Tag Archives: sikhism

The Punjabi – An Overview

The Punjabi – An Overview

Brendon Ward (2016)

The PunjabIn terms of people group, the Punjabi people of the Indian subcontinent are effectively a nation belonging to two countries.  Their cultural and religious identification transcends those national borders so that one is first Punjabi, and Indian/Pakistani second.

The PunjabiThe Punjabi are defined by common language and custom, as well as religious identification.  Spanning India and Pakistan, they are neither Hindu, nor Muslim.  Rather, they are Sikh, a word meaning “disciple”.  They can thus be identified by the wearing of a turban and the possession of the last name Singh (which means lion).

Sikhism is a hybrid religion, incorporating aspects of both Islam and Hinduism.  While it is monotheistic (i.e. one God), it is also pantheistic (i.e. God is all pervasive).  Sikhism retains the idea of a karmic cycle while rejecting the Hindu cast system.

Sikh History

Guru NanakSikhism is relatively new, being established by Guru Nanak in the 15th century.  It is a mystic religion, that is, it does not appeal to empirical evidence for the basis of its tenants.  At the age of 30, Guru Nanak is said to have had a heavenly vision.  His report of that vision was captured in the words, “There is neither Hindu nor Mussulman (Muslim), but only man. So whose path shall I follow? I shall follow God’s path. God is neither Hindu nor Mussulman and the path which I follow is God’s.”

Guru Nanak was followed by 10 patrilineal Guru each of whom contributed to the evolution of Sikhism as a religion.  The last of the human Guru, Guru Gobind Singh passed the guruship not to another human, but to the “First and Last, eternal living guru” Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh Scriptures.

Sikh Scripture

Guru Granth Sahbib

The Guru Granth Sahib contains the writings (mostly hymns) of Guru Nanak and successive Guru as well as writings of both Muslim and Hindu religious leaders.  In contemporary Sikh custom, the Guru Granth Sahib is venerated, having central place in processions and position within the Gurdwara.  In terms of a daily procession, the Guru Granth Sahib is held above the head before being placed on a cushion in a special area of the Gurdwara, that has been previously washed with an ablution of water and milk.  That special area becomes the focal point of the Gurdwara.  To the Guru Granth Sahib money and food is offered.

A complete recitation of the Guru Granth Sahib takes place with major life events, which may include moving into a new house.  The printing of the Guru Granth Sahib maintains a strict format in order to maintain the exact page numbering.  This means that every copy of the Guru Granth Sahib must have exactly 1430 pages and so would take approximately 48 hours to recite from cover to cover.

Sikh Worship

sikh worshipSikhism has neither liturgy nor clergy.  Being a mystical religion, Sikh devotional practice is meditative in nature, centring on the singing of hymns from the Guru Granth Sahib.  Meditation focuses on the Divine Name, viewed as a method of moving toward a life totally devoted to God.  The God of Sikhism is known as Nam, or Name.  Other synonyms include the Divine, Ultimate, Ultimate Reality, Infinity, the Formless, Truth, and other attributes of God.

In addition to meditation on the name, Sikhs adhere to two other basic principles: hard work and sharing what one has.

After services in the Gurdwara, all people, regardless of caste or social standing, sit on the floor in a straight line and eat a simple vegetarian meal together.  This meal is served out of free kitchen that is attached to every Gurdwara.

Social Justice from a Sikh Perspective

Social Justice from a Sikh Perspective

Prof Upkar Singh Thethi Pardesi OBE

July 16, 2014 posted from LinkedIn

One definition of Social Justice is the desire to create a fair and socially mobile society through wealth distribution, equality of opportunity for personal development and protection of human rights. If we accept this definition, then achieving social justice is the bedrock of the Sikh faith and teachings.

Social Justice and the Sikh Scriptures

The central message of the Sikh Holy Scriptures, Sri Guru Grant Sahib Ji (SGGS) is of humanism and universal brotherhood. It is a source of inspiration for those who seek social justice, the equality of all people, the empowerment of women and of the under privileged. It is for those reasons that the text has remained alive as a guide to all those who value these fundamental principles of humanism and human integrity. The SGGS developed the concept of “Sarbat Da Bhalla” that simples translates to mean the importance of all human live, care for the environment and to live in harmony with the rest of God’s creation.

A deeper interpretation of the four core tenets of the Sikh Dharam : kirat kamai (earning an honest living); wand (sharing); nishkam sewa (selfless service) and simran (prayer and contemplation) reveal how the practice of these principles contribute to the achievement of social justice.

Social Justice and the Sikh Dharam

The Sikh faith propagates the importance of self help through work to earn an honest living (kamai) and the desire for life long learning as the first step towards achieving personal development and social mobility. “Kirat Kamai” has a much more profound meaning. Kirat is work that is done with utmost passion, whether it is cleaning the streets, laying bricks or performing surgery. Passion and dedication to one’s profession leads to personal satisfaction, excellence and hopefully, sustained employment and career progression. This however is still not Kirat in its intended meaning. True Kirat kamai is when one works with passion and dedication to earn an honest living while remembering God with every stroke of the brush; laying of every brick and sewing of every stitch on a sick patient. Kirat kamai therefore brings to life the world wide concept of “Work is Worship”. Hard work (including running an honest business (sacha sauda)) helps one to climb the social ladder and provides the means for the most basic needs for survival of food, shelter and warmth.

In simple economies without state controlled systems of wealth distribution to support those not able to earn an honest living, the Sikh tenet of “wand ka shako” (share your good fortune) became a powerful driver in creating sustainable communities. Sikhs everywhere are required to donate at least one tenth of their earnings to charity and other good causes for all humanity. The numerous successful and self sustaining learning institutes, hospitals, eye camps and social housing projects around the world are testament of the durability of the principle of sharing to this day. The sharing of food that is cooked by the community and for the community is one of the most important attributes of the practice of Sikh Dharam.

Social Justice and the Sikh Kitchen

The Langar, or free kitchen, was founded by the first Sikh Guru, Guru Nanak Dev Ji. It was essentially designed to uphold the principle of equality between all people of the world regardless of religion, caste, colour, creed, age, gender or social status. In addition to the ideals of equality, the tradition of Langar expresses the ethics of sharing, community, inclusiveness and oneness of all humankind. “..the Light of God is in all hearts.” (sggs 282). Everyone is welcome to share the Langar; no one is turned away. The food is normally served twice a day, every day of the year. In many parts of the world Sikh Gurdwaras prepare Langar specifically to feed the poor because people can only work and look for social justice when they have a fully belly.

Social Justice and Sikh Service

Irrespective of the wealth of any community, there are always fellow humans who, for whatever reason, suffer disadvantage or economic deprivation. As Sikhs, we are required to do voluntary work in the community without the expectation of any reward or recognition. The core tenet of Nishkam Sewa (selfless service to humanity) encourages Sikhs to apply their manual labour and , or their professional skills to help build loving community life; to assist those less fortunate to improve their health, wellbeing and education so that they can become more active members of a socially mobile society.

Simran (prayer and contemplation) – the forth tenet of the Sikh Dharma helps an individual to meditate and to achieve self actualisation and consciousness of the need to connect with God. Practicing kirat Kamai, wand and nishkam sewa that helps other improve their lives assists an individual to reunite with his/her maker.

Social Justice and Sikh Equality

The promotion of equality has been a distinguishing feature of the Sikh faith since its conception in the late 15 century. In around 1499 when the world offered low, or no status or respect to women, Guru Nanak sought to improve the respect of women by spreading this message: “From woman, man is born; within woman, man is conceived; to woman he is engaged and married. Woman becomes his friend; through woman, the future generations come. When his woman dies, he seeks another woman; to woman he is bound. So why call her bad? From her, kings are born. From woman, woman is born; without woman, there would be no one at all. O Nanak, only the True Lord is without a woman.” (page 473). Equality and brotherhood of mankind have been emphasised in the sacred 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 promoted the principle of: “manas ki jat sabhe eke paihcanbo – recognise all of mankind as a single caste of humanity”. Therefore, 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 equal basis and without gender, racial, social or caste discrimination.

Social Justice and the Sikh Sant Sipahi

Sikhs are also required to be ready to protect and stand up for the rights of the weak among us; to fight for justice and fairness for all. Sikhs fight for human rights through the concept of “Warrior Saint” and use the term “Sant Sipahi”. Sant is used to refer to a wise, knowledgeable and Dharmic person or a “person with knowledge of God”. This concept was first developed by Guru Hargobind, and later personified in Guru Gobind Singh. The first duty of every Sikh is to be a “Sant” – to be a wise, considerate, judicious and knowledgeable person who has a good understanding of Dharam or religion. A “Sant” should also be a soldier (Sapahi) able to fight and engage in warfare. So the second duty of a Sikh is to be able and ready to fight for a worthy cause and for the protection of righteousness and the weak. Sikhs are taught to be kind as well as fearless. However, a Sikh is forbidden to ever engage in a first attack on any person for whatever reason. Only when all means have been exhausted and negotiations have failed can the sword be yielded in defence of a legitimate and worthy cause.

Although Social Justice is the one of the foundation stones of the Sikh faith, it is human centric. The much wider Sikh principle of Sarbat Da Bhalla, that embraces Social Justice, but emphasises the importance of our duty to the care of the environment and to live in harmony with the rest of God’s creation is much more powerful and relevant goal for all humans to pursue in the beginning of the third millennium.

About Sikhism

About Sikhism

I have been doing a bit of reading, listening, and learning about Sikhism simply because they constitute a significant portion of the mission field of Covenant Presbyterian Church. If they are to be reached with the gospel, it is imperative that we understand something about what they believe.

Here is a brief video that outlines some of their basic beliefs.


about sikhism

Guru Nanak Dev Ji (15 April 1469 – 22 September 1539) was the founder of the religion of Sikhism and the first of the eleven Sikh Gurus, the eleventh being the living Guru, Guru Granth Sahib. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons


Number of Adherents

Worldwide An estimated 30 million people follow the Sikh religion. Most of the devotees live in Asia, particularly in the Punjab region of India (Wilkinson, p. 335). There are also significant Sikh populations in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada due to Indian immigration to these countries; the United Kingdom and Canada have more than 400,000 Sikh inhabitants each according to census data, and the United States (which does not collect religious data in its census) was estimated to have at least 200,000 Sikh inhabitants by the Pew Research Center in 2012.

Basic Tenets

Sikhism is a monotheistic religion. The deity is God, known as Nam, or Name. Other synonyms include the Divine, Ultimate, Ultimate Reality, Infinity, the Formless, Truth, and other attributes of God.
Sikhs adhere to three basic principles. These are hard work (kirt kao), worshipping the Divine Name (nam japo), and sharing what one has (vand cauko). Meditating on the Divine Name is seen as a method of moving toward a life totally devoted to God. In addition, Sikhs believe in karma, or moral cause and effect. They value hospitality to all, regardless of religion, and oppose caste distinctions. Sikhs delineate a series of five stages that move upward to gurmukh, total devotion to God. This service is called Seva. Sahaj, or tranquility, is practiced as a means of being united with God as well as of generating external good will. Sikhs are not in favor of external routines of religion; they may stop in their temple whenever it is convenient during the day.
Sikhism does not include a belief in the afterlife. Instead, the soul is believed to be reincarnated in successive lives and deaths, a belief borrowed from Hinduism. The goal is then to break this karmic cycle, and to merge the human spirit with that of God.

Sacred Text

The Guru Granth Sahib (also referred to as the Aad Guru Granth Sahib, or AGGS), composed of Adi Granth, meaning First Book, is the holy scripture of Sikhism. It is a collection of religious poetry that is meant to be sung. Called shabads, they were composed by the first five gurus, the ninth guru, and thirty-six additional holy men of northern India. Sikhs always show honor to the Guru Granth Sahib by carrying it above the head when in a procession.
A second major text is the Dasam Granth, or Tenth Book, created by followers of Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth guru. Much of it is devoted to retelling the Hindu stories of Krishna and Rama. Those who are allowed to read and care for the Granth Sahib are known as granthi. Granthi may also look after the gurdwara, or temple. In the gurdwara, the book rests on a throne with a wooden base and cushions covered in cloths placed in a prescribed order. If the book is not in use, it is covered with a cloth known as a rumala. When the book is read, a fan called a chauri is fanned over it as a sign of respect, just as followers of the gurus fanned them with chauris. At Amritsar, a city in northwestern India that houses the Golden Temple, the Guru Granth Sahib is carried on a palanquin (a covered, carried bed). If it is carried in the city, a kettle drum is struck and people welcome it by tossing rose petals.

 Major Figures

Guru Nanak (1469–1539) is the founder of Sikhism. He was followed by nine other teachers, and collectively they are known as the Ten Gurus. Each of them was chosen by his predecessor and was thought to share the same spirit of that previous guru. Guru Arjan (1581–1606), the fifth guru, oversaw completion of the Golden Temple in Amritsar, India. Guru Gobind Singh (1675–1708) was the tenth and last human guru. He decreed that the True Guru henceforth would be the Granth Sahib, the scripture of the Sikhs. He also founded the Khalsa, originally a military order of male Sikhs willing to die for the faith; the term is now used to refer to all baptized Sikhs.

Major Holy Sites

Amritsar, India, is the holy city of Sikhism. Construction of the city began under Guru Ram Das (1574–1581), the fourth guru, during the 1570s. One legend says that the Muslim ruler, Emperor Akbar, gave the land to the third guru, Guru Amar Das (1552–74). Whether or not that is true, Amar Das did establish the location of Amritsar. He chose a site near a pool believed to hold healing water.
When construction of the Golden Temple began, only a small town existed. One legend says that a Muslim saint from Lahore, India, named Mian Mir laid the foundation stone of the first temple. It has been demolished and rebuilt three times. Although pilgrimage is not required of Sikhs, many come to see the shrines and the Golden Temple. They call it Harmandir Sahib, God’s Temple, or Darbar Sahib, the Lord’s Court. When the temple was completed during the tenure of the fifth guru, Arjan, he placed the first copy of the Guru Granth Sahib inside.
Every Sikh temple has a free kitchen attached to it, called a langar. After services, all people, regardless of caste or standing within the community, sit on the floor in a straight line and eat a simple vegetarian meal together. As a pilgrimage site, the langar serves 30,000–40,000 people daily, with more coming on Sundays and festival days. About forty volunteers work in the kitchen each day.

Major Rites & Celebrations

In addition to the community feasts at temple langars, Sikhs honor four rites of passage in a person’s life: naming, marriage, initiation in Khalsa (pure) through the Amrit ceremony, and death.
There are eight major celebrations and several other minor ones in Sikhism. Half of them commemorate events in the lives of the ten gurus. The others are Baisakhi, the new year festival; Diwali, the festival of light, which Hindus also celebrate; Hola Mahalla, which Gobind Singh created as an alternative to the Hindu festival of Holi, and which involves military parades; and the installing of the Guru Granth Sahib.

Derived from: “Sikhism.” World Religion Profiles (Online Edition). Salem Press. 2013.

What are Sikhism’s beliefs on Abortion?

I want to explore and consider the question of what worldviews other than Christian think about the question of abortion.

Firstly, What are Sikhism’s beliefs on Abortion?

Guru Granth Sahib Ji has given us a thought process using which we can determine right or wrongness of the moral issues. Abortion is a complex issue involving numerous possible solutions to numerous situations. Life is sacred. Gurbani is clear that taking a life is wrong. Since, we do not know with 100% surety at what stage of pregnancy does life begin, we cannot decide for the fate of the child. Therefore, abortion is wrong as long as the life of the mother is not in danger.

Who are we to decide the fate of the child? Who are we to decide whether the child gets to live or not, even if life does not begin at early stage of pregnancy, abortion at an early stage would still be killing the potential of life for the child, making abortion immoral.

While Sikhism denounces abortion, allowance in circumstances such as when the life or health of the mother is judged by competent medical authority to be in serious jeopardy, or when the fetus is known by competent medical authority to have serious defects that will not allow the baby to survive beyond birth. In all other cases such as unfit parents, rape, failed contraceptive, social and economic factors abortion is wrong. Those who are unable to raise a child because of number of different reason; adoption is a wonderful alternative that should be considered.

If there is no prospect of marriage to the man or woman involved and the mother not willing to accept or able to accept the unwanted child, placing the child for adoption by parents who will love the child and care for the child is a wonderful option. There are many couples who long for a child and cannot have one.