The Sikh Religion. By Kayla M. Hill Introduction to the Study of Religion. Sikhism is “a monotheistic religion that rejects caste distinctions, idolatry, and ascetics and is characterized by living righteous lives as active members of society.”
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By Kayla M. Hill
Introduction to the Study of Religion
Sikhism began in the fifteenth century in Northern India .
The system of religious philosophy and expression that embodies Sikhism has been traditionally known as the Gurmat, meaning the counsel of the gurus, or the Sikh Dharma.
The term Sikh comes from the Sanskrit root sisya, meaning “disciple” or “learner”, or siska, meaning “instruction”.The Sikh Religion
“Sikh tradition states that at the age of thirty, Nanak went missing and was presumed to have drowned after going for one of his morning baths to a local stream called the Kali Bein. Three days later he reappeared and would give the same answer to any question posed to him: "There is no Hindu, there is no Muslim" (in Punjabi, "nā kō hindū nā kō musalmān"). It was from this moment that Nanak would begin to spread the teachings of what was then the beginning of Sikhism. Although the exact account of his itinerary is disputed, he is widely acknowledged to have made four major journeys, spanning thousands of kilometres. The first tour being east towards Bengal and Assam, the second south towards Ceylon via Tamil Nadu, the third north towards Kashmir, Ladakh and Tibet, and the final tour west towards Baghdad and Mecca.”
The traditions and philosphies of the Sikh religion were established by ten specific gurus between the years 1507 – 1708
Each guru added and reinforced the teachings and messages taught by the previous gurus and appointed a successor after death
Nanek Dev was the first of the ten gurus and the founder of the Sikh religion
The chart on the following page lists all ten gurus, their date of birth, date of guruship, date of death, and their age when they died.The Ten Gurus
Guru Amar Das institutionalised the the free communal kitchen known to Sikhs as the langer – which was open to serve all day and all night.
Amar DasThe Ten Gurus (cont.)
“The Guru laid the foundation of the Harmandir Sahib (Golden Temple) in the middle of the tank of Amritsar. He reminded his followers that humility should be a great virtue.”
Har Gobind“transformed the Sikh fraternity by introducing martial arts and weapons for the defense of the masses following his father\'s martyrdom.”The Ten Gurus (cont.)
Sikhism specifically forbids the practice of monasticism – hence the reason there are no Sikh monk conclaves or brotherhoods.
Sikhism is a monotheistic religion – meaning they believe in one true God
God (Ik Onkar)
Onkar is a variation of the monosyllable Om (also known as anahata nada, the unspoken sound).
Guru Nanak Dev prefixed the numeral one (ik) to Onkar – making it “Ik Onkar” or “Ekankar” to emphasize God’s “oneness”
The only name which can be said to truly fit God’s transcendent state is Sat or Satnam (Sanskrit ‘satya’ meaning Truth) the changeless & timeless realitySikhism: Monasticism & the Ultimate Realty
Only God is worth of worship & meditation at all times.
He is the Creator but also the Destroyer.
God is Compassionate & Kind.
With His Grace. He comes to dwell within the mind & body.
He is merciful & wise.
He is the ultimate Protector of all beings.
Only with His Will can pain, poverty, disease and hardships be removed from ones life.
God is everywhere.
Karta Purakh, the Creator Being – he created the spatial-temporal universe from His own Self. Universe is His own emanation.
not identical with the universe. The universe exists & is contained in Him. God is immanent in the created world, but is not limited to it.
“Nirbhau” (without fear) & “nirvair” (whithout rancour or enemy) – He has no ‘sarik” (rival).
Nirbhau not only indicated fearlessness but also refers to the absence of fearfulness.God is….
Nirvair implies, besides absence of enmity, the positive attributes of compassion & impartiality.
He loves His handiwork & is the Dispenser of impartial justice, dharamniau.
is Akal Murat, the Eternal Being. “The timelessness involved in the negative epithet akal has made it popular in Sikh tradition as one of the same of God, the Timeless One.”
is Ajuni, Un-incarnated, & Saibhan (Sanskrit svayambhu), Self-existent. The Primal Creator Himself had no creator.
God by Himself is the one Ultimate Transcendent Reality, Nirguna (without attributes), Timeless, Boundless, Formless, Ever-existent, Immutable, All-by Himself and even Unknowable in His entirety.
The only nomenclatures that can rightly be applied to Him in this state of sunn (Sanskrit, sunya or void) are Brahman & Parbrahamn or the pronouns He & Thou.God is….(cont.)
“Human life is seen as the opportunity for achieving mukti, or freedom from the cycle of rebirth, based upon the karma (actions and their consequences) of this life.” Some aspects this are:
The barriers to this are seen as:
moh (worldly attachment)
To overcome these barriers, the following qualities are needed:
Sikhism has identified five stages on the journey to the divine:
Dharam Khand (realization of spiritual duty)
Gian Khand (divine knowledge)
Saram Khand (wisdom and effort)
Karam Khand (divine grace)
Sach Khand (truth)
WorshipAspects of Human Life
“The deeds that the persons have done in the past have become their Karma which can not be erased and would lead to pleasure and pain, deliverance or transmigration, except when one turns away from one’s self with a conscious effort, led by Gurus word with faith in Gods grace, when the old writ is washed off and one merges ones will in God… Sikhism preaches that in the present life itself it is possible to realize the God by conducting himself truly on the path shown by the Guru and going through the cycle of births is not essential.”
People become caught up in the world of maya (illusion) by becoming preoccupied with satisfying their own desires – the end result is suffering.
In Sikhism, the world is transitory and a passing phase. However, it is viewed as relatively real. God is viewed as the only reality, but within God exist both conscious souls and unconscious objects; these created objects are also real.
Ignorance & selfishness is know as haumai in the Sikh religion.
In the Sikh religion, humility (or Nimrata) is considered a great virtue. Humility is developed by erasing its opposite, which Sikhs call haumai or self-centered pride, or ego. It is this ego which stands in the way of God realization. It can be erased by seva, or selfless service, and complete submission to Waheguru, or God. A Sikh serves God by serving other people.
Not all suffering can be explained, but Sikhs believe that there is a reason for everything, & “that faith in God enables people to endure hardship. Suffering on behalf of others by defending them or alleviating their situation is seen as right & necessary.”The Sikh Theodicy
After death, Sikhs are cremated & their ashes are spread over a river or in the sea.
Mourners go to the Gudwara to offer prayers for the deceased.
A Saptah (7 day reading) or Dusehra (10 day reading) takes place at the house of the deceased.
On the last day of the readings the “Sadd Ramkali” (the story of the third Guru’s death, the transitory nature of life & the acceptance of God’s will) is read.
No memorials are erected for the deceased.The Afterlife
“The Gurus taught that if deliverance is sought in the proper
manner all will eventually receive it…most Sikhs are uncertain of
salvation. Grace is viewed as something, which God bestows on those he chooses. A man or a woman receives salvation when it is their destiny to do so. But given enough time and rebirths all will eventually reach that point. Sikhs believe that there is no such thing as eternal damnation; all will eventually achieve deliverance from the bondage of earthly life. Therefore ultimately no one is lost but is reunited with the divine absolute.”
More than 90% of all Sikhs in Punjab, India – more than 65% of the states population is made up of Sikh followers
However, Sikhs are only 2% of the Indian population
Sikhs make up 10 to 15% of all ranks in the Indian army & a fifth of its officers
Prior to the partition of India Sikhs lived in what is today called the Punjab Province of Pakistan.
A migration beginning in the 19th century led to communities rising up all over the world including: Canada, the UK, the Middle East, East Africa, Southeast Asia, and (more recently) Western Europe, Australia, Fiji, New Zealand, and the US.Sikh Demographics
It also lead to the establishment of the Dominion of Pakistan (later the Islamic Republic of Pakistan) and the Union of India (later the Republic of India) on August 14th and 15th of 1947.
There are smaller off-shoot groups of Sikhism (such as Namdharis, Ravidasis, and Uclasis).
The Sikh religion discourages adherents from going on pilgrimages – however, Sikhs are permitted to undertake pilgrimage to Sikh shrines in Punjab on special occasions
The two shrines of most importance are: Nankana and Samadhi.Sikh Facts
Samadhi (also a ritual of consciousness) is the Hindi word for a structure commemorating the dead but does not always have a body of the deceased.
They are often built to honor people regarded as saints or gurus in the Hindu religion.
The most sacred shrine in all of the Sikh religion is Harimadir Sahib in Armistar – famously known as the Golden Temple
The Sikh’s “house of worship” is the Gudwara (also Gurduara) meaning “the doorway to God.”
There are hundreds of Gudwara placed all over the world.Sikh facts (cont.)
Marriages are seen to bring together two families – the choice is made from a similar caste (the couple will be matched in social grouping).
The practices of: sutee (a widow throwing herself on her husband’s funeral pyre), female infanticide & purdah (separation & seclusion of women) are forbidden.
Widows are allowed to remarry.
Interfaith marriage is allowed as long as it does not require conversion on the Sikh’s part.
Sikhs are expected to avoid sex before marriage.
Pornography & prostitution are seen as wrong & likely to lead to humai (unacceptable behavior).
(Traditionally) homosexuality is seen as unacceptable .
Contraception is acceptable.
Sterilization is only acceptable if it is necessary because of health risks.
Abortion is unacceptable.
Divorce is permitted but uncommon.Sikh Ethics
The body should be looked after & maintained in a natural state.
Drugs, tobacco & alcohol are strictly forbidden.
Cutting or shaving of any body hair is forbidden.
Suicide & Euthanasia
The Sikhs believe that no one has the right to take a life.
Suicide because of despair is looked on with compassion.
Euthanasia is unacceptable.
Wealth & Charity
Sikhs are taught that everything given is also given to God.
They are taught to give a tenth of their savings to charity.
Learning to give is taught in the Gudwara where everyone takes parts in chores such as sweeping, cooking & cleaning.
Taking care of people in need is important. (Guru Nanak set up a center for the care of lepers).Sikh Ethics (cont.)“The body & life are seen to be something that is given by God.”
The name given by [Guru] Gobind Singh to all Sikhs who have been baptized/initiated by taking Amrit
Amrit is a Sanskrit word that literally means “without death”
[In Sikhism] Amrit is the name of the holy water used in the baptism ceremony (Amrit Sanskar or Amrit Chhankhna)
The first time the ceremony took place was on Baisakhi (see annual holidays) which fell on April 13, 1699
the celebration of the 300th anniversary of the day was in 1999 with thousands of religious gatherings all over the worldKhalsa
“The Khalsa began when Guru Govind Singh, holding a sword, asked a crowd of Sikhs which ones would die for their faith and for them to step into a tent. One man (name Bhai Daya Ram, later known as Bhai Daya Singh) walked into the tent and the Guru followed. A few seconds later only the Guru emerged holding his sword, covered in blood. After asking if there were any more, four people (Bhai Dharam Singh,Bhai Himmat Singh, Bhai Mohkam Singh, and Bhai Sahib Singh) strode into the tent, ready to be slaughtered for their faith. It was then that the crowd found out that none of the five men were actually killed, and these five men became The Khalsa Brotherhood. They were baptized and they could then baptise others that follow the "Five Ks" and the other requirements into the brotherhood (it should be noted that no restrictions exist for the baptism of females into the Khalsa).”
faith that baptized Sikhs must
wear at all times at the
command of the tenth guru,
Gobind Singh. The Five Ks are
not merely symbols but articles
of faith which collectively form
the external visible symbols to
identify and clearly, outwardly
advertise and display one\'s
The Five K’s are:
Kachh (Special designed undergarment),
Kesh (uncut hair)
Kara (iron bangle),
Kirpaan (strapped sword)
Kangha (wooden comb)The Five K’s
Kirpan comes from the wordsKirpa (meaning an act of kindness) and aan (meaning honour and respect)is the symbol of power and freedom of spirit. All baptized Sikhs should wear a short form of Kirpan (approx. 6" to 9" long) on their body. To call it a dagger or knife is rather insulting to this article of faith, which functions quite differently from the other two. The blade is made of iron.
The Kangha (also Kanga) is a small wooden comb that Sikhs use twice a day. It should be worn in the hair all the time. Combs help to clean hair and remove tangles from it, as well as being a symbol of cleanliness to the Sikhs. Combing their hair reminds them that their lives should be tidy and organized.
Nanak Dev summed up the basis of Sikh lifestyle into three principles:
Wand kay Shako
Naam Japo refers to meditation, singing hymns, and esp. the chanting of Waheguru, which means Wonderful Lord.
Kirat Karni means to earn an honest, pure & dedicated living by exercising one\'s God-given skills, abilities, talents and hard labour for the benefit & improvement of the individual, their family and society as a whole.
Wand kay Shako is a technique & method which means to share what you have & to consumer it together as a community.Sikh Sacraments
The five evils are the five major weaknesses of the human personality at variance with its spiritual essence.
The common evils far exceed in number, but a group of five of them came to be identified because of the obstruction they are believed to cause in main’s pursuit of the moran & spiritual path.
The five evils are:
Kam (lust & addiction)
Krodh (wrath, rage, & anger)
Lobh (materialistic greed)
Moh (attatchment & worldly infatuation)
Ahankar (ego & pride)Sikh Sacraments:The Five Evils
The Five Virtues are:
Sat is the virtue of truthful living – practicing righteousnss, honesty, justice, impartiality, & fair play.
Santokh (contentment) is freedom from ambition, envy, greed, & jealousy – without contentment it is impossible to acquire peace of mind.Sacred Sacraments:The Five Virtues
Nimrata is humility, benevolence, & humbleness
Pyare requires Sikhs to be filled with the love of God.The Five Virtues (cont.)
After a child is born the parents visit the gurdwara, pray and open the Guru Granth Sahib at random. The first letter of the first hymn on that page is taken as the first letter of the child\'s name. The second name of a boy is usually Singh and for a girl is Kaur. These names were given to all Sikhs by the tenth Guru on the first Vaisakhi.
Other rites of passage:
The Khande di Pahul or Amrit ceremony is an initiation bringing Sikhs into membership of the Khalsa.
The marriage ceremony, based on the potential of creating a happy and loving home together, takes place in the gurdwara with the couple sitting in front of the Guru Granth Sahib.
Sikhs are usually cremated and the daily bedtime prayer is read during the cremation.Rites of Passage
Guru Nanak’s Birthday *
Guru Gobind Singh’s Birthday
Guru Teg Bahadur’s Martyrdom Day
Observed by Hindus, Sikhs, & Jains
Significance: to celebrate life & strengthen relationships
Celebrated on the New Moon day of Kartika – the celebrations begin two days before & end two days after the date
Decorate homes with lights, lighting fireworks, & gift givingAnnual Holidays
* Described in the following pages
Guru Nanak Jayanti is celebrated by the Sikh community all over the world and is one of the most important festivals in the Sikh calendar.
The Birthday of Guru Nanak Sahib falls on Kartik Puranmashi – full moon day of the month Kartik. (Gregorian Calendar – in November)
The birthday celebration usually lasts three days.
Generally two days before the birthday, Akhand Path (a forty-eight-hour non-stop reading of the Guru Granth Sahib, the holy book of the Sikhs) is held in the Gurdwaras.
Long established harvest festival – has religious significance to Sikhs & Hindus
It falls on the first day of the Vaisakh month in the solar Nanakshahi calendar, which corresponds to April 13th in the Gregorian calendar, except every thirty-sixth year when it falls on April 14th.
Vaisakhi is one of the holiest days in Sikhism commemorating Khalsa, the establishment of religion.Annual Holdays (cont.)
The Gurū Granth Sāhib:
The Gurū Granth Sāhib refers to the final version of the scripture created by Gobind Singh.
Contains compositions by the first five gurus.
Contains the traditions and teachings of sants (saints).
Consists of the original Ādi Granth with the addition of Guru Teg Bahadur\'s hymns.
Believed that it was decreed by Gobind Singh that the Granth was to be considered the eternal, living guru of all Sikhs.
All text within the Granth is known as gurbānī - revealed by God directly, & the authors wrote it down for the followers.Sacred Texts
Formerly The Book of the Tenth Master
An eighteenth-century collection of miscellaneous works generally attributed to Guru Gobind Singh.
The teachings of Gobind Singh were not included in Gurū Granth Sāhib, the holy book of the Sikhs, & instead were collected in the Dasam Granth.
literally, The First Volume
Refers to the version of the scripture created by Arjun Dev in 1604.
The original version of the Ādi Granth is known as the kartārpur bīṛ
The Gurmukhī script was standardised by Arjun Dev for use in the Sikh scriptures & is thought to have been influenced by the Śāradā & Devanāgarī scriptsSacred Texts (cont.)
Sikhs in the United States are usually Indian immigrants that speak Punjab & have particular customs and dress that specific to Punjab, India.
However since the 60’s there has been a group generally called the American Sikhs
There American Sikhs follow Yogi Harbhajan Singh, the dress in all white, know little of the Punjab language & their turbans are worn by both men & women.
The American Sikhs refer to their group as 3HO (Healthy, Happy, Holy Organization)
Indian Sikhs & American Sikhs are generally accepting of one another & visit each others’ gudwaras.Sikh Denominations
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