Sikhism was founded in northern India (the Punjab) in the late 15th century. At that time, founder Guru Nanak was inspired by both Hinduism and Islamic teachings. Eventually, Nanak’s teachings and those of nine other gurus that succeeded him were written a sacred book, the Guru Granth Sahib. Sikhs do not believe in the caste system and there is no religious hierarchy. Sikhs make up approximately 2% of India’s population.
The tenth and last human guru, Gobind Singh, was the founder of the Khalsa, an elite community moral leaders and defenders of the faith. Men and women who initiated into the group change their surname to Singh (Lion), for a man, and Kaur (Princess), for a woman. They are also identified by wearing the “Five Ks.” These are: 1) kesh or long, uncut hair; 2) kangha, a comb; 3) kaccha, a special undergarment; 4) kara, a bracelet; and 5) the kirpan or short sword.
The Oneness of God:
There is one God
His Name is Truth
The All-pervading Creator,
Without fear, without hatred
Immortal, unborn, self-existent,
By grace, the Enlightener.
True in the beginning, true throughout the ages,
True even now, Nanak, and forever shall be true.
(Japji, Mool Mantra)
The Name of God: Guru Nanak believed that by keeping God’s Name in one’s heart by meditation and constant but conscious repetition, God could be experienced more personally. Memorization and recitation of Sikh scriptures which are filled with praise for God’s attributes, are another way of bringing God to mind daily. “Waheguru” (“Wonderful Lord”) is a word commonly used for this purpose.
Karma and Reincarnation: Guru Nanak taught that one’s soul existed at the time of Creation and evolves through various stages in many rebirths, eventually leading to reunion with God. As a person lives his current life, bad actions reap consequences and good actions reap rewards.
Equality: God created all of humanity therefore all humans should have dignity and worth. A man’s station in life and his occupation does not matter to God. All are equal in God’s sight. Man and woman are regarded as equals. The Sikh’s rejected the caste system feeling that all people have the obligation to improve their lot in life.
Maya: Man doesn’t look at life clearly. What he sees is an illusion, but the more clearly he sees God in himself and in those around him, the illusion begins to crumble. Bad actions cause one to separate from God causing misery and suffering in his life.
Adversity is a medicine and comfort a disease.
because in comfort there is no yearning for God.
(Asa di Var XII.1)
Key Virtues and Vices: Virtues are truth, contentment, service, patience, and humility. Vices are lust, anger, greed, worldliness, and pride.
Service: Service is given an honored place in the Sikh religion. Love for God is put into action by helping one’s fellow human beings whenever possible. This ethic is seen both in the home, where children are brought up to respect their parents, and in the gurdwara (place of worship), where a communal meal is served to all who attend.