SIKHISM. A Primer for PUMC Religious Diversity Students Fall 2018 HISTORY

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1 HISTORY Sikhism is a young religion dating from 1469 when Guru Nanak Dev Ji was born in India. It is not connected to Hinduism or Islam. Guru Nanak s message was simple We are all one created by the One Creator of all Creation. The name of the one God is Truth, Sat Nam. During Nanak s time, India was divided by castes, sectarianism, religious factions and fanaticism. India was ruled by the Mughal Dynasty, a Muslim empire controlling the Indian subcontinent. His parents were Hindus. Nanak, however, respected all religions but did not associate with any of them. Nanak believed in one God with many paths. Nanak s followers were/are called Sikhs. 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. Sikhs bow to none except God. Gurus are believed to be living in the direct light of God. Gurus help followers travel from darkness to light. Nanak was the first of ten Sikh gurus who are important in Sikhism. When he was 28, Nanak was filled with the spirit of God. Early one morning Guru Nanak went to the river Bain for his bath. After plunging into the river, Guru Nanak did not surface and it was reported that he must have drowned. The villagers searched everywhere, but there was no trace of him. Guru Nanak was in holy communion with God. After three days he appeared at the same spot from where he had disappeared. He was no longer the same person, there was a divine light in his eyes and his face was radiant. When he finally broke his silence he said, There is no Hindu and no Muslim. Thus, began the religion of Sikhism. Nanak made four journeys to India, Arabia, and Persia. He spoke to Hindus, Jains, Buddhists, and Muslims. Nanak s message was to learn the true religion and to ignore empty religious rituals, the caste system, and widow sacrifice. He did not ask his listeners to follow him. He simply asked Muslims to be true Muslims and the Hindus to be true Hindus. 1

2 Later, Nanak settled in Punjab (Northern India) and taught for fifteen years. His followers began to call him Guru, or teacher. He taught them to be IN the world, not apart from it. A common meal must be shared with everyone, for example. The remaining nine gurus are seen as enlightened teachers through whom God reveals his will. Each Guru appointed his successor. The tenth Guru, Gobind Singh Ji, ordered that the Sikh Holy Scripture (known as the Guru Granth Sahib), become the last guru and the religious scripture of Sikhism. The text is written in the Punjabi language and consists of 1,430 pages and 6,000-line compositions, which are set to music. The bulk of the scripture is divided into 31 Ragas. Ragas are a familiar musical expression in sitar music. The vision of the Guru Grant Sahib is a world based on divine justice without oppression. While the Granth respects Hinduism and Islam, it is separate from them. The Guru Grant Sahib is placed in a Sikh Gurdwara (temple); all Sikhs bow or prostrate before it. The Granth is the spiritual authority of Sikhism. Sikh Religious Philosophy God cannot take human form. BELIEFS & PRACTICES "Realization of Truth is higher than all else. Higher still is Truthful Living." (Guru Nanak, Sri Rag) There is only one God, he is the Creator, Sustainer and Destroyer. 2

3 The goal of human life is to break the cycle of births and deaths and merge with God. This can be accomplished by following the teachings of the Guru, meditation on the Holy Name and performance of acts of service and charity. The five cardinal vices are; Kam (lust), Krodh (anger), Lobh (greed), Moh (worldly attachment) and Ahankar (pride). If one can overcome these, they will achieve salvation. Narm Marg; emphasizes daily devotion to the remembrance of God. Rejection of all forms of blind rituals such as fasting, religious vegetarianism, pilgrimages, superstitions, yoga, as well as any form of idol worship. "Let good conduct be thy fasting." (Guru Nanak, Var Majh) "You keep the fast to please Allah, but slay life for your relish But you do not reflect on the Lord, Who is within you" (Bhagat Kabir, Asa) "Only fools argue whether to eat meat or not. They don't understand truth, nor do they meditate on it. Who can define what is meat and what is plant? Who knows where the sin lies, being a vegetarian or a non-vegetarian?" (Guru Nanak, Var Malar) "The world is in agony because of the filth of ego, the word is filthy because of duality; The filth of ego cannot be washed away, even if one bathes at one hundred holy places." (Guru Amar Das, Sri Raga) Normal Family life (Grasth) is encouraged, celibacy or renunciation of the world is not necessary to achieve salvation. The devotee must live in the world yet keep his mind pure. He must be a soldier, a scholar, a saint. The Sikh Holy Book (Guru Granth Sahib) is the perpetual Guru, there is no place in Sikhism for a living Guru today. Sikhism rejects all distinctions of caste, creed, race or sex. 3

4 The Gurus stressed the full equality of women, rejecting female infanticide, sati (wife burning), permitting widow remarriage and rejects purdah (women wearing veils). Honest labor and work (Kirat Karna) are the approved way of living one s life. It is considered honorable to earn one s daily bread through honest work and not by begging or dishonest means. Vand Chhakna, sharing with others is also a social responsibility. The individual is expected to help others in need through charity. Seva, community service is also an integral part of Sikhism. The free community kitchen (langar) found at every gurdwara and open to people of all religions is one expression of this community service. The Gurdwara Sikh place of worship During the times of the early Gurus, Sikh places of worship were referred to as dharamsalas. They were a place where Sikhs could gather to hear the Guru speak or sing hymns. As the Sikh population continued to grow Guru Hargobind introduced the word Gurdwara, meaning the gateway through which the Guru could be reached. Thereafter all Sikh places of worship came to be known as Gurdwaras. Any place where the Guru Granth Sahib is installed and treated with due respect can be referred to as a Gurdwara, whether it is a room in one s house or a separate building. Three main functions are carried out in all public Gurdwaras. One is Kirtan which is the singing of hymns from the Guru Granth Sahib, another is Katha which is reading of the Guru Granth Sahib and explanations. The third main function which is carried out at every Gurdwara is the Langar, free community kitchen for all visitors of all religions. Along with these main functions Gurdwaras around the world also serve the Sikh community in many other ways including, libraries of Sikh literature, schools to teach children Gurmukhi (ਗ ਰਮ ਖ 4

5 the Punjabi alphabet and script) and the Sikh scriptures and charitable work in the community on behalf of Sikhs. The Khalsa "I have made this body and mind a sacrifice, a sacrificial offering to the Lord. Dedicating my body and mind, I have crossed over the terrifying world-ocean, and shaken off the fear of death." (Guru Arjan, Chant, pg. 576) The word "Khalsa" means "pure." Khalsas are Sikhs which have undergone the sacred Amrit Ceremony initiated by the 10th Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh. The Khalsa order was initially created on Baisakhi Day March 30, 1699, with Guru Gobind Singh baptizing five Sikhs and then in turn asking the five Khalsa's to baptize him. Following this the Guru personally baptized thousands of men and women into the Khalsa order. The Khalsa baptism ceremony is undertaken as part of one s own personal spiritual evolution when the initiate is ready to fully live up to the high expectations of Guru Gobind Singh. All Sikhs are expected to be Khalsa or be working towards that objective. The Khalsa baptism ceremony involves drinking of Amrit (sugar water stirred with a dagger) in the presence of five Khalsa Sikhs as well as the Guru Granth Sahib. The initiate is instructed in the following; (a) You shall never remove any hair from any part of thy body, (b) You shall not use tobacco, alcohol or any other intoxicants, (c) You shall not eat the meat of an animal slaughtered the Muslim way, (d) You shall not commit adultery. The initiate is required to wear the physical symbols of a Khalsa at all times as well as follow the Khalsa Code of Conduct. Five Sikh Symbols The Five Ks are the five items of dress and physical appearance given to Sikhs by Guru Gobind Singh when he gathered together the first members of the Khalsa on Vaisakhi day in These symbols give Sikh men a unique identity signifying discipline and spirituality. However, these items cannot be reduced to just symbols and must be worn in their full form. 5

6 Kesh Uncut hair, which is kept covered by a turban, or dastaar. Kesh are a traditional symbol of holiness in India, and the turban is a symbol of leadership. The dastaar is worn by men and some women to cover their long hair. Kirpan Kara A ceremonial sword, symbolizing readiness to protect the weak, and defend against injustice and persecution. The kirpan is normally worn with a cloth shoulder strap called a gatra. The kirpan exemplifies the warrior character of a Sikh. A steel bracelet, symbolizing strength and integrity. Steel is symbolic of strength yet resilient under stress. In the same way, the human soul must become as strong and unbreakable as steel which has been tempered in the furnace. 6

7 Kangha A small wooden comb, symbolizing cleanliness and order. The kangha is used to keep the hair clean and is normally tucked neatly in one's uncut hair. As a Sikh combs their hair daily, he or she should also comb their mind with the Guru's wisdom. Kachhera Cotton boxer shorts, symbolizing self-control and chastity; prohibition of adultery. Mool Mantar Mool Mantar is a basic prayer, composed by Guru Nanak Dev. It is the key prayer of Sikhs which sums up the basic concepts of the Sikh religion. There is one God - Ik Onkar His Name is Truth - Satnam He is the Creator - Karta He is present throughout His Creation - Purakh He fears none - Nirbhao He hates none - Nirvair His existence is immortal - Akal Murat He is not born, nor does He die - Ajuni He is self-illuminated - Saibhang He is realized through the grace of the Guru - Gur prasad 7

8 Religious Emblems Khanda The Khanda is the symbol of the Sikhs, as the Cross is to Christians or the Star of David is to Jews. It reflects some of the fundamental concepts of Sikhism. The symbol derives its name from the doubleedged sword (also called a Khanda) which appears at the center of the logo. This double-edged sword is a metaphor of Divine Knowledge, its sharp edges cleaving Truth from Falsehood. The circle around the Khanda is the Chakar. The Chakar being a circle without a beginning or and end symbolizes the perfection of God who is eternal. The Chakar is surrounded by two curved swords called Kirpans. These two swords symbolize the twin concepts of Meeri and Peeri -- Temporal and Spiritual authority. Nishan Sahib Nishan Sahib is the name given to the flag which is seen flying outside every Sikh Gurdwara (Temple). It is a triangular piece of ochre or saffron colored cloth with the Khanda emblem in the middle. The flag post also has a khanda or spear on top and is usually covered with the same cloth as the flag. The use of the Nishan Sahib was first introduced by Guru Hargobind. Ik Onkar "There is Only One God". The first two words in the Guru Granth Sahib & one of the cornerstones of Sikhism. 8

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