Here's an Elaborate Explanation of What Sikhism Is

What Is Sikhism?
The attack in a Wisconsin Sikh temple raised questions as to who could possibly have a problem with these people. The answer, it seems, is someone who is ignorant of the Sikh faith - but the tragedy led to increased curiosity about U.S. Sikhs.
Since the August 5, 2012 attack on a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, many Americans have been curious about this 'uncommon' religion - the word uncommon is in quotes because, although Sikhism isn't widespread in the U.S., it is the fifth largest religion in the world, boasting almost 26 million followers. About 75 percent of Sikhs live in the Punjab region of India, so non-Indians may be forgiven for their unfamiliarity - and truth be told, in a post-911 world, a certain set mentally classes all brown-skinned people wearing head coverings together - which is decidedly not forgivable.
Origins
Sikhism was founded by Guru Nanak in the late 15th century, in an area that is part of modern-day Pakistan. The son of Hindu parents, Guru Nanak grew up fascinated by the divine but curiously unmoved by religious ritual and ceremony. He studied God and religion extensively, and his deep knowledge of spirituality eventually led him to renounce both Hinduism and Islam. After a number of epic missionary journeys (with mileage in the thousands), he began to espouse his own theories of relation with divine, and Sikhism was born.
Beliefs
Sikhism is founded on Truth, with a capital T. The pursuit of Truth and 'truthful living' is the highest measure of respect to God, and Sikhs are not to blindly follow or worship idols. The Sikh God is gender-less, formless, timeless, omnipresent and omnipotent - and God's will is the creator of both existence and the human perception of reality - on this and many worlds. Sikhs do not believe in Heaven or Hell, but rather a state of 'salvation' after death, in which one is made one with God.
Meditation is seen as a way to make yourself more amenable to communication with God, sort of a way of opening your heart and mind to the divine, so God may more fully know you. Material attractions are seen as a distraction, and lead to "The Five Evils" - anger, greed, lust, ego and attachment - which must be overcome to make salvation possible. In Sikh tradition, connection with God must come from within, making ritual, pilgrimages, asceticism and other outward displays of faith irrelevant.

The central tenets of the Sikh faith are work, worship and charity, and Sikhs are to defend the rights of all creatures - including man. In fact, Sikhs see men and women as equal in the eyes of God, and women have the same rights within the religion as men.
Holy Figures
Sikhs do not have priests, but they do designate a Granthi to lead prayers, although anyone is free to do so. The religion itself is based on the teachings of the ten Gurus, of which Guru Nanak was the first. The Gurus lived between 1469 and 1708, with the Guru Granth Sahib being declared the final and lasting Guru by Guru Gobind Singh, the last human Guru.
The Guru Granth Sahib is the main holy text of the Sikh faith, sometimes called the Adi Granth, or 'First Volume'. It was compiled by Guru Gobind Singh in the late 17th century and contains writings of the first five Gurus and the teachings of other important religious figures. It opens with the Mul Mantra written by Guru Nanak, which translates as:

"The One of which everything is and continuous, the ever existing, creator being personified, without fear, without hatred, image of the timeless being, beyond birth, self existent, by Guru's Grace."
Customs
Sikhs say daily prayers and practice regular charity - temples feed the needy daily, whether they are Sikh or not. But there are other, more basic customs that are simply a part of daily life for a Sikh - so ingrained, it simply never occurs to them to do otherwise.

For one thing, they are not allowed to cut their hair - ever. Combing the hair is a way to comb negative thought from the mind, and the customary turbans keep the long hair neatly contained. They are not to partake in alcohol, tobacco, drugs, adultery, or material obsession. Wealth is only beneficial to the extent that it allows you to give more to the needy. They are not to follow unnecessary religious rituals like fasting, pilgrimages, circumcision or veil-wearing for women, and they are not to sacrifice living things or eat meat slaughtered in a ritual manner.

The Sikhs also forbid lying, slander, bragging or gossip, deeming it 'worthless talk', and are to avoid being non-social - the family unit is defined as more than relatives, includes friends, neighbors and coworkers, and is central to a good life and communion with God.
This is why the attack on a Wisconsin Sikh temple sent shock waves through the community. The religion is devoted to truth, knowledge and charity, working for the community and universal support of fellow man. Sikhs do not participate in violence or discrimination, and it's a tragedy that the actions of a single misguided individual turned both on them.
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