High Commissioner: Celebration of Guru Nanak’s Birth Anniversary
Remarks by H E Harinder Sidhu, High Commissioner of Australia
Celebration of Guru Nanak’s Birth Anniversary
Wellington, 27 November 2023
Waheguru ji ka Khalsa, Waheguru ji ki Fateh
Five hundred and fifty-four years ago, in the year 1469 in a small village now known as Nankana Sahib in modern-day Pakistan, a baby boy was born to Kalyan Chand Bedi and his wife Tripti. They named him Nanak.
Sikh lore has it that he displayed an extraordinary spiritual vision and awareness from early childhood.
He grew to be one of the great spiritual leaders in world history, founding the Sikh faith which today is the world’s fifth largest religion.
Guru Nanak’s teaching was what we would now call “progressive”. In its day, it was revolutionary. Their relevance to our lives today is a testament to their essential truth and enduring nature.
He preached a God that is universal and unknowable and a God for all. His famous dictum – “there is no Hindu, no Mussalman” was a call to embrace all faiths under one umbrella. It is telling that his closest companion and disciple, Bhai Mardana, was a Muslim by birth.
To this day, Sikh gurudwaras welcome, house and feed people from all faiths and all walks of life.
Nanak pared back the practice of faith to its essentials, rejecting what he saw as empty ritual. Instead, he put forward three pillars – naam japo, kirat karo, vand chhako – making the seeking of enlightenment, honest work and service to the community the essential pillars of the faith.
And finally, Nanak’s teachings on equality and the essential dignity of all human beings is something that still resonates today. He insisted on the equality of women in all aspects of religious and community practice. And he rejected discrimination against any person on the basis of caste, class or religion.
I often speak of the alignment in values between Australia and New Zealand. Who knew that those values are in many ways the same as those taught by Guru Nanak?
Today, we face a world at home and abroad that is challenging and complicated. Daily life for many has become more complex, and solutions are hard to find.
In the face of this, it seems to me that – whether you are Sikh or not – the simplicity and power of Guru Nanak’s teachings can at least give us the strength to tackle these challenges.
For more than half a millennium, we have had the benefit of the gift of Guru Nanak’s wisdom.
On this day, that is truly something to celebrate. Thank you so much for the opportunity to join with you all today.
May peace and the blessings of the Guru be with you all.