In order to understand the principles of Sikhism, it is necessary to comprehend the symbolic importance of the Sikh Gurus.
Responsibilities of the Guru
According to the Guru Nanak, the ‘Guru’ is the human representative or medium through which God communicates to human beings. The ‘sabad’ or the celestial word uttered by the Guru is in reality the expression of God. The primary responsibility of the Guru is to instil a sense of awakening amidst his followers. The ‘sabad’ creates a deep awakening among the human beings and the enlightened disciples are bestowed with the ‘Hukam’. Here, according to Guru Nanak, ‘Hukam’ implies two basic concepts: it may signify a sense of harmony and at the same time it may also represent the order bequeathed by God. It is believed that the universe came into existence upon the ‘Hukam’ of God.
Concept of God in Sikhism
Sikhism propagates monotheism. Principally, it condemns idolatry and any form of ritualistic practice or superstition. The central principle governing Sikhism is belief in a single supreme divine authority, prevalently referred to by the phrase ‘Ek Onkar’. According to the teachings of Guru Nanak, the God in Sikhism is ‘nirankar’ or formless and an eternal or ‘akal’ entity whose presence is ‘alakh’ or overwhelming. God is represented by the term ‘Waheguru’ and he is omnipresent or ‘sarab viapak’. He is also represented as ‘Satt-nama’, the sacred name and ‘Kartar’ or the Supreme Creator. The Divine Creator, only He is capable of destroying the cosmos. Sikhism does not specify the gender of the formless all-pervading God.
Religious Faith in Sikhism
Regular meditation and prayers dedicated to the God are extremely necessary for the sustenance of the Sikh religious faith. In this regard, the practice of ‘naam japan’ or ‘naam simaran’ becomes significant. The term ‘japan’ literally means ‘to meditate’ while the expression ‘simaran’ suggests ‘recollection’. The principles of Sikhism established that the meditation or recollection of the ‘naam’ or name of God would escalate the union of the human being with the Divine Being. Remembrance of the name of God with intense concentration and dedication would facilitate a human being's possibility of attaining 'Mukti' or salvation and mystical union with God. The concept of transmigration of souls and reincarnation are also some of the doctrines instilled in Sikhism. According to the Sikh Gurus, good ‘karma’ will ensure a satisfying after-life after the soul is released from the body. However, any form of offence or sinful indulgences may result in exposing a human being to harmful consequences. The Sikh faith stresses that all living creatures possess a soul and upon death, the soul may migrate to other forms of life such as flora and fauna.
The principles of Sikhism are founded on the concept of universal brotherhood. The Sikhs must renounce all forms of material temptation (‘dhan ki kirat’) and practice meticulousness and hard work ‘Kirat Karni’. A primary principle followed by a Sikh in his everyday life is the practice of ‘Vand Chakko’ or sharing of food with other members of the community. Safeguarding of moral values and personal sacrifice is a premier duty of the Sikhs.
The Guru Granth Sahib also delineates a set of five 'doshas' or evils that a Sikh must abstain from. These are;
1. ‘Ahankar’ or pride
2. ‘Lobh’ or greed
3. ‘Krodh’ or anger
4. ‘Kaam’ or desire
5. ‘Moh’ or addiction.
They are countered by the five set of virtues which are believed to aid salvation. These include;
1. ‘Daya’ or kindness
2. ‘Pyare’ or affection
3. ‘Nimrata’ or humbleness
4. ‘Sat’ or truthfulness
5. ‘Santokh’ or fulfillment
Five K’s in Sikhism
The Khalsa system introduced by the 10th Guru, Guru Gobind Singh in 1699 was also based on five essential principles, denoted prevalently as the ‘Five Ks’ or the obligation to wear the ‘panj kakkar’ as part of the daily attire. It includes:
1. ‘Kachha’ or undergarment,
2. ‘Kesh’ or uncut tresses and unshaved beard
3. ‘Kanga’ or comb
4. ‘Kirpan’ or dagger
5. ‘Kara’ or amulet
Sikhism upholds the principle that all living beings are equal in the eyes of God and any form of distinction on the basis of gender, caste or creed are entirely renounced by the followers of the Sikh faith.