November 14 marks Guru Nanak Jayanti this year. Guru Nanak was one of India’s great mystics, who wandered across the subcontinent and beyond. Below, Sadhguru tells a wonderful story about him.

 Sadhguru: The significance of Guru Nanak’s life is not about starting a new religion, as most people think he did. Guru Nanak was someone who knew no scriptures, he knew life. What we know of him today, in the form of his teaching, is very little. I would say not even two to five percent of what he said is with the world today. But we can imagine what he could have said because anyone who comes from an inner experience will say the same thing. Scriptures may become outdated, but inner experience is never outdated. It has no date. Times and dates are for physical nature. What is within belongs neither to this time nor that time.


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 Guru Nanak was a very compassionate and courageous being. There is a beautiful story about him. Once, he was traveling by foot, walking from village to village, offering his teachings to people. He was not one of those all-the-time smiling, gentle saints. He knew when to be hard and when to be soft.

One day, he happened to be a guest in the home of a very rich man in the area. After a few days, as he was leaving, he gave this man a sewing needle and said, “Keep this with you. Some time later when you see me, you can give it back to me.” After Guru Nanak had left, the man told his wife about the incident. The wife immediately scolded the man, “You fool, why did you take a needle from a guru? He is an old man. Suppose he dies and you don’t get to give back this needle, what will you do? Offering him something is fine but you should not receive anything from a man like him. If he dies, you will be in debt forever. You will be unable to wash out that one karma, and this may mean another thousand lifetimes for you. This is not a good thing. Somehow try to find him and return it to him immediately.”

So the man started trekking behind Guru Nanak. Slowly, after a couple of months, the man caught up with him and said, “Guruji, I don’t want to carry this needle with me. You are an old man. In case you die, I cannot carry this needle to heaven and return it to you there. I will be in debt forever.” Guru Nanak replied, “So you know that you cannot carry this needle to heaven, right?” The man said, “Yes.” “When you know you cannot carry a needle, what about all those other things you are accumulating? You will not be able to carry any of that either.” The man got the message. He fell at Guru Nanak’s feet. He went back home, just kept what was needed for his family, and went about building whatever was needed for the wellbeing of people around.

The world is a limited space and a limited resource. Whether it is individuals, societies or nations, when they go about accumulating endlessly, all that can happen is strife and pain for themselves and everyone else. Unless every individual fixes this within himself: “This is what I need. The rest of my capabilities, I will use for everyone’s wellbeing,” if this does not come in a human being, he is a disaster to himself and to the world. The true disaster on this planet is not an earthquake, volcano or tsunami; it is human ignorance. Ignorance is the only disaster. Enlightenment is the only solution.

Editor’s Note: Find more of Sadhguru’s insights in the book “Of Mystics and Mistakes.” Download the preview chapter or purchase the ebook at Isha Downloads.