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.:: SIKHISM-an Insight ::.


Sikh Anthem

Grant Me this boon O God, from Thy greatness,
May I never refrain from righteous acts;
May I Fight without fear all foes in life's battle,
With confident courage claiming the victory.
May my highest ambition be singing thy praises,
And May Thy Glory be grained in my mind.
When this mortal life reaches its limits,
May I die fighting with limitless courage.


Introduction ; Size & Location ; Origins ; Holy Texts ; Sikh beliefs ;
Other traditions of Sikhism ;
God ; Worship ; The After Life ; The Organization


<< Click on any of the underlined text to take you straight to that part of the document >>

INTRODUCTION

  Sikhism is a monotheistic religion. The word Sikh means ‘disciple’ and they are the disciples of God who follow the writings and teachings of the 10 Sikh Gurus. A Sikh is a:

Any human being who faithfully believes in:
(i)
 One Immortal Being,
(ii)  Ten Gurus, from Guru Nanak Dev to Guru Gobind Singh,
(iii)  Sri 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.’
(vi) Rehat Maryada – Sikh Code of Conduct.

 SIZE AND LOCATION

The religion was founded in the Punjab area of India and the holiest site is the Golden Temple (Harimandir Sahib) in Amritsar – though it is not a place of pilgrimage. Today there are approximately 6 million followers in the Punjab within a total 20 million followers around the world (in the UK there are approximately 350,000 – 500,000 and in Canada 2,00,000 or more). Some Sikhs have advocated the creation of a Sikh state in the Punjab called ‘Khalistan’. Sikhism is open to all and preaches a message of devotion and remembrance of God at all times, truthful living, equality and social justice.

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 ORIGIN

Sikhism is the youngest of the world religions and was founded in the Punjab area of India in the fifteenth century by Guru Nanak. Guru Nanak was born in 1469. He preached a message of love and understanding. His was a simple message of ‘Ek Om Kar’ – we are all one, created by the one creator of all creation. The time in which the Gurus lived was a turbulent period with difficulties faced with both the Hindus and the Muslims, but the message was of one God who encompassed all, as outlined by Guru Arjan Dev Ji:

I observe 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 I have 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 Nanak's leadership passed on to nine successive Gurus. The last Sikh Guru Sahib was Guru Gobind Singh ji who established the Khalsa Panth (see also Baptism) and immersed in eternal light in 1708.

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HOLY TEXTS

The holy book of the Sikhs is called the Sri Guru Granth Sahib and is written in Punjabi in a script called Gurumukhi (meaning from the mouth of the Guru). The Holy book was compiled by Guru Arjan Dev Ji and placed in the Golden Temple at Amritsar in 1604. The Holy Book contains 1,430 pages and 3,384 hymns. Before Guru Gobind Singh died he declared that Sikhs no longer needed a living guru but that all the wisdom they needed could be found in the Holy book- Sri Guru Granth Sahib. The Guru Granth Sahib is a unique holy text as it is accorded the status of being the spiritual head of the Sikh religion. The first two sentences of the Granth are those which are said by Sikhs every day on wakening:

‘There is but one God, whose name is True, Creator, devoid of fear and enmity, immortal, unborn, self-existent, great and bountiful. The True One is, was, and also shall be.’

In the Gurdwara the Holy Book 'Sri Guru Granth Sahib' is placed on a small seat on high platform under a canopy. A chawri is waved over it at the time of the service as a sign of its spiritual importance. The Dasam Granth is also an important book which incorporates the work of a number of poets and the writings of Guru Gobind Singh Ji.

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WHAT DOES A SIKH BELIEVE

A Sikh believes that :

  • There is only one God and he is the same God for all religions.

  • The soul goes through a cycle of birth and death before reaching its human form. The goal of life is to merge with God and to maintain a balance between spiritual and temporal obligations.

  • The true path to God does not mean a renunciation of the world but through living the life of a householder, earning an honest living and avoiding temptation and sin.

  • Sikhism condemns rituals such as fasting, pilgrimages.

  • All people of all races and sex are equal in the eyes of God. There is total equality between man and woman and women can participate in any religious function and lead the congregation in prayer.

OTHER TRADITIONS OF SIKHISM

Scriptures forbid the eating of meat killed in the Muslim tradition (Halal) and the consumption of tobacco, alcohol or other intoxicants. Sikhs live according to the Rehat Maryada (code of Discipline) which is believed to interpret the Gurbani and to be based upon the teachings of Guru Gobind Singh Ji.

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GOD (RABB in Punjabi)

Guru Nanak taught a devotional monotheism, referring to God as Sat Nam - ‘The True Name.’ Other names used for God include Ram, Gobind, Hari, Waheguru (‘Wonderful Lord’). He rejected Ahimsa, though he accepted the principle of reincarnation and the law of Karma. He eliminated ceremonialism and ritual. Guru Nanak also believed in the Hindu doctrine of Maya or illusion.For the Guru salvation consisted in becoming one with God. Salvation was not going to Paradise (Islam) after the last judgment but absorption in Nirvana – becoming one with God, the True Name.There are five cardinal vices which a Sikh looks to overcome in order to achieve salvation, they are:

Kam (Lust) Karodh (Anger) Lobh (Greed)
Moh (Worldly attachment) Hankar (Pride)

     To overcome these vices the following qualities are required:

Santokh (Contentment) Dan (Charity)
Daya (Kindness) Parsanta (Happiness)

Nimarta (Humility)

 
Sikhs have identified 5 stages on the journey to God:

1. Dharam Khand (realization of spiritual duty)
2. Gian Khand (Divine Knowledge)
3. Saram Khand (wisdom and effort)
4. Karam Khand (Divine grace).
5. Sach Khand (Truth).

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WORSHIP

The main method of worship is meditation (Nam Japna). In the Gurdwara (Sikh Temple – which means ‘gate of the guru’) the main object of worship is a copy of the sacred Granth and is raised up on a small altar in order that it will be higher than everyone else who sits on the floor in front of the Holy Granth.

Congregational worship (Saadh Sangat) involves prayers (‘Baanis’, most Sikhs will have a copy of the prayer book – ‘Nitnem’), hymns (Gurbani), a sermon and a communal meal (Langar). There are no priests and the meetings may be led by any member of the community. Langar is undertaken at the Gurdwara - community meal.

There are various recitations required at different times of the day:

Morning Recitation
1. Japji          - Guru Nanak Sahib
2. Jaap          - Guru Gobind Singh ji
3. Swayay     - Guru Gobind  Singh ji
4. Baintee Choupai – Guru Gobind Singh ji

Evening Prayer  # Rehras Sahib

Bedtime Prayer  # Kirtan Sohila

The Mool Mantra- The Essence of Guru Nanak’s Message

The Mool Mantra encapsulates the heart of Sikhism

Ek – Onkar There is but one God
Sat Naaam Eternal Truth is the Name
Karta Purkh He is the Creator
Nirbhau He is without fear
Nirvair He is without Enmity
Akaal – Murat Timeless is His Image
Ajuni is beyond Birth and Death
Saibhang is Self – Illuminated
Gurprasad He is realised by the Grace of the true Guru

The Guru Granth Sahib is the supreme spiritual authority for the Sikhs, though there are also written codes of ethics and protocol, such as the Rehat Mariyadas which Sikhs are expected to obey.

THE AFTER LIFE [84 Lakh joone)

Sikhs when they die are generally cremated and mourners come to the Gurudwara and offer prayers. A Saptah (seven day recitation) or Dusehra (ten day recitation) of the Granth is started at the deceased’s house. On the last day the ‘Sadd Ramkali’ is read which tells of the third Guru’s death and the transitory nature of life and the acceptance of God’s will. The period of mourning normally lasts for 10 days. No memorials are erected and it is forbidden to commemorate anniversaries of the death. The ashes are scattered on a river or in the sea.

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ORGANISATION

Sikhs do not have priests. They were abolished by Guru Gobind Singh Sahib who felt they had become corrupt and full of ego. In some Gurdwaras a person known as a Granthi is employed to read the scriptures, conduct worship and perform such ceremonies as weddings but they are not considered as a priest – any Sikh can undertake the same tasks at any time. A Sikh can read the Guru Granth Sahib in a Gurdwara (Sikh Temple) or at home.

There are three main branches of Sikhism:

 
  • The Khalsa
  • Udasis – An order of ascetics and holy men, they are often active as missionaries.
  • Sahejdharis – Who are clean shaven and do not follow the Khalsa tradition.

 
 

Duties of the Khalsa

In one of his poems, Tenth Sikh Guru
Guru Gobind Singh Sahib defines the Khalsa :

"He who repeats night and day the name of Him,
Who has full love and confidence in God, Who bestows not a thought on any but one God, Whose enduring light is inextinguishable, Who puts no faith in fasting and worshipping cemeteries and monasteries, Who only recognises the one God and makes no fetish, Of pilgrimages, alms, charities and austerities: He is recognised as a true member of the Khalsa, In whose heart the light of the Perfect One shines."

Guru Gobind Singh Sahib laid down the following duties for the Khalsa :

I. The Khalsa is to worship one God and read Nitnem (Five Banis) and daily meditate on the Name.

II. He is to keep the symbols (Panj Kakar) and to lead his life according to the Guru's teaching. Gurmantra is Waheguru and the Basic creed is Mool-manlra.

III. He has no caste after joining the brother-hood ; he has to repudiate non-Sikh rites and ceremonies, and follow only Sikh practices.

IV. He is not to commit 'any of the four misdeeds (Kurahat) namely, the shaving or cutting of hair, eating Halal meat, adultery and the use of tobacco or any other intoxi-cant.

V. He is not to commit any of the social offences (Tankhah), such as giving dowry, using liquors and intoxicants, raising monuments over graves and associating with apostates.

VI He must contribute one-tenth {daswand) of his income for religious purposes.

VII He is to serve the Sangat in all ways

VIII He must practice arms and be ready defend the weak.

The Khalsa was a saint-soldier wedded to the two-fold ideal of Bhagti and Shakti. He was to combine self-respect with humility. Guru Gobind Singh Sahib though a creator of the Khalsa regarded himself as their servant . He says, " To serve them pleases me the most; no other service is so dear to my soul." Like a loving father, he was prepared to forgive the sudden lapses of the Khalsa as in the case of the "Forty Immortals", whom he claimed as his own in the nick of time. The Khalsa was given a position equal to that of the Guru. The Guru consists of two parts : the body and the Name. The Guru nominated the Khalsa, as his body and Guru Granth Sahib as the embodiment the Name. That is why we use the title of Guru-Khalsa. The Guru acknowledged his debt to the Khalsa in one of his verses.

"It is through them that I have gained experience ; with their help I have subdued my enemies. Through their favour, I am exalted, otherwise there are millions of ordinary humble men like me."

Meaning of Symbols: Symbols or outward signs are a mode of discipline. A person who enters the Panth (Khalsa Community) will gladly embrace all its tenets and symbols. Symbols test the disciple's firmness and strength of faith. They indicate the type of character the wearer should have. He must be proud of being a Sikh, even though it may cost him his life. Secondly this common appearance and uniform ensures easy recognition One can easily spot a Khalsa in a crowd. Each symbol has its own use and psychological significance.

The significance of Symbols (Panj Kaakar) is given below :

I. Underwear {Kachha) ensures agility and briskness. It is a mark of perpetual readi-ness. It also stands for chastity.

II. Wrist-band {Kara} is a sign of restraint and bondage. It indicates that one is a devotee of the Guru. A look at the wrist-band will bring shame to a Sikh when he does any misdeed.

III. Sword {Kirpan} is an emblem of power and courage. It is to be used primarily as an instrument of defence.

IV. Unshorn Hair {Kesh) is an emblem of the saints and Rishis of the past.

V. Comb {Kangha} is necessary to keep the hair clean and in shape. The hair make a Khalsa look exactly like Guru Gobind Singh Sahib and enable him to behave exactly like the Guru.

As Guru Gobind Singh Sahib said, "Khalsa Mero Roop Hai Khaas" means - The Khalsa is my special form ;I live in the embodiment of the Khalsa. The Khalsa is a part and parcel of my body ; the Khalsa is my very soul."

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