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Sikhs Beliefs Revisited

May 17, 2007
Sikh Beliefs
Sikhs believe in the following:

There is only one God. Truth is his name. He is the Creator.
He is without fear. He is without hate. He is timeless and without form.
He is beyond death, the Enlightened One. He can be known by the grace of the Guru.

  • When Sikhs speak of the Guru they are referring to God, the Great Teacher. God, the unknowable, becomes the teacher who reveals God to those who follow. God created everything, so all life is good, but attachment to material things leads to reincarnation and the sufferings of birth and death. The goal of Sikhism is to end the cycle of rebirth and be united with God.

Sikhs emphasise two primary aspects of daily life: service and devotion to God. Service means honest work and service to the community - Sewa, in which all are equal regardless of caste, creed, race or gender. Devotion is cultivated by singing devotional hymns and by meditation on the holy name of God - Simran and Naam Japna

  • There is only One God who is purely spiritual and does not take human form.
  • All creation is part of God and is an expression of God’s Divine Spirit Naam and His Will Hukam.
  • All human beings have an immortal soul (atma) which is part of God and is on a journey to reunite with Him (Mukti).
  • All human beings are equal regardless of race, religion, gender, age or social class.
    • All people are equal:
    • You must all live together.
    • You must be kind are share what you have. (Wand kay Shako)
    • All people can talk to God.
  • Lasting happiness can only be found when the soul reunites with God
  • Service to others (sewa), while remembering God at all times (simran), are essential if the soul is to reunite with God
  • Live a life of a house-holder and live a truthful life earning a honest living while remembering God (Kirat Karni)

Sikhs must not drink alcohol, smoke or gamble. They have one wife or husband. They must pray every morning. They must read the holy book everyday. The Ten Gurus (teachers) of the Sikh told the people what God wanted; how they should live their lives; and how peace and tranquillity could be obtained. Sikhs who become Khalsa must wear the 5Ks – Uncut Hair Kesh, Small Comb Kanga, Bangle Kara, Special Shorts Kacha and Sword Kirpan.

Concept of God

Followers of the Sikh faith believe that all life, including human life, comes from God. God is the Creator of the universe and the force that keeps it in existence. God is purely spiritual, has no physical body and cannot be known or experienced through the five senses. God is infinitely above and beyond everything else that exists (transcendent). God is also within all creation, including human beings (immanent) and, therefore, Sikhs believe that all creation is part of God.

Mukti or Salvation

However, salvation (reunion with God Mukti) cannot simply be gained by attention to physical, emotional and intellectual needs. The physical world may be real in the sense that it does actually exist, but it is not real in a lasting or ultimate sense. The only True Reality is God and the only truly lasting part of a human being is the soul (Atma). If a person forgets this, and allows the physical world to become a barrier between God and the soul, he/she will lose the unique opportunity to reunite with God. Too much concentration on the material aspects of life (Maya) leads the soul further and further away from reunion with God (Mukti). Human pleasures and needs pass, the human body eventually dies and only the soul remains – if a person forgets this he/she will have wasted the unique opportunity which is part of being born human.

Transmigration of the soul

The Sikh Gurus taught that existence in the universe involves the soul in a journey through many life forms. During this journey, provided the being perform good deeds, the soul travels towards ever-closer reunion with the Creator and One True Reality of which it is a part. The human form is only one of 8.4 million forms that the soul has inhabited during its existence in the physical world. The soul will have lived through many lives and will have inhabited many different forms before eventually being born in a human body.
Being reborn in human form is regarded as a special blessing because human beings are different to all other forms of life and have a higher form of consciousness. Only human beings have this higher form of consciousness, awareness of a moral conscience and, as a result, free will. Humans should not be pure slaves of their instinct which is how lower life-forms are governed.

The natural law of Karma

The law of karma can be described simply as the belief that all actions have consequences for the person who acts. These consequences do not just involve the immediate physical results – for example, when someone uses violence against another person and he/she is injured as a result. There are also moral consequences which affect the soul on its journey towards reunion with God and determine the nature of further rebirths if reunion with God is not achieved.
If a person returns to the cycle of life, death and rebirth, it is not because God actively punishes that person for doing wrong. The Sikh Gurus taught that a person moves closer to reunion with God or further away from reunion as a result of the natural law of karma. The law of karma is part of God’s created order, not a force or power independent of God.
The Gurus taught that it is not necessary to die in order to be free from karma and reincarnation (rebirth). Anyone who chooses to live in complete harmony with God’s Will or Hukam, and keeps God in mind at all times, no longer creates either positive or negative karma. Although, the Sikhs will avoid negative karma and try to create positive karma, this is not the main focus. The main focus is in listening to, and obeying, God’s Will or Hukam and remaining open to God’s Grace at all times (Kudrat). A person who constantly keeps God in mind and lives in harmony with God’s Will or Hukam is known as gurmukh.


Maya is often translated into English as "illusion". In Sikhism, however, the word maya is not used to suggest that the physical world is unreal or imaginary. Sikhs believe that everything in the world is real and good because it has been created by, and is part of, God.
Maya, for Sikhs, is the part of human nature which misunderstands what is important in life and becomes attached to things that do not last. This attachment (Moh) can be to possessions, success, physical pleasure, a good name – even family and friends. Maya makes human beings forget that God is the only lasting or important part of everything that exists.

Developing virtues and controlling vices

The Sikh Gurus taught that to achieve Salvation (Mukti), it was important to work hard at developing positive human qualities which lead the soul closer to God. The Gurus taught that all human beings have the qualities they need to reunite with God but they must train their minds to make the most of these qualities. In order to reach the final goal of life, Sikhs believe that they must constantly develop their love for God by developing compassion for all God’s creation.

Five Virtues - Sat, Santokh, Daya, Nimrata and Pyare

Sikhs believe that human beings must work at developing all the God-like qualities they have in order to truly love God. Love of God is not just a feeling but always involves showing love for God by selfless service to God’s creation. A person who is gurmukh does not act out of selfishness but, by focusing on God, acts out of compassion for others "… becomes the slave of the Lord’s slaves, then …. finds the Lord and eradicates ego from within". Maya and haumai are overcome by focusing only on God while serving God in creation. Material wealth, fame and praise are unimportant because the gurmukh is focused on the only thing of lasting value – God "The wealth of the Naam shall never be exhausted; no one can estimate its worth"
One of the most important virtues which Sikhs try to develop during life is that of truth (Sat). God is Truth and by trying to practise truth, i.e. live a truthful life, Sikhs believe that they can live in accordance with God’s Will/Hukam. The other virtues are: Compassion (Daya), Contentment (Santokh), Humility (Nimrata) and Love (Pyare).

Five Evils - Kam, Krodh, Lobh, Moh and Ahankar
The Guru Granth Sahib often refers to five evils, vices or ‘thieves’ which human beings should try to control. By focusing on developing virtues, a Sikh hopes to control these five evils. These evils lead the soul away from God and steal the unique opportunity to reunite with God. Within this body dwell the five thieves: sexual desire (Kam), anger/rage (Krodh), greed (Lobh), emotional attachment (Moh) and egoism (Ahankar).