Divine Word) he became Guru Nanak. Guru, the tatva, can take any form. The ten Sikh Gurus were human forms of this tatva, and the eleventh Guru is the book form. When the Guru manifests His Divine blessings through a single Shabd (Word) it is called the Guru Mantar and for a Sikh this is ‘Waheguru‘.
God is the destination, and Guru is the path to that destination. Yet, like everything in this world, Guru is also a manifestation of God. With God being formless, the Guru is also formless.
God is the ultimate Guru, the Guru of the Gurus:
ਗੁਰੁ ਗੁਰੁ ਏਕੋ ਵੇਸ ਅਨੇਕ ॥੧॥
But the Teacher of teachers is the One God, who appears in so many forms. ||1||
Understanding this, we will realise, that all Gurus are One, because the shabd is the common link.
Addressing the Third Guru, His Disciple Bhai Jetha Ji (who went on to become the fourth Guru, Guru Ram Daas ji) recites the following:
ਹਰਿ ਕੇ ਜਨ ਸਤਿਗੁਰ ਸਤਪੁਰਖਾ ਬਿਨਉ ਕਰਉ ਗੁਰ ਪਾਸਿ ॥
O Dear Guru, the Messenger of God, the Embodiment of Truth – I present to Thee the following request.
So its quite clear that the Gurus were messengers of God.
The Primal Consciousness, Who is called “God” manifests as a Uni-faceted Entity in its innate form. When It assumes the form of the universe, it shows its multifaceted beauty. This multifaceted existance is called Maya when the focus is on what is visible and Kartar (Creator) when the focus is on the underlying. Maya‘s individual facets have both positive and negative, good and bad. Whereas Kartar‘s facets are always positive and goodwill bearing. The Shabd Guru (Waheguru) represents Uni-faceted innate God, where as the rest of the Gurbani represents Kartar.
It is also well known within the followers of Sikhism, and also echoed within Bhagat Bani (writings of worshipers which are part of Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji) that the Primal Consciousness assumed the Human Form and was called Guru Nanak. The purpose of this was to help his creation reach ultimate stages of Divine Love.
Some other quotes from Sri Guru Granth Sahib on the same topic:
ਪ੍ਰਭ ਜੀ ਬਸਹਿ ਸਾਧ ਕੀ ਰਸਨਾ ॥
God resides upon the tongues (speech) of His Saints.
The purpose of the Guru’s coming into this world is to initiate a chain reaction of Divine Realisation. It enables us mortals to find God within us.
ਜਨ ਆਵਨ ਕਾ ਇਹੈ ਸੁਆਉ ॥
The (Guru’s) coming has one object;
ਜਨ ਕੈ ਸੰਗਿ ਚਿਤਿ ਆਵੈ ਨਾਉ ॥
in the Company of this humble servant, the Lord’s Name comes to mind.