Sikhism had its origin in the teachings of Guru Nanak (1460-1539) who preached a message of truth and peace and advocated a simple monotheistic faith. Guru Nanak, before his death, nominated one of his disciples as Guru so that he could continue to spread his teachings.
The term Sikhism has its origin in the Punjabi word Sikh which literal meaning is a ‘disciple’ or a ‘learner’. Sikhism as a religion originated in Punjab during the 15th century. It is based on the spiritual teachings of Guru Nanak and the ten successive Sikh gurus after him. The development of Sikhism was closely linked with the institution of Guruship.
After the death of tenth Guru, Guru Govind Singh, Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh Scripture, was made the literal incarnation of the eternal, impersonal Guru, where the scripture’s words serve as the spiritual guru for Sikhs. It was Guru Govind Singh himself who decreed in 1708 that the Guru Granth Sahib would be the final and perpetual Guru of the Sikhs.
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Philosophy and teachings of Sikhism
The essence of the teachings of Sikhism can be summed up in the words of Guru Nanak: “Realization of Truth is higher than all else. High still is truthful living”. The teachings stress the principle of equality of all human beings and reject discrimination on the basis of creed, caste, and gender.
According to the teachings of Guru Nanak, living an “active, creative, and practical life” of truthfulness, fidelity, self-control and purity is above abstract truth, and the ideal man is one who “establishes the union with God, knows his will, and carries out that will”. Guru Nanak also established the langar system , communal kitchen, to demonstrate the need to share and have a sense equality between all people. This langar system (common free kitchen maintained by voluntary offerings) became popular and countries till date. It encouraged social equality in the panth and became a source of Sikh unity and solidarity.
The Concept of God in Sikhism
In Sikhism the concept of God is Vahiguru-shapeless, timeless, and sightless (unable to be seen with the physical eyes): nirankar, akaal and alakh. It has been stated in the Guru Granth Sahib that “God” is omnipresent and infinite with power over everything and is denoted by the term Ik Onkar. Sikhs believe that all that existed before creation was “God” and God’s hukum (will or order).
God, according to Sikhism, is known as Ik Onkar, the one Supreme Reality or the all-saturating spirit-another name for god. It is also Akaal Purkh, that is beyond time and space, and Nirankar meaning without form.
According to Guru Nanak, the understanding of Akaal is beyond the power of human beings, but at the same time not wholly unrealizable. Akaal is sarav viapak (omnipresent) in all creation and visible everywhere to those who are spiritually awakened. Nanak emphasized that God must be seen from “the inward eye”, or the “heart”, of a human being. Nanak stressed the revelation through meditation.
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The opening line of the Guru Granth Sahib, the Mul Mantra, mentions Ik Onkar: “There is but one all-pervading spirit, and truth is its name! It exists in all creation; it does not fear; it does not hate; it is timeless and universal and self-existent, you will come to know it through seeking knowledge and learning!”
The Timeless Truth of Sikhism
According to Guru Nanak the ultimate purpose of human life is to re-link with Akaal (the timeless entity) in which egotism is the biggest obstacle. In Sikhism, the influence of ego, anger, agreed, attachment and lust are known as five thieves and believed to be particularly distracting. It is believed in Sikhism that remembrance of nam (the Name of the God) leads to an end of egotism.
The teachings of Sikhism emphasis simran that is the meditation on the words of the Guru Granth Sahib, that can be uttered musically through Kirtan or internally through Nam Japo as a process to feel God’s presence and to get command over the ‘Five Thieves’.
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The followers of Sikhism believe that the world at present is going through a state of Kali Yuga (Age of Darkness) because it is being led by the love and attachment to Maya. The fate of those people who are weak enough to become the victim of ‘Panj Chor’ (Five Thieves) is separation from God and situation can be remedied only through the relentless devotion.
Maya or illusion
Maya, defined as “unreality” or illusion, is considered as one of the kernel distractions from the search of God and salvation. However, Guru Nanak stressed maya as not an example of the unreality of the world, but of its values.
Service and Action in Sikhism
Guru Granth Sahib teaches that seva (selfless service) and charitable works enable the devotee, the follower of the panth, to suppress or remove the ego. One of the main teachings of Sikhism is that meditation is unfruitful without service and action. According to Sikhism, service takes three forms: “Tan”-physical service; “Man”-mental service (such as to study for helping others); and “Dhan”-material service. Guru Nanak emphasized Kirat Karo: that a Sikh should balance work, worship, and charity and should defend the rights of all human beings. They are inspirited to follow a Chardi kala, that is optimistic–resilence, view of life: Sikh teachings also emphasize the concept of sharing-vand-chakko-by distributing free food at Sikh gurudwaras, that is popularly known as langar, imparting charitable donations, and working for the good of the community and the society s a whole.
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