Sikh Missionary Society
Sikh Missionary Society U.K. (Regd)
10, Featherstone Road. Southall, Middx, U.K. UB2 5AA
Tel: +44 020 8574 1902
Fax: +44 020 8574 1912
Reg Charity No: 262404
Introduction to Sikhism
Introduction to Sikhism

Sikh Missionary Society: Publications: Introduction to Sikhism: Contents

What is Sikhism?

What is Sikhism?

Sikhism is a way of life, or self-discipline coupled with a belief in the unity of God, equality of man, faith in the Guru's word and love for all. The stepping stone for a Sikh is to accept one God and worship Him with his tongue, his mind and his actions. He puts his trust in God alone rather than relatives or possessions. Then to act in His name and gradually reach a stage where, as the Guru says, "Water mingles with water and light merges in the light, discarding their separate existence."

According to Sikhism, man's salvation lies not only in his faith, but also in his character and his eagerness to do active good. "Life without virtue runs to waste," says Guru Nanak. The idea is perhaps familiar to the Christians also, since St. James also said: "Faith without works is dead." The Guru gives practical tips to achieve the goal. Every Sikh is expected to replace lust, anger, greed, undue worldly attachment and pride with their virtous counterparts, self-control, forgiveness, contentment; love of God and humility before deciding to go to the next step of doing active good. It is like sweeping the floor. As a rule; where the broom does not reach, the dust will not vanish off itself. "The new thing will fill the vessel only if the existing one is wiped out," says the Guru.

The Guru compares this step to a wrestling match, where one wrestler is to fight with five, i.e. five evils.

"I have defeated the five doughty wrestlers, Because the Guru patted me on the back"
The next step is to do three-fold service, physical, mental and material. The Sikh is called upon to work with his hands, head and heart, and then to help others.
"Work hard and share your earnings. Nanak thou shalt find the way."
"Live by the sweat of your brow, Earn and deserve all comforts."
On the physical level of service, the Sikh has to work hard and not to live on the charity of other people. He receives practical training in humility by doing manual service in Gurdwara (Sikh Temple) where he sweeps the'floor, cleans the utensils and does all other jobs, however inferior, voluntarily. Out in the world, he must defend the weak and help all who require help. On a spiritual plan a Sikh serves by enlightening others about God and guiding their feet towards the path of righteousness. He must study the Granth (The Sikh Holy Book) and keep his knowledge up to date. For this purpose his visit to the Gurdwara is a necessity. The Guru's injunction is; "Pray to God and help others pray to Him."

On the material level, the Sikh has to give alms, donations and charity for a noble cause. The Sikhs run many schools, colleges and institutions for the blind and the handicapped. Every Sikh is expected to keep apart at least one tenth of his income for material service. He can bring his contribution to the Gurdwara in cash or kind.

In doing the three-fold service the Sikh has to be selfless and expect no reward in this world or the next. "He who serves selflessly finds the Lord," says the Guru. These two steps purify the Sikh's senses and liberate him from egocentric judgements. The senses become the organs of clear and uncoloured perception and if focussed correctly, can have the reflection of fully perfected divinity.

The Sikh is now ready for the next step where he surrenders his "ego" and submits to God's will. In self-surrender the Sikh has not only to steer clear of the arid rocks of egotism, but also to avoid the engulfing whirlpools of nihilism. Unlike a Sufi, he is not to go to the extent of Anna'l Haqq' (I'm God) neither is he to withdraw from the world like an ascetic. The idea is that the 'I' the 'me' and the 'mine' should be ejected from the Sikh's consciousness. He should surrender his deeper self, or what Plotinus calls 'Higher life', to God and act in His name. Call it purgation, simplification, headlessness, self-negation or nescience. The Guru wants a Sikh to say from the innermost recesses of his heart:

"There is nothing in me that is mine, everything is yours, Offering you what is already yours, costs me nothing"
"Where there is 'I' 'You' are not, Now there's 'You' and 'I' has vanished."
"I am nought, my ego is a nonentity, nothing do I call my own Sadhna is yours, O Lord, save him in thy mercy."
And yet the most important thing the Sikh is required to do is
"the remembrance of God's name with heart and soul."
This goes on side by side with the steps outlined earlier and usually starts when the Sikh is a child of school-going age. The parents example (and advice) in remembering God is of paramount importance. The Sikh starts from repeating 'Waheguru' (I salute you wonderful Lord) time and again and then passes on to the basic concept which runs as follows:
"God is one, His name is Truth, all pervading creator. Without fear, has no animosity, Immortal, unborn, self-existent, The enlightener, accessible through grace. True in the beginning, true throughout the ages, true even now, O, Nanak forever shall He be true."
At first the Sikh repeats the basic concept mechanically. Just as a child learns the multiplication tables. This sort of repetition has a very limited benefit. The Guru says:
"Men utter the name of God with their lips, But bliss dawns only when it fills their hearts."
Slowly and slowly, the Sikh begins to understand the Word and concentrates on its meanings. The object of worship remains the abstract and transcendental Almighty. No idol or human being is thought to be worthy of Worship.
"There is one God and one way, Adopt one and reject all others Why should you worship a second, who is born and dies."
The Guru is very firm with those who forget God and start worshipping the founder of the faith. He says:
"All those who call me God, shall go straight to Hell, I'm the servant of Perfect, make no mistake about it."
The more the Sikh concentrates on Naam (the Guru's Word), the sooner he reaches a stage where the sense of duality vanishes altogether and the Sikh is fully in tune with the Creator.
"God and devotee are one, there's not an iota Of difference."
This ultimate union with God is the goal of the Sikh. Religion, as taught by the Sikh Guru's, is not only international but it binds humanity together for a higher purpose. For a Sikh, God is one and the human race is one. Colour, Caste, Sex and artificial barriers of countries have no meaning. He is not to debate about God but to remember Him and love His creation. It is, therefore,a religion which represents humanity and is badly needed in this strife-tom world, heading towards annihilation due to internecine wars resulting from hatred, greed, pride and undue worldly attachment.
Previous Chapter - Sikhism - The Universal Faith
Next Chapter - The History of Sikhism
Return to the top of the page.

Copyright (©)2003 by Sikh Missionary Society (U.K.)
All Rights Reserved.