This video from Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly covers the origins of Sikhism back to its founding guru, Guru Nanak, who believed in the oneness of God and the equality of all castes and creeds. It also focuses on the Khalsa, a military brotherhood of Sikh "saint-soldiers," created by Gobind Singh, the tenth and final guru. In the video, Manjit Singh describes the Khalsa's code of belief and conduct, and how it reflects the sacred teachings of the Sikh faith.
With 23 million Sikhs globally, Sikhism is the fifth largest religion in the world. It originated around 1500 CE in Punjab, a region that is today part of India and Pakistan. While most Sikhs still live in the Punjab province, there are also significant populations in the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States.The founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak, was born in 1469 to a Hindu family. After experiencing a powerful revelation, he set out to spread his belief that there is one God, beyond human conception. While Guru Nanak accepted the Hindu ideas of reincarnation and karma, he rejected other elements of Hinduism, such as polytheism and the love of ritual. Guru Nanak also preached against the caste system, animal sacrifice, and fasting. The result of his thinking is that Sikhism exhibits elements of Hinduism and Islam, both of which have a long history in its region of origin, but holds its own as a unique religion in the view of Sikhs and recent scholars. While Sikhism started as a movement, it became increasingly formalized as each successive guru incorporated sacred texts and religious practices. In 1699, the tenth guru, Gobind Singh, developed a special military group for men and women called the Khalsa, aimed at empowering Sikhs to defend their faith. He created an initiation ceremony, known as the "baptism of the sword," and instituted the Five K's of the Khalsa to identify and bind the members of the community. The Five K's, still in practice today, are Kesh, uncut hair; Khanga, wooden hair comb; Kach, cotton underwear; Kirpan, ceremonial sword, and Kara, steel bracelet. Gobind Singh declared that he would be the last human guru and that after his death the new spiritual guide of the Sikhs would be the book of scripture, the Adi Granth, also called Guru Granth Sahib. Sikhs, believing that God is inside everyone, focus on their personal relationships with God and work to eventually become one with God. To them, an honorable life includes performing good deeds and serving others. They strive for honesty and justice, as well as freedom and equality for all. The three duties asked of them are to pray, work, and give. Sikhs also try to avoid the vices of lust, greed, materialism, anger and pride, believing these will create barriers between themselves and God.
MANJIT SINGH (Guru Nanak Foundation of America Gurdwara, Silver Spring, MD): The word "Sikh" means student or disciple.
Sikhs have three basic core beliefs -- constant meditation and remembrance of the Creator, the importance of earning a living by honest and hard work, and the importance of justice and freedom for all.
Sikhs are disciples of Guru Nanak and the nine gurus, prophets, who founded the religion almost 300 years ago.
The way that the tradition evolved is that each guru is selected—a successor guru. The 10th and final guru, Gobind Singh, in 1708, decided to end the successive lines of human gurus and decided to appoint the Sikh scripture called Guru Granth Sahib as the eternal guru. It is the eternal guru of the Sikhs because it contains all the revelations received by all the 10 gurus.
In 1699, the Guru Gobind Singh revealed the Khalsa, and the five Articles of Faith.
The Khalsa is a brotherhood of Sikhs, who publicly take a vow to follow a certain spiritual discipline along with a physical discipline.
The five Articles of Faith are Kesh, which is uncut hair—the Sikhs are required to keep uncut hair on their entire body, and this applies to both men and women; Kara, which is a steel bracelet worn on the hand, and reminds Sikhs to always do good deeds; the Kanga, which is a small wooden comb—and its purpose is to remind Sikhs [of] the importance of cleanliness. The fourth is Kuchara, which are worn to signify the importance of chastity. And the last Article of Faith is the Kirpan. It's a religious sword that is worn to remind Sikhs that they have a responsibility and a duty to stand up for justice.
Sikhs are not pacifists, but, at the same time, we do not espouse violence.
The philosophy is that if all other means of achieving justice have failed, it's righteous to raise the sword. That philosophy comes out of this concept of "saint-soldier," where the common analogy given is that a sword is merely a tool. In the hand of a righteous man, it can be used to uphold justice; in the hands of somebody who is evil, it will be used to commit atrocities.
Being a Sikh is immensely spiritually uplifting. At the same time, it is also a challenge because you stand out in a crowd. But my faith helps me sustain, on a day-to-day basis, living a life of spiritual and physical discipline.
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