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- Last Updated: March 6, 2013
- Originally Published: July 23, 2012
Sikhism, founded in the 15th century by Guru Nanak Dev, is currently the sixth largest religion in the world. Sikhism began in the Punjab,when Nanak Dev went missing for three days. He was presumed to have drowned, but he reappeared with a message: "There is no Hindu; there is no Muslim." He spent the rest of his life preaching about a single deity, named Waheguru, and one way of life he called the . The Sikhs' sacred text, the Guru Granth Sahib, is the supreme spiritual authority of Sikhism, in place of any person or church official. Today, most of the world's 30 million Sikhs reside in India, but smaller communities exist in many other countries.
Basic Sikh Beliefs
- God: Waheguru is the single deity of Sikhism—creator, sustainer, and destroyer—who cannot take human form. Meditation on the name of the Sikh god releases one from earthly cares and cleanses the mind, leading to salvation or union with Waheguru.
- Ritual: Sikhs participate in four rites of passage during their lives: birth and naming, marriage, initiation into the Khalsa, and a funeral. Their calendar also includes numerous celebrations.
- Sacred texts: The Guru Granth Sahib, also called the Adi Granth, is accepted by all Sikhs and is believed to be inhabited by the spirit of the human gurus. It is therefore sometimes referred to as "the Living Guru." This sacred text now serves as conveyor of God's message. When Sikhs cannot find answers in the scriptures, the community decides, based on principles derived from the Adi Granth. Additionally, many Sikhs accept as scripture The Book of the Tenth Master, or the Tenth Book, which is ascribed to the tenth guru, . It is a collection of autobiographical and philosophical writings, hymns, myths and fables. Some Sikh scholars, however, still debate its authenticity.
- Gurus: The ten gurus—from Nanak Dev to Gobind Singh—established the faith and the community of believers.
- The Five Ks: As visible symbols of membership in the Khalsa, Guru Gobind Singh chose uncut hair (Punjabi, " "), a steel bracelet (Punjabi, "Karā"), a wooden comb (Punjabi, "Kanga"), cotton underwear (Punjabi, " "), and a steel sword (Punjabi, "Kirpsn") to identify members and forge a communal bond.
- The Golden Temple: The Darbar Sahib is the principle gurdwara of Sikhism. Built by the fourth guru, , in Amritsar, Punjab, India, it is a pilgrimage destination and a symbol of Sikh autonomy.
- Guru Nanak Dev (1469-1539 CE) was born in the Punjab, India. Known as the first guru, he preached that discipline and meditation could free humans from an endless cycle of death and , producing salvation—a union with Waheguru.
- Guru Gobind Singh (1666–1708 CE), the tenth and final guru, established an order called the Khalsa. Khalsa are the initiated true believers in Gurmat. Males who enter the Khalsa are expected to add "Singh" after their names, and females are expected to add "Kaur."
- Sikhs now number over thirty million people, about two-thirds of which live in India. With followers in many other countries of the world, Sikhism is world's sixth largest religion.
The Core Teachings of the Gurmat
- There is only one deity, Waheguru. Adherents hold that he is the same deity worshiped in every religion.
- Everyone is equal before Waheguru and has direct access to him.
- The soul is reincarnated several times before appearing in a human form. One's life goal should be to lead an exemplary existence that merges with Waheguru.
- Always remember Waheguru, practice virtue and honesty, and maintain balance between secular and spiritual duties. The true path to salvation does not include an rejection of the world and its pleasures. Instead, it comprises living correctly in society while avoiding the world's temptations to do wrong to others.
- Rituals such as fasting, pilgrimages, superstitions, idolatry, and the like are of no value. The caste system is specifically rejected.
- All people—all races, religions, sexes, etc.—are equal before Waheguru. Women have full equality in the community and participate in the religious functions, including performing Sikh ceremonies or leading congregations in .