First, a reality-based hypothetical narrative about Sikhs
"In your office in the Federal building downtown, guarded by a national security firm, (Akal Security, owned by Sikhs), you are enjoying a cup of Yogi Tea (a brand formulated by Yogi Bhajan, a Sikh), eating Kettle Chips (a brand started by Sikhs) and a piece of fruit (grown on the country's largest fruit farm owned by Sikhs), and you learn your grandmother is in the hospital. You jump in a cab (owned by a Sikh company, driven by a Sikh, fueled by gasoline distributed by a Sikh-owned company) and arrive at the hospital to talk with the doctor (a Sikh) and he recommends you have her tested (on a machine designed by a Sikh engineer and with parts assembled in a factory by Sikh). We are not the other, we are your neighbors."
On Sunday morning, August 5, 2012, people were praying, cooking in the kitchen and preparing for the day's kirtan (musical) program at the Sikh temple, the Gurdwara Sahib, in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. Tragically, a deranged man entered and opened fire with handguns, killing six innocent people and wounding three others, including a heroic police officer, before taking his own life. -- (See History of Sikhs in America.)
"It is a Sikh's sacred duty to defend the weak
"Sikhs respect and will act to protect the
free practice and the
The following narrative is presented for the purpose of making the inquirer more familiar with the lifestyle and practices of Sikh Dharma, a householders' spiritual path by which practice and only by God's grace, one may be blessed with the virtue known as humility and the good fortune to overcome the mental and spiritual affliction known as pride.
POINTS TO PONDER
you think God is a big guy in the sky with 30 hands and 40
is a pathless land, and you cannot approach it by any path
matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force, which brings
about it. You grew your magnificent brain, perhaps the most complicated
Sikhs hold a prominent place in the history of America and India. Guru Nanak Dev founded Sikhism in the fifteen century and he was followed by nine Gurus (enlightened teachers or prophets). Guru Angad, the second Guru, developed the Gurumukhi script. Guru Ram Das, the fourth Guru, laid the foundation for the city of Amritsar. Guru Arjan Dev, the fifth Guru, compiled the Adi Granth, the sacred songs of the Sikhs, later to become known as the Siri Guru Granth Sahib. But it was Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Guru, who gave Sikhs a renewed sense of chardikala, which in turn gave Sikh Dharma its resurgent vigor and mass following in the 17th century. Guru Gobind Singh declared himself to be the last of the earthly Gurus. And he commanded his followers to revere only the Guru-Word as Guru upon his death.
These are the three major principles of Sikhism: 1) Daily reflection on the One God; 2) Earn an honest living; and 3) Share one's resources with others at Guru's Lungar and through community service. Everybody who contemplates the One God, lives by these teachings, and respects the spiritual unity of mankind as servants of the One Creator are known as Khalsa. See The 12 Aspirations of the Sikhs.
THE SIKH GURDWARA
The Sikh worship center is called a Gurdwara, meaning the doorway to the Guru or Teacher. People of all persuasions, including atheists and agnostics, are welcome at any Gurdwara.
NOTE: It is NOT the purpose nor the customary practice of the adherents of Sikh Dharma to proselytize. Sikhs often express the term "Sat Kartar," i.e., "God is the Doer." In this sense meaning, only those with such destiny are to be Sikhs.
INSIDE THE SIKH GURDWARA
An essential part of Sikh spiritual practices is to serve lungar at the Gurdwara and elsewhere in the community at free kitchens. Here the food is cooked by members of the sangat (congregation) and is served without discrimination to all. After the sangat has participated in any ceremony, they are served the Guru’s Lungar. The tradition of Lungar expresses the ideals of equality, sharing, and the oneness of all humankind. See What I Learned From The Sikhs. See GurdwaraSecurity.com.
Gobind Singh, the tenth Guru, instituted the Akalis. The Akalis are religious warriors -- soldiers of God. Late
in the twentieth century, 1970s and 1980s, the Akalis waged a bloody
fight against the Indian government, which led to a massive armed
offensive against them.
Sikhs, or Sardarjis as they are known by some, have been great patrons of art, religion and scholarship. Along with the Rajputs, they are known as the bravest warriors in India, and their women, among India's most beautiful. The Sikhs have participated in India's nation building for hundreds of years, fighting the British, serving in the military (the Sikh regiment is the most decorated regiment of the Indian army) and excelling in sports. And they have served as the President (Gianni Zail Singh, veteran freedom fighter and President of India, 1982-87) and Prime Minister (Dr. Manmohan Singh) of India. (Dr. Singh is the first Sikh, and 14th Prime Minister of India.)
"We never started a war before, but we have finished many."
SIKH RECEIVES PAPAL HONOR
SIKHS JOIN DC POLICE DEPARTMENT
THE SIKH WARRIOR'S ANTHEM
the heart of a lion, there is no fear of dyin'.
come and enemies go, but the Khalsa stands like a mountain range.
500 year ago, when Columbus first sailed across the Atlantic Ocean and discovered the Americas, a divinely-inspired spiritual teacher by the name of Guru Nanak traveled by foot throughout South Asia and the Middle East elevating the social situations of his time by teaching the oneness of humanity and tolerance between people of different religions. Guru Nanak and his followers, called Sikhs, wore turbans as a symbol of their devotion to the One God that created all people and all religions.
On April 13, 1699, the Tenth Guru of the Sikhs, Guru Gobind Singh, recognizing these spiritual principles, incorporated them into the the Sikh code of honor. The Sikh honor code promotes and, more importantly, protects the equality and the diversity of all people regardless of faith, color, caste and gender, and requires Sikhs to protect the weak and innocent from unjust attacks. The Sikh turban and beard have come to represent not only a spirit of universality and diversity, but also a willingness to protect others' rights, even at the cost of their own life.
MORE POINTS TO PONDER
can change to any religion, to any form and shape.
who socializes with compassion
SIKHS IN THE MILITARY
human is a blend of saint and soldier; this is a complete person.
There are currently 22 Sikhs serving in the U.S. Army. U.S. Army Spc. Simran Lamba, center, was granted the honor of carrying a red-white-and-blue unit color flag for Alpha company, Third Battalion, 34th Infantry Regiment, during his basic training graduation ceremony at Fort Jackson, S.C., Wed., Nov. 10, 2010. Lamba was the first U.S enlisted soldier to be granted religious accommodation. It took action by several Sikh organizations and a letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, signed by 43 members of the House of Representatives and six U.S. senators, to change the Army's mind. A pair of special exceptions to Army Regulation 600-20 were allowed so Rattan and Kalsi, above, could wear their dastaars (turbans) and keep their unshorn hair and beards as part of their uniform, and also retain their other articles of faith.
IN THE AFTERMATH OF 9-11
On September 11, 2001, when terrorists struck the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, thousands of lives were lost and the world was dramatically transformed. Hate crimes claimed more victims in the days that followed. The large-scale terrorist attacks and the countless victims of hate-related violence who suffered in the backlash from the attacks were ultimately victims of the same intolerance against people of other faiths, cultures and traditions. See BigotDetector.com.
Four days after the September 11th attacks, a Sikh man by the name of Balbir Singh Sodhi was shot and killed while planting flowers outside of his neighborhood gas station in Mesa, Arizona. The motive of the crime was simply hate. In the years since, victims' rights advocacy groups have identified many other people across the country who have also been murdered because of their religious or cultural backgrounds. In addition, hundreds of others have been physically attacked, verbally harassed or discriminated against simply because of their diversity. See The Oak Creek Six. See Is Your Gurdwara Secure?
RELIGIOUS RIGHTS GAIN VICTORY IN OREGON
woman on this planet who values herself as a
a woman all men are born. How then can
Believe God is Truth and Word is Guru.
Believe God is the One Creator, and all of Creation is God's manifestation.
Espouse the role of woman as representing the Universal Mother.
Refrain from eating flesh food, i.e., red meat, chicken or seafood.
Refrain from using tobacco, drugs or alcohol.
Believe all religion and scripture is an expression of the One Creator.
Respect the rights and freedoms of all spiritual paths.
Espouse the sanctity of the path of the householder.
Maintain 'Chardikala' (an exalted and positive attitude towards life and other people).
Believe it is God's blessing to serve others, and to protect the weak and innocent.
Special Note: It is not the customary practice of the followers of Sikh Dharma to proselytize others. Sikhs often express the term "Sat Kartar," i.e., "God is the Doer." In this sense meaning, only those with such destiny will become Sikhs.
"The problem at this moment is the majority of us do not want to do sadhana (spiritual practice). These unfortunate people are really cursed. With all the teachings and all the knowledge, isn't it a curse? It is. Sometimes you use the children as an excuse, sometimes the husband. One way or the other, there is an excuse. To be realistic with you, an excuse is an excuse, and sadhana is sadhana. I know on some days, I am dead tired. I feel I can't do my sadhana. Then what do I do? I go to the bathroom, I take cold water, and I wash my face again and again, and again and again, until I understand that I am fully awake. When I am doing my sadhana, sleep sometimes wants to overtake me; I get tired. Sometimes I get home late and I have to get up very early. Then I do pranayam and I apply some yogic locks. I do a lot of things that I have learned and I go through it as gracefully as a humble human being should." -- Yogi Bhajan
"The greatest reward of doing Sadhana is that the person becomes incapable of being defeated. Sadhana is a self-victory, and it is a victory over time and space. Getting up in the morning is a victory over time, and doing it (sadhana) is a victory over space." -- The Siri Singh Sahib of Sikh Dharma
**Banis are specific passages taken from the Guru and read each day.
In America, the members of the Sikh Dharma are the only religious group whose practice includes the wearing of a turban.
Why do Sikhs wear the turban? Wearing a head covering enables one to command the sixth center, the Agia Chakra. Covering the head stabilizes the cerebral matter and the twenty-six parts of your brain which are interlocked with the neurological system and the electromagnetic field. Covering one's head creates a focus of the functional circuit of the hemispheres, and tunes up the neurological system. The whole head should be covered, not just the Crown Chakra. Any head covering that covers the whole head is acceptable; white natural fabric, such as cotton, is ideal.
THE BENEFITS OF TYING TURBAN
The benefit to tying the turban is that when one wraps the 5 or more layers of cloth, the temples are covered, which minimizes any variance or movement in the different parts of the skull. In other words, wearing a turban automatically provides an acupressure-like cranial adjustment, which provides an aid to all mental activities. (Note: The turban also acts serendipitously as an effective sociological filter, i.e., bigot detector.)
Today, in North America, the only religious group that wears turban, are the Sikhs. The practice of wearing the turban has not only become a rarity in many religions, but to the unversed it is associated only with fanatical and militant world terrorists. Since the horror of September 11, 2001, the Sikhs have been profiled and mistakenly identified as being associated with the fanatical Muslim Taliban of Afghanistan. In the days following 9-11, the Sikh community around the world became painfully aware that many people have very little knowledge of the Sikh religion. A great deal of confusion existed then, as some American Sikhs were attacked, some were killed, and questions continue to this day regarding the Sikhs and their high profile tradition of unshorn hair, maintaining full beard, and tying turban. See Sikh Style Turbans See Beards
WHAT IS SIKHISM?
Sikhism, the youngest of the world religions and numbering about 20 million, is barely five hundred years old. Its founder, Guru Nanak, was born in 1469. Guru Nanak spread a simple ecumenical 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, and religious scriptures. He expressed the reality that there is but one God, and many paths, and the Name of God is Truth, "Sat Nam". His simple message to all is, "Meditate forever on the One!"
WORD IS GURU
Guru Nanak's followers are known as Sikhs (disciples of Truth). He taught them to bow only before the one God, and to link themselves by way of the Guru, the Light of Truth, and to live 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 in Gurmukhi script, and formed the beginnings of the Sikhs' Sacred Writings, later to become the "Siri Guru Granth Sahib".
THE GURMUKHI ALPHABET
GURU NANAK TAUGHT THIS SPIRITUAL LIFESTYLE
Nam Japa - To rise each day before sunrise, clean the body, meditate on God's Name and recite the Guru's hymns to clean the mind. And throughout the day, continuously remember God's Name with every breath, meditating on the One.
Dharam di Kirat Karni - To labor and earn by the sweat of the brow, live a householder's 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. And thus, live as an inspiration and a support to the entire community.
Guru Nanak laid down this foundation of Sikhism. Guru Nanak later infused and passed this consciousness on to a disciple, who then became the next Guru, who subsequently passed the light on to the next, and so on for a total of 10 Gurus. 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, the One Reality.
THE 10 GURUS REPRESENT 10 CHARACTER TRAITS
Guru Nanak 1469 - 1539 -- HUMILITY 1507
MEDITATIVE REFLECTION OF EACH GURU
1. Guru Nanak -- Soul Body
NOTE: Dates are given in CE (Common Era). These years correspond to the same dates as AD but by defining the current period as the "Common Era" the nomenclature attempts to treat all religions and beliefs as equal.
FATHER OF THE KHALSA
Guru Gobind Singh was the last of the ten Sikh Gurus in human form. At the first Vaisakhi, he created the Khalsa; a spiritual brother and sisterhood devoted to purity of thought and action. He gave the Khalsa a distinctive external form, the five "Ks", to inspire and remind them of their commitment, and to help them maintain an elevated state of consciousness. And he decreed that Sikh men carry the middle name, Singh, meaning lion, and that Sikh women carry the middle name, Kaur, meaning princess. Examples are, Hari Singh Khalsa, and Hari Kaur Khalsa.
Guru Gobind Singh 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 innocent, the poor, the meek, and the oppressed masses of India. See GurdwaraSecurity.com. See Ardas by Guru Gobind Singh.
FROM THE SACRED WRITINGS OF THE SIKHS
is no mark, which sets apart
world's vast fortunes seem as weeds
bow to Thee, Eternal,
I bow to Thee Unconquerable, the Stranger to defeat.
bow to Him beyond all deeds, Who wears no special dress,
I bow to He Who generates, the One Who can't be known.
bow to He Who has no caste, religion, faith or creed;
I bow to the Sustainer, Omnipresent in all hues;
Who is Every Occupation, no relations, no restraint;
Who's kind and understanding, more impartial than the sea;
bow to Thee, O Virtuous, upon Whom all rely;
Dispute of all disputes, the Supreme Siddha of the verse;
bow to He Who cures disease, Who takes our daily care;
I bow to He Who rules all wealth, the Brightest of the bright;
bow to the Bestower of all knowledge time and space;
Who is the Life of life, bestowing undestroyable power;
Vaisakhi day commemorates a very important occasion in the history of the Sikh Faith. On this day, Guru Gobind Singh established the Khalsa Panth. The word Khalsa comes from Persian dialect, meaning “pure”, and Panth refers to “way of life”. He created a Fellowship of the Pure. In a distinct ceremony, five followers of the faith were initiated in to Panth, who passed a difficult test set for them by the Guru, and became known as the “Panj Pyare” (the five beloved ones). Since that time, any five baptized Sikhs have been called upon to render decisions on important issues facing Sikh communities. Another unique aspect is that after baptizing the Panj Pyare, Guru Gobind Singh asked them to initiate him, thus firmly establishing the democratic principles inherent in the Sikh religion. The baptized Sikhs were given a distinct uniform or identity: Kanga (wooden comb), Katchera (breeches), Kara (steel bracelet), Kirpan (sword), the wearing of Kesh (unshorn hair), and a “Code of Conduct” which included abiding by truthful principles of living.
THE SIKH ARTICLES OF DHARMA
baptized Khalsa Sikh vows to wear the symbols
the specially designed cotton underwear, symbol and reminder of
the commitment to purity, and to refrain from sexual relationships
outside of marriage. (Khalsa Sikhs also vow to refrain
from eating meat or using tobacco, alcohol, and all other
*Kirpan/keér pahn/ literally means 'hand of mercy.' It is a Punjabi (Indian) word for 'knife' or 'dagger', that connotes a philosophy of respect for the martial arts and weapons, not as vehicles of aggression, but as a means of defending the defenseless.
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 ecumenical writings taken from saints and sages of several spiritual paths 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 look to the "Siri Guru Granth Sahib" as their supreme, living Guru, as the source of their spiritual instruction and guidance.
Sikhism is one religion, which is founded on the principles of global interfaith communities and mutual inter-community respect and harmony. The founders of Sikhism have, since 1469, defined and taught the principles of interfaith respect, dialogue, and harmony. A Sikh, by definition, will respect and accept all other world religions. Further, the Sikh will protect, guard, and allow the free practice of the customs and rituals of other religions.
FOR THE KIDS
Today, whether a man has a beard can spark controversy. Witness the case of Maher "Mike" Hawash, an Intel contract engineer, and a Muslim, who has pleaded not guilty to charges related to waging war against the United States. In some pictures he's clean shaven, and in others he has a beard. The underlying issue has been, what kind of message does a man's beard send about innocence, guilt, stereotypes and political correctness?
Here's a quick look at what six religious faiths
Sikhism: Devout Sikhs, both men and women, let their hair grow, wrap their hair in a turban,* and the men allow their beards to grow. These are some basic requirements of the Khalsa, a fellowship of those who "belong to the divine." The practice affirms their belief that God made men and women perfectly, with no changes necessary. When the Khalsa arose in 1699, their unshorn hair set Sikhs apart and encouraged them to stand up against oppression, tyranny and injustice. See Gurdwara Security.
But human hair also has physiological and psychological aspects. To the Sikhs, it is an important component in the equation of man's physical and electromagnetic health and harmony. And in the human male, facial hair acts as an important buffer to the solar and lunar energies. Thus, human hair has its obvious or exoteric, as well as yogic or esoteric aspects. In a psychological sense, our cutting of body hair is an indication of a conflicted attitude, since it is within the physical nature of our body to grow the hair, and it is an attitude within our psyche to cut the hair. Conversely, letting the hair grow expresses an inner harmony with nature. In a biological sense, it would appear that hair is important to our physical well being since the body repeatedly replaces hair quickly, whenever it is cut. And in a spiritual sense, it can be said that there is an important message to be had from the One Creator, as to the necessity for hair, e.g., when a man's facial hair is shaved, it rapidly reappears, time after time. See video If your dad doesn't have a beard.
Judaism: Orthodox and Hasidic Jews wear beards and, sometimes, long
side-curls, called payot. Leviticus 19:27 forbids them to round
off the corners of their temples or "mar" the edges
of their beards. The latter is equated with shaving, but some
Jews believe that scissors and scissor-action shavers may be used.
In some circles, a beard is a sign of mourning, either for a loved
one lost or grown from Passover to Pentecost on behalf of the
So Nihal': "One who speaks this shall be blessed."
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