Nanak is lying with his feet towards the Kaaba! – Story

“Wherever you are sitting, wherever you are, your being there should make the place important, not vice versa.”


It is something very ancient in man. It must be a heritage from his animal ancestors. A position gives power, gives identity. In sitting in front it seems to you that you are more important; those who are sitting at the back are less important.

But at least with me you have to drop this animal heritage. Be a human being. Rather than depending on the place, turn the wheel completely: wherever you sit, that place is important. Why make the place important, and yourself unimportant and dependent on the place? Have some self-respect – and self-respect has nothing to do with sitting in the front row. It has something to do with your inner understanding, that wherever you are, you are yourself, and you accept yourself. The place where you sit becomes more important just because you are sitting there.

There is a story about Nanak, a great mystic, who founded the religion of Sikhism. He traveled far and wide. And he was more generous in his attitude; he allowed anyone who wanted, to be in his world. Even Mohammedans entered it, Hindus entered it; all kinds of people from different religions became part of it. The man had tremendous charisma.

He went to the holy place of Mohammedans, the Kaaba. It is said that every Mohammedan at least once in his life should go to visit the Kaaba; otherwise he has missed something tremendously important. And even poor Mohammedans go on collecting money – they will starve, but they will collect money. They will sell their houses, their lands, and will go on a pilgrimage to the Kaaba. And they are given tremendous respect for it, those who go to the Kaaba.

The pilgrimage is called hajj, going to the source. It was at the Kaaba that Mohammed first proclaimed the basic elements of his religion. And the person who goes and comes back is given the title hajji, which is just like ‘holy’.

There was no need for Nanak to go to the Kaaba – he was not a Mohammedan. But he never considered himself as Hindu or confined to any religion. Millions of people go to the Kaaba, and Nanak thought it would be a good place to go, to see and meet millions of people.

He went to the Kaaba. It was a long journey, and when they reached, it was getting dark, the sun had set, and they were so tired that he told his companion, Mardana…. That was a beautiful combination. The disciple, Mardana, was a great musician, a genius, and Nanak would sing – his teachings are all songs – and Mardana would play on his instruments. And the company of two had become famous. Mardana was Mohammedan. The master was Hindu, the disciple was Mohammedan, but there was such a meeting between the two, that nobody was a Hindu and nobody was a Mohammedan.

Nanak told Mardana, “First we should rest tonight. Tomorrow we will start moving amongst the people.”

And as he was going to sleep, Mardana said, “Master, you are doing something wrong. You are lying with your feet towards the Kaaba. That is never done.”

Nanak said, “But do you think Nanak comes every day to the Kaaba? That too is never done, will never be done again. So don’t be worried, just follow what I am doing.”

Poor Mardana, he was a Mohammedan, he knew that this was absolutely wrong, but if the master was doing it…. He also slept putting his feet towards the Kaaba, just outside the Kaaba temple.

Somebody saw them, informed the high priest, and the high priest came with guards. They woke up Nanak and Mardana and told Nanak, “We had heard that you are a holy man. What kind of holy man are you? You don’t understand a simple thing – that the Kaaba is the holiest place in the world – and you are lying with your feet towards the Kaaba.”

Guru Nanak with Mardana and Bala at Mecca
Guru Nanak with Mardana and Bala at Mecca

Nanak said, “I was told by Mardana – he is my disciple – that it is the holiest place. But my difficulty is, wherever I put my feet I find the place holiest. It is not the place, it is my feet which makes every place so holy. And if you are skeptical, you can try; you can turn my feet wherever you want.”

Up to this point I see that this is history; beyond this it is a metaphor – but significant, meaningful, completing what history cannot complete.

The priest turned Nanak’s feet in every direction, and they were amazed that the Kaaba turned to exactly where Nanak’s feet were turned. They went all round turning him, and Mardana could not believe it. Nanak was laughing and saying, “Do your best, don’t leave out any place – because this is my problem: where should I keep my feet? Every place is holy, the whole existence is divine.”

The priest touched the feet of Nanak and said, “Please forgive me. People have come here, but none was like you. We have never seen the Kaaba moving wherever someone’s feet are moved. Why did you come here?”

Nanak said, “Just to show you that it is not the Kaaba that is holy. Unless your feet are holy, nothing is holy. Worshipping a stone you think you are worshipping something holy.”

Wherever you are sitting, wherever you are, your being there should make the place important, not vice versa – not that you start thinking, “Which place is important?” Do you see my point? You are putting places above you. This is self-condemnation. You are not respectful towards yourself.

And this is happening all over the world. Somebody becomes the president of a country, and thinks he has arrived. To be the president or the prime minister is just to reach to a certain place – you have not grown. Your growth would show that wherever you are, you have created the center.

Osho, The Transmission of the Lamp – Talks in Uruguay, Ch 28, Q 2 (excerpt)

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