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Sikhs: The Way of the Disciples


This past Sunday, another mass shooting spree occurred in the States. The target this time was a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. Speculation that this attack may have been a case of mistaken identity began to run rampant in the news. Reporters, bloggers and the like suggested that the gunman may have believed that he was attacking a Muslim house of worship. This, they said, was because many Americans thought Sikhs were Muslims. Of course, there is no way of knowing the shooter’s motivations as he was killed by police. As an aside, I find it curious that the media were quick to suggest this attack was meant for Muslims. With no evidence to suggest otherwise, this is clearly another case of media scaremongering.

I’ll admit that my feathers have been ruffled with this latest attack on a religious group. If you’ve been reading my blog, you know that I have little tolerance for religious intolerance (I know, a bit oxymoronic, right?). I’m also concerned that in the Information Age (you know, an era where information is available at the tips of one’s fingers) that so few people bother to educate themselves about the world around them. While I agree the Internet isn’t always the most reliable source; a little critical thinking can certainly weed out the bad from the good information. But, I digress…

The point of this post (aside from a bit of squawking) is to introduce you to the Way of the Disciples (Sikhs).

Being a Sikh means being a disciple of the Guru. There are ten Gurus in the Sikh sacred story, beginning with Guru Nanak. The succeeding Gurus are all believed to have carried the spiritual light of Nanak and God’s word. Writings about Nanak in Sikh sacred texts, known as Adi Granth, suggest that he was influenced by both a Muslim and Hindu spiritual upbringing.

As with any religion, there is both unity and division within the community; however, there are some core central beliefs at the foundation of the Sikh world meaning. Like other monotheistic belief systems, God is central. Sikhs, however, recognize God (Nam) as the same One worshipped by many different belief systems and known by many different names. God is considered formless, timeless, and beyond human conception. Sikhism does not claim the only path to God, nor does it work toward converting others. Part of the Sikh world view is freedom of religion, which may come from the fact that Sikhism has blended many ideas from different faiths.

Sikhs engage in various ritual and worship. Daily worship entails reading and meditation on the sacred word found in the Adi Granth. Worship at the gurdwara (Sikh temple) centers around the Holy Book (Granth Sahib). Before worship, a ritual bath is performed. Following, offerings before the Holy Book are made. There are no ordained leaders in the gurdwara, thus each Sikh is free to perform the rituals of worship.

Women hold a high degree of respect in the faith. It is believed Guru Nanak once said this about the status of women, “Why denounce her, who even gives birth to kings?” As such, women are given equal status with men in services and ceremonies. Further, Sikhs welcome all faiths and cultures to their house of worship.

Sikhs may be most identifiable by the turbans (dastar) worn by men. This is worn because one of the prohibitions in Sikhism is the cutting of hair. Devout Sikh men may have unshorn hair and beards. They may also be identified by a sword or dagger (kirpan) worn, which is symbolic of a willingness to protect the weak and fight for justice. A metal bracelet (kara) is worn as a constant reminder that one is a servant of God and should conduct oneself befittingly.

There is much more to the Sikh religion than what I have provided. My hope is this brief introduction might encourage you to learn more about this blended belief system. Certainly, there are similarities to other religions; however it’s important to recognize the differences. It is short-sighted (IMO) to lump together all peoples who may look similar, share similar beliefs, or who come from the same part of the world. Ignorance that perpetuates fear, anger, and confusion can lead people to commit horrible acts. It’s time to stop the madness.


M. xo

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  1. mae
    August 13th, 2012 at 15:46 | #1

    @Jensen Thanks for perching here a while! Always appreciate the comments. Intolerant of intolerance does cause me some dissonance, that’s for sure. Of course, I’ve encountered the reverse intolerance argument and my opponents may or may not be accurate in making the claim. Bottom line, intolerance that incites hate, discrimination, or violence isn’t cool with me. That’s usually when I find myself in this sort of paradoxical predicament :)

    Great links! Thanks for sharing!

    M. xo

  2. Jensen
    August 13th, 2012 at 13:02 | #2

    The comment above is probably confusing (“intolerance of intolerance”). To be clear, what I was hinting at was, and best explained by, the “paradox of tolerance” as stated by Karl Popper. An interesting passage that I have only had a couple of weeks to absorb. http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Karl_Popper

    Often is the case, that a particular group of people will counter opposition to their bigotry, or racism, by claiming a “reverse bigotry/racism/intolerance” trait of their opponents. I wonder if you have incountered such an example.

    As is my usual fasion here are a few well known memes and macros that relate to the subject:


  3. Jensen
    August 10th, 2012 at 10:44 | #3

    Thanks Mae. I admit I knew little about Sikhism, before this.

    ps. The intolerance of intolerance conundrum, eh? Priceless. Kinda’ like the “racist who points out racism”

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