As the fifth most widespread in the world, Sikhism is the smallest of the world’s major religions. The major key-note to this faith is the defense of religious rights. Sikhs are considered some of the most mighty warriors in the world, and their history is one more than just bespattered with acts of extreme valor. Sikhs have proven themselves to be a proud, brave, and open-minded people.
Sikhism begins in Islam and in Hinduism. It formed between a Muslim and a Hindu state, and it directly reflects its origin. Sikhs believe that each individual is responsible for his own empowerment, much like the Buddhists. They believe that humans are captured on the karma run wheel of samsara. Samsara is the eternal cycle of birth, life, death, and reincarnation. Our future lives are dictated by the consequence of our past actions-which is called karma.
Sikhs, however, worship only one God. They are strictly monotheistic. However, they do not claim that their path is the only way to salvation, or to understanding god. Quite the contrary, Sikhs practice calling God by many names. The most common of these is Nam, but they also call him by titles such as Allah. Sikhs believe that Nam is worshiped in many forms all around the world. All Gods are personifications of the same thing.
The founded of Sikhism is a man named Guru Nanak. Nanak was born in the city of Punjab on 1469. During that time the control of religion was split evenly between Hinduism and Islam, and both religions were juxtaposed in public affairs.
Punjab, located in northern India, has ever laid on the path of invaders. During the late 1300’s, Mongolian invaders launched an attack on Delhi. On their way to and from the city they stopped to slaughter the Muslims and followers of the Sanatana Dharma in Punjab.
Nanak lived in what the Sikhs called the Kali Yuga-darkest of ages. As a young boy he was known to be contemplative, constantly meditating, and uninterested in material gains. He worked hard as a humble accountant, but shared all of his prophets with the poor.
When he was thirty (the early thirties are seen as times of great spiritual revelation in many world religions,) Nanak was submerged in a river and vanished for three days. The story says that Nanak was whisked away and met with Nam.
Nam presented Nanak with a bowl of what appeared to be milk, but was actually amrit(nectar,) which would endow him with the “power of pray, love of worship, truth, and contentment.” After the Guru drank he was sent back to the world to redeem it.
When Nanak returned he began to travel, teaching messages that shocked everyone. Nanak disliked both the Hindu and Islamic path, and insisted that instead of following the paths of these religions we should follow the path of God. A unique aspect of his teaching was that he devalued the detachment of priests and sants(holly people) from the world and society. He insisted that we should stay on the earth and help one another to attain mystical unity with the divine.
Within Sikhism there are five evils. These are lust, anger, greed, attachment, and ego. When a Sikh has separated themselves from these things they are ready to be baptized into the community. They drink a symbolic “amrit” (water mixed with sugar crystals. The sugar crystals symbolize that not only must a Sikh be strong, but they must also be sweet, kind, and generous.) and are baptized into the community of Khalsa(Pure Ones.)
In addition to drinking the amrit, the initiation process also requires Sikhs to swear to follow a specific dress code. They must never cut their hair and are required to wear a turban, a ceremonial sword, a pair of underbreeches, and a metal bracelet.
When one is initiated into Khalsa a suffix is added to their name. Women are called Kaur-princess, and men Singh-lion. (Where in Japan you might call an upperclassman sempai, or a classmate kun, you’d call one who is Khalsa Kaur or Singh. Seraph-Singh.
One who is Khalsa stands squarely against injustice, he obliterates the five evils, and takes joy in constantly reciting the name of God.
When a Muslim-led invasion force besieged Guru Gobind Singh’s citadel, his soldiers deserted him, cowed by redoubtable odds. However, the women would not have their religion shamed by cowardice, and would not stand by to let their sage die. They dressed as men, armed themselves, and prepared to fight. One of these women was named Mai Bhago, and she is revered as a great hero in Sikh history.
Mai chased down forty of the deserters and refused to let them return home. She marshaled them into battle, and there they fought the Islamic assailants. Everyman died, and only Mai survived the blood-bath. She became a prized member of Guru Gobind Singh’s personal entourage of protectors.
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