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Origins of Sikhism

Sikhism was born in the Punjab area of South Asia, which now falls into the present day
states of India and Pakistan. The main religions of the area at the time were Hinduism and

The Sikh faith began around 1500 CE, when Guru Nanak began teaching a faith that was
quite distinct from Hinduism and Islam.

Nine Gurus followed Nanak and developed the Sikh faith and community over the next

 The word "Guru" is a Sanskrit word meaning teacher, honoured person, religious
person or saint. Sikhism though has a very specific definition of the word Guru. It
means the descent of divine guidance to mankind provided through ten Enlightened
Masters. This honour of being called a Sikh Guru applies only to the ten Gurus who
founded the religion starting with Guru Nanak in 1469 and ending with Guru Gobind
Singh in 1708; thereafter it refers to the Sikh Holy Scriptures the Guru Granth Sahib.
The divine spirit was passed from one Guru to the next as "The light of a lamp which
lights another does not abate. Similarly a spiritual leader and his disciple become
equal, Nanak says the truth."

Sri Guru Nanak Dev, founder of Sikhism. He was born in 1469 in Sheikhupura district of
present-day Pakistan to a Hindu family of Kshatriya caste. He was educated in Sanskrit,
Persian, and Arabic.

The 10 Sikh Gurus

1. Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji

Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji, first of the 10 gurus, founded the Sikh faith, introducing the concept
of one God.

2. Sri Guru Angad Dev Ji

Guru Angad Dev ji, second of the 10 gurus, compiled the writings of Nanak Dev Ji, and
introduced the Gurmukhi script.

3. Guru Amar Das Sahib Ji

Guru Amar Das Sahib Ji, third of the 10 gurus, disavowed caste with the institution of
langar, pangat and sangat.
4. Guru Ram Das Sahib Ji

Guru Ram Das Sahib Ji, fourth of the 10 gurus, began the excavation of the sarovar in

5. Guru Arjan Dev Ji

Guru Arjan Dev Ji, fifth of the 10 gurus, erected the Golden Temple (Harmandir Sahib) in
Amritsar, compiled and contributed to Adi Granth, 1604.

6. Guru Har Gobind Sahib Ji

Guru Har Gobind Sahib Ji, sixth of the 10 gurus, constructed the Akal Takhat. He raised an
army and wore two swords symbolizing secular and spiritual authority. The Mughal emperor
Jahangir imprisoned the guru who negotiated release for whomever could hold on to his

7. Guru Har Rai Sahib Ji

Guru Har Rai Sahib Ji, seventh of the 10 gurus, propagated the Sikh faith, maintained a
cavalry of 20,000 as his personal guard, and established both a hospital and zoo.

8. Sri Guru Har Krishan Ji

Sri Guru Har Krishan Ji, eighth of the 10 gurus, became guru at the age of five, and is
known for his wisdom and compassion.

9. Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib Ji

Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib Ji, ninth of the 10 gurus, reluctant to leave meditation and come
forward as guru, ultimately sacrificed his life to protect Hindu Pandits from forced
conversion to Islam.

10. Guru Gobind Singh Sahib Ji

Guru Gobind Singh Sahib Ji , tenth of the 10 gurus, created the order of Khalsa. Sacrificed
father, mother, sons and his own life to protect Sikhs from forced conversion to Islam.
Completed the Granth bestowing upon it title of everlasting Guru.

The Khalsa

The tenth Guru, Gobind Singh, recreated the Sikhs as a military group of men and women
called the Khalsa in 1699, with the intention that the Sikhs should for ever be able to
defend their faith.

Gobind Singh established the Sikh rite of initiation (called khandey di pahul) and the 5
Ks which give Sikhs their unique appearance.

Gobind Singh was the last human Guru. Sikhs now treat their scriptures as their Guru.

 The three duties

The three duties that a Sikh must carry out can be summed up in three words; Pray,
Work, Give.

 Nam japna:

 Keeping God in mind at all times.

 KirtKarna:

 Earning an honest living. Since God is truth, a Sikh seeks to live honestly.
This doesn't just mean avoiding crime; Sikhs avoid gambling, begging, or
working in the alcohol or tobacco industries.

 VandChhakna:

 (Literally, sharing one's earnings with others) Giving to charity and caring for

Disciplined life

The Sikh is required to undertake the following observances:

 Wake up very early in the morning.

 Bathing and cleansing of the body should be performed.

 Cleanse the mind by meditating on God.

 Engage in family life and address your responsibilities within the family.

 Attend to a work or study routine and earn a living by earnest means.

 Undertake to help the less well off with monetary and/or physical help.

 Exercise your responsibilities to the community and take active part in the
maintenance and safeguard of the community.

Personal regulations

 Wear the 5Ks

 Kesh – long and uncut hair and a turban to protect the hair on the head.
 Kanga – small comb to be used twice daily to keep the hair in clean and
healthy condition.

 Kacchera – worn in the form of shorts to exercise self-control.

 Kara – a steel slave bangle on the dominant arm to remind the Sikh to always
remember the Guru before undertaking any action.

 Kirpan – a short, often dagger-sized sword to remind the Sikh that he is to

defend against repression of the weak.

 Meditate by reciting his Gurbani and by singing his Kirtan (music based hymns) and
remember Him always.

 Wash your mind clean with Sewa, selfless service to the community by doing manual
work at the Gurdwara by cleaning the dishes, washing the floors, painting the walls;
working in Community Centres; in old peoples homes, etc.

 Practice Truth at all times: To live by the Gurus instruction to practice Truth thus:
"Those who practice Truth reap the profits, abiding in the Will of God. With the
Merchandise of Truth, they meet the Guru, who does not have a trace of greed. and
also "O Siblings of Destiny, follow the Guru's Teachings and dwell in truth. Practice
truth, and only truth, and merge in the True Word of the Shabad.

 Be kind and merciful to others: Kindness is a virtue that the Sikh have been asked to
exercise at all times. The Gurus have shown on many occasion how to practise and
live a life of kindness and mercy and have the following message for the keen
devotee: "Become 'Jivan-Mukta', liberated while yet alive, by meditating on the Lord
of the Universe, O mind, and maintaining faith in Him in your heart. Show kindness
and mercy to all (sentient) beings, and realize that the Lord is pervading
everywhere; this is the way of life of the enlightened soul, the supreme swan.

 Become a Gurmukh by doing Good deeds: The Sikh Gurus repeatedly ask the
dedicated Sikh to always do good deeds as shown by this verse from the Guru
Granth Sahib - "The Gurmukh practices doing good deeds; thus he comes to
understand this mind. The mind is like an elephant, drunk with wine. The Guru is the
rod which controls it, and shows it the way.

 The five vices

Sikhs try to avoid the five vices that make people self-centred, and build barriers
against God in their lives.

 Lust
 Covetousness and greed

 Attachment to things of this world

 Anger

 Pride

 If a person can overcome these vices they are on the road to liberation.

Community practices

 Organise Gurdwaras: As a community Sikhs set up local places of worship

called Gurdwara. Services are held in the morning and evening including:

 Asa-di-war kirtan

 Sukhmani sahib paath

 Akhand Paath

 Ardas and Hukamnama

 Kirtan programs

 Naming Ceremony

 Marriage Ceremony

 Antam Sanskar

 Amrit Sanskar, etc


Sikhism and abortion

Abortion is generally forbidden in Sikhism, as it interferes in the creative work of God -

who created everything and is present in every being.

Most Sikhs accept that life begins at conception (one reference is found on page 74 of the
Guru Granth Sahib).

So if conception has taken place, it would be a sin to destroy life and hence deliberate
miscarriage or abortion is forbidden.

The Sikh code of conduct does not deal with abortion (or indeed many other bioethical
Despite this theoretical viewpoint, abortion is not uncommon among the Sikh community in
India, and there is concern that the practice of aborting female embryos because of a
cultural preference for sons is growing.

Euthanasia, assisted dying, and suicide

Sikh moral thinking

Sikhs derive their ethics largely from the teachings of their scripture, Guru Granth Sahib,
and the Sikh Code of Conduct (the RehatMaryada).

Guidance also comes from the example set by the gurus, and from the experience of the
Sikh community over the last 500 years.

These do not give detailed answers to many ethical questions, but rather set down general
principles and provide a framework for Sikhs to answer those questions.


Sikhs have a high respect for life which they see as a gift from God. Most Sikhs are
against euthanasia, as they believe that the timing of birth and death should be left in
God's hands.

The Sikh Gurus rejected suicide (and by extension, euthanasia) as an interference in God's
plan. Suffering, they said, was part of the operation of karma, and human beings should not
only accept it without complaint but act so as to make the best of the situation that karma
has given them.

This is not absolute. Sikhism (as already said) believes that life is a gift from God, but it
also teaches that we have a duty to use life in a responsible way.

Therefore Sikhs contemplating euthanasia for themselves or others should look at the whole
picture, and make appropriate distinctions between ending life, and not artificially
prolonging a terminal state.

Sikhism and birth control

Sikhs have no objection to birth control.

Whether or not Sikhs use contraception, and the form of contraception used, is a matter
for the couple concerned.

Organ donation
Sikhism and organ donation

Sikhs have no objections to the donation and transplantation of organs.


A Gurdwara is the place where Sikhs come together for congregational worship.

The first Gurdwara in the world was built by Guru Nanak in 1521-2 at Kartarpur. There are
about 200 Gurdwaras in Britain.

The literal meaning of the Punjabi word Gurdwara is 'the residence of the Guru', or 'the door
that leads to the Guru'.

In a modern Gurdwara, the Guru is not a person but the book of Sikh scriptures called the
Guru Granth Sahib.

It is the presence of the Guru Granth Sahib that gives the Gurdwara its religious status, so
any building containing the book is a Gurdwara.

Although a Gurdwara may be called the residence of the Guru (meaning the residence of
God), Sikhs believe that God is present everywhere.

Before the time of Guru Arjan Dev, the place of Sikh religious activities was known as
a Dharamsala, which means place of faith.

The purpose of a Gurdwara

 It's a place to learn spiritual wisdom

 It's a place for religious ceremonies

 It's a place where children learn the Sikh faith, ethics, customs, traditions and texts

 A Gurdwara is also a community centre, and offers food, shelter, and companionship to
those who need it.
Gurdwaras are managed by a committee of their community.

Inside the Gurdwara

There are no idols, statues, or religious pictures in a Gurdwara, because Sikhs worship only
God, and they regard God as having no physical form. Nor are there candles, incense, or
bells, or any other ritualistic devices.

The focus of attention, and the only object of reverence in the main hall (or Darbar Sahib) is
the book of Sikh scripture, the Guru Granth Sahib, which is treated with the respect that
would be given to a human Guru.

The Guru Granth Sahib is kept in a room of its own during the night and carried in
procession to the main hall at the start of the day's worship.

Passed to:
Ms. Lianna de la Cruz, RN
Passed by:
Kristine L. Young