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Billy Werthman

Rev. Charles Morris

RST 1460

30 November 2016

Sikhism

There is but One God, His name is Truth, He is the Creator, He fears none, he is

without hate, He never dies, He is beyond the cycle of births and death, He is self-

illuminated, He is realized by the kindness of the True Guru. He was True in the beginning,

He was True when the ages commenced and has ever been True, He is also True now Guru

Nanak, found on goodreads.com but originally found in the prayer book of the Sikhs, Japji

Sahib. This quote involves the beliefs of Sikhs that will be included in this essay. Now,

the meaning of Sikh is disciple. This means that Sikhs are disciples of the ten Gurus. The

Gurus start with Guru Nanak who is quoted above. He is supposed to be the one who

helped found the Sikh faith. Gurus are leaders of the Sikh faith, according to Invitation to

Asian Religions by Jeffrey Brodd. In this paper, I would like to show how the Sikhs are

simple in their faith through their Gurus, sacred texts, ultimate purpose, Khalsa, gurdwara,

the Five Ks and how they live in America.

To illustrate how Sikhism works in America, some background information needs to

be known about the basic practices and faith of Sikhism. To start off, I mentioned Guru

Nanak in the introduction and his mentioning is not coincidental. As I said, he is the

founder of Sikhism. He became the founder after a crazy event that occurred with him

when he went to bathe in a river. The story says that he went into the river and did not

come up to the surface until three days later. He claimed that he came into the presence of
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God who gave him insight into who he was. Guru Nanak was also the first person to set

the foundation for the gurdwara. The gurdwara was mentioned before and it is a special

building for worship.

There are nine other Gurus, ten if the Adi Granth or Guru Granth Sahib is counted.

The Adi Granth is the most known sacred text of the Sikhs and will be mentioned later.

Another major Guru was the fifth, Guru Arjan. Per Jeffrey Brodd in, Invitation to Asian

Religions,

He compiled the scripture that would come to be known as the Adi Granth,

thus giving the Sikhs their most important sacred scripture. He included, by

traditional count, 2,312 of his own compositions, beautiful fully melodic

hymns that are considered to be among Sikhisms most impressive musical

accomplishments. (170).

One thing that is evident when reading about the Gurus is that they make sure they do not

become idols to the followers. The opening quote showed that God is the central being of

this religion. The Gurus make sure that this is clear as to not create a misconception,

causing people to worship them instead of God. This leads me to understand that Sikhism

is a monotheistic faith.

Another Guru with a large effect on Sikhism is Guru Gobind Singh. He is believed

to have created or had the ideas for the sacred texts Dasam Granth and the Rahit. This

brings us to the next point of sacred texts. Keeping on the topic of the Dasam Granth, it

was once considered a Guru just like the Adi Granth. However, that is not the case in the

present. Now, the Rahit is something that members of the Sikh faith recite as an initiation

into the life of the Khalsa. Lastly, as mentioned earlier, the Adi Granth is the main sacred
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text for Sikhs. Guru Arjan was the one to create Guru Granth Sahib. However, this is only

partially true. It is true that he did a majority of the writing, yet other Gurus, even other

saints from different faiths, have their works published in the Adi Granth.

Next, like other religions, Sikhs have an ultimate purpose to their lives. Now, the

best summation comes again from Jeffrey Brodd in, Invitation to Asian Religions,

Sikhism teaches that the ultimate purpose of life is to attain mukti (spiritual

liberation). This liberation is similar to Hindu moksha, release from

samsara, the cycle of death and rebirth (a concept Sikhism also adopted from

Hinduism). This release is believed to bring about and experience of being

in the presence of God, a state of eternal bliss (166).

If we are comparing this to other religions, it is not that different. Hinduism, for example,

believes in samsara and moksha just as stated above. I wonder if Guru Nanak did truly

adopt it solely from Hinduism. He did spend many years of his life after coming back up

from the river traveling around and learning about many different religions and how they

work. He, himself, was born into a Hindu family. It would be interesting to know his

thoughts on the matter, but we could say that about all religious questions.

Next up is Khalsa. It was touched on earlier because members of the Khalsa must

recite the Rahit to be initiated. What are they being initiated into? The initiated are devout

Sikhs looking for more. They are not better than any other Sikh. However, they are

totally dedicated to the life of Sikhism and nothing else. On the website, Sikhs.org, there

are four stages of spiritual evolution. The first is Manmukh. This means that a person is

self-centered and oblivious to God. The second is Sikh. This means that the person has set

out on a journey to seek God by the Sikh code. Third is Khalsa which is total dedication to
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Sikhism mentioned above. The final stage is Gurmuk. This means that the person has

achieved mukti. We learned earlier that this means the person has achieved samsara and is

then totally God-centered. Going back to Sikhs.org, we learn about what it means to be a

part of the Khalsa,

the initiate is instructed in the following; (a) You shall never remove any hair

from any part of thy body, (b) You shall not use tobacco, alcohol or any other

intoxicants, (c) You shall not eat the meat of an animal slaughtered the

Muslim way, (d) You shall not commit adultery. The initiate is required to

wear the physical symbols of a Khalsa at all times as well as follow the

Khalsa Code of Conduct.

Speaking of uncut hair, a traditional Sikh is also given this task. The task comes from the

Five Ks of Sikhism. They are: Kes, Kangha, Kara, Kirpan, Kachh. These each represent

something.

The representations of the Ks are as follows: According to BBC, Kes means uncut

hair. Kangha means a wooden comb. Kara means a steel bracelet. Kirpan means steel

sword. Last, but not least, Kachh means cotton underwear. Kes is self-explanatory but

Kangha may be confusing. Kangha means that a Sikh must wear a wooden comb in their

hair. This might seem weird and probably annoying to have, but along with the comb,

every Sikh must wear a turban. This helps out and makes sure that the comb will not fall

out because it is then covered by the turban. However, wearing a turban can be dangerous

to Sikhs in America. Sikhs are often confused with Muslims. There are many people who

do not like Muslims because of obvious reasons. Anyways, next, we have Kara. The steel

bracelet, according to sikhkaras.com, is a symbol of ones unbreakable attachment to


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God. After that, comes the steel sword. Which is also self-explanatory. It represents

defense but also truth. Then there is Kachh, meaning cotton underwear. The definition

might be confusing but from Invitation to Asian Religions, it is clear stating that it is, a

pair of shorts tied with a drawstring, symbolizing chastity. Some people may not know

what chastity is but from prior knowledge, it means abstaining from sex of any kind. If

married, it refers to abstaining from extramarital sex.

The final information needed to know before learning about the life of a Sikh in

America is the gurdwara. Gurdwara is a place of worship. Now, some may think that this

must be in a temple or someplace like that. However, that is not the case here. A gurdwara

is anywhere that has a Guru Granth Sahib. Originally, according to Sikh.org, Sikh places

of worship were referred to as dharmsalas. These places were where Sikhs could come

and listen to the Guru speak. Since the congregation grew so much, the Sikhs needed a

better way to worship. The way they came up with was much better for all members as

they could worship in their own time. However, this does not take away from their time of

worship together. The Sikhs still try and congregate throughout the week. The highest

traffic day for meeting is Sunday, according to the video Sikhism in America.

After getting all the background information, it is now easier to understand the life

of a Sikh in America. There is an article in the New York Times that is titled, Gunman

Kills 6 at Sikh Temple Near Milwaukee. The title says it all. As is common knowledge,

Muslims also wear turbans. Due to the gunmans hatred towards Muslims, this led him to

shoot at these Sikhs. Turbans, to Sikhs, are very sacred. If someone touches it, they will

feel insulted. If someone sees them without their turban on, they will feel insulted. This is

one of the hard parts of living as a Sikh in America.


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The American life has many demands that Sikhs and their faith must get used to,

like the busyness of life. Sikhs are obviously not a race or nationality. This is hard to help

people understand. This is the same way that people think Islam is a race. Personally, I

had never heard about the Sikh faith until my encounter in this class. This makes me think

that all college educated persons should have to take an eastern religions class. This would

help take down many stereotypes people have about religions of the east.

In the Five Ks section, a steel sword was mentioned. This is something that Sikhs

must think about when they go out in public. In the video, Sikhism in America, it states,

most Sikhs wear the Kirpan in a sheath, openly suspended from the waist. The law says

that this is okay because it is not a hidden weapon. Another part of their faith, not only in

America, but everywhere, Sikhs share the same last name to make everyone equal. This

ideology also continues as there is no caste system in Sikhism. All of this information is

from Sikhism in America. Continuing with facts from the video, Sikhs believe and act out

that everyone man and woman have the same rights and responsibilities. This can be

different for them living in the United States because there are many stereotypes here.

Stereotypically, men are the head of the household and men have certain types of jobs. I

think that Sikhs would fit in well despite this fact. I think they would fight to break down

this barrier even further. I also believe that they would do this peacefully, unlike how some

people in this country act, using violence.

The beliefs of Sikhs are contrary to many religious beliefs in the west or even the

world. It is stated in the video that Sikhs believe that all religions are equal. No one is

right. This is hard to believe because, yes, Christians accept everyone, but do they admit

that everyones beliefs are equal? Im not sure about that. The Sikhs allow anyone to
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come into their gurdwaras if they follow their rules. These consist of taking off their shoes

and covering their head. I think these things that people of the Sikh faith do to show love

and care for others, makes them a one of a kind religion.

In conclusion, Sikhs are simple in their faith through their Gurus, sacred texts,

ultimate purpose, Khalsa, gurdwara, and the Five Ks. The Gurus lives help guide a Sikh.

The sacred texts help lead a Sikh down the right path. In the same way, the ultimate

purpose, mukti, shows a Sikh what direction their life should go in. The Khalsa defines

what type of Sikh you are. The gurdwara helps Sikhs worship their God. The Five Ks are

clear guidelines how a Sikh should live. I am truly pleased that I could research and learn

about the religion of Sikhism. It has helped me understand how and why different religious

views should be tolerated. Also, it has given me a sense that I know what I am talking

about. Before this I knew nothing about Sikhism. Now, I can explain to someone what

Sikhism is. I think that is what learning is all about.


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Works Cited

Brodd, Jeffrey, et al.. Invitation to Asian Religions. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2015. Print.

Chicago Police Department. "Sikhism in America - CPD Guide to Religions in the United

States." YouTube. YouTube, 06 Nov. 2011. Web. 11 Nov. 2016.

Nanak, Guru. Japji Sahib. N.p.: n.p., n.d. N. pag. Goodreads. Goodreads. Web. 11 Nov.

2016.

Rosentiel, Tom. "How Many U.S. Sikhs?" Pew Research. Pew Research Center, 06 Aug.

2012. Web. 11 Nov. 2016.

"Sikhism, Religion of the Sikh People." Sikhism Religion of the Sikh People. N.p., n.d.

Web. 09 Nov. 2016.

"What You Should Know About Karas." SikhKaras. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Nov. 2016.

Yaccino, Steven, Michael Schwirtz, and Marc Santora. "Gunman Kills 6 at a Sikh Temple

Near Milwaukee." The New York Times. The New York Times, 05 Aug. 2012. Web.

09 Nov. 2016.