The core beliefs of the Sikh faith
The month of November is one of the holiest months for Sikhs. It’s the month in which the birth anniversary, or Gurpurab, of Guru Nanak Dev Ji falls. Of the ten Guru Sahibs in Sikh history, Guru Nanak Dev Ji, the founder of Sikhism, is the first. On the full moon day in the month of Kattak, Sikhs all over the world celebrate the day when their spiritual guiding light was sent to this Earth to open the door to eternal peace.
California has designated the month of November to be Sikh Awareness and Appreciation month. On September 26, 2019, the California State Legislature filed the Assembly Concurrent Resolution No. 133 with the Secretary of State. This resolution recognized the month of November as California’s official Sikh American Awareness and Appreciation Month, stating that “This measure would recognize and acknowledge the significant contributions made by Californians of Sikh heritage to our state and seeks to afford all Californians the opportunity to better understand, recognize, and appreciate the rich history and shared principles of Sikh Americans.”
Sikhism is the fifth-largest religion in the world. Originating in the state of Punjab, it has now spread to regions all over the world. Today, there are over 30 million people who practice the Sikh religion and the United States alone is home to almost 500,000 of them.
The Sikh religion is monotheistic, with the belief that there is one Creator. Sikhs pray three times a day, with five prayers in the morning, and one each in the evening and at night. The first morning prayer begins with the Mool Mantar, which describes the attributes of the timeless Waheguru (God). The first line of the Mool Mantar states that “There is only one God, and there is no other like Him.”
After praying, Sikhs do Ardaas, a supplication asking God to bestow His blessings to all. During Ardaas, Sikhs pray for universal wellbeing and prosperity. Not only do they pray for the welfare of everyone, but they also work towards making it a reality. The concept of Sewa, or selfless service, is prominent in the Sikh religion, and Sikhs are taught to help any and every human being in need.
The ten Guru Sahibs ingrained the concept of Sewa in the hearts and minds of Sikhs by setting an example through their own actions and deeds. In 1663, there was an outbreak of smallpox in Delhi, India. The eighth Guru Sahib, Guru Harkrishan Sahib Ji, selflessly served the ill with utmost devotion and alleviated their suffering.
More than three hundred years later, in the spring of 2021, the same city of Delhi was ravaged by the Delta variant of the COVID-19 pandemic. Hospitals ran out of beds as well as oxygen cylinders, leaving the helpless people with nowhere to go. Overnight, Sikh volunteers set up makeshift hospitals on the streets of Delhi and mobilized their own resources to arrange oxygen cylinders. Khalsa Aid, a well-known, international aid organization founded and run by Sikh volunteers, played a major role in serving the COVID patients.
According to the Associated Press, COVID-19 patients, “arrive[d] in their cars, on foot or in three-wheeled taxis, desperate for a mask and tube attached to the precious oxygen tanks outside the [G]urdwara in a neighborhood outside the capital, New Delhi.” The word spread throughout the city and cars carrying COVID patients began lining up on the streets. The makeshift hospitals began being referred to as “Oxygen Langar.”
The concept of Langar dates back to back to the late 1400s, and is an integral part of every Sikh temple around the world. Langar is a free community kitchen and provides free meals to anyone who needs it, regardless of their faith, race, or social class. For over 500 years, Sikhs have been coming together to volunteer and run this service. The Sikh temple in Fremont (Gurdwara Sahib Fremont) runs this service continuously every single day.
The Sikh religion teaches its followers to stay humble and serve all humans as if each and every one of them possess the light of God. Sikhs focus on the constant meditation of God’s name which rids them of negative thoughts and actions and brings them humility. Sikhs are taught from the very beginning to live a life devoted to God and fulfill their time on Earth serving humanity. In a world of turmoil and suffering, Sikhism provides a pathway to peace, goodwill, and righteousness. This November, Sikhs come together to celebrate their faith and spread the message of love and universal brotherhood.