What Do Sikhs Believe?

Very few Americans are educated about even the basics of Sikhism. You can begin your learning journey here.

Sikhism is the world’s fifth-largest religion with more than 25 million Sikhs worldwide. The Sikh Gurus, known as spiritual guides or teachers, established the religion. Guru Nanak was the first Guru and was born in the 15th century in the Punjab region of India. Sikhs believe in the oneness of all beings and the equality of everyone. 

The Sikh faith is a monotheistic religion, meaning Sikhs worship one God. Guru Nanak taught that one must honor God by honoring others and the Earth, God’s creation. Nine more Gurus succeeded Guru Nanak, and continued to spread his teachings across the world. Guru Gobind Singh was the last Guru; he named the Sikh sacred text, the Guru Granth Sahib, to be the eternal Guru that would guide the Sikhs going forward. 

The verses of the Guru Granth Sahib are written in poetic verse, and are intended to be sung. Singing isn a crucial component of Sikhism; Guru Nanak himself was known to sing his teachings as he travelled across South Asia on foot. The hymns of the Gurus are known as Gurbani, the Guru’s word. 

There are three core pillars of Sikhism, formalized by Guru Nanak. These are:

  • Vaṇḍ Chakkō: Sharing with others, helping those in need, as well as participating as part of a community. A spirit of giving, sharing, and caring for one another is central to Sikhism.
  • Kirat Karō: Earning/making a living honestly, without exploitation or fraud, and speaking the truth at all times.
  • Naam Japna: Meditating on God’s name to live a life of decency and humility. 

Sikhs see the temporary distractions of the material world as an illusion, or Māyā. The five qualities of ego, anger, greed, attachment and lust are known as the Five Thieves that rob a person of their ability to realize their oneness with God and creation. Sikhs work to counteract the temptations of these qualities through the Sikh values of service, equality, and seeking justice for all.

Sikhs believe that one’s form on Earth is only a temporary vessel for the eternal soul. Thus, the death of the physical body is a natural part of the life cycle, while the soul remains. Sikhs believe in reincarnation, meaning death is not an end, but merely the progression of the soul on its journey toward God.