The Origins of Sikhism:
Sikhs trace their origins to 1499 when Guru Nanak – the founder of this path – had his revelatory experience. Guru means teacher or the one who brings you from darkness to light. Sikh means student or disciple. Sikhs are, then, seekers of the truth.
There were 9 more human Gurus from 1499-1708, and during this period Sikhism developed into a full-fledged religion, with scripture, institutions, language and a code of conduct.
Sikhism is currently the 5th largest religion in the world with approximately 25 million adherents worldwide. The majority of us live in Northwest India – Punjab -where Guru Nanak was born, but Sikhs can be found in every continent and almost every country of the world. Sikhs constitute about 2% of the population of India and about 3% of the population of Canada.
The Guru Granth Sahib:
After the passing of the last human Guru – Guru Gobind Singh, Sikhs are followers of a Guru book – the eternal Guru – Sri Guru Granth Sahib. Granth means book, so we are literally People of the Book.
The Guru Granth Sahib is the central focus of Sikh life and worship. The Sikh place of worship is called a Gurdwara – door to the Guru, and any place that a Guru Granth Sahib resides is literally a Gurdwara, and is treated as a place of worship Many Sikhs are fortunate enough to have a Guru Granth Sahib in their homes, and have set aside special worship areas for this purpose.
The Guru Granth Sahib, the sacred text of Sikhism, contains the entire philosophy and life direction for Sikhs. The word “guru” itself stems from the words “gu” – light, and “ru”- darkness. Hence, Sikh’s consider Guru’s as teachers who dispel the darkness of ignorance with the light of understanding.
The basic underpinnings of the Guru Granth Sahib come in the first two words of the Holy Scripture – Ik Onkar, Satnam. This means (simplistically) one God for all of God’s creation (who emanates and resides within that creation) and whose name is the Truth.
This directive means that Sikhs must live their lives in accordance with God’s truth, which is that God resides in ALL of God’s creation and we must treat each other in that way.
Sikh’s Views on Life and the Path to Liberation
Human life is considered to be a gift because it is only in this life that we can recognize this truth and live by it. This life is also our only opportunity to break the cycle of birth and death, and allow this soul to merge with the Great Soul (God).
The path to this liberation of the soul is two-fold. The two pillars of Sikhism are Simren and Seva. Simren is meditation upon God’s name, and Seva is service of God’s creation. This two fold path of internal reflection and external action are central to Sikhism.
Sikh Articles of Faith
The 10th, and last human Guru of the Sikhs, Guru Gobind Singh, gave Sikhs five articles of faith, all of which are external representations of internal principles of Sikhism. These principles include defense of the truth and righteousness, justice, equality, faithfulness, and surrender to God’s will. The most visible of these external articles of faith is the long, unshorn hair of the observant Sikh. All Sikh men and many Sikh women also wear a turban. Over the last 300 years the turban has become inextricably tied to the unshorn hair as an article of faith. The Sikh turban is distinct from the many turbans worn throughout Asia, Africa and the Middle East, as these others are not religious, but cultural symbols.
Most Sikhs have the last or middle name of Singh (which means lion) and many Sikh women have the last or middle name of Kaur (which means lioness or princess)
Thank you, Raman Singh, for answering our question this week!