What is a Sikh?

A Sikh is a seeker of truth through the experience of the Shabad Guru. 

The word Sikh literally means “student” or “disciple” in Punjabi and other Indian languages.  Sikhism (the religion of these Sikhs or students) began as a group of followers of a series of ten human Gurus. The word Guru, which is often translated as “Teacher,” actually means “one who provides the technology to get to light out of darkness.” 

The divine path pioneered by Guru Nanak coincides on many levels—but not all of them—with modern thinking. Sikhs believe in One God, acknowledge the transcendental Oneness of spirit in all things, have no need to convert people, brand no one as “heretic,“ respect both genders, do not practice caste, live in the world (which we believe is a divine illusion created by God), are not required to fast, use the sword to prevent forcible conversion, believe in reincarnation and cremate our dead.

Guru Nanak was followed by a succession of nine human Gurus: Guru Angad, Guru Amar Das, Guru Ram Das, Guru Arjan Dev, Guru Hargobind, Guru Har Rai, Guru Harkrishan, Guru Teg Bahadur and Guru Gobind Singh. All of these human Gurus embodied the Shabad Guru—the Guru of Enlightening Sound and Song.  

In 1708, before he left his physical body, Guru Gobind Singh formally turned the Guruship of all Sikhs over to the Siri Guru Granth Sahib, a compendium of songs and poems written by six of the Sikh Gurus as well as other holy people from other faiths.

Most people call the Siri Guru Granth Sahib the Sikh Holy Scriptures, but it is really a holy vibration in book form.

When Shabads from the Siri Guru Granth Sahib are sung or recited with full devotion and intention, the singer becomes the song and eventually gains the consciousness of the Saints who wrote or sang the original words. So the Siri Guru Granth Sahib is the Sikh Guru, our path to God.

The Siri Guru Granth Sahib contains no real articles of faith, no items a person must believe to be a Sikh. Sikhism is one of the least dogmatic faiths on Earth. It’s main concern is with practice and experience of us as human beings. 

The Sikh way of life is not barred from any person by reason of caste, race or gender. The word “Sikh” is derived from Sanskrit word ‘shishya’ meaning ‘a learner, disciple, or seeker of truth.’ As long as one is willing to learn, following the Sikh way of life, any person can be a Sikh. Guru Nanak taught that all people were equal in the eyes of God. 

~Resources:  this information was originally shared in the books Sikh Spiritual Practice: The Sound Way to God (2010) by Siri Kirpal Kaur Khalsa and Living Reality (1994) by Bibiji Inderjit Kaur Khalsa.