Sikhs believe that there is one God who is both transcendent and imminent and beyond human comprehension. God can however be realised and experienced through prayer, contemplation, service and keertan (the singing of God's praises). The object of a Sikh's life is to move closer to God, develop God consciousness and ultimately receive God's grace. Life presents the opportunity to do so through truthful living and selfless service to others.
A Sikh's way of life is governed by the following principles: Nam Simran - remembering and praying to God at all times; Kirat Karna - earning a living by honest means; Wand Shakna - sharing with the poor and needy; Sewa - selfless service to God and humanity; Equality - to treat all humans as equal. A Sikh practices purity of thought, purity of action and a respect and love for God's Creation.
Customs and Practices
The Sikh faith recognises the complete equality between men and women and does not make any distinctions between people according to race, class, caste, age or gender. The tenth Guru, Guru Gobind Singh, introduced the concept of equality by instructing Sikhs who had been baptised to share Amrit (holy water), adopt the same religious surname of Singh (lion) for men and Kaur (Princess) for women and wear the five articles of faith - Kesh (uncut hair), Kangha (a small wooden comb), Kara (an iron/steel bangle), Kirpan (a short sword) and Kachera (special shorts). The community of baptised Sikhs are known as Khalsa Panth. Not all Sikhs are baptised and thus not all will wear the five articles of faith, known as the Five Ks. Althought not mentioned in the Five Ks, the dastaar (turban) is worn to maintain the sanctity of Kesh (hair) and is treated with utmost respect by those Sikhs who wear it.
The Guru instructed Sikhs to say prayers in the early morning, at sunset and before retiring to bed, to abstain from alcohol, tobacco and drugs, and to contribute a minimum one-tenth of their wealth, mind and body for religious purposes or to the needy.
Places of Worship
The Sikh place of congregational worship is called a Gurdwara. It usually consists of two halls, a prayer hall and a 'langar' hall where the congregation sits together and shares a free community meal. On entering the Gurdwara heads must be covered with a large scarf or handkerchief, both for men and women, shoes removed and hands washed. Sikhs give utmost respect to the Holy Sikh Scriptures, the Guru Granth Sahib, which is seen as the embodiment of all the Gurus and contains the word of God.
A Sikh festival or holy day is called a Gurpurb: Remembrance Day. This usually refers to the birth or death of the Gurus. Vaisakhi (13/14 April) celebrates the day in 1699 when Guru Gobind Singh founded the order of the Khalsa, the community of baptised Sikhs. Bandhi Chorr Diwas (Diwali) commemorates Guru Hargobind's return from imprisonment to the Harminder Sahib (Golden Temple).
Food and Diet
Taking life is forbidden because one needs to exercise compassion in one's daily life. Many baptised Sikhs keep to a vegetarian diet which also excludes eggs. Some Sikhs are non-vegetarian but will only eat meat that has been slaughtered according to their own rites (jhatki) and they are prohibited from eating pork or beef. Meat cannot be taken within the grounds of the Gurdwara.
Click here for useful links to the Sikh community in Scotland.