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WHO ARE SIKHS

Sikhism was founded by Guru Nanak Dev in 1469.  He was followed in succession by nine other Gurus. In 1708 Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth and last living Guru proclaimed Guru Granth Sahib the Sikh Holy Scripture as the eternal Guru of the Sikhs.

Sikhs trace the origins of their religion to the Punjab. The region has now been divided between India and Pakistan. Guru Nanak was born near Lahore in Pakistan. There are 23 million Sikhs in the world. This makes it the fifth largest religion in the world. About 20 million Sikhs live in India. Sikhs have lived in Australia for nearly 150 years and have contributed to the country in a variety of ways. There are 17401 Sikhs in Australia according to the 2001 Australian Census.  

Here is a brief summary:



BACKGROUND

The word “Sikh” means disciple or student. Sikhs are students and followers of Guru Nanak (b. 1469), the founder of the Sikh religious tradition and the nine prophet-teachers – called Gurus – who succeeded him. Though sometimes mistaken for members of a sect of Hinduism or Islam, Sikhs belong to a distinct religion, with its own unique, divine scripture, Guru Granth Sahib, the eternal Guru of the Sikhs. This extraordinary poetic treasure of sacred and practical wisdom contains not only the writings of the Sikh Gurus, but remarkably, those of Muslim and Hindu saints as well. It is notable in that the holy text was written by the Gurus themselves.

BELIEFS

Sikhism’s central theological belief is that there is one God for all of creation, a loving Creator attainable through meditation upon and remembrance of His Name. In addition, Sikhs are enjoined to lead moral lives, earn their living through hard work and honest means, and to share the fruits of their labour with the needy through charitable contributions and work.  Sikhism is a way of life that advocates the practice of holistic life experiences – work, worship and service – in order to attain perpetual union with God, while creating a just social order in this world. A Sikh is enjoined to lead a wholesome family lifestyle and to avoid celibacy or asceticism as a means of reaching God. Spurred by their religion’s dictates, Sikhs have a long, celebrated heritage of speaking out against injustice and for standing up for the defenseless.

The twenty three million Sikhs worldwide trace the origin of their religion to Punjab, located in present-day Pakistan and northern India. Now, the fifth largest religion in the world, Sikhism is universal in that it is open to all, and that it recognizes and respects all human beings as equals. Just as God transcends the boundaries of race, class, gender, and ethnicity, the Sikh religion dismisses such earthly distinctions. The Sikh religion is profoundly egalitarian and democratic, as its adherents believe steadfastly that all people have civil rights, including the freedom of religion. Sikh doctrine resonates with the Guru’s belief that all people have the right to follow their own path to God, without condemnation or coercion from others.

Nearly five centuries ago, Sikhism’s founder Guru Nanak, denounced the caste system that still plagues Indian society today. He strove to create a spiritual community in which such marks of social status would be dissolved and all would be recognized as equals by the fact of their humanity.  A truly revolutionary social reformer, Guru Nanak also condemned the mistreatment of women in his lifetime, proclaiming them as equals of men in every respect – political, social, and religious.

KHALSA

On March 30, 1699, Guru Gobind Singh - the tenth and last Sikh Guru - established a new, voluntary order of the Sikhs, called the Khalsa (meaning ‘belonging only to the Divine’). The Khalsa consists of Sikhs who undergo an initiation ceremony of ‘Amrit Sanchar’ (equivalent to being baptized in Christian terminology) and dedicate themselves to living by high standards of the Sikh Gurus at all times, as well as maintaining their physical distinctiveness in society by maintaining five articles of faith.

One of the more conspicuous and noteworthy article of faith is the kesh (unshorn hair), which is kept covered by a distinctive turban. The other articles are the kirpan (sword), kara, (steel bracelet), kanga (comb) and Kachha (undergarment). They all have deep religious meanings for Sikhs, who wear them to honour the teachings, wishes and memory of their beloved Gurus.

SINGH AND KAUR

Every Sikh male has ‘Singh’ (meaning lion) as his last name and every female has ‘Kaur’ (meaning princess) as her last name. So you can never go wrong calling a Sikh gentleman ‘Mr. Singh’ and a lady ‘Ms. Kaur’. The whole community is collectively called ‘Khalsa Panth’.

SIKH GREETING

Whenever a Sikh meets another Sikh, they greet each other with folded hands, saying:  ‘Waheguru ji ka Khalsa, Waheguru ji ki Fateh’.  The Khalsa belongs to the wonderful Lord, who is always victorious.

SIKH EMBLEM

The Sikh emblem, Khanda, contains a ring of steel representing the Unity of God, a two edged sword symbolising God’s concern for truth and justice, and two crossed swords around the outside to signify spiritual temporal authority.

PRAYER

The Sikh congregational prayer ends with:

‘Nanak Naam chardhi Kala, Tere bhaneh sarbat da Bhala’.

Nanak says, Through the Divine Name, may our spirits rise; and by your will O’ God! May humankind prosper in peace.