A comparatively recent religion, Sikhism (Sikh, meaning a “disciple”, or a “learner”), is based on the teaching of an Indian mystic by the name of Nanak. Nanak, who was the first Guru (1), was born to working-class Hindu parents around 1469. He also claimed to have received divine illumination in his early 30s and, by the time he died some 40 years later, he had compiled certain Hindu and Islamic teachings to form a body of doctrine; this doctrine was organised by his followers (10 successive gurus) into the Granth Sahib (“the Lord’s book” that is some 1430 pages long) which now forms the sacred text of Sikhism.
Sikhism is monotheistic, it holds belief in a single God and, naturally as a result, rejects Hinduism’s polytheism yet accepts the ideas of karma and reincarnation. It also rejects the violent elements in its deity even though it accepts Islam’s concept of a supreme and absolute ruler. Sikhism’s God is also remote and impersonal and is equated with “the abstract principle of truth or reality” (2). Its system of salvation, as similar to certain forms of Hinduism, involves “a pantheistic merging of the individual self with the mystical world soul” (3). Sikhism has some attractive elements to it, namely in its call for unity and equality for all people as well as its focus on social justice (4). It’s meditation methods involve pleasant forms of music in attempt to experience God’s presence.
At one time, while speaking at the 300th anniversary of the founding of the Sikh brotherhood Khalsa, Prince Charles praised Nanak’s teaching that “God’s light pervades every creature and every creature is contained in this light” (5). Adherents of Sikhism also reject the notion of absolute truth in any religions, and the God that they believe in is known as Ik Onkar (6); a representative of the one supreme entity. Today there is an estimated 25 million Sikhs in the world thus making it the 5th largest religion (7).
1. Patwant, S. 2000. The Sikhs. Alfred A Knopf Publishing. p. 17.
2. Shinn, L. 1981. Abingdon Dictionary of Living Religions. p. 691
3. Hume, R. 1924. The World’s Living Religions. p. 103.
4. Teece, G. 2004. Sikhism: Religion in focus. p. 4.
5. Daily Telegraph, 22 April 1999.
6. 2012. Sikhism photpack. p. 10.
7. McDowell, M. & Brown, N. 2009. World Religions at Your Fingertips. p. 232.