Congregational United Church of Christ hosted an adult learning program Wednesday, April 16, on Sikhism led by Balijit Singh Virdi.
Virdi gave an overview of Sikhism, including principals, beliefs, holy literature, founding teachers, place of worship, clothing accessories, symbols and some famous practicing Sikhs today.
Sikhism is 545 years old and is the fifth largest religion in the world, with 30 million Sikhs worldwide and one million in the United States.
“Many people believe that Sikhism is a part of the Hinduism and Islam religions, but Sikhism is a separate religion from both Hinduism and Islam,” Virdi said.
Sikhism conveys a message of equality and respect amongst people and religion.
“Men and women are treated as equals,” Virdi said. “We believe everyone should respect their religion because all religions are equally good and is a medium to reach God.”
Sikhism is a monotheistic religion, meaning Sikhs believes in one God. Sikh, by definition, means a student or learner.
“In school, all the students need teachers,” Virdi said. “In the Sikh faith, our teachers are the gurus.
In Sanskrit origin, ‘gu’ means darkness and ‘ru’ means lightness. It means, the one who brings you from darkness to lightness. Guru means teacher.”
Sikhism was founded in Punjab, India, in 1469 by the first Sikh guru, Nanak Dev. Sikhism had 10 gurus from the inception of the religion through today. In 1708, the 10th guru, named Gobind Singh Ji, bestowed the guruship to the Shri Guru Granth Sahib, which is the central religious scripture that has been used by Sikhs since 1708.
Shri Guru Granth Sahib has 1,430 pages written in poetry. The text includes writings from the gurus and contains hymns from Hindu and Muslim saints. SGGS is written in Gurbani, the Punjabi language. Sikhs keep the SGGS in the Sikh place of worship, the Gurudwara. The Sikh services in the Gurudwara consists of singing from the scripture.
The Gurudwara means the gateway to the guru’s house. Everyone is welcome in the Gurudwara, regardless of their religion, and are offered shelter, comfort and food. All the Gurudwaras have a community kitchen, which provide free vegetarian meals known as “Langar.”
“The holiest of shrines in Sikhism is Harmandir Sahib (Golden Temple), located at Amritsar in India. The shrine was founded in 1604 by the fifth Guru. It has four doors, welcoming people from all directions, which symbolizes openess and acceptance. The “Langar” feeds 80,000 people on a weekday and 160,000 people on a weekend day.
Sharing, called “Vand Chako,” is one of the principals of Sikhism. Sikhs practice sharing through “Langar,” selflessly serving others and sharing income. They’re also expected to contribute 10 percent of their wealth and income, called “Dasvandh,” to needy people of the world or to a worthy cause. Meditation, called “Naam Japo,” is another of the principals of Sikhism, which Sikhs remember God through meditation. Honest living, called “Kirt Karo,” is the last principle of Sikhism and requires Sikhs to remember they must work hard and earn an honest living while remembering God.
The Sikhs have had a unique identity through their actions, but in 1699 Singh created the Khalsa, which gave Sikhs an addition to their identity with five articles of faith, which are worn by Sikhs today. The Sikhs have a small comb to keep uncut hair neat and clean called a Kanga. The Sikhs wear undershorts called Kachera, which represents modesty and fidelity.
Sikhs believe uncut hair is a gift of God called Kesh. The Sikhs wear a bracelet called Kara that signifies a reality with no beginning and no end. Sikhs also keep a ceremonial, small, blunt knife symbolizing freedom, liberty and justice.
A Sikh’s turban is a custom kept by all Sikhs. It’s a religious obligation for Sikhs to wear turbans to cover uncut hairs and makes them stand out. The traditional turban consists of five to six yards of fabric.
Many people with a Sikhism faith are standouts in sports, military, science and government in the United States and throughout the world.