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Guru Nanak, the founder Sikh Guru or "Spiritual teacher of the Sikhs" laid down various key beliefs which define for its adherents the key doctrine of this faith system. The central and key principle propagated by Guru Nanak is the existence of just one God; this concept is enshrined in the first word ੴ - "ek onkar" found in the Sikh holy text called the Sri Guru Granth Sahib.
From this concept of "Only One God" many of the other Sikh primary beliefs and principles are derived; the concept of equality of the genders; equality of all the human race; the extinction of castes and its divisions; the expectation of service called Seva for the community; the requirement of "Akal purakh ki fauj" - the "army of God" to guard and protect the weakest in society, etc.
The Sikhs believe in the evolution of the Soul and the principle of reincarnation. The soul is believed to be a tiny spark of God’s light "detached" from the Almighty. This spark is separated from God and wants to become pure so that it can "reunite" with God. For this to happen, the Soul has to evolve and purify itself so that this reunification with the Supreme Soul can take place.
The law of Karma is another concept central to this faith. Ones actions in this life will have a direct influence on the type of life now and in your next existence! So to adhere to these principles, the dedicated follower must lead a disciplined personal life and must uphold the moral and ethical rights of all the peoples of the world.
Another belief is the protection of the weak; so while leading a life of "spiritual correctness" at all times one must be ready to be subjected to personal inconvenience and sacrifice if the liberty of any weak person(s) is at stake and has to be protected.
Another central tenet of Sikhism is the concept of ‘Chardi kala’ – Positive attitude to life at all times. Graciously and with humility to accept the will of God at all times. Always to lead ones life unattached and untangled with the material world. Not to come under the influence of Maya – the illusionary and transient world around us. To remain detached from this world but to recognise ones duties to God and his creation. More details of Sikh beliefs and the concepts highlighted by the Sikh Gurus are given below:
There is only one God
There is one God: God made everything. God is called Satguru – ""True Guru" and "Waheguru" - "Wonderful Guru". Sikh basic beliefs are summed up in the words of the Mool Mantar, the first hymn written by Guru Nanak and part of Japji Sahib, the first Bani that appears in the Sri Guru Granth Sahib:
|There is only one God. Truth is his name. He is the Creator. |
He is without fear. He is without hate. He is timeless and without form.
- When Sikhs speak of the Guru they are referring to God, the Great Teacher. God, the unknowable, becomes the teacher who reveals God to those who follow. God created everything, so all life is good, but attachment to material things leads to reincarnation and the sufferings of birth and death. The goal of Sikhism is to end the cycle of rebirth and be united with God.
Service and devotion or Sewa and Simran: Sikhs emphasise two primary aspects of daily life: service and devotion to God. Service means honest work and service to the community - Sewa, in which all are equal regardless of caste, creed, race or gender. Devotion is cultivated by singing devotional hymns and by meditation on the holy name of God - Simran and Naam Japna
- There is only One God who is purely spiritual and does not take human form.
- All creation is part of God and is an expression of God’s Divine Spirit Naam and His Will Hukam.
- All human beings have an immortal soul (atma) which is part of God and is on a journey to reunite with Him (Mukti).
- Service to others (sewa), while remembering God at all times (simran), are essential if the soul is to reunite with God
- Lasting happiness can only be found when the soul reunites with God
Naam japo, Kirat karo, Wand chako
The Three Pillars of Sikhism: Remember God, Earn a living and Share with others: Guru Nanak formalised three basic guidelines for the Sikhs: Naam Japna (focus of God), Kirat Karni (honest living) and Vand Chakna (sharing with others).
1. Naam Japna: The Gurus led the Sikhs directly to practise Naam Japna – meditation on God through reciting, chanting, singing and constant remembrance followed by deep study and comprehension of God’s Name and virtues. The inner voice of the Sikh thus stays immersed in praises and appreciation of the Creator and the ONE ETERNAL GOD Waheguru and his WILL.
2. Kirat Karni: The Sikh Gurus expects the Sikhs to live as honourable householders and practise Kirat Karni – To honestly earn by ones physical and mental effort while accepting both pains and pleasures as God's gifts (Hukam) and blessings.
- All human beings are equal regardless of race, religion, gender, age or social class.
- All people are equal:
- You must all live together.
- You must be kind are share what you have. (Wand kay Shako)
- All people can talk to God.
- Live a life of a house-holder and live a truthful life earning a honest living while remembering God (Kirat Karni)
Sikhs must not drink alcohol, smoke or gamble. They have one wife or husband. They must pray every morning. They must read the holy book everyday. The Ten Gurus (teachers) of the Sikh told the people what God wanted; how they should live their lives; and how peace and tranquillity could be obtained. Sikhs must wear the 5Ks – Uncut Hair Kesh, Small Comb Kanga, Bangle Kara, Special Shorts Kacha and Sword Kirpan. All Sikhs were instructed to do this by Guru Gobind Singh on a day which Sikhs now celebrate as Vasaikhi.
Concept of God
Followers of the Sikh faith believe that all life, including human life, comes from God. God is the Creator of the universe and the force that keeps it in existence. God is purely spiritual, has no physical body and cannot be known or experienced through the five senses. God is infinitely above and beyond everything else that exists (transcendent). God is also within all creation, including human beings (immanent) and, therefore, Sikhs believe that all creation is part of God.
Mukti or Salvation
However, salvation (reunion with God Mukti) cannot simply be gained by attention to physical, emotional and intellectual needs. The physical world may be real in the sense that it does actually exist, but it is not real in a lasting or ultimate sense. The only True Reality is God and the only truly lasting part of a human being is the soul (Atma). If a person forgets this, and allows the physical world to become a barrier between God and the soul, he/she will lose the unique opportunity to reunite with God. Too much concentration on the material aspects of life (Maya) leads the soul further and further away from reunion with God (Mukti). Human pleasures and needs pass, the human body eventually dies and only the soul remains – if a person forgets this he/she will have wasted the unique opportunity which is part of being born human.
Transmigration of the soul
The Sikh Gurus taught that existence in the universe involves the soul in a journey through many life forms. During this journey, provided the being perform good deeds, the soul travels towards ever-closer reunion with the Creator and One True Reality of which it is a part. The human form is only one of 8.4 million forms that the soul has inhabited during its existence in the physical world. The soul will have lived through many lives and will have inhabited many different forms before eventually being born in a human body.
Being reborn in human form is regarded as a special blessing because human beings are different to all other forms of life and have a higher form of consciousness. Only human beings have this higher form of consciousness, awareness of a moral conscience and, as a result, free will. Humans should not be pure slaves of their instinct which is how lower life-forms are governed.
The natural law of Karma
The law of karma can be described simply as the belief that all actions have consequences for the person who acts. These consequences do not just involve the immediate physical results – for example, when someone uses violence against another person and he/she is injured as a result. There are also moral consequences which affect the soul on its journey towards reunion with God and determine the nature of further rebirths if reunion with God is not achieved.
If a person returns to the cycle of life, death and rebirth, it is not because God actively punishes that person for doing wrong. The Sikh Gurus taught that a person moves closer to reunion with God or further away from reunion as a result of the natural law of karma. The law of karma is part of God’s created order, not a force or power independent of God.
The Gurus taught that it is not necessary to die in order to be free from karma and reincarnation (rebirth). Anyone who chooses to live in complete harmony with God’s Will or Hukam, and keeps God in mind at all times, no longer creates either positive or negative karma. Although, the Sikhs will avoid negative karma and try to create positive karma, this is not the main focus. The main focus is in listening to, and obeying, God’s Will or Hukam and remaining open to God’s Grace at all times (Kudrat). A person who constantly keeps God in mind and lives in harmony with God’s Will or Hukam is known as gurmukh.
Maya is often translated into English as "illusion". In Sikhism, however, the word maya is not used to suggest that the physical world is unreal or imaginary. Sikhs believe that everything in the world is real and good because it has been created by, and is part of, God.
Maya, for Sikhs, is the part of human nature which misunderstands what is important in life and becomes attached to things that do not last. This attachment (Moh) can be to possessions, success, physical pleasure, a good name – even family and friends. Maya makes human beings forget that God is the only lasting or important part of everything that exists.
Developing virtues and controlling vices
The Sikh Gurus taught that to achieve Salvation (Mukti), it was important to work hard at developing positive human qualities which lead the soul closer to God. The Gurus taught that all human beings have the qualities they need to reunite with God but they must train their minds to make the most of these qualities. In order to reach the final goal of life, Sikhs believe that they must constantly develop their love for God by developing compassion for all God’s creation.
Sikhs believe that human beings must work at developing all the God-like qualities they have in order to truly love God. Love of God is not just a feeling but always involves showing love for God by selfless service to God’s creation. A person who is gurmukh does not act out of selfishness but, by focusing on God, acts out of compassion for others "… becomes the slave of the Lord’s slaves, then …. finds the Lord and eradicates ego from within". Maya and haumai are overcome by focusing only on God while serving God in creation. Material wealth, fame and praise are unimportant because the gurmukh is focused on the only thing of lasting value – God "The wealth of the Naam shall never be exhausted; no one can estimate its worth"
One of the most important virtues which Sikhs try to develop during life is that of truth (Sat). God is Truth and by trying to practise truth, i.e. live a truthful life, Sikhs believe that they can live in accordance with God’s Will/Hukam. The other virtues are: Compassion (Daya), Contentment (Santokh), Humility (Nimrata) and Love (Pyare).
The Guru Granth Sahib often refers to five evils, vices or ‘thieves’ which human beings should try to control. By focusing on developing virtues, a Sikh hopes to control these five evils. These evils lead the soul away from God and steal the unique opportunity to reunite with God. Within this body dwell the five thieves: sexual desire (Kam), anger/rage (Krodh), greed (Lobh), emotional attachment (Moh) and egoism (Ahankar).
- Essence of Sikhism
- Introduction to Sikhism
- Fundamentals of Sikhi
- Learning about Sikhi
- Sikh Women
- Primary Beliefs and Principles
- Guru Granth Sahib on God
- Worldwide praise for the Guru Granth Sahib
|These articles deal with Sikh Beliefs|
|Gurus:||Nanak Dev | Guru Angad | Amar Das | Ram Das | Guru Arjan | Har Gobind | Har Rai | Har Krishan | Tegh Bahadur | Gobind Singh | Guru Granth Sahib | Sikh Bhagats|
|Philosophy:||Sikh Beliefs | Simran | Sewa | Beliefs and Principles | Underlying Values | Prohibitions | Technique and Methods | Other observations | Technique and Methods|
|Practices:||Ardas | Amrit Sanskar | Chardi Kala | Dasvandh | Five Ks | Kirat Karni | Kirtan | Langar | Naam Japna | Simran | Three Pillars | Vand Chakna | Five Evils | Five Virtues|
|Scripture:||Guru Granth Sahib | Sikh Scripture | Dasam Granth | Ek Onkar | Waheguru | Bani | Mool Mantar | Japji Sahib | Jaap Sahib | Chaupai | Anand Sahib | Tav-Prasad Savaiye | Rehras | Sukhmani|
|More:||History | Gurdwaras | Harmandir Sahib | Khalsa | Khanda | Names | Places | News | Satguru | Sikhs | Bhagat Farid | Bhagat Kabir | Websites | Biographical | Terms|