This piece is interesting. Was Guru Nanak Dev linked to Buddhism in any way? How is Sikhism and Buddhism linked?
Or is it all just speculation?
If you go to the Golden Temple one of the most interesting things you will observe are some Tibetan pilgrims
who come to pray there, bowing down at each of their steps. These people are Buddhists who may belong to one of
the numerous sects of Tibetan Buddhism, who regard Guru Nanak as Guru Rinpoche. Guru Padmasambhava brought
Buddhism to Tibet and they regard the Guru as a reincarnation of the precious one, 'Rinpoche'.There are
many teachings in common? the middle path of living, the importance of congregation called sangam/sangat, the
importance of meditation, the individual's responsibility for their destiny, even the archetypal images of
the warrior monk, in Gurmat the saint-soldier tradition. Sikhs equally have great reverence for Buddhist
teachers. It is a matter of no small pride that a Sikh escorted the Dalai Lama to India when he exiled Tibet.
Indeed, Punjab, the Sikh homeland, was formerly called Gandhara, the home of Mahayana Buddhism. This goes back
to a period when the Dhamma was revered by almost half the people of the world.
GURU NANAK IN TIBET – A BUDDHIST VIEWPOINT
Tarungpa Tulku (As published in the Indian Express, March 6th, 1966) It gave me great pleasure when I was asked
to write this article as I have wanted for a long time to say something about my impressions of the Religion of
the Sikhs in India, and my connections with it. After my escape from Tibet, I lived as a refugee in India for
several years, alongside so many of my countrymen. There I had the great good fortune to be looked after by a
Sikh family, by Baba Bedi, his English wife, and their three children. While I was with them, I was able to visit
many of the Sikh holy places and I was given hospitality there.
My interest in Sikhism is not only a personal one, however. In Tibet, Guru Nanak is revered as an emanation of
Guru Padmasambhava. Many of our pilgrims visited Amritsar and other holy places which they looked upon as equal
in importance to Buddha-Gaya. They always said that the Sikhs treated them with great respect and were very
hospitable: " as our expression goes, they bowed down to their feet." It seems that the Sikhs really
practice the doctrine of their religion; perhaps they are the only ones who give such wonderful dan a to
Most Tibetans know that Guru Nanak visited Tibet, and the mystical ideas of our two religions are very similar. I
have noticed that the Sikhs never worship images in their shrines, but that there is in the centre the book, the
Guru Granth Sahib. In our tradition, one of the last things that the Buddha said was that in the dark age after
his death he would return in the form of books. "At that time," he said, "look up to me and
respect me." Just as we do not believe in mystifying rituals, so in the Sikh ceremonies, it seems that the
people simply read and contemplate the words of their text, so that no misunderstandings arise.
I was interested in the Sikh symbolism of the three daggers: in Buddhism, a
knife often appears as the cutting off of the roots of the three poison, greed, hatred and illusion. I was also
very interested in the Sikh practice never to cut one's hair, as this is also the practice among Tibetan
hermits and contemplatives. The most famous of these was Milarepa, who said that there were three things that
should be left in their natural state; one should not cut one's hair, dye one's clothes, nor change
one's mind. It is true that most Tibetan monks wear yellow, and shave their heads; these are practices that
come from India, and symbolise humility and detachment from worldly things. Outside the more organized monastic
tradition, however, the emphasis is that the natural goodness and power of growth within should be allowed to
develop freely without interference from outside.
Both Guru Nanak and the Buddha said to their followers that the real nature of the universe should not be
limited by the idea of personal god and gods. Those who made offerings at their shrines should remember that
the whole universe was the power offering offered before and to itself. Although Guru Nanak did not think of
himself as a founder of a new school of thought, it seems that there is very much in common between our
When I return to India, I hope to increase understanding of the Sikh religion among Tibetan people, and it is
my wish one day to translate the Guru Granth Sahib into Tibetan. Now I am living in England, and I can see that
much good might be accomplished by Sikhism in England, and Europe and America, and I wish success to everyone
whose concern this is.
A GURDWARA REVERED BY LAMAS TOO: Nestled deep in the Himalayas, about 25 km from the town of
Leh, is the Gurdwara, Pathar Sahib. The Gurdwara was built in 1517 to commemorate the visit of Guru Nanak Dev. It
is believed that Guru Nanak Dev reached Leh via Sikkim, Nepal, Tibet and Yarkhand. The place is revered by both
the local lamas and Sikh sangat. Currently the Army is looking after the gurdwara. As per a legend, there lived a
wicked demon who terrorised the people in the area where the gurdwara is situated. The people prayed to the
Almighty for help. It is said that Guru Nanak heard their woes and came to their aid. He settled down on the bank
of the river below the hill where the wicked demon lived. The Guru blessed the people with sermons and became
popular in the area. The locals called him Nanak Lama. The demon got into rage and decided
to kill Guru Nanak Dev.
One morning when the Guru was sitting in meditation, the demon rolled down a large pathar (boulder) from the
hilltop, with the intention of killing the Guru. The boulder came rolling down and when it touched the Guru's
body, it melted like wax. The Guru kept on meditating unhurt and undisturbed. Thinking that the Guru had been
killed, the demon came down and was taken aback to see the Guru deep in meditation. In a fit of anger, he tried
to push the boulder with his right foot, but as the pathar had already melted like wax, his foot got embedded in
it. On seeing this, demon realised his own powerlessness as compared with the spiritual powers of the great Guru.
He fell at the feet of Guru Nanak Dev and begged for forgiveness. Guru Sahib advised him to get rid of his wicked
ways and asked him to lead a life of a noble person. This changed the life of the demon, who gave up evil deeds
and started serving the people.
Guru Nanak Dev thereafter continued his holy journey towards Srinagar via Kargil. The pathar pushed down by the
demon, with the imprint of the body of Guru Nanak Dev as also the foot imprint of the demon, is at present lying
in Gurdwara Pathar Sahib. It is said that since the visit of Guru Sahib (in 1517) to 1965, the local lamas held
pathar sacred and offered prayers to it. To visit the gurdwara, one can take, a flight to Leh from New Delhi and
stay in a hotel at Leh. As Leh is located at a high altitude, one can have breathing problems due to the paucity
of oxygen. Visitors are advised to consult their doctors before embarking on this journey. The 25-km road from
Leh to the Gurdwara Pathar Sahib is in good condition. Visitors can go by bus or taxi. The Gurdwara Sahib is
located next to the road.
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