By-SCORE :Founded only 500 years ago by Guru Nanak (1469 – 1539) in India, Sikhism is one of the youngest world religions. After a revelatory experience at the age of 37, Guru Nanak traveled extensively to spread his word. His followers became known as Sikhs. (Sikh – means seeker of truth or disciple). His philosophy was centered on belief in one God, who is formless, omnipresent, and attainable through righteous living.
He denounced discrimination against women and those of lower socioeconomic status, as well as ritualism. Guru Nanak’s nine successors crystallized his philosophy. (Guru is a term, used in reverence, for the Divine teacher in the Sikh Tradition). During their own lifetimes, the founders of the faith compiled their sacred devotional compositions as part of the Sikh scriptures, known as the Guru Granth Sahib. Guru Granth Sahib not only contains the writings of the Sikh Gurus, but also those of spiritual men of other faiths, a feature unique amongst religious scriptures. The message taught is that all faiths are to be treated with respect and can be paths to enlightenment.
The last living Guru, Guru Gobind Singh enjoined Sikhs to look for guidance from Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh Holy Scriptures. The tenth guru, Guru Gobind Singh (1666-1708), also gave the Sikhs their current distinctive appearance. They have unshorn hair, beards and turbans intended to make them easily recognizable as staunch defenders of the weak and oppressed. In its simplest form, Sikhism represents a spiritual path to God and a just social order for all.
Gurdwaras, or Sikh Houses of Worship, are found in many American cities. All are welcome, and in the spirit of community, a meal is shared by all attending the congregation.
With a population of over 25 million worldwide, and about 500,000 in America, Sikhs can be found in almost all countries of the world. In the last three hundred years, Sikhs have risen to positions of prominence in India, and are highly regarded as one of India’s most hard working communities. Although concentrated in northern India, they have settled across the globe, most notably in the United Kingdom, Malaysia, Australia, and North America. The first Sikhs came to the United States and Canada over a hundred years ago. They were involved in the construction of railroads in the Pacific North-West, and the Panama Canal in1904. Today, Sikhs continue to make significant contributions to North American society as physicians, high-tech professionals, academics, entrepreneurs, cab drivers and convenience store workers. They are amongst the most educated and prosperous groups of Americans.
Basic Understanding of Sikhism
1. Sikhism is the world’s fifth largest religion.
2. Sikhs believes in one omnipresent, formless God – Waheguru, the source of all creation. Union with God is achievable through meditation and prayer.
3. Sikhism enjoins people to be productive members of society. Asceticism is not advocated.
4. "Sarbat da bhala" – Sikhs believe in equality amongst all human beings and pray daily for all humankind.
5. Sikhs regard men and women as equal in all spheres including religion.
6. Sikhs are expected to perform community service, and share with those less fortunate.
7. Sikhs are required to observe five articles of faith – Kesh (uncut hair), Kirpan (a ceremonial sword), Kara (an iron bracelet), Kanga (comb), and Kachha (breeches).
8. The vast majority of men wearing turbans in the United States are Sikhs.