Compiled by Jayaram V
The sacred book of the Sikhs containing 1430 pages and 5894 sayings and hymns of various Sikh gurus, 15 Hindu and Muslim saints form various parts of India. Of these Guru Nanak contributed 974 hymns composed in 18 ragas. Compiled in the sixteenth century and composed entirely in lyrical form, the hymns are mostly devotional in nature and are sung by the Sikh devotees melodiously with utmost devotion, love and humility during various public or private ceremonies and functions. The Guru Granth Sahib can be truly called the essence of all religions, since it contains hymns and verses from many sacred books of various religions and sects of Hinduism. You can read the entire translation of this scripture from our
The thirty eight short poems of Nanak which appear at the beginning of the Adi
Granth. Contains the essential teachings and beliefs of Sikhism. The poems are rendered in various ragas (musical modes) and are sung by the devotees as a mark of devotion and respect to the Guru. You can read the English translation of the
Japji from here.
Placed at the very beginning of the Adi granth, by Guru Arjun, it is an invocation to Supreme God with a reference to some of His attributes. It reads as follows: "One, True Name, Creator, Without Fear, Without Hate, Beyond Time, Unborn, Self-existent, The Guru's Gift of Grace"
It is the inviolable divine will or commandment. According to the Adigranth, the Hukum (order) of God is responsible for the entire creation and the existence of every thing in this world. All things, our joys as well as our suffering, prosperity and adversity, births and deaths, transmigration of beings, every thing that was, that is and that is yet to come, happen because of the divine Hukum. The Hukum is the ultimate and there is nothing beyond it or comparable to it.
In Sikhism we frequently come across references to the word naam, which when literally translated means, "the name". It is through the constant and sincere repetition and remembrance of the Name that God reveals Himself to the human beings. The constant repetition of God's name is the door way to salvation and freedom from the cycle of birth and death.
Sabad is the word of God. It has the same significance as Nam in the religious life of an individual. It is through hearing the word and understanding it and by repeating the Name that one becomes free from the effects of ones karma. Sabad kirtan, singing the glorious Name of God is thus an important and essential religious activity of a devoted Sikh. The repetition of word is not just an outward mechanical activity, but something very deeper and devotional that brings one in touch with God. We are told in the Adi Granth, that by listening to the Word a seeker becomes equal to Siva, Brahma and Indra. By listening to it he becomes praiseworthy, learns the secrets of Yoga, acquires the wisdom contained in the sacred scriptures,
overcomes sorrow and suffering, gains truth, fulfillment and knowledge. Listening to the word has the effect of bathing in all the holy places. No one can truly comprehend the grandeur of it, nor can describe it truly. It can be understood only through our thoughts, by concentrating our minds upon it.
In Sikhism, the Guru (teacher or master) is the ladder, the connecting point, the means by which one attains God. A true Guru shows the way to his disciples through his graciousness. Through his grace a disciple becomes complete, all his troubles are dispelled, he becomes joyful, over comes death, finds life's greatest treasures and becomes one with Truth. Nanak was the first Guru in a chain of ten Gurus, who made significant contribution to Sikhism and made it a living faith in India during medieval period. A detailed account of the ten Gurus of Sikhism and their individual contribution to the growth and development of Sikhism is available in this section in a separate article.
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Casteism and Sikhism
Sikhism does not recognize the caste distinctions of Hindu society. Guru Nanak showed the way by openly criticizing the caste system prevailing during his time and the Gurus who followed him admitted many lower caste Hindus into Sikhism and paved the way for a more equitable society in the Punjab.
Rituals and Sikhism
According to Sikhism, rituals, pilgrimages, idol worship, sacraments etc., are a mere waste of time and do not in any way contribute to ones liberation. In the Adi Granth, we are told that mere recitation of the scriptures without performing ones spiritual duty leads only to pain and suffering. If the mind is unclean how can it be purified through the worship of stones, study of the Puranas or the Vedas, going on pilgrimages, living in the forests, or leading an ascetic life? The only way to liberation is to remember the Name, to constantly meditate upon the Name, follow the Guru and accept the Word as final.
Karma and rebirth
Sikhism accepts the ancient Hindu belief in karma and rebirth. However Sikhism preaches a far simpler way to end transmigration of souls. It is through the grace of God, by constantly repeating the name of God and contemplating upon Him. By leading a life of pure devotion, virtuous living and true humility one can liberate oneself from the cycle of births and deaths. Good actions do lead to good karma, but there is no place here for ascetic practices or mere performance of superficial rituals. Guru Nanak preached that the birth is due to ones karma, but the final liberation is due to God's grace.
Sikhism believes that it is not God, but ones own actions which are responsible for ones suffering. A person can change his life and the effects of his karma by living a virtuous life and performing good deeds. No amount of ritualism and superficial chanting of mantras would help him, but only the grace of God which comes to a devotee through pure devotion and complete submission to His name and word.
The Sikhs must believe in these values:
Equality: All humans are
equal before God.
God's spirit: All creatures
have God's spirits and must be properly respected.
Personal right: Every person
has a right to life.
Actions count: Salvation is obtained by one's actions, including
good deeds, remembrance of God, etc.
Living a family life: Encouraged to live as a family unit to
provide and nurture children.
Sharing: It is written in
scripture that Sikhs must give a minimum of 10 percent of their
earnings as well as 10 percent of their life to the service of
helping others and in the service of God.
Accept God's will: Develop
your personality so that you recognize happy events and miserable
events as one.
The four fruits of life:
Truth, contentment, contemplation and Naam, (in the name of God).
Superstitions and rituals are not meaningful to Sikhs
(pilgrimages, fasting, bathing in rivers, circumcision, worship of
graves, idols or pictures, compulsory wearing of the veil for
("Maya") Accumulation of materials has no meaning in
Sikhism. Wealth such as gold, common stock portfolios,
commodities, and real estate will all be left here on Earth when
you depart. Do not get attached to them.
Sacrifice of creatures: (Sati). Widows throwing themselves in the
funeral pyre of their husbands, slaughtering lambs and calves to
celebrate holy occasions, etc. are forbidden.
A Sikh is encouraged not to live as a recluse, hermit, humble
savant, yogi, etc.
Worthless talk: Bragging,
gossip, lying, etc. are not permitted.
Intoxication: Alcohol, drugs, tobacco, and consumption of other
intoxicants are discouraged.
Priestly class: Sikhs do not
have to depend on a priest for performing any religious functions.
They are not supposed to follow a class/caste system where the
priestly class reigns highest. Everyone is equal.
Prejudicial Behaviour: Sikhs
should not discriminate based on caste, race, class, sexual
orientation or gender. Discrimination and unjust behaviour is
considered completely against Sikh teachings.
The Three Golden Rules:
Nam Japo: -
meditation and prayer on the Name of God in Sikhism, which is
"Waheguru", it is also called the 'Gur-Manter'. Naam
Japna is the repetition of this name.
Kirat Karo: - Honest
earnings, labor, etc. while remembering the Lord.
Vand Chakko: - Share
with others in need, free food (langar), donate 10% of income
Dasvand, 10% of time in doing work to better humanity.
The three cardinals virtues of Sikhism
- Humility and Charity
- Devotion and contemplation of God.
- Creativity and virtuous activity.
Langar is the term used in the Sikh religion for the free, vegetarian-only food served in a Gurdwara and eaten by everyone sitting as equals. The practice was introduced by Guru Nanak Dev Ji to break the caste system that was prevalent in India during the 13th and 14th centuries.
This practice is one of the Three Pillars of Sikhism and symbolizes the desire of Sikhs to eradicate hunger. The Sikhs are encouraged to donate ten percent (daswandh) of their wealth, time, or resources to a worthy cause, of which Langar Sewa is one.
At Langar, only vegetarian food is served. This is done to ensure that all people, with whatever dietary restrictions (for example Jains, Jews, or Muslims) will feel welcome to eat as equals.
The Ardas are the Sikh daily prayers. In Sikhism, these prayers are made after washing and before eating. Though these prayers vary by sect, all observe them as an important part of the day.
Ardas is a unique prayer based on the fact that it is one of the few well-known prayers in the Sikh religion that was not written in its entirety by the Gurus. The Ardas cannot be found within the pages of the Guru Granth Sahib because it is a continually changing devotional text that has evolved over time in order for it to encompass the feats, accomplishments, and feelings of all generations of Sikhs within its lines. Taking the various derivation of the word Ardas into account, the basic purpose of this prayer is an appeal to Waheguru for his protection and care, as well as being a plea for the welfare and prosperity of all mankind, and a means for the Sikhs to thank Waheguru for all that he has done.
A Gurdwara, meaning "the doorway to God", is the Sikh place of worship and may be referred to as a Sikh temple. In the early days of the Sikh Gurus, before the first gurdwara, followers of Guru Nanak formed a congregation whose venue was known as a dharamsala (place or seat of religion). A Gurdwara always houses the Sikh holy book, the Guru Granth Sahib and displays a triangular orange flag called the Nishan Sahib.
The Guru Granth Sahib is housed in the main hall known as the Darbar hall. In most modern gurdwaras, the hall is large and will house many hundreds of visitors. Devotees will sit cross-legged on the floor. All those who enter the hall must remove their shoes and cover their heads before entering. On entering the hall, devotees walk slowly and respectfully to the main throne on which the Guru Granth Sahib rests. Devotees then stand before the Holy Scriptures, often say a silent prayer, offer a donation (if able), then bow humbly.
The Sikhs treat their holy Book like a living teacher or guru. This act of respect is not to be taken as an act of worship as Sikhs are only allowed to worship the One God, for which the word in Punjabi is Waheguru. At night, the Guru Granth Sahib is placed in a resting room known as the Sach Khand (which translates to True/Pure Domain/Paradise).
A typical layout for the Darbar hall. Men and women usually sit on separate sides of the hall.In most but not all gurdwaras, men and women typically end up sitting on different sides of the room, separated in the middle by a pathway that leads to the Guru Granth Sahib. Children of either gender may sit on either side. Some Gurdwaras, especially smaller ones, do not have any division.
People of all religious backgrounds or of no religious faith are welcomed into a Sikh Gurdwara. However, it is necessary that any visitors remove their shoes and cover their head with a rumal before entering the Darbar Sahib. Visitors are also forbidden to go into the gurdwara while they are inebriated or possess alcohol, cigarettes or any intoxicating substances.
The Golden TempleAll gurdwaras contain a Langar hall. This is a communal room where meals are served. Some temples may have tables and chairs, but in most, devotees sit on the floor. Various utility rooms and a large kitchen are also present in gurdwaras and some of the larger temples may also have bedrooms for a few devotees to stay overnight.
The most famous gurdwara is the Golden Temple, also known
as Harmandir Sahib in Amritsar.