Satgur Nanak pargateya
Miti Dhund jagg chaanan hoya.
Guru Nanak Dev ji, the first Guru of Sikhs, born in April 1469 in Northern Indian Sub-continent laid the foundation of one of the most modern religions in the world, Sikhism. People who follow Sikhism are called "Sikh" which means "learner" and the faith is called "Gurmat" which means "the way of the Guru".From a very early age, Guru Nanak was very spiritual and did not believe in the elaborate rituals to "please" God. He shunned caste and believed all humans to be equal. It was said that at the age of 28, he went for meditation in the river and was gone for three days. When he reappeared, filled with the spirit of God, he said, “There is no Hindu and no Muslim.” This laid the foundation of his missionary work which was later carried forward, evolved and materialized by the 9 Gurus over the next 3 centuries and the word of the Gurus was written in the 11th Guru - Guru Granth Saheb, the holy book of Sikhs.
SIKH GURUS AND GURDWARAS
Shri Guru Nanak Dev ji's teachings brought faith in the ONE power and helped people move away from the false worldly traditions of pleasing God(s). This beginning of a new era of "Mann Neeva, Matt Ucchi" (Humble mind, High thought) started by Guru Nanak, was carried forward by 9 Gurus - Guru Angad Dev ji, Guru Amardas ji, Guru Ram Das ji, Guru Arjan Dev ji, Guru Har Gobind Saheb, Guru Har Rai Saheb, Guru Har Krishan Saheb, Guru Tegh Bahadur ji and Guru Gobind Singh Saheb. While the 6th Guru Shri Guru Hargobind Saheb ji started the military tradition, the tenth Guru Shri Guru Gobind Saheb ji established the "Khalsa" - the Pure. Guru Granth Saheb - the holy book of the Sikhs is the 11th Guru, a living embodiment of all Gurus.
A Sikh "Gurdwara" or "door to the Guru" is a place of worship for Sikhs. All Gurdwaras are open to all people irrespective of their race. A "rehat maryada" or a code of conduct is laid down of how should one conduct himself/herself in a Gurdwara. Gurdwaras are also a place where Nanak's word of serving food to the needy is followed even 550 years after Nanak. No one goes hungry from a Gurdwara and everyone sits on the floor to eat as equals.
SIKH FAITH AND PRINCIPLES
The most important tenet of the Sikh faith is "Ek Onkar". Though it has a much deeper meaning, one can understand it as "There is ONE God" - the one who has created all, the one who is timeless.
Over the 3 centuries of the Sikh Gurus who showed way to people, Sikh principles took shape from being a "Saint" - one with God, the timeless truth, to being a "Saint Soldier" - one who is a Saintly in thought but can fight for the worldly truth when needed.
Sikhs pray for "Sarbat da Bhala" - welfare of all living.
The 6th guru Sri Guru Hargobind Saheb ji brought in the doctrine of "MIRI-PIRI" - the POLITICAL-SPIRITUAL doctrine. This principle encourages Sikhs to possess both the temporal or political authority as well as spiritual pursuits to reach the ONE. While the timeless (God) is to be remembered and thanked for his creations, the worldly order and authority is equally paramount in life.
The Sikh slogan "Degh Tegh Fateh" - Victory to charity and Arms has been followed in spirt and action till date for over 5 centuries. Sikhism obligates that a Sikh is to perform dual duties of providing food for the hungry and protecting the dignity, honor and life of the weak. Endless "langars" - free food, is served by Sikhs across the world.
SIKHS IN AMERICA
Sikhs were the first South Asian group to migrate to Americas in the late 1800s. Initially only men arrived, in search of a better life, most of them settling in the West. Gallant men, mostly in turbans, worked hard in the fields, railroad and lumber mills. The early newspapers called this "The Tide of Turbans". They faced discrimination, were paid less, were not granted naturalization/citizenship simply because they were not "White". Historically, the realization that Sikhs will not be respected elsewhere until India is ruled by British, lead to the formation of the Gadar Party by the diaspora that managed to create a wave of Panjabis standing up to the colonizers. Sikhs could not even own land for a long time but a century later 5,00,000+ Sikhs in America contribute hugely to the economy as well as the social fabric of America. Sikhs have worked hard, flourished and earned a respectful place in American society.
Sikhs are a peace loving community that is ever keen to uplift self and people around them. In spite of this, racist attacks on individuals and Sikh Gurdwaras have been prevalent through out time. Sikhs are right there and yet invisible and misunderstood/misrepresented. This must change.