Introduction to Sikhism
way of life and philosophy well ahead of its time when it was founded
over 500 years ago, The Sikh religion today has a following of over 20
million people worldwide. Sikhism preaches a message of devotion and remembrance
of God at all times, truthful living, equality of mankind, social justice
and denounces superstitions and blind rituals. Sikhism is open to all
through the teachings of its 10 Gurus enshrined in the Sikh Holy Book
and Living Guru, Sri Guru Granth Sahib.
Who and What is
The word 'Sikh'
in the Punjabi language means 'disciple', Sikhs are the disciples of
God who follow the writings and teachings of the Ten Sikh Gurus. The
wisdom of these teachings in Sri Guru Granth Sahib are practical and
universal in their appeal to all mankind.
neither Hindu fasting nor the ritual of the Muslim Ramadan month; Him
I serve who at the last shall save. The Lord of universe of the Hindus,
Gosain and Allah to me are one; From Hindus and Muslims have I broken
free. I perform neither Kaaba pilgrimage nor at bathing spots worship;
One sole Lord I serve, and no other. I perform neither the Hindu worship
nor the Muslim prayer; To the Sole Formless Lord in my heart I bow.
We neither are Hindus nor Muslims; Our body and life belong to the One
Supreme Being who alone is both Ram and Allah for us." (Guru
Arjan Dev, Guru Granth Sahib, Raga Bhairon pg. 1136)
being who faithfully believes in: (i) One Immortal Being, (ii) Ten Gurus,
from Guru Nanak to Guru Gobind Singh, (iii) The Guru Granth Sahib,
(iv) The utterances and teachings of the ten Gurus and, (v) the baptism
bequeathed by the tenth Guru, and who does not owe allegiance to any
other religion is a Sikh." (Rehat Maryada, Sikh Code of Conduct)
There is only One God. He is the same God for
all people of all religions.
The soul goes through cycles of births and deaths before it reaches
the human form. The goal of our life is to lead an exemplary existence
so that one may merge with God. Sikhs should remember God at all times
and practice living a virtuous and truthful life while maintaining a
balance between their spiritual obligations and temporal obligations.
The true path to achieving salvation and merging with God does not require
renunciation of the world or celibacy, but living the life of a householder,
earning a honest living and avoiding worldly temptations and sins.
Sikhism condemns blind rituals such as fasting, visiting places of pilgrimage,
superstitions, worship of the dead, idol worship etc.
Sikhism preaches that people of different races, religions, or sex are
all equal in the eyes of God. It teaches the full equality of men and
women. Women can participate in any religious function or perform any
Sikh ceremony or lead the congregation in prayer.
History and Practices
The founder of the
Sikh religion was Guru Nanak who was born in 1469. He preached a message
of love and understanding and criticized the blind rituals of the Hindus
and Muslims. Guru Nanak passed on his enlightened leadership of this
new religion to nine successive Gurus. The final living Guru, Guru Gobind
Singh died in 1708.
During his lifetime
Guru Gobind Singh established the Khalsa order (meaning 'The Pure'),
soldier-saints. The Khalsa uphold the highest Sikh virtues of commitment,
dedication and a social conscious. The Khalsa are men and women who
have undergone the Sikh baptism ceremony and who strictly follow the
Sikh Code of Conduct and Conventions and wear the prescribed physical
articles of the faith. One of the more noticeable being the uncut hair
(required to be covered with a turban for men) and the Kirpan (ceremonial
Before his death
in 1708 Guru Gobind Singh declared that the Sikhs no longer needed a
living and appointed his spiritual successor as Sri Guru Granth Sahib,
his physical successor as the Khalsa. Guru Gobind Singh felt that all
the wisdom needed by Sikhs for spiritual guidance in their daily lives
could be found in Sri Guru Granth Sahib, the Eternal Guru of the Sikhs.
Sri Guru Granth Sahib is unique in the world of religious scriptures
because not only is it accorded the status of being the spiritual head
of the Sikh religion, but besides the poetry of the Gurus, it also contains
the writings of saints of other faiths whose thoughts were consistent
with those of the Sikh Gurus.
Sikhism does not
have priests, which were abolished by Guru Gobind Singh. The Guru felt
that they had become corrupt and full of ego. Sikhs only have custodians
of the Guru Granth Sahib (granthi), and any Sikh is free to read the
Guru Granth Sahib in the Gurdwara (a Sikh temple) or in their home.
All people of all religions are welcome to the Gurdwara. A free community
kitchen can be found at every Gurdwara which serves meals to all people
of all faiths. Guru Nanak first started this institution which outline
the basic Sikh principles of service, humility and equality.
The most significant
historical religious center for the Sikhs is Harmiandir Sahib (The Golden
Temple) at Amritsar in the state of Punjab in northern India. It is
the inspirational and historical center of Sikhism but is not a mandatory
place of pilgrimage or worship. All places where Sri Guru Granth Sahib
are installed are considered equally holy for Sikhs.