Nānak (Dictionary of World Biography: Renaissance)
Article abstract: Nānak was a religious reformer who synthesized the fundamental principles of Islam and the tradition of Hinduism into a new universal religion, Sikhism. His teaching emphasizes equality of all human beings and regards responsible social action as integral to true spiritual practice. Monism and the rejection of excessive ritual are the basic tenets of this religion.
The historical facts of Nānak’s life can be gleaned only by sifting them carefully from the embellishments of myth and legend. The essential story of his life, however, seems fairly clear. Nānak was born in 1469 in the West Punjab in a small town, Talwandi. His father, Kalu, was a relatively well-to-do person and commanded influence in the area. Nānak was a precocious and gifted child possessing unusual intelligence and an extraordinarily pronounced concern for the well-being of everyone with whom he came into contact. He had a contemplative nature with a strong inclination toward otherworldly preoccupations. Stories about his childhood and the years toward adulthood indicate these qualities. It is said that even when Nānak was an infant his heart would melt at the sight of others’ suffering. At play, he would devise games imitating holy men and involving mental concentration to achieve a perception of God.
Nānak’s intellectual abilities and spiritual insights had already developed phenomenally before he...
(The entire section is 2584 words.)
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