By Amar Prakash
"Be Here Now" is what Guru Nanak was talking about. Most religions are concerned with what happens to you after you die. Sikhi is concerned with what happens to you before you die. Although there are many mentions of reincarnation, the effects of Karma, heaven and hell, Chitar and Gupat etc., in the Guru Granth, these are only meant to be understood metaphorically. Owen Cole wrote about Guru Nanak: "...such ideas are not the one's which concern him utimately. His preoccupation was with enabling his listeners to become one with God and so escape the death of separation which awaited them if they persisted in duality."
Guru Nanak said what happens to us after death was a mystery:
"In the fourth watch of the night, O my merchant friend, the Grim Reaper comes to the field. When the Messenger of Death seizes and dispatches you, O my merchant friend, no one knows the mystery of where you have gone. So think of the Lord! No one knows this secret, of when the Messenger of Death will seize you and take you away. All your weeping and wailing then is false. In an instant, you become a stranger.You obtain exactly what you have longed for. Says Nanak, in the fourth watch of the night, O mortal, the Grim Reaper has harvested your field." page 74
His concern was with conquering the fear or death:
"Only a few obtain the sublime essence of the Ambrosial Amrit, united in Union with the True Guru. As long as the mortal does not come to understand the mystery of the Shabad, the Word of God, he shall continue to be tormented by death. Whoever finds the door of the One True Lord, does not know any other house or door. By Guru's Grace, I have obtained the supreme status; so says poor Nanak." Guru Nanak page 1126
"Liberation, comfort and proper lifestyle come from serving You; You alone cause us to serve You. That place is heaven, where the Kirtan of the Lord's Praises are sung. You Yourself instill faith into us." Guru Arjan page 749
"In the midst of millions of games and entertainments, the Lord's Name does not come to their minds. O Nanak, their home is like a wilderness, in the depths of hell." Guru Arjan page 707
As usual the Guru's are speaking about Transcendent concepts in a metaphorical manner. It is a big misunderstanding to see these as real. One example of this is the concept of Sach Khand.
"In the realm of Truth (Sach Khand,) the Formless Lord abides. Having created the creation, He watches over it. By His Glance of Grace, He bestows happiness. There are planets, solar systems and galaxies. If one speaks of them, there is no limit, no end. There are worlds upon worlds of His Creation. As He commands, so they exist. He watches over all, and contemplating the creation, He rejoices. O Nanak, to describe this is as hard as steel!" Guru Nanak page 6
Sach Khand is not something that you go to when you die. Sach Khand is a state of mind that you enter when you are alive.
I remember going to a Bhog for a friend of mine, who had died. There was a lot of chanting of Akal, Akal, to help the soul's passage to Sach Khand. The truth is that if you are not in Sach Khand when you are alive, no amount of chanting after you are dead will get you there. It is also a misguided belief that Guru Gobind Singh rode his blue steed into Sach Khand. This is the kind of misunderstanding that can fill your mind when you literally interpret Gurbani.