Sikhism is the ideal example of a medium-sized religion. If you don’t know anything about the faith, there is still a chance you’ve crossed paths with a Sikh worshipper before. Conversely, even if you’ve heard of Sikhism, you may not fully grasp the details of what they preach.
This article is by no means a comprehensive piece documenting this gorgeous theology. Instead, here are five fast Sikh facts to whet your appetite, demonstrating how Sikhism is one of the most intriguing and enchanting religions on the planet. Once done, we implore you to research beyond this page. You may find what you were always looking for.
1. Sikhism’s Leading Spiritual Master is Not a Human
Guru Nanak founded Sikhism. Followers refer to him as the first Guru of the religion. Once he died in 1539, his remarkable soul moved into its next vessel, Guru Angad. This process happened nine more times across the human realm.
However, when this energy entered the 10th Guru, Gobind Singh, he decided that this human rebirth procedure must end with him, and the subsequent Guru should stand as the eternal spiritual master of the faith.
Gobind Singh shifted the honour onto their holy scripture, the Guru Granth Sahib. This 1,430-page book is a compilation of texts from all Sikh Gurus as well as non-Sikh saints and poets. It shall remain the Sikh authority forever.
“Without the True Guru, understanding is not obtained. Meditation, penance and austere self-discipline are found by surrendering to the True Guru’s Will.” — Guru Granth Sahib
2. Sikhism is Big on Gender Equality
According to the faith, there is no spiritual difference between anyone. Naturally, this perspective includes gender equivalency. Hence, females have the same right in every area of the religion as men.
Such a push for equality is refreshing, considering how many other doctrines are developed around patriarchal mindsets. For example, women are famously portrayed as objects of desire and correlated with sexual temptations in numerous religious texts. Sikhism approaches this moral predicament from the opposite angle, replacing celibacy with a complete dedication to home and family.
Menstruation is another controversial topic. Some religions forbid intercourse during the period (Judaism, Islam), while others refuse entry into holy temples (Buddhism, Shintoism). Sikhism rejects this discrimination, considering menstruation a natural process with zero consequence on a woman’s worship.
“The denigration of the female body ‘expressed in many cultural and religious taboos surrounding menstruation and child-birth’ is absent in the Sikh worldview. Guru Nanak openly chides those who attribute pollution to women because of menstruation.” — Nikky-Guninder Kaur Singh, The Feminine Principle in the Sikh Vision of the Transcendent
3. Sikhism Feeds Hundreds of Thousands of Hungry People Daily
The term Sevā originates in Hinduism and means “selfless service” to God. And because God lives in all of us (Atman), a direct way to praise the Lord is to assist your fellow humanity. Sikhism has adopted the teaching as one of its main pillars. Almost every place of Sikh worship (gurdwaras) features community kitchens (langars). Here, volunteers serve free lacto-vegetarian meals to everyone, irrespective of religion or caste.
The holiest site of Sikhism is the Golden Temple in India. Here alone, they feed up to 100,000 people a day. It is interesting how numerous bigger religions preach about helping those in need, but in action, they only seek riches for themselves. Meanwhile, Sikhism admirably puts their money where their mouths are. Literally.
“Only fools argue whether to eat meat or not. They don’t understand truth, nor do they meditate on it. Who can define what is meat and what is plant? Who knows where the sin lies, being a vegetarian or a non-vegetarian?” — Guru Nanak
4. Sikhism Bridges the Gap Between Abrahamic and Dharmic Religions
Scholars classify Sikhism as an Indian religion. This categorisation is due to the shared terminology and concepts with Hinduism. However, founder Guru Nanak was originally a devout Muslim, and the Quran profoundly inspired his teachings. One example is that Sikhism is not polytheistic like the multi-deities of Hinduism. Instead, it is monotheistic like the Abrahamic religions, speaking of One God/Allah who reigns over every theology. They refer to this force as Waheguru (“Wonderful Teacher”). In addition, the traditional Sikh attire is similar to Islam, so much so that their people are regularly mistaken as Muslims.
As a result of these shared characteristics, Sikhism gained converts from both Hinduism and Islam. The teachings proved particularly popular with Sufi mystics. Unfortunately, this led to intense friction from the Islamic faith, as converting away from that religion is strictly forbidden. Sadly, this conflict often turns violent, including beheadings as recent as 2010.
“There is one supreme being, the eternal reality, the creator, without fear and devoid of enmity, immortal, never incarnated, self-existent, known by grace through the true Guru.” — Guru Granth Sahib
5. Sikhism is the Newest Major Religion
Boasting between 25–30 million followers, Sikhism is currently the fifth-largest religion worldwide. This feat is awe-inspiring when you learn that Guru Nanak only established Sikhism around the 15th century. That is almost a thousand years after Islam, the second most recent.
90% of Sikhs live in India, but strong communities exist in the USA, Canada, the UK, and Australia. So why not check if there’s a gurdwara near you and seek a firsthand understanding of this flavourful culture? You may even get some free food out of it!
“Even Kings and emperors with heaps of wealth and vast dominion cannot compare with an ant filled with the love of God.” ― Guru Nanak