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The philosophy of Sikhism is covered in great detail in the Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh holy text. Detailed guidance is given to followers on how to conduct their lives so that peace and salvation can be obtained in this life, rather than the afterlife. The holy text outlines the positive actions that one must take to make progress in the evolution of the person. One must remember the Creator at all times – it reminds the follower that the "soul is on loan from God, who is ever merciful", and that the follower must dedicate their life to all good causes - to help make this life more worthwhile.
The sections below give more details of the underlying message of this faith. It is easiest to discuss the topic if the details are divided into the following sections:
The Sikhs must believe in the following values:
- Equality: All humans are equal before God – No discrimination is allowed on the basis of caste, race, gender, creed, origin, color, education, status, wealth, et cetera. The principles of universal equality and brotherhood are important pillars of Sikhism.
- Personal right: Every person has a right to life but this right is restricted and has attached certain duties – simple living is essential. A Sikh is expected to rise early, meditate and pray, consume simple food, perform an honest day's work, carry out duties for his or her family, enjoy life and always be positive, be charitable and support the needy, et cetera.
- Actions count: Salvation is obtained by one’s actions – good deeds, remembrance of God – Naam Simran, Kirtan.
- Living a family life: Encouraged to live as a family unit to provide and nurture children for the perpetual benefit of creation (as opposed to sannyasa or living as a monk, which was, and remains, a common spiritual practice in India.)
- Sharing: It is encouraged to share and give to charity 10 percent of one’s net earnings.
- Accept God’s will: Develop your personality so that you recognise happy events and miserable events as one – the will of God causes them.
- The four truths of life: Truth, contentment, contemplation and Naam (in the name of God).
- Non-logical behavior: Superstitions, or rituals which have no meaning, such as pilgrimages, fasting and bathing in rivers, gambling, worship of graves, idols or pictures, and compulsory wearing of the veil for women, are prohibited.
- Material obsession: ("Maya") Accumulation of materials has no meaning in Sikhism. Wealth such as gold, portfolio, stocks, commodities, properties, et cetera, will all be left here on Earth when you depart. Do not get attached to them.
- Sacrifice of creatures: Sati – Widows throwing themselves in the funeral pyre of their husbands, the act of slaughtering lambs and calves to celebrate holy occasions
- Non-family oriented living: A Sikh is encouraged not to live as a recluse, beggar, monk, nun, celibate, or in any similar vein.
- Worthless talk: Bragging, gossip and lying are not permitted.
- Intoxication: The consumption of alcohol, drugs, tobacco, or other intoxicants is prohibited.
- No priestly class: Sikhs do not have to depend on a priest for any of the functions that need to be performed.
- Eating meat killed in a ritualistic manner (Kutha meat): Sikhs are strictly prohibited from eating meat killed in a ritualistic manner (such as halal or kosher, known as Kutha meat ), or any meat where langar is served. In some small Sikh Sects, i.e. Akhand Kirtani Jatha eating any meat is believed to be forbidden, but this is not a universally held belief. The meat eaten by Sikhs is known as Jhatka meat.
- Having premarital or extramarital sexual relations
The Three Pillars of Sikh belief
- Naam Japo is meditation, singing of hymns from the Guru Granth Sahib or of the various names of God, especially the chanting of the word Waheguru
- Kirat Karo is to earn an honest, pure and dedicated living by exercising one's God-given skills, abilities, talents and hard labour for the benefit and improvement of the individual, their family and society at large.
- Vand Chhako is to share what you have and to consume it together as a community, whether this is could be wealth, food et cet. The term is also used to mean to share one's wealth with others in the community, to give to charity, to distribute langar and to generally help others.
- One God – There is only one god (Waheguru), who has infinite qualities and names. God is Creator and Sustainer - all that you see around you is His creation. He is everywhere, in everything. He is without birth or death, and has existed before Creation and will exist forever. Sikhism does not acknowledge an anthropomorphic God. This is true to the extent than one can interpret Him as the Universe Itself. Sikhism also does not acknowledge the belief of a Personal God, as does Christianity. Instead, God is usually interpreted as being unfathomable, yet not unknowable.
- Reincarnation, karma and salvation – The journey of the soul is governed by the deeds and actions that we perform during our lives.
- Remember God: Only by keeping the Creator in your mind at all times will you make progress in your spiritual evolution.
- Humanity (brotherhood): All human beings are equal. We are sons and daughters of Waheguru.
- Uphold moral values: Defend, protect and fight for the rights of all creatures, in particular your fellow human beings.
- Personal sacrifice: Be prepared to give your life for all supreme principles: Guru Tegh Bahadur died for others.
- Many paths lead to God: – Sikhs are not special; they are not the chosen people of God. Simply calling yourself a Sikh does not bring you salvation. Members of all religions have the same right to liberty as Sikhs.
- Positive attitude toward life: "Charhdi Kala" – Always have a positive, optimistic and buoyant view of life. God is there – He will be your help.
- Disciplined life: Upon baptism, a Sikh must wear the Five Ks and perform strict recital of the five prayers).
- No special worship days – Sikhs do not believe that any particular day is holier than any other.
- Conquer the five thieves – It is every Sikh's duty to defeat these five thieves: Pride, Anger, Greed, Attachment, and Lust, known collectively as "P.A.G.A.L."
- Attack with five weapons: Contentment (Santokh), Charity (Dan), Kindness (Daya), Positive Energy (Chardi Kala), Humility (Nimarta).
- Having premarital sexual or extramarital relations: Sikhs are encouraged to be faithful to their spouse. All forms of adultery are discouraged.
- All are welcome: Members of all religions can visit gurdwaras (Sikh temples) if they observe local rules: cover the head, no shoes, no smoking in the main hall.
- Multi-level approach – Sikhism recognizes the concept of a multi-level approach to achieving one's target as a disciple of the faith. For example, sahajdhari "slow adopters" are Sikhs who have not donned the full Five Ks but are still Sikhs regardless.
Note: The Punjabi language does not have a gender for God. Thus, when translating, the real meaning cannot be properly conveyed without using "Him", "His," "He", "Brotherhood", "Him or Her", et cetera; furthermore, this distorts the meaning by giving the impression that God is masculine, which is not the message in the original script. The reader must allow for this every time these words are used. It is often the case that rather than taking a gender definition, God is simply conveyed as "Omnipotent Being" or "Ultimate Reality" rather than God, thus conveying the correct perceptual image.
- "If they serve the True Guru, they find the state of salvation; they enshrine the Dear Lord within their minds.".
- Sikh Rehat Maryada, Section 4, Chapter X, Article XVI
- "Materialism traps us, unawares, in a world of possessions hag-ridden by irrational fears of likely loss and lurking dangers.".
- Sikhs and Sikhism, Dr. I.J.Singh, Manohar Publishers.ISBN 978-8173040580
- "Sikhism, A Complete Introduction" by Dr. H.S. Singha & Satwant Kaur Hemkunt, Hemkunt Press, New Delhi, 1994, ISBN 81-7010-245-6
- "Sikh Identity: An Exploration of Groups Among Sikhs" by Opinderjit Kaur Takhar, pg. 51, Ashgate Publishing, Ltd, 2005, ISBN 0-7546-5202-5
- Sikh Rehat Maryada, Section 6, Chapter XIII, Article XXIV
- Doris R. Jakobsh. Relocating Gender In Sikh History: Transformation, Meaning and Identity. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2003, pp.39-40
- "God is universal. He is not the God of any particular race or nation. He is the God of all Human beings.".
- "It is found in the Gurmukhi script that God has no gender in Sikhism (though translations may present a male God); it is also "Akaal Purkh" (beyond time and space) and "Nirankar" (without form).".
- Sikh Rehat Maryada, Section 2, Chapter II, Article IV
- "The name of my beloved : verses of the Sikh Gurus" / translated and introduced by Nikki-Guninder Kaur Singh, pg. 33, HarperCollins, New York, 1996, ISBN 0-06-067049-5
- Chopra, R. M., "The Philosophical and Religious Thought of Sikhism", 2014, Sparrow Publication, Kolkata, ISBN 978-81-89140-99-1
- "Sikh Rehat Maryada: The code of Sikh conduct & conventions", Dharam Parchar Committee (Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandakh Committee) n.d., Amritsar.
- Sikh Rehat Maryada - English
- Sikh Philosophy Network
- Guru Gobind Singh Study Circle - A Socio-Religious Non-Profit Sikh Organization (ISO 9001:2000 Certified)