Listen to this story from SikhNet:
Guru Nanak was a grown up man now, and he had begun to travel and teach. He walked everywhere on foot with his friends and wherever they went, they sang. His friends were Mardana, who was a Muslim, and Bala, who was a Hindu. Those were the two main religions in India during that time.
People wondered, “Well, his friends are odd, one is a Hindu and one is a Muslim, but he looks a little different. Is he a Hindu? Is he a Muslim? What is he?” They asked Guru Nanak, “Are you a Hindu or are you a Muslim?” He told them, “Well, you know there is no Hindu and there is no Muslim.” They said, “What?! What?! What do You mean by that?”
Someone went and told the Governor of the town, “This man Nanak, he says there are no Muslims!!” The Governor was alarmed when he heard this. He thought, “Well he can say what he wants about the Hindus, but he can’t say there’s no Muslims because I am a Muslim.” So, he said, “Go and bring Nanak here!” The messenger said, “Okay, I’ll get him, and I’ll bring him here.”
He was going to go over to Guru Nanak and be very forceful and say, “Hey, you must come with me. The Governor wants to see you right now!” When the messenger got to Guru Nanak though, his mind suddenly changed. He saw how beautiful and saintly the Guru was and he was very polite and said “Sir, the Governor would like to see you. Would you please come with me?”
So Guru Nanak went to the royal court of the Governor and the Governor asked him, “Why did You say there’s no Muslim and there’s no Hindu? What are you talking about?” Nanak said, “Well, you have forgotten. You have forgotten that if you can’t see God in ALL, you can’t see God at all. You have your rules about this and that and the other, but the same light is inside of everyone.”
The Governor said, “Well, alright, maybe you’re right about that. But if you don’t think that you’re a Muslim or a Hindu, all of us here are going to say our Muslim prayers, will you pray with us?” Nanak said, “Yes, I would love to. If you will lead the prayers, I will pray with you.”
So they began their prayers. They put down their prayer rugs and they all got on their knees and started bowing, but Guru Nanak stayed standing up. Instead of getting on his knees and bowing, he stood up with his eyes open. They were continuing their prayers and the Guru was just looking around. That made the Governor very mad, and afterwards, he said, “What were you doing? You weren’t praying at all! We were all bowing and doing the proper prayers. You look like a saintly person but you didn’t keep your word! You said you were going to pray with us but you didn’t. You weren’t doing anything!”
The Guru said, “Well, I said I would pray with you if you would lead it, but you weren’t leading the prayer at all.” He turned to the Quazi, who was the Muslim priest, and said, “You were thinking about the new little baby horse, the foal, that was just born at your farm. You were worried it might fall in the well in the courtyard.”
The Qazi thought, “That’s right, that was what was I was thinking.” The Guru turned to the Governor and said, “And you were thinking about all the horses you are going to sell and how much money you are going to make when you sell them. The Governor thought, “Oh wow, that’s amazing! He’s right, that’s true, I was thinking about that.”
They realized how even though they were bowing and looking as though they were praying, they really weren’t praying and that even though Nanak wasn’t bowing he was really praying… for them!
Then they asked him, “Well how can we really pray?”
Nanak said, “You have to calm your mind, and you have to pray from inside your heart, not from your mind, and you have to let the Light of God shine into your heart.”
Storyteller: Gurumeher Kaur