Profile of Sikhism

Six people were murdered at a suburban Milwaukee Sikh temple over the weekend in what is being called a case of domestic terrorism. Ravi Singh, spokesperson for the Illinois Sikh Community Center, joins us on Chicago Tonight at 7:00 pm to shed some light about the Sikh religion and the history of Sikhism in America.

Sikhism was founded more than 500 years ago by Guru Nanak who was born in 1469. Today, there are more than 20 million people worldwide who follow the religion. Sikhism preaches a message of devotion and remembrance of God at all times, truthful living, equality of mankind, social justice and denounces superstitions and blind rituals. The word 'Sikh' in the Punjabi language means 'disciple', Sikhs are the disciples of God who follow the writings and teachings of the 10 Gurus.

The 10th Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh, decreed that after his death the spiritual guide of the Sikhs would be the teachings contained in the Sikh scripture, the Guru Granth Sahib. The book now has the status of a living Guru. Guru Gobind Singh also decided that where Sikhs could not find answers in the book, they should decide issues as a community, based on the principles of their scripture.

Sikhism: Philosophy and Beliefs

- There is only One God. He is the same God for all people of all religions.

- The soul goes through cycles of births and deaths before it reaches the human form. The goal of our life is to lead an exemplary existence so that one may merge with God. Sikhs should remember God at all times and practice living a virtuous and truthful life while maintaining a balance between their spiritual obligations and temporal obligations.

- The true path to achieving salvation and merging with God does not require renunciation of the world or celibacy, but living the life of a householder, earning an honest living and avoiding worldly temptations and sins.

- Sikhism condemns blind rituals such as fasting, visiting places of pilgrimage, superstitions, worship of the dead, idol worship etc.

- 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.

Physical Articles of Faith: The 5 Ks

The 5 Ks are 5 physical symbols worn by Sikhs who have been initiated into the Khalsa. The 5 Ks taken together symbolize that the Sikh who wears them has dedicated themselves to a life of devotion and submission to the Guru.

- Kesh: uncut hair

- Kara: a steel bracelet

- Kanga: a wooden comb

- Kaccha: cotton underwear

- Kirpan: steel sword

View a map of Sikh congregations in the United States from 2010. Click on the image for a larger version.