Sikhism (meaning a “disciple”, or a “learner”), is a religion that originated in the Punjab region of the Indian subcontinent about the end of the 15th century. It is one of the youngest of the major world religions. The fundamental beliefs of Sikhism, articulated in the sacred scripture Guru Granth Sahib, include constant spiritual meditation of God’s name, being guided by the Guru instead of yielding to capriciousness of mind or psyche, living a householder’s life instead of monasticism, truthful action to dharam (righteousness, moral duty), being of selfless service to others, equality of all human beings, and believing in God’s grace. In the early 21st century there were nearly 25 million Sikhs worldwide, the great majority of them living in the Indian state of Punjab.
Sikhism is based on the spiritual teachings of Guru Nanak, the first Guru (1469 – 1539), and the nine Sikh gurus that succeeded him. The Tenth Guru, Guru Gobind Singh, named the Sikh scripture Guru Granth Sahib as his successor, terminating the line of human Gurus and making the scripture the eternal, religious spiritual guide for Sikhs. Sikhism rejects claims that any particular religious tradition has a monopoly on Absolute Truth.
The Sikh scripture opens with Ik Onkar (ੴ), its Mul Mantar and fundamental prayer about One Supreme Being (God). Sikhism emphasizes simran (meditation on the words of the Guru Granth Sahib), that can be expressed musically through kirtan or internally through Nam Japo (repeat God’s name) as a means to feel God’s presence. It teaches followers to transform the “Five Thieves” (lust, rage, greed, attachment, and ego). Hand in hand, secular life is considered to be intertwined with the spiritual life. Guru Nanak taught that living an “active, creative, and practical life” of “truthfulness, fidelity, self-control and purity” is above the metaphysical truth, and that the ideal man is one who “establishes union with God, knows His Will, and carries out that Will”. Guru Hargobind, the sixth Sikh Guru, established the political/temporal (Miri) and spiritual (Piri) realms to be mutually coexistent. Sikhism evolved in times of religious persecution. Two of the Sikh gurus – Guru Arjan (14. April 1563 – 25 May 1605) and Guru Tegh Bahadur (12. April 1621 – 19. December 1675 ), after they refused to convert to Islam, were tortured and executed by the Mughal rulers. The persecution of Sikhs triggered the founding of the Khalsa, as an order to protect the freedom of conscience and religion, with qualities of a “Sant-Sipāhī” – a saint-soldier.