The Sikhs believe that God is formless but realizable; He is fearless, without enemies, self-created, without birth or otherwise subjected to time, etc. The Sikh holy scripture explains the various facets of God in substantial detail. This principle of one God leads to the next primary concept for the Sikhs: the concept of equality of all the human races, sects, gender, social classes, etc.
The adherents of Sikhism believe that all peoples of the world are equal in the eyes of God; man is equal to woman; a rich person is equal to a poor man; and that regardless of race or religion, all of mankind enjoys the same rights in God’s domain.
From this follows the next recognized belief in Sikhs that people of all faiths can reunite with God provided they follow the true path of their own religion. Sikhs do not believe that they have a monopoly on God or are the ‘chosen’ people. Anyone can earn favors from God depending only on his or her own actions and thoughts. God does not see ones color or gender or social status when passing judgment.
Further, the Sikhs believe in the evolution of the Soul and the principle of reincarnation. The soul is believed to be a tiny spark of God’s light detached from the Almighty. This spark is separated from God and wants to become pure so that it can reunite with God. For this to happen, the Soul has to evolve and purify itself so that this reunification with the Supreme Soul can take place.
The law of Karma is another concept central to this faith. Ones actions in this life will have a direct influence on the type of life in your next existence. So to adhere to these principles, the dedicated follower must lead a disciplined personal life and must uphold the moral and ethical rights of all the peoples of the world.
It is a must to lead a spiritually correct life at all times and to be ready to be subjected to personal sacrifices if the liberty of any weak person(s) is at stake.
Another central tenet of Sikhism is the concept of ‘Chardi kala’ – a positive attitude to life at all times. Sikhs must graciously and with humility accept the will of God at all times. They must lead life unattached and untangled with the material world and should not come under the influence of Maya – the illusionary and transient world around us. It is important to remain detached from this world but to recognize ones duties to God and his creation.
Origination of Sikhism
Sikhism was founded during the 15th century in the Punjab region by Guru Nanak Dev and continued to progress with ten successive Sikh gurus (the last teaching being the holy scripture Gurū Granth Sāhib Ji).
The origins of Sikhism lie in the teachings of Guru Nanak and his successors. The essence of Sikh teaching is summed up by Nanak in these words: “Realization of Truth is higher than all else. Higher still is truthful living.”
Today, Sikhism is the fifth-largest organized religion in the world, with over 30 million people practicing the faith.
Sikhism is a monotheistic religion in which God—termed Waheguru—is shapeless, timeless, and sightless: niraṅkār, akaal, and alakh.
Sikh teaching emphasizes the principle of equality of all humans and rejects discrimination on the basis of caste, creed, and gender.
The beginning of the first composition of Sikh scripture states that God is omnipresent and infinite with power over everything, and is signified by the term ēk ōaṅkār. Sikhs believe that before creation, all that existed was God and God’s hukam (will or order). When God willed, the entire cosmos was created. From these beginnings, God nurtured “enticement and attachment” to māyā, or the human perception of reality. While a full understanding of God is beyond human beings, Nanak described God as not wholly unknowable. God is omnipresent (sarav viāpak) in all creation and visible everywhere to the spiritually awakened. Nanak also stressed that God must be seen from “the inward eye”, or the “heart”, of a human being: devotees must meditate to progress towards enlightenment.
The principal beliefs of Sikhi are faith in Waheguru—represented by the phrase ik ōaṅkār, meaning one God.
There is one primary source of scripture for the Sikhs: the Gurū Granth Sāhib. The Gurū Granth Sāhib may be referred to as the Ādi Granth—literally, The First Volume—and the two terms are often used synonymously. The Gurū Granth Sāhib is the final version of the scripture created by Gobind Singh.
The Three Pillars of Sikhism
1. Naam Japna: The Gurus led the Sikhs directly to practice Naam Japna – meditation on God through reciting, chanting, singing and constant remembrance followed by deep study and comprehension of God’s Name and virtues. The inner voice of the Sikh thus stays immersed in praises and appreciation of the Creator.
2. Kirat Karni: The Sikh Gurus expects the Sikhs to live as honorable householders and practice Kirat Karni – To honestly earn by ones physical and mental effort while accepting both pains and pleasures as God’s gifts (Hukam) and blessings.
3. Vand Chakna: The Sikhs are asked to share their wealth within the community by practising Vand Chakna – “Share and consume together.” The community or Sangat is an important part of Sikhism.
Characteristics of Sikhs
Sikhs are expected to embody the qualities of a “Sant-Sipāhī”—a saint-soldier. One must have control over one’s internal vices and be able to be constantly immersed in virtues clarified in the Guru Granth Sahib.
Every Sikh is enjoined to engage in social reform through the pursuit of justice for all human beings.
Ceremonies & Customs
Guru Nanak Dev Ji taught that rituals, religious ceremonies, or idol worship are of little use and Sikhs are discouraged from fasting or going on pilgrimages. Sikhs do not believe in converting people but converts to Sikhi by choice are welcomed.
The morning and evening prayers take about two hours a day, starting in the very early morning hours. The first morning prayer is Guru Nanak’s Jap Ji. Jap, meaning “recitation”, refers to the use of sound, as the best way of approaching the divine. Like combing hair, hearing and reciting the sacred word is used as a way to comb all negative thoughts out of the mind.
The second morning prayer is Guru Gobind Singh’s universal Jaap Sahib. The Guru addresses God as having no form, no country, and no religion but as the seed of seeds, sun of suns, and the song of songs. The Jaap Sahib asserts that God is the cause of conflict as well as peace, and of destruction as well as creation. Devotees learn that there is nothing outside of God’s presence, nothing outside of God’s control. Devout Sikhs are encouraged to begin the day with private meditations on the name of God.
Upon a child’s birth, the Guru Granth Sahib is opened at a random point and the child is named using the first letter on the top left hand corner of the left page. All boys are given the last name Singh, and all girls are given the last name Kaur.
Sikhs are joined in wedlock through the anand kāraj ceremony. Sikhs are encouraged to marry when they are of a sufficient age (child marriage is taboo), and without regard for the future spouse’s caste or descent. The marriage ceremony is performed in the company of the Guru Granth Sahib; around which the couple circles four times. After the ceremony is complete, the husband and wife are considered “a single soul in two bodies.”
According to Sikh religious rites, neither husband nor wife is permitted to divorce unless special circumstances arise. A Sikh couple that wishes to divorce may be able to do so in a civil court.] Upon death, the body of a Sikh is usually cremated. The kīrtan sōhilā and ardās prayers are performed during the funeral ceremony (known as antim sanskār).