The essence of Sikhism
The word Sikh means a learner or disciple. The teachings of Guru Nanak were called sikhi, and those who followed them were called Sikhs.
Sikhism is one of the world’s newest religions. The word Sikh means a learner or disciple. The teachings of Guru Nanak were called sikhi, and those who followed them were called Sikhs (derived from the Sanskrit word, shishya). Some key beliefs of Sikhism are:
Formless God: This is encapsulated in the first verse of the Guru Granth Sahib, called the mool mantar (basic belief), which starts with Ik Onkar, Sat Nam—there is only one God, Eternal truth is His name. Sikhism believes that God is one and is nirankar (who cannot be defined). God is genderless, infinite and cannot die or be reincarnated. For this reason, Sikhism does not believe in avatars. It believes that God is truth, so anything untruthful is against God.
Guru: Like the Bhakti poets and Sufi saints, Sikhism lays stress on having a spiritual mentor. The institution of the Guru can be called the central pillar of Sikhism. Sikhism, however, is clear that the
Guru is a guide, not a god. The Guru is to be consulted and respected, but not worshipped.
The Five Ks: All Sikhs are expected to maintain five articles of faith: kes (long, uncut hair), kara (steel bracelet), kangha (wooden comb), kirpan (small sword) and kachera (soldier-shorts). The five Ks give Sikhs a collective identity.
Equality: Sikhism does not differentiate on the basis of gender, and women are not barred from doing anything that men can do. Another prime example of non-discriminatory practices such as langar (communal meal). When the tradition was started 500 years ago, it was revolutionary. It was unthinkable that people from different castes and religions would sit in a row called pangat and eat together. The most sacred temple of the Sikhs, the Golden Temple in Amritsar, has four gates in four directions, indicating that it is open to all.
Importance of Householder Dharma: Sikhism’s ideal is ‘raj mein jog’—detachment while staying in the world. It is a religion for the householder, not the ascetic. Guru Nanak said, “Having renounced a householder’s life, why go begging to a householder’s door?”
Sangat: It means associating with like-minded people to develop oneself spiritually. Sikhs gather in sangats to sing hymns, meditate and listen to religious singers.
Seva: It means service. Sikhism states that God exists within all of us, so serving humanity means serving God. Sikhs often volunteer at gurdwaras, community centres, and relief efforts after disasters. Three exhortations to all Sikhs are kirat karo (work honestly), vand chakko (share with others) and naam japo (meditate on God’s name).