Sikhism, the youngest of the world religions, is barely five hundred years old. Its founder, Guru Nanak, was born in 1469. Guru Nanak spread a simple message of "Ek Ong Kar": we are all one, created by the One Creator of all Creation. This was at a time when India was being torn apart by castes, sectarianism, religious factions, and fanaticism. He aligned with no religion, and respected all religions. He expressed the reality that there is one God and many paths, and the Name of God is Truth, "Sat Nam"
Guru Nanak's followers were Sikhs (seekers of truth). He taught them to bow only before God, and to link themselves to the Guru, the Light of Truth, who lives always in direct consciousness of God, experiencing no separation. Through words and example, the Guru demonstrates to followers how to experience God within themselves, bringing them from darkness into light. Guru Nanak was a humble bearer of this Light of Truth. He opposed superstition, injustice, and hypocrisy and inspired seekers by singing divine songs which touched the hearts of the most callous listeners. These songs were recorded, and formed the beginnings of the Sikhs' sacred writings, later to become the "Siri Guru Granth Sahib".
Guru Nanak taught his way of life:
Nam Japa - To get up each day before sunrise, to clean the body, meditate on God’s Name and recite the Guru’s hymns to clean the mind. Throughout the day, continuously remember God’s Name with every breath.
Dharam di Kirat Karni - To work and earn by the sweat of the brow, to live a family way of life, and practice truthfulness and honesty in all dealings.
Vand Ke Chakna - To share the fruits of one’s labor with others before considering oneself. Thus, to live as an inspiration and a support to the entire community.
The Golden Chain
The foundation of Sikhism was laid down by Guru Nanak. Guru Nanak infused his own consciousness into a disciple, who then became Guru, subsequently passing the light on to the next, and so on. The word "Guru" is derived from the root words "Gu", which means darkness or ignorance, and "Ru", which means light or knowledge The Guru is the experience of Truth (God).
Each one of the ten Gurus represents a divine attribute:
- Guru Nanak - Humility
- Guru Angad - Obedience
- Guru Amar Das — Equality
- Guru Ram Das - Service
- Guru Arjan - Self-Sacrifice
- Guru Hargobind - Justice
- Guru Har Rai - Mercy
- Guru Harkrishan - Purity
- Guru Tegh Bahadur - Tranquility
- Guru Gobind Singh - Royal Courage
Guru Gobind Singh, the Tenth Guru, exemplified the Sikh ideal of the Soldier-Saint. He was also an inspired and prolific writer, courageous warrior, and a source of Divine Wisdom to his Sikhs. "When all other means have failed," he said, "only then is it righteous to take up the sword." He was the defender of the poor, the meek, and the oppressed masses of India.
The Making of the Khalsa
Guru Gobind Singh was the last Guru of the Sikhs in human form. He created the Khalsa, a spiritual brotherhood and sisterhood devoted to purity of thought and action. He gave the Khalsa a distinctive external form to remind them of their commitment, and to help them maintain an elevated state of consciousness. Every Sikh baptized as Khalsa vows to wear the Five "K's":
- Kesh - uncut hair and beard, as given by God, to sustain him or her in higher consciousness; and a turban, the crown of spirituality.
- Kangha - a wooden comb to properly groom the hair as a symbol of cleanliness.
- Katchera - specially made cotton underwear as a reminder of the commitment to purity.
- Kara - a steel circle, worn on the wrist, signifying bondage to Truth and freedom from every other entanglement.
- Kirpan - the sword, with which the Khalsa is committed to righteously defend the fine line of the Truth.
Khalsa also vows to refrain from any sexual relationships outside of marriage, and to refrain from taking meat, tobacco, alcohol, and all other intoxicants. Then Guru Gobind Singh infused his own being into the Khalsa, declaring that the Khalsa was now the Guru in all temporal matters. For spiritual matters, the Guruship was given to the "Siri Guru Granth Sahib", a compilation of sacred writings by those who have experienced Truth. For Sikhs, "Siri Guru Granth Sahib" is the living embodiment of the Guru, and is regarded with the utmost reverence and respect wherever it is found. Sikhs all over the world took to the "Siri Guru Granth Sahib" as their living Guru, as the source of spiritual instruction and guidance.