Saturday, June 6, 2009

Guru Nanak’s Needle (1469-1539)

A rich man of Lahore, Panjab, approached Guru Nanak, a great religious innovator and the founder of Sikhism.

“I am a great admirer of yours. I have a ton of money, countless pieces of property, any material that anyone may fancy, need or want. But my great desire is to be of some service to you, Guru Nanak Sahib.”

The great guru did not have to think at all. Without wasting one blink, his lightning mind made a counter-offer. “Dear Seth Sahib. I will offer you one Amanat.”

The guru then produced a sewing needle. In his day those were perhaps the most common object in the household. An Amanat is a generic name given to an object, which one entrusts to a trustworthy person, with the expectation that this will be returned at an agreed upon future time.

The name, Amina, trusted lady and Al-Ameen, are applied to persons of such a dependable character that you may safely entrust them with your property or with your life if need be.

In life we trust our property to others such as bankers and our lives to people in the healing profession, our children to teachers, and our souls to priests.

So, you ask, what did Guru Nanak imply with the sewing needle?

“Keep this needle for me but make sure that you return it to me on the day after your death.”

The Seth was overjoyed that the great guru was investing him with such an honour – with such an object of his personal use. “His very own sewing needle.”

But the next day the Seth returned. “Respected Guru Nanak, I do not understand how I will be able to return your Amanat to you the day after my death.”

"If you have enough clothes, food, land, and money to last for a lifetime," said the Guru, "I wonder why this small needle should seem too much for you to carry! How will you take all your money, horses, gold and other costly things into the next world?"

The Seth felt shame for having lived a life of excess. He asked for the Guru's advice. "Work hard, share your earnings with the needy and remember God."

One who understands will understand.