In the Indian sub-continent, when we think of a yogi, a holy person, we have a vision of person dressed in a loin cloth, or flowing robes. Staff in hand, large rings in the ears, and vermillion and ashes on the body. He might even carry a begging bowl, and may have a coarse blanket on his shoulders. Surrounded by a crowd of devotees, he may be blowing a conch shell or playing a musical instrument; his food is different too—almonds, and pine nuts, and saffron-laced milk.
But Guru Nanak would not appear like this. Most of the time, he wore the dress of a common person, a shirt and dhoti, or a loose kurta, and pajamas. So when the great sage Gorakhnath and his disciples see Guru Nanak, they ask about his dress. They tell him that he must dress like a holy man, and Guru Nanak tells them that he wears the marks of a saint.
But his marks are powerful, though subtle, and certainly different from the normal:
Contentment are my ear-rings, and humility my begging bowl; Meditation is the ashes applied to my body.
Constant remembrance of my mortality is my parched blanket;
Body pure in thought, His name is my sturdy staff.
The crowd of the usual holy men is shocked into silence by the simplicity of this magnificent vision. But they gradually recover their composure to question Guru Nanak again. Why does he not eat special food, instead of the usual? Where are his attendants and disciples? And where were his conch shell and his musical instruments? Guru Nanak answers them:
I partake the food of spiritual wisdom,
And compassion is my constant attendant;
His name is the music in every heart.
The Guru exhorts them not to see themselves as superior to other humans, but as fellow travelers on a
See the brotherhood of all mankind as the highest order of Yogis;
Conquer your own mind, and conquer the world.