Sikhism: An Introduction to a New Religion and Culture
Throughout the past several years and as a member of a very small religious group, I have made a point to study world religions and their corresponding cultural groups. As such, I feel that I have a decent grasp on the basics of the major world religions -- at least from an outsider’s viewpoint. However, one group I feel I have the least amount of knowledge on is the Sikhs. The tidbits of information I have picked up over the years regarding this group has always been interesting to me, but I felt that this would be an ideal opportunity to increase my knowledge and understanding of this small religious group.
There are approximately 27-30 million Sikhs worldwide, making it the fifth largest religion in the world (O’Brien, 2012). From this population, approximately 63% of all Sikhs live in India. The majority of the Sikhs living in India come from the Punjab region and make up the majority of the population in that region -- this is the only place in the world where Sikhs are not a minority religion and instead make up the majority population. This high density in the region likely attributes to the code that dictates that Sikhs must learn and teach their children the Punjabi language (Sikhs.org, 2011). Because the majority of Sikhs are Indian with relatively few converts compared to other religions that actively prosthelytize, Indian culture and Sikh culture are intimately intertwined. Outside of India, the largest number of Sikhs live in various regions of Canada, French Guiana, the United Kingdom, and Fiji (Oxford Sikhs, 2014). In the United States, the Sikhs are a relatively small minority -- though the United States does not have an exact method of accounting for religious identification, it is assumed that there are between 280,000 and 500,000 Sikhs in the United States, with 246 Sikh gurdwaras (congregations) throughout the country (Pew Research Center, 2012). Sikhs in the United States are often mistaken for Muslims because of the traditional headwear and facial hair worn by some adherents, and thus face a degree of discrimination -- many have pointed to this misunderstanding as a motive behind the tragic 2012 shooting at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, as well as several other post-September 11th hate crime incidents (Oxford Sikhs, 2014).
The Sikh religion is based on the belief in a single God, which adherents believe is the same God worshipped by peoples of all monotheistic religions. The religion was founded in the 15th century by Guru Nanak Dev, partially as rejection of the Hindu caste system, and continued with 9 additional Gurus. The 10th Guru, Guru Gobind Singh, declared that the Sikhs would no longer need a living Guru, and “appointed his spiritual successor as Sri Guru Granth Sahib, his physical successor as the Khalsa” (Sikhs.org, 2011).The Guru Granth Sahi is the Sikh’s only holy text, and contains the poetry of the Gurus meant to guide the Sikhs in their daily lives....