The word Sikh is a Punjabi word deriving from the Sanskrit, shishya, which means ‘disciple‘.
- in one God without physical attributes or image who is both transcendental and immanent
- in a society where men and women are equal and democracy is practised in everyday life.
- in earning their living honestly and through hard work
- in sharing what they earn with the poor
- in serving God and their fellow human beings
The basis of Sikhism is that Man is put on this earth for one purpose and that is to meet with God. This union is achieved through loving worship of God and dedication of ones life to the love of God as set out in the Sikh Scriptures, the Guru Granth Sahib.
Sikhs can worship at any time and anywhere they happen to be, by remembering God and reading verses from the Guru Granth Sahib. There is also a community based element to Sikh prayer when they gather to pray together in the gurudwara (Sikh place of worship, literally ‘abode of the Guru’), which is open to everyone. Inside the gurudwara, verses from the Guru Granth Sahib are read and sung to music. The langar, a free community kitchen, is also an important part of the gurudwara.
Sikhism traces its origins to its founding Guru, Guru Nanak, the first of ten Sikh gurus, who was born in 1469 in a part of the Punjab, which now falls in Pakistan. Guru Nanak was recognised as a very spiritual person from a young age, but began travelling to preach his message around the age of thirty. He undertook 4 epic journeys to the four points of the compass which took him as far afield as Mecca, Benares and Sri Lanka. His teachings focussed on the oneness of God and the equality of all castes and creeds as well as equality of the sexes. He espoused Sikhism as a uniquely revealed religion. Showing his tolerance of other faiths he travelled extensively over the Indian sub-continent and Middle East often accompanied by Mardana, a childhood friend of his who was also a gifted musician.
Guru Nanak passed on the mantle of Guruship to a disciple of his called Bhai Lehna whose selfless service to Guru Nanak proved his worthiness for becoming the second Guru. When Guru Nanak passed on the Guruship to Bhai Lehna, he renamed him Angad literally meaning ‘part of me’. Sikhs believe that when the mantle of Guruship passed on in this way from Guru Nanak to Guru Angad and then later to other Gurus, it was merely the physical body that changed, the spirit remained the same. Indeed, all subsequent Gurus who composed Gurbani (verses included in the Sikh Scriptures) signed themselves as Nanak.