Sikhism was founded in Punjab (India) by Guru Nanak in the 15th Century CE and is a monotheistic religion.
Sikhs think faith should be practiced by living in the world and coping with life’s everyday problems.
- There is only one God
- God is without form, or gender
- Everyone has direct access to God
- Everyone is equal before God
- A good life is lived as part of a community, by living honestly and caring for others
- Empty religious rituals and superstitions have no value
Guru Granth Sahib (The Holy Book)
The Guru Granth Sahib is truly unique among the world’s great scriptures. It is considered the Supreme Spiritual Authority and Head of the Sikh religion, rather than any living person. It is also the only scripture of it’s kind which not only contains the works of it’s own religious founders but also writings of people from other faiths. The living Guru of the Sikhs, the book is held in great reverence by Sikhs and treated with the utmost respect. Sikhism rejects idol worship, so the Guru Granth Sahib is not worshiped as an idol, but rather emphasis is placed on respect of the book for the writings which appear within. Guru Granth Sahib is a collection of devotional hymns and poetry which proclaims God, lays stress on meditation on the True Guru (God), and lays down moral and ethical rules for development of the soul, spiritual salvation and unity with God.
Living in God and community
Sikhs focus their lives around their relationship with God, and being a part of the Sikh community. The Sikh ideal combines action and belief. To live a good life a person should do good deeds as well as meditating on God.
God and the cycle of life
Sikhs believe that human beings spend their time in a cycle of birth, life, and rebirth. They share this belief with followers of other Indian religious traditions such as Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism.
The quality of each particular life depends on the law of Karma. Karma sets the quality of a life according to how well or badly a person behaved in their previous life. The only way out of this cycle, which all faiths regard as painful, is to achieve a total knowledge of and union with God.
The God of grace
Sikh spirituality is centered round this need to understand and experience God, and eventually become one with God.
To do this a person must switch the focus of their attention from themselves to God. They get this state, which is called mukti (liberation), through the grace of God. That means it’s something God does to human beings, and not something that human beings can earn. However, God shows people through holy books, and by the examples of saints, the best ways to get close to him.
Truth is the highest of all virtues, but higher still is truthful living.
Sikhs believe that God can’t be understood properly by human beings, but he can be experienced through love, worship, and contemplation.
Sikhs look for God both inside themselves and in the world around them. They do this to help themselves achieve liberation and union with God.
Getting close to God
When a Sikh wants to see God, they look both at the created world and into their own heart and soul.
Their aim is to see the divine order that God has given to everything, and through it to understand the nature of God.
Most human beings can’t see the true reality of God because they are blinded by their own self-centered pride (Sikhs call it haumain) and concern for physical things.
God inside us
Sikhs believe that God is inside every person, no matter how wicked they appear, and so everyone is capable of change.
Just as fragrance is in the flower, and reflection is in the mirror, in just the same way, God is within you.
God beyond ourselves
Sikhs believe that God’s message can be found in several ways outside ourselves.
- The message is written in the whole of creation; look at it with open eyes and see the truth of God, for creation is the visible message of God
- Sikhs believe that most of us misunderstand the universe. We think that it exists on its own, when it really exists because God wills it to exist, and is a portrait of God’s own nature
- The message has been shown to us by the Gurus in their lives and in their words
- The message is set down in the teachings of scripture
Living a good life in this world
Sikhs don’t think it pleases God if people pay no attention to others and simply devote themselves slavishly to religion.
Sikhism doesn’t ask people to turn away from ordinary life to get closer to God. In fact it demands that they use ordinary life as a way to get closer to God.
A Sikh serves God by serving (seva) other people every day. By devoting their lives to service they get rid of their own ego and pride.
Many Sikhs carry out chores in the Gurdwara as their service to the community. These range from working in the kitchen to cleaning the floor. The Langar, or free food kitchen, is a community act of service.
Sikhs also regard caring for the poor or sick as an important duty of service.
The three duties
The three duties that a Sikh must carry out can be summed up in three words; Pray, Work, Give.
- Nam japna:
- Keeping God in mind at all times.
- Kirt Karna:
- Earning an honest living. Since God is truth, a Sikh seeks to live honestly. This doesn’t just mean avoiding crime; Sikhs avoid gambling, begging, or working in the alcohol or tobacco industries.
- Vand Chhakna:
- (Literally, sharing one’s earnings with others) Giving to charity and caring for others.
The five vices
Sikhs try to avoid the five vices that make people self-centered, and build barriers against God in their lives.
- Covetousness and greed
- Attachment to things of this world
If a person can overcome these vices they are on the road to liberation.