What is Sikhism?
Sikhism is one of the youngest of world religions. It is barely over 500 years old. Its founder, Guru Nanak, was born in 1469. Guru Nanak spread a simple message of "Ek Onkar": we are all one, created by One Creator of all Creation. This was at a time when India was being torn apart by castes, sectarianism, religious factions, and fanaticism. He aligned with no religion, and respected all religions. He expressed the reality that there is one God and many paths, and the name of God is Truth, "Sat Nam."
Guru Nanak's followers were Sikhs (students of Truth). He taught them to bow only before God. He encouraged then to live their lives in direct consciousness of God, experiencing no separation. Guru Nanak opposed superstition, injustice, and hypocrisy and inspired seekers by singing the divine songs which touched the hearts of the most callous listeners. These songs were recorded by hand, and formed the beginnings of the Sikhs' scared writings, later to become the Guru Granth Sahib.
The Khalsa is a spiritual brotherhood and sisterhood devoted to purity of thought and action created by Guru Gobind Singh, who was the last Guru of the Sikhs. In order to preserve one's commitment to the Khalsa and help maintain an elevated state of consciousness, every baptized Sikh vows to wear the Five K's:
Kesh: uncut hair and beard, as given by God, to sustain him or her in higher consciousness. The Kesh is often kept in a turban, the crown of spirituality.
Kanga: a wooden comb to properly groom the hair as a symbol of cleanliness.
Kachera: specifically made cotton underwear as a reminder of the commitment to purity.
Kara: steel bracelet signifying bondage to Truth and freedom from every other entanglement.
Kirpan: the sword with which the Khalsa is committed to righteously defend the fine line of the Truth.
Guru Nanak's Way of Life
Nam Japna: To wake up each day before sunrise, clean the body, meditate on God's Name and recite the Guru's hymns to clean the mind. Throughout the day, continuously remember God's Name with every breath.
Kirat Karni: To work and earn by the sweat of the brow, live a family member's life, and practice truthfulness and honesty in all dealings.
Vand ke Chakna: To share the fruits of one's labor with others before considering oneself. Thus, to live as an inspiration and a supporter of the entire community.
Philosophy and Beliefs
EK Onkar - There is only one God. He is the same for all people, of all faiths.
The soul goes through many cycles of births and deaths; the purpose of human form is to lead an exemplary existence and merge with God.
Sikhism condemns blind rituals such as fasting, visiting places of pilgrimage, superstitions, worship of the dead, idol worship.
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.
Source: UCDavis sikh student association, sherepunjab brochure.