Sikhism is one of the younger faiths of the world, as compared with religions like Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity or Islam. It is a monotheistic faith, preaching the existence of only one God, and teaching ideals that may be universally accepted today and in the future: honesty, compassion, humility, piety, social commitment, and most of all tolerance for other religions.
The word 'Sikh', derived from the Sanskrit word 'shishya', means a disciple, a learner, a seeker of truth. A Sikh believes in One God and the teachings of the Ten Gurus, embodied in the Sikh Holy Scripture, Guru Granth Sahib. Additionally, he or she must take Amrit, the Sikh Baptism.
Sikhism was founded by Guru Nanak Dev Ji at the beginning of the sixteenth century. The succeeding nine Gurus nurtured and developed his ideas and teachings. Guru Gobind Singh Ji, the tenth Guru, brought to an end to the line of human Gurus and in 1708, installed Guru Granth Sahib, as the permanent Guru of the Sikhs.
The Sikh Gurus provided guidance for about 240 years. They taught the basic values of freedom, brotherhood, charity, obedience, understanding, sympathy, patience, humility, simplicity, and piety, and outlined the path to spirituality in life. The Gurus themselves said that they were human and were not to be worshipped as God. They considered themselves to be mere servants of God. Guru Gobind Singh said:
"See me only as the slave of God.
Let this be known beyond the shadow of doubt."
Sikhism is a practical religion - a faith of hope and optimism. Its ideals form a large part of the more progressive elements in humanity today. It shows mankind how to lead a worthy and useful life in the world, which elevates it into the status of Universal World Faith.
Sikhs practice Simran (meditation), Seva (service) and Sangat (congregation) and lead a happy, healthy, holy, honest and humble life, leading ultimately to the spiritual union of their Atma (soul) and Parmatma (God).
Sikhism teaches respect for individuals and love for one's neighbours. It tells how to be useful in society; to care for the interests and concerns of others and cherish the values taught by the Gurus. Social commitment and goodwill among Sikhs have inspired them to finance and undertake projects of social benefit because of their belief that human beings all over the world form just one family, the family of the human race, namely Manas-ki-jaat. This concept is reflected in Ardas, the daily prayer, which ends:
'Nanak Nam Chardi Kala Tere Bhane Sarbat Ka Bhalla'
O Almighty God, kindly shower your blessings on the entire humanity.
The Basic Belief of the Sikhs
TheMool Mantar (literally, the root verse; the first hymn composed by Guru Nanak) sums up the basic belief of the Sikhs. Guru Granth Sahib begins with the Mool Mantar. Every Sikh is expected to recite it daily. The English translation is given below:
Ik Onkaar There is only one God
Sat Naam His Name is Truth
Karta Purkh He is the Creator
Nir Bhau He is without fear
Nir Vair He is without hate
Akaal Moorat He is beyond time (Immortal)
Ajooni He is beyond birth and death
Saibhang He is self-existent
Gur Parsaad He is realised by the Guru's grace.
Apart from these, the following excerpts from Guru Granth Sahib Ji describe the basic ideas on which this religion is based:
"Without devotion to the Name Divine is birth in the world gone waste. Such consume poison, poisonous their utterance; Without devotion to the Name, without gain they die, and after death in transmigration wander."
"True life is life in God, contemplation on the Name and the society of the saints"
"I shall merge in the Lord like the water in the sea and the wave in the stream. The soul will merge in God and like air I shall look upon all alike. Then why shall I come again? The coming and going is under the Will of the Lord and Realizing This Will, I shall merge in the Lord"
"The disciple of the True Guru (God) dwells upon the Lord through the teaching of the Guru and all his sins are washed away"
"Our service in the world gets us a seat in the Court of the Lord"
"One known as disciple of the holy Preceptor must, rising at dawn, on the Name Divine meditate"
"You are the Creator, O Lord, the Unknowable. You created the Universe of diverse kinds, colors and qualities. You know your own Creation. All this is your Play."
"The Formless Supreme Being abides in the Realm of Eternity. Over His creation He casts His glance of grace. In that Realm are contained all the continents and the universes, Exceeding in number all count. Of creation worlds upon worlds abide therein; All obedient to His will; He watches over them in bliss, And has each constantly in mind."
"He neither has father, nor mother, nor sons nor brothers."
"Burnt be the mouth that asserts, the Lord takes birth. He is neither born
nor dies; neither enters birth nor departs. All pervasive is Nanaks Lord."
"Five thieves who live within this body are lust, anger, greed, attachment and ego. They rob us of ambrosia, but the egocentric do not understand it and no one listens to their cries"
"I am in the Refuge of the Lord; Bless me, O Lord with your Grace, so that the lust, anger, greed, attachment and ego may be destroyed"
"Let good conduct be thy fasting."
"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"
"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?"
"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."
"They go to holy places for a bath, Their minds are impure and bodies are like thieves; If by bath their dirt drops down, they got on themselves twice as much dirt and ego."
"Whosoever controls the mind, he is a pilgrim"
"You calculate the auspicious moments, but do not realize, That God is far above the effects of these auspicious moments." (Guru Nanak, Ramkali)
"Good omens and ill omens stick to him Who does not remember the Lord."
"The way to true yoga is found by dwelling in God and remaining detached in the midst of worldly attachments."
"Pandits are busy studying Puranas, Yogis are busy in yogic meditations; Sannyasis are intoxicated with ego, Tapsis are intoxicated with secrets of Tapas; All are intoxicated, none is awake, With them are thieves robbing them."
"Five are the Muslim prayers; five their appointed hours, Five their names. These be the true prayers: The first is Truth, the second is lawful earning and the third is to beg the Graces of God for all, The fourth is the right intention in the mind and the fifth is the praise of the Lord."
"He reads the holy books with commentaries, He does not remember God, his way of living is not flawless. He instructs and makes other people firm, But does not practise, whatever he says. Understand the substance of the Vedas, O Pandit!"
"The stone he calls his god, in the end, drowns him with itself... Know that a boat of stone carries one not across"
"The stone neither speaks nor gives anything. Therefore its service is fruitless and its worship is of no avail."
"Meditation of the Lord is the highest of the deeds, through which myriads obtain release, through which the thirst (of desires) is quenched, through which one becomes all knowing, through which the fear of death goes away, through which all the desires are fulfilled, through which the dirt of the mind is cleansed and the Nectar of the Name of God is absorbed in the mind"
"Beauteous lady! hast not heard with thy ears, To the husband's home must thou come, nor for ever canst thou in the parental home abide"
"I that in the parents home on the Lord meditated, In the husband's home bliss have found. Blessed is the entire life of such."
"Those known as celibates knowing not the right device, discard house and home."
"Forsaking the household, one's mind took him to the forest, but it could
not get peace even for a moment; but when it sought the refuge of the Saint of the Lord,
its wanderings ceased and it returned to its own home. One abandoned his relatives and
became a Sannyasi, but the craving of the mind did not cease. One's desires are not
finished without the Word of the Guru, which alone can bring peace. When hatred for the
world wells up in ones mind, he becomes a naked recluse, but the mind wanders ceaselessly
and these wanderings do not end his desires, but when he meets the saints, he reaches the
House of Mercy. Siddhas learn numerous Yogic poses; but their mind only after miraculous
powers yearns. Thereby comes not to them fulfillment, content and peace of mind."
"All are created from the seed of God. There is the same clay in the whole world, the potter (God) makes many kinds of pots."
"Recognize the light (of God) and do not ask for the caste, There is no caste in the next world."
"We are born of woman, we are conceived in the womb of woman, we are engaged and married to woman. We make friendship with woman and the lineage continued because of woman. When one woman dies, we take another one, we are bound with the world through woman. Why should we talk ill of her, who gives birth to kings? The woman is born from woman; there is none without her. Only the One True Lord is without woman"
"They cannot be called satis, who burn themselves with their dead husbands. They can only be called satis, if they bear the shock of separation. They may also be known as satis, who live with character and contentment and always show veneration to their husbands by remembering them."
Role and Status of Sikh Women
In Indian society, women were usually subject to various caste-rules and severe restrictions. They remained illiterate and were ill-treated. Female infanticide was often practiced.
Guru Nanak challenged the idea of inferiority and evil associated with women and freed her from slavery and taboos of the society. In one of his hymns, he said:
"We are conceived in woman,
We are born to woman.
It is to woman we get engaged,
And then get married.
Woman is our lifelong companion,
And supporter of our survival.
It is through woman
That we establish social relationships.
Why should we denounce her
When even kings and great men are born from her?"
Guru Nanak and his successors gave woman a status equal to that of man. They regarded woman as man's companion in every walk of life. The Gurus thought this equality worked to their mutual benefits. For example, woman is the first teacher of man as his mother. Her function is to mould children and discipline them. She has to be educated so that her children may develop their potential to the fullest. She was allowed to join holy congregations, participate and conduct them. They were appointed missionaries. They were called 'the conscience of man'. The practice of Sati, (the custom of burning a woman with the dead husband on the funeral pyre), was prohibited and widow-remarriage was encouraged. Women soldiers fought side by side with male soldiers in one of the battles which the tenth Guru fought.
In the Sikh way of life, women have equal rights with men. There is absolutely no discrimination against women. Women are entitled to the Khalsa baptism. They have equal rights to participate in social, political and religious activities. Women are allowed to lead religious congregations, to take part in recitation of the Holy Scriptures, to fight as soldiers in the war, to elect representatives to the Gurdwara committees and Indian Parliament and Provincial Assembly.
Sikh women have played a glorious part in the history, and examples of their moral dignity, service and upholding of Sikh values are a great source of inspiration. Sikh women never flinched from their duty, never allowed their faith and ardor to be dampened, and have always upheld the honor and glory of the Khalsa. (One famous example is that of Mai Bhago who bravely fought war for Guru Gobind Singh, when some Sikh soldiers deserted him and returned home.)
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