What is sikhism?
With nearly 30 million followers across the globe – about a half-million living in the U.S. – why is that we seem to know so little about the Sikh religion and its followers?
India is home to the vast majority of Sikhs. More than 25 million live in the land where the religion was born and the U.S. has the world's third largest Sikh population.
Though sometimes confused with Muslims of Hindus, Sikhism is a distinct religion, not a sect of any other.
According to Sikhs.org, the religion was founded in the late 15th century in the Punjab by Guru Nanak, first in a line of nine gurus, who were critical of Hindu and Muslim rituals. The nine living gurus – Guru Gobind Singh, who died early in the 18th century, was the last – preached love and understanding.
The philosophies and beliefs of Sikhism, according to Sikhs.org, are:
- There is only One God. He is the same God for all people of all religions.
- The soul goes through cycles of births and deaths before it reaches the human form. The goal of our life is to lead an exemplary existence so that one may merge with God. Sikhs should remember God at all times and practice living a virtuous and truthful life while maintaining a balance between their spiritual obligations and temporal obligations.
- The true path to achieving salvation and merging with God does not require renunciation of the world or celibacy, but living the life of a householder, earning a honest living and avoiding worldly temptations and sins.
- Sikhism condemns blind rituals such as fasting, visiting places of pilgrimage, superstitions, worship of the dead, idol worship etc.
- Sikhism preaches that people of different races, religions, or sex are all equal in the eyes of God. It teaches the full equality of men and women. Women can participate in any religious function or perform any Sikh ceremony or lead the congregation in prayer.
In addition to the Sikh temple in Oak Creek, there are others, called gurdwara or gurudwara, in Brookfield and Madison.
According to Brookfield's Sikh Religious Society of Wisconsin, this is the code of conduct for a Sikh gurdwara:
- Wear modest attire.
- Remove shoes when entering congregation hall. All gurdwaras have shoe racks.
- Cover head at all times while at gurdwara. Head coverings are available in foyer if you don't have one.
- Bow in front of Guru Granth Sahib (optional for non-Sikhs) upon joining the congregation.
- Sit on floor please.
- Stand up during Ardas (prayer to God).
- Sit on the floor during Langar and keep head covered.
- No alcohol, tobacco, meat or smoking is allowed on gurdwara premises or in Sikh religion.
- Men and women usually sit separately, however it is not required religiously.
- Please keep total quiet while in congregation.
A few years ago, I worked part time at Farm & Fleet in Oak Creek. One of my co-workers then was heard complaining about how she saw this "guy wearing a turban, and he had a big knife on him" and that she thought that "he shouldn't be allowed to go around like that". What she didn't realize is that the "big knife" is a kirpan, worn only symbolically as an article of faith in their religion. It goes to show how uninformed some people are when it comes to race and religion.
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