Thursday, 22 January 2009

Sikhism - The New Age Religion

Sikhism is a progressive religion that is well ahead of its time when it was founded over 500 years ago. The Sikh religion today has a following of over 30 million people worldwide and is ranked as the worlds 5th largest religion. Sikhism preaches a message of devotion and remembrance of God at all times, truthful living, equality of mankind and denounces superstitions and blind rituals. Sikhism is open to all through the teachings of its 10 Gurus enshrined in the Sikh Holy Book and Living Guru, Sri Guru Granth Sahib. Anybody is welcome in a Sikh Place of worship, called a Gurdwara, and the religion is accepting of all. It is the only religion to truly believe in equality giving equal rights to bothe men and women, both women and men are allowed to take part in Sikh religious ceremonies and the reading of the Sikh scriptures.

The founder of Sikhism, Nanak (1469-1538) was born into a Hindu family. He received a direct call from God establishing him as a guru. He soon became known in the Punjab region of Northeast India for his devotion and piety and his bold assertion, "There is no Muslim, and there is no Hindu." He accumulated a considerable number of disciples (sikhs). He taught that God is one and he designated God as the Sat Nam (true name) or Ek onkaar ੴ, ਇਕ ਓਅੰਕਾਰ, combining the syllables ek (one), aum (mystical sound expressing God), kar (Lord). Guru Nanak disapproved of many religious beliefs and practices of his time. The essence of Sikh teaching is summed up by Nanak in the words: "Realisation of Truth is higher than all else. Higher still is truthful living". Sikhism believes in equality of all humans and rejects discrimination on the basis of caste, creed and gender. Sikhism also does not attach any importance to asceticism as a means to attain salvation, but stresses on the need of leading life as a householder. After Guru Nanak there were 9 other gurus.

The 5Ks or kakkars or kakke are the five articles of faith worn by all baptised Sikhs. Many non-baptised Sikhs also begin on the path of Sikhi by wearing some or all of these Sikh symbols. The baptised Sikhs both male and female are required to wear a uniform to unify and bind them to their commitment to the true, universal, social and temporal principles defined and amplified by the ten Sikh Gurus and laid down in Sri Guru Granth Sahib. This commitment was publicly announced, made prominent and confirmed by Guru Gobind Singh in 1699 at the Vaisakhi gathering for all to witness.

Sikhism stands out as a unique and probably the only faith in the world where in there is no place what so ever for clergy or priestly class. It is self made, self contained, self regulating and dedicated to nothing but flawlessness (read Godly) in all aspects of human living. Flawlessness (or righteousness) is the very aim of human life. Numeral '1', is the first character that appears in the Sikh's holy script, the Guru Granth Sahib and is a textual icon for GOD and hence is the only holy number which a true Sikh believes in.

Unlike most other faiths where only the clergy are in uniform, all Sikhs are enjoined to always wear their uniform of faith at all times and to adhere to the ideals of the "Sant-Sapai" Saint-Soldier; to practise their belief always (rather than on just a particular day or time ie: just Sunday or Friday); to maintain and protect the cosmic balance in the world; to guard against tyranny, discrimination, evil and injustice. These five articles of faith distinguish a Sikh and are essential for preserving the life of the community founded on nothing but truthful living.

The Five Ks, or panj kakaar/kakke, are five items of faith which display and show the wearer's conviction to the Master and are a constant reminder of the adorner's love for the high principles set by their Leader and Commander-in-Chief; faith in the Khalsa; deep conviction to Satguru – the "timeless true Guru"; putting the values of the Khalsa above one's personal and materialist needs; the willingness to sacrifice one's life for the value set by the Sikh Gurus.

The 5 K's

Kesh: (uncut hair) A Sikh is to maintain and adorn this natural God-given gift. To work with nature and not against it. The Kesh was covered with a turban, Keski or Chunni to keep it clean and manageable.

Kanga (wooden comb) for the maintenance and ongoing upkeep of Kesh. A reminder to regularly maintain the body and mind in a clean and healthy state.

Kara (steel bracelet or slave bangle): Symbolises an unbreakable bond with God. It is a constant reminder that the Sikh is a slave of the Lord. He or she must only do His work in accordance with the Holy Scripture; to abstain for wrong-doing at all times.

Kachhera (cotton underwear) Standard, Naturally Comfortable, dignified attire reflective of modesty and control. A sign of a soldier; ever ready; dignified and highly mobile.

Kirpan (a small sword) A sign that a Sikh is a soldier in "Akal Purakh's (God's) Army" (Akal Purakh de fauj); to maintain and protect the weak and needy and for self defence. Never to be used in anger.

The Guru Granth Sahib is the eternal guru of the Sikhs and it was completed by Guru Gobind Singh Ji. It consists of the original Adi Granth, the compilation of sikh teachings by Guru Arjan Dev Ji with the addition of Guru Teg Bahadur's hymns. It was decreed by Gobind Singh that the Granth was to be considered the eternal guru of all Sikhs. In Punjabi: ਸੱਬ ਸਿੱਖਣ ਕੋ ਹੁਕਮ ਹੈ ਗੁਰੂ ਮਾਨਯੋ ਗ੍ਰੰਥ । Transliteration: Sabb sikkhaṇ kō hukam hai gurū mānyō granth. English: All Sikhs are commanded to take the Granth as Guru.
It contains compositions by the first five gurus, Teg Bahadur and just one śalōk (couplet) from Gobind Singh. It also contains the traditions and teachings of sants (saints) such as Kabir, Namdev, Ravidas and Sheikh Farid along with several others.

Most of the scripture is classified into rāgs, with each rāg subdivided according to length and author. There are 31 main rāgs within the Gurū Granth Sāhib. In addition to the rāgs, there are clear references to the folk music of Punjab. The text further comprises of over 5000 śabads, or hymns, which are poetically constructed and set to classical form of music rendition, can be set to predetermined musical tāl, or rhythmic beats.

The Granth begins with the Mūl Mantra, an iconic verse created by Guru Nanak:

Punjabi: ੴ ਸਤਿ ਨਾਮੁ ਕਰਤਾ ਪੁਰਖੁ ਨਿਰਭਉ ਨਿਰਵੈਰੁ ਅਕਾਲ ਮੂਰਤਿ ਅਜੂਨੀ ਸੈਭੰ ਗੁਰ ਪ੍ਰਸਾਦਿ ॥ English: One Universal Creator God, The Name Is Truth, Creative Being Personified, No Fear, No Hatred, Image Of The Timeless One, Beyond Birth, Self Existent, By Guru's Grace.
All text within the Granth is known as gurbānī. Gurbānī, according to Guru Nanak, was revealed by God directly, and the authors wrote it down for the followers. The status accorded to the scripture is defined by the evolving interpretation of the concept of gurū. In the Sant tradition of Nanak, the guru was literally the word of God.

The eternal Guru of the Sikhs Sri Guru Granth Sahib

Sikhs believe that the way to lead a good life is to:

-keep God in heart and mind at all times
-Live honestly and work hard
-Treat everyone equally
-Be generous to the less fortunate
-Serve others