Guru Nanak's Birthday
Today is the birthday of Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, the world's fifth largest religion. (By some counts... others include things like agnostics/athiests who may outnumber Sikhs, but which is arguably not a relgion, or some put "african tribal religions" or "chinese spiritualisms" as a group -- a dubious thing at best as they may have wildly divergent beliefs.)
Either way, Sikhism is not well-known in the West, where there is a growing community of Sikh.
The Sikh Council of the USA's website
has a wealth of information on this religion, as does sikhs.org
. Check them out!
Here is a short introduction from allaboutsikhs.comINTRODUCTION
Over twenty million Sikhs follow a revealed, distinct, and unique religion born five centuries ago in the Punjab region of northern India. Between 1469 and 1708, ten Gurus preached a simple message of truth, devotion to God, and universal equality. Often mistaken as a combination of Hinduism and Islam, the Sikh religion can be characterized as a completely independent faith:
Sikhism rejects idolatry, the caste system, ritualism, and asceticism. It recognizes the equality between both genders and all religions, prohibits the intake of any intoxicants, and encourages an honest, truthful living. Sikhs have their own holy scripture, Guru Granth Sahib. Written, composed, and compiled by the Sikh Gurus themselves, the Guru Granth Sahib serves as the ultimate source of spiritual guidance for Sikhs. While the Sikhs hold their Gurus in high reverence, they are not to be worshipped; Sikhs may only worship God.
Members of the Sikh community are mainly concentrated in their homeland, Punjab; however, substantial Sikh populations exist throughout the rest of India and the world. Punjabi, a variant of the Hindi language with some Persian influence, is the spoken and written language of the Sikh people. Male members of the Sikh religion use the name, Singh (lion), as their middle or last name, while females use the name, Kaur (princess). Sikhs tend to be industrious and pioneering; this accounts for their general success wherever they live and settle. The hard-working nature of the Sikhs is derived from their religion, which can be best characterized as a faith of unlimited optimism.
Who is a Sikh:
A Sikh is any person whose faith consists of belief in One God, the ten Sikh Gurus, the Guru Granth Sahib and other scriptures and teachings of the Sikh Gurus. Additionally, he or she must believe in the necessity and importance of `Amrit’, the Sikh baptism.
God and the Sikhs:
According to the Sikh belief, God is all omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient. The sun, moon/s, wind, fire, water, vegetation and all other things which exist are His witnesses. A Sikh must worship only the abstract form of God. The worship of images or any other object is strictly forbidden.
God is both the creator and the destroyer. He is beyond birth and death. He is both merciful and compassionate. He is beyond fear and enmity. He is self illuminated. He is the Master of all the treasures. All our possessions are a result of His grace.
The Sikhs call God as Waheguru, meaning the most wonderful Master.
The belief of the Sikhs in Waheguru is similar to that of Judaism, Christianity and Islam i.e., God is the greatest power, He is supreme, He is the king of kings, He pervades everywhere, He knows the inner thoughts of everyone, He is the giver, He existed before the start of the time, He existed when the time was started, He exists now and He will exist forever.
Relationship with God:
The Sikh Gurus called Waheguru as Master and themselves as his servants. In some hymns
they called Him as Father, Mother, Friend and Brother as well1. Like Jesus Christ, Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Guru of the Sikhs, in one of his hymns, called himself as God’s son2.
Sikhism does not believe in asceticism, celibacy or living alone at mountains or in caves or in forests in the search of Truth and God. It also rejects the orders of monasteries. For a Sikh the true life is the life of a householder. Living in a family environment and by serving the community both Truth and God can be realised. Thus it rejects the order of monks (Buddhism and Jainism) and nuns (Christianity).
The Sikh teachings are based on the principles of Fatherhood of God and brotherhood of humankind.
Sikhism rejects the concept of chosen people (as in Judaism) and caste system (as in Hinduism); it also rejects the concept of entering `Nirvana’ without the blessings of God (as in Buddhism and Jainism).
In a Sikh temple people of all the faiths are welcome. The Sikh holy book, Guru Granth Sahib also has in it the hymns composed by both Hindu and Muslim saints of various denominations.
The first five baptised Sikhs, called the beloved ones, were also from both lower and upper Hindu castes. They were the first Khalsa, the pure ones:
Bhai Daya Singh, aged 30, a Khatri from Lahore (Punjab) Bhai Dharam Singh, aged 33, a Jat from Delhi Bhai Mohkam Singh, aged 36, a washerman from Dwarka (Gujrat) Bhai Sahib Singh, aged 37, a barber from Bidar (Karnatak) Bhai Himmat Singh, aged 39, a water carrier from Puri (Orissa)
Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth prophet of the Sikhs, urged his followers to drop caste symbols after their names and instead write a common surname: Singh, meaning lion, for men and Kaur, meaning princess for women.The Khalsa:
A baptised Sikh is called Khalsa, who must observe and follow strict code of conduct.
worship only one Almighty God,
recite five prescribed banis (hymns) everyday
learn Punjabi language and read Guru Granth Sahib,
wear and observe the significance of five Ks: kesh -uncut hair, kanga-a small comb, kara-a stainless steel bracelet, kirpan - a sword and kuchcha - an underwear.
live a truthful life and treat all humans as equal He must not-
cut body hair
eat kosher meat,
smoke, take drugs or intoxicants,
have faith in black magic, superstitions, charms and rituals
Rules, Concepts and Commandments:
A Sikh lives by the rules made for him by the ten Gurus. The fundamental rules, concepts and the commandments are as follows:
Worship of God
Worship only God and no one else.
Make worship and prayer a part of your daily life.
Do not make images of God, worship him in his abstract form.
Truthful life and honest living
Work hard and work with honesty.
Lead a truthful life.
Share your earnings with others.
Help the needy and the poor.
Love your children.
Respect your parents.
Do not harm others.
Fatherhood of God and Brotherhood of man
Believe that everyone is the child of God.
Believe that all human-beings are equal.
Do not discriminate on the basis of colour, religion, cast and creed.
Rituals and Superstitions.
Do not believe in any rituals and superstitions.
Do not believe in the worship of images, tombs and graves.
Social and Family Guidelines
Do not take alcohol, tobacco and drugs.
Do not eat halal meat.
Do not eat any food which inflames the passions.
Be true to your parents and children.
Do not steal.
Do not gamble.
Love and respect your guests.