Living Sikhism ( This is the article that you can use)
In 1999, Sikhs around the world jubilantly celebrated the three-hundredth
anniversary of Guru Gobind Singh’s creation of the Khalsa. In the process, many
people proclaimed the idealistic and universalist nature of the Gurus’ mission.
The Sikh Gurus’ Vision of an Ideal Society
by Dharam Singh
Dharam Singh, who teaches at Punjabi University in Patiala and specializes in Guru
Gobind Singh’s social philosophy, asserts that the Sikh Gurus’ mission included
measures designed to develop an ideal classless society.
Besides caste which is peculiar to Indian society, the economic factor is
equally responsible for stratification of society into different classes all over
the world. In such a set-up, the affluent and the haves generally adopt an
oppressive and exploitative attitude towards the poor and the have-nots: this
is equally true in the case of individuals as well as nations. This gulf between
the two classes widens further as a result of the pace of social, material
progress being different for these different classes. Since the economic factor
comes to determine human social relations, man [sic] becomes unduly
more unmindful of moral and ethical values in this struggle for economic
betterment. Sikhism, however, believes in the universal brotherhood of
mankind, and therefore holds everyone an equal claimant to the natural
resources provided them by the universal Father. Any attempt to deny one’s
share in that heritage would amount to sacrilege against God. The ethics
of the kingdom of God as taught in the Sikh scripture are the ethics of a
An important socio-religious directive for the Sikhs is to earmark a tithe
of their income for philanthropic purposes. Every Sikh, when he visits a
to pay obeisance to the Guru Granth Sahib, offers some cash.
There is no lower or higher limit on this offer and, in fact, it is not even
obligatory if one is not in a position to offer any. This offer of cash, though
made with religious faithfulness, is not to please the Guru or God: it is an
individual’s modest contribution towards general, communal purposes. …
Besides caste and class, religion is another very potent factor which
divides mankind into diverse groups of different religious denomination.
At the time Sikhism was born and during the period of its ascendancy,
persecution of man in the name of religion was quite common. The Sikh
Gurus felt it an insult to the divine essence in man, and declared that all
human beings, irrespective of their religious denominations, are one. Guru
Gobind Singh in his
refers to the diversity of religions followed
by people of the world, and declares emphatically that followers of diverse
religions are one. Religious labels are temporary and wither away with the
Tithe—a proportion, originally a tenth.
—a Sikh temple.
Anthology Liv Rel 3E.indb 329
bodily vesture whereas it is the worth of deeds done by man that is the
criterion of judgment both in this world and the Divine Court. Guru Amar
Das confers equal validity on all religions in helping man realize the ultimate
end of life. The role of religion is not that of scissors that tears asunder but
that of a needle that sews together the torn fabric of human society. …
The concept of the equality of mankind includes the womenfolk as well.
Woman occupies a subordinate position in the patriarchal society, but her
position becomes worse in the poor societies, especially in India where she
suffers oppression as a woman and as a member of the oppressed caste or
class. The Indian woman of Guru Nanak’s time was a victim of this sexist
discrimination and oppression, and was completely denied an independent
personality of her own. Infanticide, child marriage, malnutrition and
were some of the evils resulting from this
no distinction between man and woman, and considers both as the equal
manifestation of the Divine. Man and woman are equal but distinct because
of the functional distinction they have in the historical order. Even if none of
the Gurus was a woman, there is no inferiority for woman in the orthodox
Sikh ecclesiology. Guru Nanak was perhaps the first personage in the
religious history of mankind to raise his voice against her discrimination.
The Sikh Gurus not only provided ideational basis in their hymns for the
socio-religious rehabilitation of women but also undertook and advised to
undertake some widespread and practical steps in this direction. As a result
of this, she came to occupy a place equal to man and play an active role in
the socio-religious life. That the women were quite active as missionaries of
Sikh faith during the Guru-period is confirmed by a
Guru Tegh Bahadur to the
of Patna wherein he refers among others
to one Bebe Peri Bai. The role played by Mai Bhago
during the pontificate
of Guru Gobind Singh is common knowledge. Sikh tradition, supported
literature, lays injunctions against female infanticide,
. It also permits widow remarriage for her rehabilitation in
social life. The
denounce any kind of marginalization of woman.
Chastity and fidelity, two important constituents of the sanctity of the family
life as well as of social relations, are no more the virtues expected of woman
alone: they apply to women as much as they apply to men and even to the
rulers. … The Sikhs in their daily supplication (
) seek the welfare of
sarbat da bhala
There is no priestly class as such in Sikhism and anybody can lead the
congregation. … In the appointment of leaders of congregation, caste, class
—the Hindu custom of a widow’s self-immolation on her husband’s funeral pyre.
—philosophy, literally “world view” (German).
—spiritual instructions taken from opening the Guru Granth Sahib at random.
Mai Bhago—great female warrior and martyr in Sikh history.
—disciplines prescribed for Sikhs.
—veiling and separation of women.
Anthology Liv Rel 3E.indb 330
and status are given no consideration, and the only criterion of merit is the
incumbent’s spiritual and moral state. …
, everybody is welcome irrespective of his social or
economic status, and none is favoured or discriminated against on any count.
Here the prince and the pauper sit together and pray.
When membership of the
and the frequency of their visits to the
increased, it was considered imperative to arrange food for
the devotees. The institution of
kitchen) started with a view to meeting this requirement. The institution
became popular during the pontificate of Guru Angad Dev. … Guru Amar
Das further consolidated the institution and made it mandatory for every
visitor, high or low, to partake of food in the
before seeing the Guru.
Each successive Guru contributed to the consolidation of this institution, and
today we find
an integral part of almost every
or the Sikh
place of worship the world over.
, the food is prepared communally, without anybody
asking for the caste or class of the volunteer lending a helping hand.
or service in the
has been accepted as highly meritorious. All the
visitors sit in
(row) without any distinction of caste, class or creed,
and take their food. There is an injunction against providing a special seat
or special food for anyone whosoever. The Sikh history stands witness that
here princes have sat alongside peasants. This has been a very important step
in translating the principle of equality into practice—more so, in a society
where rigidity of casteism and sectarianism segregated people from one
another. It has also served as a medium of social integration between the
king and the commoner, the prince and the peasant. …
The desire for
is born of the feeling of love for others. Love is,
as we have said earlier, the natural corollary of the Sikh precept of the
universal brotherhood of mankind and universal fatherhood of God. All
men, whatever their caste, clan or creed, are the children of God and all are
spiritually united to each other and to the Creator-Lord. That is why, like
, love has also been declared a very potent means of reaching God. …
Love for all as equal members of the universal brotherhood of mankind
and social service and other altruistic deeds done with humility and
with absolutely no selfish motives naturally lead to the establishment
of a social order which is marked by justice, communal harmony and
peaceful co-existence. These social conditions are all the more needed
in the modern social phenomena which are experiencing rapid socio-
cultural transformations that do not, however, occur at a uniform pace.
Consequently, the economically poor and the socially backward are in
the world today at odds with the affluent and the socially and politically
advanced. These inequalities cause personal and social insecurity, distrust
—voluntary service in devotion to God.
Anthology Liv Rel 3E.indb 331
and hatred in personal and social relations and gross violation of human
rights and a widespread sense of fear and frustration. … It was to overcome
these and such other negative tendencies that the Sikh Gurus preached a
distinct metaphysical theory and then made it the
of their vision
of an ideal social structure marked by humanitarian outlook.
According to the Sikh thought,
(to earn one’s bread with the
sweat of one’s brow),
(remember the Divine Name; … feeling
and realizing His presence in all beings and at all places), and
(to share with others what one earns through honest means) are the three
cardinal values in the Sikh vision of an ideal society.
Dharam Singh, S
ikhism: Norm and Form
. Patiala, Punjab, and Delhi: Vision and Venture, 1997,
A teacher of religious knowledge
and spiritual insight, a channel of divine
Guru Granth Sahib
The Sikh holy scripture,
now regarded as the Guru.
Sikh warrior-saints pledged to
protect people of all religions and castes from
Free community kitchen.
Sikh celebrations usually include continuous
reading of the entire Guru Granth Sahib over
a period of 48 hours, followed by offering of a
large communal meal. Dating of holy days has
traditionally followed the lunar calendar, but
now some organizations are attempting to fix
the dates according to the solar calendar.
Maghi, celebration of the
martyrdom of 40 Immortals at Muktsar in Guru
Gobind Singh’s last battle against the Mughal
April 13 or 14
Baisakhi, anniversary of
the creation of the Khalsa, often including
initiation of new members of the Khalsa with
amrit (holy water stirred with a double-edged
sword as the Sikh prayers are recited).
[June] 4th day of the lunar month of Jeth
Martyrdom of Guru Arjun Dev by heat torture,
commemorated by offering of a cooling drink
to all passers-by.
[October–November] Full moon of
the lunar month of Kartik
celebration of Guru Nanak’s birthday
(although scholarship has placed the true date
at April 15).
[November] 5th light part of the lunar
month of Maghar
Martyrdom of Guru Tegh
[December–January] 7th light part of
the lunar month of Poh
Birthday of Guru
—(Latin) literally “push from behind