Guide To Becoming A Pure Sikh
4. Five Stages
5. Sikh Beliefs
This guide outlines how you can become a pure Sikh, however it does not identify every step you need to take on your journey as it is very personal and unique. Becoming a pure Sikh is not difficult once you have genuinely made the decision to open your mind and begin your journey.
Becoming a pure Sikh may seem like a daunting task, after all there is much to learn and understand. Where do you start? What do you do first?
What Is A Pure Sikh?
The terms 'Pure Sikh' and 'Khalsa' are synonymous (have the same meaning) with one another. Other similar terms are 'Gursikh', 'Gurmukh' and 'Amritdhari'.
These terms are opposed to that of 'fake Sikhs', who are individuals that may have Punjabi ancestry but do not hold or understand Sikh values and yet mistakenly regard themselves as Sikh.
A Way Of Life For All
A Sikh's journey is a philosophy about life that follows continuous self-improvement, developing and evolving with the Guru's grace. The time it takes to become a Sikh does not matter as long as you keep learning and making progress throughout your life.
Most people do not become Sikhs overnight; it can be a slow process. Following the path of Sikhi is falling in love with your soul and God. Most worthy accomplishments in life require dedication, motivation, sacrifice, strength and commitment. However, following the path of a pure Sikh with humility, love and dedication will result in peace, happiness and fulfilment.
In the first phase, some non-Sikh's become vegetarians and give up intoxicants (drugs, alcohol, tobacco etc) and partying. They start reciting and reading translations of Gurbani (the sacred writings of the Gurus) but don't wear turban or grow beards. They slowly stop cutting their hair, remove any body piercings and adulterations of the body, and begin to wear a dastar (turban).
Those who make an active effort to cultivate their humility, love and dedication towards Sikhism, improve quickly.
More than anything else, Sikhi teaches discipline in life. It is based on the simple belief of one God. And that God is everywhere, including inside you. When there's one God and when you live on simple beliefs, you begin to see a lot of things that make life enjoyable. Being a Sikh is learning to be a better person, to help other people to serve humanity.
Aspects Of Sikhism
There are three main aspects to Sikhism.
1. Practices - which are the actual application or use of ideas, beliefs, or methods, as opposed to theories relating to them.
2. Beliefs - refer to the beliefs, values and morals of Sikhism and can be distinct from the religious practices.
3. Social organisation - which comprises of the Sikh Sangat (community) headed by the Punj Pyare (comprised of any good Gursikhs, male or female). Although some terms, like Granthi, describe persons performing functions in a Gurdwara, there is no social structure, clergy or hierarchy in Sikhism. Sikhs believe God resides within all and regard everyone with equality.
In order to become a Sikh it is important to focus on two particular aspects of Sikhism for development, these are religious practices and beliefs. A Sikh should, whenever possible, try and join with other Gursikhs in a Sangat. If this is not possible, you are encouraged to begin your own Sangat or at the very least avoid bad company.
Sikh practices include a number of applications (the action of putting something into operation) so in order to help you understand how to become a Sikh, we have divided them into five stages.
Sikh practices are simple, precise and practical guidelines that were laid out by the Gurus for living according to the "Sikh way of life". The Gurus emphasised that a Sikh should lead a disciplined life engaged in Naam Simran (to remember God), Kirat Karni (to live honestly), and Vand Chhako (to share with others within the community). This translates into hard work, honest living, the love of all living things and the service of God.
This way of life is said to have been stripped of complications, myths, jargon, rituals and exploitation of people in the name of religion. Social stratification, caste, racism, disability or inequality are no barriers – all are inclusively encouraged to undertake the rigours of Simran (prayer) and Sewa (selfless service) to progress spiritually.
Beliefs are basically assumptions that we make about the world and our values stem from those beliefs. Sikhs have values that are stable long-lasting beliefs about what is important. They have become standards by which Sikhs order their lives and make their choices.
In becoming a Sikh, your beliefs will develop into values when your commitment to them grows and you see them as being important. They can include concepts like "truth, contentment, compassion, humility, love, perseverance, equality" and many, many others.
Sikh moral development focuses on the emergence, change, and understanding of morality from infancy through adulthood. In the field of moral development, morality is defined as principles for how individuals ought to treat one another, with respect to justice, others' welfare, and rights.
Storytelling provides a foundation for children in understanding the core values of the Sikh community. Storytelling carries lessons across generational lines with words of meaning and instruction, providing children the guidelines for living life. The Guru's sakhis (stories) are used as a tool to pass down the symbolic significances of life and ideologies of moral character. The Rehat Maryada (Sikh Code Of Conduct) says "It is a Sikh's duty to get his children educated in Sikhism." If Sikhism is a family activity it may help the child internalize the parents' morals.
Although we have created five main stages of development, the first three can be followed in parallel or whenever one is ready. However, you should note that these stages have no end. Instead, a pure Sikh would continuously seek to review and refine their knowledge.
Stage 1 - Main Sikh Practices
1. Understand the main Sikh practices and apply them to yourself. For example, Remember God at all times. Live a simple and honest life. Treat people and all living things equally. Take part in sewa (charity) and help others in need. Donate 10% of your earnings to Gurdwaras and/ or helping others. Learn [Sikh] martial arts/ Gatka (or to defend yourself with a Kirpan).
2. Join in with the Sangat, e.g. at the Gurdwara. Listen to Katha and Kirtan.
3. Learn about Sikh history and read Sikh literature.
4. Learn and carry out daily the Sikh prayers (morning Naam Simran and Nitnem, evening Rehras, bedtime Sohila). If you cannot read or understand Gurmukhi, you can listen to recordings until you learn Gurmukhi. Begin with Japji Sahib and progress to include all of the daily prayers.
Stage 2 - Maintaining Your Rehat
1. Read, understand and follow the Sikh Rehat Maryada (Sikh code of conduct).
2. Wear the Five K's, Kesh, Kanga, Kara, Kirpan (full size), Kachera.
3. Wake up at Amritvela for Simran and Nitnem.
4. Be physically fit, learn traditional Sikh skills like Horse Riding, Archery, Sword fighting and/ or learn modern weapons and fighting techniques.
Stage 3 - Gurbani And Language
1. Learn Gurmukhi (Punjabi).
2. Take Ucharan/ Santhiya, learn the correct pronunciation and meanings of Gurbani. Foreign language translations of Gurbani, including English, do not offer adequate explanations.
Stage 4 - Take Amrit
1. Take Amrit and join the Khalsa. If you live the lifestyle of a Gursikh, it is easy to take the next step and take Amrit.
ਖਾਲਸਾ ਮੇਰੋ ਰੂਪ ਹੈ ਖਾਸ ॥
Khalsa Mero Roop Hai Khaas ||
The Khalsa is my own self image.
~ Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji
This step is compulsory for all those who want to be known as "Sikh". Taking Amrit and becoming a Sikh is the start of a wonderful new life. The Khalsa become your family, your father Sache Patshah Kalgiyaan Wale Dashmesh Pita Dhan Dhan Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji. You lose your fear of death and are at the service of the Sikh Panth.
Stage 5 - Advanced
1. Learn and perform Kirtan.
2. Learn Larivaar Gurbani (Gurmukhi).
3. Teach others about Sikhi.
4. Further Sikh research.
5. Carry out regular path (Akhand Path, Sukhmani Path, Sehaj Path).
It is important to understand and follow the key core values that are the fundamental beliefs of a Sikh. These guiding principles dictate behaviour and can help people understand the difference between right and wrong. Core values also help determine if you are on the right path by creating an unwavering guide.
Our beliefs grow from what we see, hear, experience, read and think about. From these things we develop an opinion that we hold to be true and unmovable at that time. From our beliefs we derive our values, which can either be correct or incorrect when compared with evidence, but nonetheless hold true for us. That is why it is extremely important to join or develop a good Sangat (Sikh community) and remove yourself from a bad one (including friends and family).
Sikhs focus their lives around their relationship with God, and being a part of the Sangat. The Sikh ideal combines action and belief with physical and spiritual focus. To live a good life, a person should do good deeds as well as pray to God. This includes having a code of conduct and high moral values.
ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਚਾਨਣੁ ਜਾਣੀਐ ਮਨਮੁਖਿ ਮੁਗਧੁ ਗੁਬਾਰੁ ॥
Gurmukẖ Cẖānaṇ Jāṇī▫ai Manmukẖ Mugaḏẖ Gubār ||
The Gurmukh knows the divine light, while the foolish self-willed manmukh gropes around in the darkness.
ਘਟਿ ਘਟਿ ਜੋਤਿ ਨਿਰੰਤਰੀ ਬੂਝੈ ਗੁਰਮਤਿ ਸਾਰੁ ॥੪॥
Gẖat Gẖat Joṯ Niranṯrī Būjẖai Gurmaṯ Sār ||4||
One who sees that light within each and every heart understands the essence of the Guru's Teachings.
~ Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, Guru Nanak, Sri Raag, Ang 20
The Sikh Guru's taught the importance of living an 'active, creative, and practical life' of 'truthfulness, fidelity, self-control and purity' and that the ideal person is one who 'establishes union with God, knows God's will, and carries out that will'. Social teachings denounced the caste system and taught that everyone is equal, regardless of caste or gender.
There are many Sikh values and although we have covered some below, you should continuously explore Gurbani and other Sikh teachings for further information. Together the Sikh beliefs form a picture of what it means to be a Sikh.
Develop the Five Virtues - Sat (Truth), Santokh (Contentment), Daya (Compassion), Nimrata (Humility) and Pyar (Love).
Subdue the Five Thieves (Panj Dosh or Panj Vikar) - Kaam (Lust), Krodh (Anger), Lobh (Greed), Moh (Attachment) and Ahankar (Arrogance).
In becoming a Sikh, you are required to work hard and make continual progress but the results (and knowledge gained) make it worthwhile.
ਗੁਰ ਅਪੁਨੇ ਊਪਰਿ ਬਲਿ ਜਾਈਐ ॥
Gur Apune Ūpar Bal Jā▫ī▫ai ||
I am a sacrifice to my True Guru.
ਆਠ ਪਹਰ ਹਰਿ ਹਰਿ ਜਸੁ ਗਾਈਐ ॥੧॥
Āṯẖ Pahar Har Har Jas Gā▫ī▫ai ||1||
Twenty-four hours a day, I sing the God's praises.
~ Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, Guru Arjan, Raag Suhi, Ang 741
By adopting the five articles of faith your actions will not just be judged by God but by those around you. You will be representing Sikhs to the wider world. Subdue Haumai (ego). Don't tell lies or cheat others. Don't gossip or talk about others in a negative way. Don't eat meat, smoke, consume alcohol and/ or take drugs.
Don't spend too much time accumulating material possessions. Don't follow meaningless rituals (punjab cultural or otherwise ie. birthdays) and owe allegiance to any other religion. Don't cut hair, wear make-up and obsess about physical appearance. For men, keep a full flowing beard, don't style or flatten it artificially.
Everybody wants the world to change for the better but nobody wants to change. "Yesterday, I was clever so I wanted to change the world. Today, I am wise so I'm changing myself." ~ Rumi. Focus on changing yourself first.
Remember, always stay in Chardi Kala.
We leave you with these final inspiring words from Sri Guru Nanak Sahib Ji;
ਜਉ ਤਉ ਪ੍ਰੇਮ ਖੇਲਣ ਕਾ ਚਾਉ ॥
Ja▫o Ṯa▫o Prem Kẖelaṇ Kā Cẖā▫o ||
If you desire to play this game of love with me,
ਸਿਰੁ ਧਰਿ ਤਲੀ ਗਲੀ ਮੇਰੀ ਆਉ ॥
Sir Ḏẖar Ṯalī Galī Merī Ā▫o ||
then step onto my path with your head in hand.
ਇਤੁ ਮਾਰਗਿ ਪੈਰੁ ਧਰੀਜੈ ॥
Iṯ Mārag Pair Ḏẖarījai ||
When you place your feet on this path,
ਸਿਰੁ ਦੀਜੈ ਕਾਣਿ ਨ ਕੀਜੈ ॥੨੦॥
Sir Ḏījai Kāṇ Na Kījai ||20||
give me your head, and do not pay any attention to public opinion.
~ Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, Guru Nanak, Salok Varan Te Vadhik, Ang 1412