Religion: The Art of Living and Dying

Birthday of founder of Sikhism Guru Nanak Dev Ji

November 19th, this year, will be celebrated as the birthday of Guru Nanak Dev Ji, the first Guru of the Sikhs. Born in 1469, He expressed his teachings in form of hymns, with some of the major prayers being the Japji Sahib most of which still exist and are widely sung and heard. All of them were collected in the Adi Granth by Guru Arjan, the fifth Sikh Guru, in 1604.  A member of the Khatri (trading) caste , Nanak was not a typical Sant, yet he experienced the same spirit of God in everything outside him and everything within him. Guru Nanak, and other Sikh Gurus emphasised bhakti (‘love’, ‘devotion’, or ‘worship’).  In the Sikh perspective, the everyday world is part of an infinite reality, where increased spiritual awareness, leads to increased and vibrant participation in the everyday world. Guru Nanak described living an “active, creative, and practical life” of “truthfulness, fidelity, self-control and purity” as being higher than the metaphysical truth.

Through popular tradition, Nanak’s teaching is understood to be practised in three ways:

Vand Shhako  (‘share & consume’): Share with others, help those who are in need, so you may eat together;

Kirat Karo (‘work honestly’): Earn an honest living, without exploitation or fraud; and

Naam Japo  (‘recite His name’): Meditate on God’s name, so to feel His presence.

The birthdays of the 10 Sikh Gurus are celebrated by the Sikhs worldwide as GurPurab.  The GurPurab celebrations commence 2 days prior to the birthday with a 48-hour non-stop reading of the Guru Granth Sahib (the holy book of the Sikhs) in the Gurudwara. And on the birthday, morning processions begin from the local Gurudwara that go around the block and are joined by joyful devotees singing hymns in praise of the Guru.

Osho has spoken at length on Guru Nanak in His discourses. The book Ek Omkar Satnam (in Hindi) is dedicated to Guru Nanak. Its English translation is available as The True Name Vol.1-2.  Osho says “When Nanak speaks there are only two ways open to you: either you merge into Nanak’s color and attain to satisfaction, or else you are bound to become restless. To be near a person like Nanak is like standing next to fire. Either you burn yourself as Nanak burned, you turn into ashes as Nanak did, you lose yourself as Nanak did — like a drop falling into the ocean; or, the only other alternative is to color Nanak’s words in your own shade. This is very easy, for we never actually hear what is told to us, but hear what we want to hear. We infer meanings that suit us. We don’t stand on the side of truth; we make truth stand on our side; we make truth follow us. The difference between a genuine seeker and a false seeker is that the legitimate seeker follows truth wherever it might take him — whatever be the outcome — even if everything is lost, even if life is lost. He is ready to lose his all. The inauthentic seeker bends truth to follow him; but then it is no longer truth, it is falsity.”

Osho Says…..

These are your ways to define yourself. These are the ways of the ego to define itself. You are a Hindu or a Mohammedan or a Buddhist. You are Indian, German or Italian. You are a Catholic or a Protestant. These are ways to define yourself, who you are. In fact, a religious person need not have any religion.

A religious person is religionless. A religious person has a quality of religiousness, certainly, but that quality is very indefinable. It is more like a poetry around him, more like a radiance. Yes, in his actions you will see a grace, in his life you will see gratitude, in his behaviour you will see compassion. But he is not Hindu or Mohammedan or Christian. These are very mediocre ways to become religious. These are not the real ways to become religious. Religion is basically an art: how to live and how to die; how to live and enjoy, and how to die and enjoy; how to live gracefully and how to die gracefully; how to make your whole life — death included — a celebration.

Religion has nothing to do with the Bible, the Gita, the Koran; religion has something to do with an alchemical transformation of your being. So whenever you find a really religious person you will not find him as a Hindu, Mohammedan, Christian, Jew — you will simply find him with an un-known quality present in him, which defines him. But this definition is not of the ego; this definition is just of his life style. Yes, around Jesus you will find a quality of religiousness, so will you find it around Buddha or around Mohammed or around Nanak. You will find a quality of religiousness, but you will have to watch. You will have to have a certain vision to see it.

It happened in Nanak’s life that he came to visit a town in which there were many saints — Mohammedans, Jainas, Buddhists, Hindus. The town was full of the saints. And, of course, when there are too many saints there is much conflict, controversy. And a new prophet was coming.

So the old saints thought, ‘This is too much. We are already overcrowded here.’ So they called a conference and they sent a message to Nanak — he was staying just outside the town. The message was: ‘It is too crowded here. We are already too many here. Already business is not good because there are only a few clients and many saints. Please go somewhere else.’

And they knew that Nanak’s name had reached the town; his fame had reached the town. If he came, even those few clients that they could divide among themselves would be gone. So they did a beautiful thing. They thought about how to send the message so that Nanak did not feel offended. They were worried that he would feel offended — because it was offensive. Who were they to prevent Nanak from coming? But they were cunning people. They searched in the scriptures and they found a way.

They sent a cup full of oil — not even a single drop more could be added. It was almost overflowing, on the verge. They sent the cup as a symbol that this town was so full of saints and religions that not a single drop more could be accepted. There was no more space.

Nanak was sitting near a well under a tree with his disciple, and the disciple was singing a song, playing on his instrument. The people came with the cup. Nanak looked at them, understood the message, took a flower from the side of the well, a wildflower, and floated the flower on the oil in the cup. The flower was so small it simply floated. It didn’t take any space. No oil came out of the cup. And Nanak said to them, ‘Go back and give this cup to the people who have sent you to me.’

The disciple was puzzled. He said, ‘I don’t understand what is transpiring between you and these people. This cup was very mysterious. What exactly did they mean?’ Nanak said, ‘They mean that there are too many saints here and there is no space. But,’ Nanak said; ‘a religious man needs no space. That’s my answer. I will not be fighting with anybody. I will not be in any competition with anybody. A religious man needs no space. A religious man is not a businessman. They need not be afraid of me. I will be here just like this flower floating on top of the full cup. And I will be here just like the flower — one day I will be here, tomorrow I will be gone. They need not be worried about me.’

Now this is religiousness — non-competitiveness, no conflict with anybody, no aggression. And one knows that one is here just for a few moments. It is a caravanserai — an overnight stay. By the morning we are gone, just like flowers. A religious person has nothing to do with organised religion, but he has something to do with the inner poetry, the poetry of life. He has something to do with the inner dance; he has a dancing energy. He is in deep romance with life, he is in romantic love with life. He is immensely grateful for each moment of joy that God goes on giving. And we are not even worthy. We don’t deserve it. We have not earned it. It is a gift.


The second thing: there are not two kinds of religion. Religiousness is one — although formulations may differ. It is just like you make your house in one way, another makes his in another way and the third one has chosen a third architect to design his house. But the inner thing is one — that you need a shelter, you need a roof. Somebody cooks in an Indian style, somebody in a Chinese style and somebody in some other style, but the real thing is hunger — that you need food, that you need nourishment.

So these so-called religions are nothing but different styles of nourishment. You can choose. But that is not important. The important thing is to have refuge in God, surrender — what Sufis call ISLAM; and commitment — what Sufis call IMAN; and a transformation of life through trust — what Sufis call IHSAM.


This is an excerpt from the transcript of a public discourse by Osho in Buddha Hall,

Shree Rajneesh Ashram, Pune.

Discourse series: Sufis: The People of the Path, Vol 2

Chapter #1

Chapter title: Seven Valleys

27 August 1977 am in Buddha Hall


Osho has spoken on Mystics like Sai Baba, Dadu, Farid, Gurdjieff, J. Krishnamurti,

Kabir, Nanak, Patanjali, Rumi, Sahajo, Saraha, Socrates, Tilopa, Valmiki, Zarathustra

and many more in His discourses. Some of these can be referred to in the following


1. Sermons in Stones

2. Come Come Yet Again Come

3. The Hidden Splendour

4. Beyond Enlightenment

5. The New Dawn

6. The Sword and The Lotus

7. The Fish in the Sea is Not Thirsty

8. Socrates Poisoned Again After 25 Centuries

9. Yoga: The Alpha and the Omega, Vol 1

10. The Path of Love

11. The Book of Wisdom

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