Primary Beliefs and Principles

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The Sikh religion has various established beliefs and values that are inherent in the basic philosophy of the faith. A Sikh's primary belief is in only one supreme God – This sole God is the same for all the peoples of the Universe. Guru Arjan, the fifth Sikh Guru highlights this point by saying in the Sikh holy text called the Guru Granth Sahib, "There is only the One Supreme Lord God; there is no other at all" (SGGS p 45); this belief is the starting point of the Sikh faith.

Next, God is considered gender neutral in Sikhism. So when a Sikh refers to "God", this God can be refered to as masculine or feminine; so God can be called ‘He’ or ‘She’. Guru Arjan reinforces this concept by saying: "You are my Father and You are my Mother.....You are my Protector everywhere...." (SGGS p 103).

Further, this one God is the same God of the Sikhs, Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Jews, etc – of all the peoples of the world; everyone in this world belongs to that same one God! Guru Ram Das, the fourth Sikh Guru explains: "All living beings are Yours - You are the Giver of all souls" (SGGS p 10).


The Sikhs believe that God is formless but realisable; He is fearless, without enemies, self-created, without birth or otherwise subjected to time, etc. The Sikh holy scripture, given the full name of Sri Guru Granth Sahib explains the various facets of God in substantial detail. This principle of one God leads to the next primary concept for the Sikhs: The concept of equality of all the human races, sects, gender, social classes, etc. The adherents of Sikhism believe that all peoples of the world are equal in the eyes of God; man is equal to woman; a rich person is equal to a poor man; a black person enjoys the same rights in God's domain as a white person and so on.

From this follows the next recognised belief in Sikhi that people of all faiths can reunite with God provided they follow the true path of their own religion. So the Sikh does not believe that they have a monopoly on God or are the ‘chosen’ people of the Lord. Anyone can get favours from God depending only on His or her actions and thoughts. God does not see ones colour or gender or social status when passing judgement!

Further, 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 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 ethnical rights of all the peoples of the world. So it is a must to lead a spiritually correct life at all times and to be ready to be subjected to personal sacrifices if the liberty of any weak person(s) is at stake.

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.

One God

Main article: One God

There is only ONE God who has infinite qualities and names; S/He* is the same for all religions; God is Creator & Sustainer -All that you see around you is God's Creation; S/He* is everywhere, and in everything; S/He is fearless and with no Enemies; Only God is without birth or death and S/He* has and will exist forever.

Below are quotations from Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS) which reinforce the summaries outlined above:

a). There is One God: from SGGS page 45:

paarbarahm parabh ayk hai doojaa naahee ko-ay.
There is only the One Supreme Lord God;there is no other.
jee-o pind sabh tis kaa jo tis bhaavai so ho-ay.
Soul and body are all Yours; whatever pleases You, shall happen.
gur poorai pooraa bha-i-aa jap naanak sachaa so-ay. .4-9-79.
Through the Perfect Guru, one becomes perfect; O Nanak, meditate on the True One.

For the Original text please follow: and enter the page number.

b). God the creator ? from page 1036:

"He formed the planets, solar systems and nether regions, and brought what was hidden to manifestation
When He so willed, He created the world.
Without any supporting power, He sustained the universe."

Re-incarnation, Karma & Salvation

Sikhs believe that every creature has a Soul; on death, the Soul is passed from one body to another until Liberation. The journey of the Soul is governed by the deeds and actions that we perform during our lives. If we perform good deeds and actions and remember the Creator, we attain a better life. On the contrary, if we carry out evil actions and sinful deeds, we will be incarnated in “lower” life forms – snakes, ghosts, animals, etc. The person who has evolved to spiritual perfection attains salvation – union with God.

The following lines from SGGS explain how our deeds and actions (or Karma) have an impact on the future of the soul and reincarnation:

"Virtue and vice do not come by mere words;
actions repeated, over and over again, are engraved on the soul.
You shall harvest what you plant.
O Nanak, by the Hukam of God’s Command, we come and go in reincarnation."

"The soul-bride in love with duality goes around the wheel of reincarnation, through 8.4 million incarnations.
Without the Guru, she finds no sleep, and she passes her life-night in pain.
Without the Shabad, she does not find her Husband Lord, and her life wastes away in vain."
"The blind have forgotten the Naam, the Name of the Lord.
The self-willed manmukhs (ego centred person) are in utter darkness.
Their comings and goings in reincarnation do not end; through death and rebirth, they are wasting away. "

"Purchase only that for which you have come into the world,
and through the Guru, the Lord shall dwell within your mind.
Within the home of your own inner being,
you shall obtain the Mansion of the Lord’s Presence with intuitive ease.
You shall not be consigned again to the wheel of reincarnation. "

Remember God

Love God but also have fear of Him/Her* as well. Only by keeping the Creator in your mind at all times, will you make progress in your spiritual evolution. The Sikh Guru ask the devotees to mediate with single mindedness; dispel doubt; remain focused; subdue their ego; thus glory will be obtained.

The following line from SGGS elaborate on the importance of remembering the Almighty Lord:

Equality & Brotherhood* of mankind (Humanhood)

Main article: Equality of mankind

Sikhs believe that all human beings are equal. “We are sons and daughters of Waheguru, the Almighty”. Sikhs have to treat all peoples of the world on an equal footing. No gender, racial, social, etc discrimination is allowed. This is the message of Guru Nanak as taught by the 10 Sikh Masters during the period 1469 to 1708.

Guru Angad stood for a caste-less and class-less society, in which no one was superior to the other and no one, through greed or selfishness, could be allowed to encroach upon the rights of others. In short, he visualized a society in which members lived like a family, helping and supporting one another. He not only preached equality but practised it. To promote the acceptance of human equality, Guru established a community kitchen where all sat together in a row, regardless of caste or status, and ate the same food.

Guru Angad said, “He Himself creates, O Nanak; He establishes the various creatures. How can anyone be called bad?. There is One Lord and Master of all; He watches over all, and assigns all to their tasks. Some have less, and some have more; no one is allowed to leave empty.” – Guru Angad Dev

Furthermore, the guru stressed the importance of adopting a uniform way of praising God and the utility of a social organization based on equality. He established a holy congregation, or Sangat, where people of different beliefs and varying social status sat together to hear the Master’s singing of hymns and to be inspired to lead a noble life.

The following lines from SGGS explain about the importance of treating every person as an equal:

“They look upon all with equality, and recognize the Supreme Soul, the Lord, pervading among all. Those who sing the Praises of the Lord, Har, Har, obtain the supreme status; they are the most exalted and acclaimed people. ((2))” SGGS Page 446
“He is within - see Him outside as well; there is no one, other than Him. As Gurmukh, look upon all with the single eye of equality; in each and every heart, the Divine Light is contained. ((2))” SGGS Page 599
“There is only one breath; all are made of the same clay; the light within all is the same. The One Light pervades all the many and various beings. This Light intermingles with them, but it is not diluted or obscured. By Guru’s Grace, I have come to see the One. I am a sacrifice to the True Guru. ((3))” SGGS Page 96

Uphold personal rights of all

Everyone has a right to live according to their beliefs and religion

The Sikh Gurus have defended, safeguarded, fought and sacrificed to uphold the rights of others no matter what their religion, caste, gender or race. The message promoted by the Guru is to allow all to live freely without undue interference and restrictions. No one is to be forced into a different belief system under threat of force. This philosophy was vigorously defended by all the Sikh Gurus]] but came into sharp focus when the ninth Sikh master, Guru Teg Bahadur choose to sacrifice his life for the defence of the Kashmiri pandits who were being persecuted by the Mughal government during that time.

Personal Sacrifice

The Gurus have left a legacy for the Sikhs to follow. To uphold high moral standards and to undertake personal sacrifice to protect and guard these high principles. The prime candidates in understanding this principle is realised by examining the lives of Guru Arjan Dev (5th Guru), Guru Tegh Bahadur (9th Guru) and Guru Gobind Singh (10th Guru).

Guru Tegh Bahadur sacrificed his life to save the Kashmiri Pundits from persecution by the Mughal rulers of the time. When these Pundits came to ask for help from the Guru, the Guru did not flinch from his responsibility to protect the weak and in so doing, paid the ultimate price. The tyrant Emperor Aurangzeb beheaded the Guru for not converting to Islam. But this sacrifice, the Guru's determination and sacrifice showed the rulers the solid resolve of the masses and thus the persecution of the masses subsided.

By carrying out this ultimate sacrifice, the leader of the Sikhs showed them the way to challenge oppression. Oppression and Tyranny had to tackled with a strong and unwavering resolve. Many other examples like this can be found in the History of the Sikhs.

On page 1377 of SGGS the Guru tells us:

“Kabeer, if you desire to play the game of love with the Lord, then cut off your head, and make it into a ball. Lose yourself in the play of it, and then whatever will be, will be. ||239|| Kabeer, if you desire to play the game of love with the Lord, play it with someone with commitment. Pressing the unripe mustard seeds produces neither oil nor flour. ||240||”

So can play this game of love with commitment and sacrifice.

Many Paths lead to God

Since about 1499, the Sikh Gurus have emphasised the concept of the equality of mankind in the sacred verses found in the Sikh holy scripture, Sri Guru Granth Sahib. Guru Nanak says in Japji Sahib: "Accept all humans as your equals, and let them be your only sect" (Japji 28), and Guru Gobind Singh tell the world: "manas ki jat sabhe eke paihcanbo - recognise all of mankind as a single caste of humanity".

The Sikh Gurus tell us that salvation can be obtained by following various spiritual paths. Therefore, Sikhs do not have a monopoly on Salvation – “Many Spiritual paths lead to God” – Sikhs do not therefore consider themselves as having a monopoly on God or a “superior” right to salvation. The Sikhs do not consider themselves as the “chosen people of God”. However, the Sikh scripture is probably the only known holy book that advances this message of “religious equality” and offers advise for Muslims to be better Muslims and for Hindus to be better Hindus. Christian, Hindus, Muslim, Jews, etc all have the same right to liberty as a Sikhs.

The Sri Guru Granth Sahib even mentions Adam (of the Abrahamic religions) in this way: "ਬਾਬਾ ਆਦਮ ਕਉ ਕਿਛੁ ਨਦਰਿ ਦਿਖਾਈ ॥ ਉਨਿ ਭੀ ਭਿਸਤਿ ਘਨੇਰੀ ਪਾਈ ॥੨॥ He bestowed His Grace on Adam, the father of mankind, who then lived in paradise for a long time. " (SGGS p1161)

The following lines from SGGS explain about the importance of treating every spiritual path as an equal and valid path to God and salvation:

See also

Positive Attitude to Life

Chardi Kala This term is an important expression used in Sikhism for a mind frame that a Sikh has to accept and practise. It loosely means a “positive, buoyant and optimistic” attitude to life and the future. Always be – in "high spirits", "ever progressive", "always cheerful", etc are some other terms used to describe this phrase.

Sikhism dictates that Sikhs believes in the Will of God and that God is without enemies and is always merciful. Hence acceptance of his Will is in the interest of and for the benefit of His Creation, even if at times one suffers severe hardship.

This attitude of "Chardi Kala" is to allow one to sail through the ups and downs of life with as little harm as possible to the individual.

To join and help others in their hour of need is part of this “Chardi Kala” spirit.

Must not engage in meaningless rituals

Superstitions - A black cat is consider unlucky in some cultures
Main article: Sikhism and Ritualism

The Sikh faith condemns empty rituals and superstitions. The practice of blind rituals, worshiping of idols and inanimate objects, participating in religious fasts, pilgrimage to holy places, offering of food to sadhus (religious leaders), or believing in any other such rituals, superstitions or fads, will not bring one closer to God or make one a better human being. In all societies round the world, through fear and uncertainty, members undertake in ritualistic and worthless behaviour at times of worry, uncertainty or trouble. These poor people, wrongly believe that undertaking these empty customs and penances will bring them special assistance from Waheguru or some other higher power.

The reliance on these blind customs appears to increase at time of stress in human existence. For example, In 1989, Susan Starr Sered conducted fieldwork among women who has just had a baby on the maternity ward of a Jerusalem hospital. The women who she interviewed reported having performed close to two hundred different religious and secular rituals during pregnancy, birth, and the immediate post-partum period. So, it is clear that ritualism has not faded but may be on the increase.

Superstition is an irrational belief arising from ignorance or doubt. Many people all around the world are gripped by various superstitions and they live their lives in fear and uncertainty. Most of these fears are irrational and superfluous but they still cannot unbind themselves from these evil and false notions. Some common and well-known examples of superstitions are:

  • "When a black cat crosses one's path, something will happen if one crosses the line where the cat passed. To "undo" either wait for someone who didn't know about the black cat to cross the path or think of another route."
  • "If you wash your hair on the first day of the month you will have a short life."
  • "13 in the western world is considered an unlucky number. This double-digit represents Judas, who was the guest at the Last Supper who betrayed Jesus. As a result it is also thought to be unlucky to have a dinner party with 13 guests. Many hotels are missing a thirteenth floor or have omitted the number from their room doors. Friday the 13th of any month is said to be an unlucky day."

But the SGGS says "The mind is diseased with doubt, superstition and duality." (SGGS p416)and also "High and low, social class and status - the world wanders lost in superstition." (SGGS p1243). Superstition is like a disease for the mind it brings confusion and fear and takes you away from reality.

Disciplined Life

Upon baptism, must wear the Sikhs Five Ks (5Ks); strict recital of the 5 prayers Banis, etc.

No Special Worship Days

Sikhs do not believe that any particular day is holier than any other.

Conquer the 5 Thieves

It's every Sikh duty to defeat these 5 thieves: Lust (Kam), Anger (Krodh), Greed (Lobh), Attachment (Moh), and Ego (Ahankar). Within each person live these 5 thieves and it’s the duty of every Sikh to subdue and control the behaviour of these emotions and enemies.

The following lines from SGGS explain about the dangers of these negative energies and how they lead to pain and suffering:

  • “All of my companions are intoxicated with their sensory pleasures; they do not know how to guard their own home. The five thieves have plundered them; the thugs descend upon the unguarded village.||2||.”
  • “Within this body dwell the five thieves: sexual desire, anger, greed, emotional attachment and egotism. They plunder the Nectar, but the self-willed manmukh (ego minded person) does not realize it; no one hears his complaint. The world is blind, and its dealings are blind as well; without the Guru, there is only pitch darkness. ||2||”
  • "All the sins of that humble being are taken away, all the pains are taken away, all diseases are taken away; sexual desire, anger, greed, attachment and egotistical pride are taken away. The Lord drives the five thieves out of such a person of the Lord. ||1|| Chant the Name of the Lord, O Holy Saints of the Lord; meditate on the Lord of the Universe, O Holy people of the Lord. Meditate in thought, word and deed on the Lord, Har, Har. Worship and adore the Lord, O Holy people of the Lord."

Main article: Five Evils

Attack with 5 Weapons

A Sikh must always be armed with the following virtues:

Humility (Nimrata) Compassion (Daya), Truth (Sat), Contentment (Santokh), and Love (Pyar)

SGGS Page 235 Full Shabad
The fruit of humility is intuitive peace and pleasure.
SGGS Page 971 Full Shabad
Bow in humility within your heart, and you will not have to be reincarnated over and over again. (2)

SGGS Page 1384 Full Shabad
Humility is the word, forgiveness is the virtue, and sweet speech is the magic mantra.

Wear these three robes, O sister, and you will captivate your Husband Lord. (127)

SGGS Page 903 Full Shabad
You have no compassion; the Lord`s Light does not shine in you.

You are drowned, drowned in worldly entanglements. (4)

SGGS Page 353 Full Shabad
The love of the Truth is my karma and Dharma - my faith and my actions, and my self-control.

O Nanak, one who is forgiven by the Lord is not called to account. The One Lord erases duality. (4,14)

SGGS Page 51 Full Shabad
Practice truth, contentment and kindness; this is the most excellent way of life.

One who is so blessed by the Formless Lord God renounces selfishness, and becomes the dust of all. (3)

SGGS Page 228 Full Shabad
Through truth and contentment, doubt is dispelled. (8)

SGGS Page 422 Full Shabad
Those who practice Truth, contentment and love, obtain the supplies of the Lord`s Name.

So banish corruption from your mind, and the True One will grant you Truth. (5)

SGGS Page 822 Full Shabad
Truth, contentment, compassion, Dharmic faith and purity - I have received these from the Teachings of the Saints.

Says Nanak, one who realizes this in his mind, achieves total understanding.(2,4,90)

SGGS Page 1397 Full Shabad
The armor of self-restraint, truth, contentment and humility can never be pierced.

SGGS Page 235 Full Shabad
The fruit of humility is intuitive peace and pleasure.
SGGS Page 971 Full Shabad
Bow in humility within your heart, and you will not have to be reincarnated over and over again. (2)

SGGS Page 1384 Full Shabad
Humility is the word, forgiveness is the virtue, and sweet speech is the magic mantra.

Wear these three robes, O sister, and you will captivate your Husband Lord. (127)

See also

These articles deal with Sikh Beliefs

Primary Beliefs and Principles | Technique and Methods | Religious Philosophy | Prohibited Behaviour | Underlying Values | Basic Tenets of Sikhism