Basics of Sikhism
Sikhism is a way of life; something to be lived according to a pattern. Its main virtue is simplicity. There is no supernaturalism or mythology on which it rests. It does not believe in devils or angels or heavenly spirits.
Sikhism is opposed to all ritualism and formalism. Sikhism does not enjoin blind faith. Blind obedience to an external authority is discouraged. Sikhism is a faith of hope and cheer. Though it affirms Karma, it recognizes the possibility of the modification of one’s Karma with the grace of the Guru or God. It does not lead to despair and defeatism.
Sikhism is a democratic religion which emphasizes social and sexual equality. Sikhs strictly believe that there is One God, who is Nirgun (transcendent) and Sagun (immanent). While being absolute and beyond human comprehension, God can be realised and experienced through contemplation and service. A Sikh’s way of life is guided by the following principles which are to a great extent in line with Social Work: Sikhism stresses the importance of doing good actions rather than merely carrying out rituals.
Importance of Letter ‘Five’ in Sikhism
The numeral panj (five) itself has a symbolic significance in Sikh usage. It holds a special mysticism in the Sikh faith. Physical bodies, it is believed are made of five elements; there are five khands (regions or stages) in the ascent to the joint point of realization of the highest spiritual truth; the traditional village council, panchayat, consists of five members in the popular belief that where five panches have assembled together (for the sake of administering justice), there God Himself is present; it is panj piare (the Five Beloved Ones) who prepared and administered amrit (the holy initiatory water) to novitiates; five banis (scriptural texts) are recited as amrit is being prepared; the Sikh did sow five takhts as the seats of the highest religious authority and legislation; and traditionally for the daily religious devotions a regimen of five banis is laid down.
Their homeland is Punjab – the land of five rivers. Bhai Gurdas (1636) Records: As one Sikh is sufficient to announce his identity, two of them make up the holy congregation.
Among five of them God him-self is present.
The most prominent and distinguishing marks of the Sikhs, especially of the members of the Khalsa brotherhood, are the panj kakars, (panj = five; kakar = symbols). They are known as 5K’s because their names start with the letter “K.”
The Five K’s (Articles of Faith) are:
1) Un-cut hair (Kesh), a gift from God representing spirituality;
2) A wooden comb (Kangha), symbolizes cleanliness;
3) A steel bracelet (Kara), represents self restraint and link to God;
4) A short sword (Kirpaan), an emblem of courage and commitment to truth and justice;
5) A type of underwear knickers (Kachhehra), represents purity of moral character.
Some Important Aspects of Sikhism
Guru Granth Sahib: (Guru = spiritual teacher; Granth = book or volume; Sahib, an honorific signifying master or lord) is the name by which the holy book of the Sikhs is commonly known and is the living Guru for the Sikhs. The eleventh Guru, The Holy Book is the centre of all Sikh usage and ceremony. It has the potential to inspire all and talks to the person ‘you’.
Kirtan: (from Skt. Kirti, i.e. to praise, celebrate or glorify). A commonly accepted mode of rending devotion to God by singing His praises. It is a necessary part of Sikh worship Music plays a significant role in most religious tradition. In Sikhism it is valued as the highest form of expression of adoration and counts as the most efficient means of linking the soul to the Divine Essence.
Turban: It is a long scarf wrapped around the head: The daastar (turban) is an essential accompaniment, which is worn to maintain the sanctity of Kesh (hair) and is treated with utmost respect. The religious significance of the headdress (a male turban or a female scarf) should be respected, because it is a covering for one of the 5K’s (Kesh) and is also a symbol of a Sikh’s honuor.
Langar (community Kitchen): Close to the principles of social work based on worth of an individual, acceptance and equality is the philosophy behind the Langar (Guru’s kitchen-cum-eating-house).
Places of Worship: The Sikh place of congregational worship is called a Gurudwara, meaning “Doorway to the Guru” or “House of God”. The prayer hall represents God’s court. Sikhs give utmost respect to the Holy Guru Granth Sahib.There is no hereditary priestly caste among the Sikhs. Even a layman who can read the Granth Sahib can perform eligious ceremonies, though ‘granthis’ or priests are employed in most of the Gurudwaras.