The word Sikh literally means "a learner" and is derived from the Sanskrit word "shishya" which means disciple or student or learner. In the Punjabi language the word Sikh also means to learn. A Sikh is a follower of the religion called Sikhism, which is the fifth largest organised religion in the world. A Sikh is a disciple of the Guru Granth Sahib which is more than a Holy book for the Sikhs – It is their perpetual and living spiritual teacher and guide.

Sikhism has ten human Gurus. The religion was founded by Guru Nanak, who was born in 1469 in the Punjab region of what is now Pakistan. He was followed by nine successive human masters. The tenth master was Guru Gobind Singh. When he departed from earth, he proclaimed the Guru Granth Sahib the perpetual Guru of the Sikhs.

Who is a Sikh?

A Sikh is a person who only takes his spiritual guidance from the Sikh Gurus; who believes in and remembers the one God (Simran), commonly referred to as Waheguru at all times; believes in the equality of all beings and selfless service to humanity (Seva); believes in the protection of the weak (Kurbani); preservation of peace; the promotion of personal qualities of Sat (Truth); Daya (Compassion); Santokh (Contenment); Nimrata (Humility); and Pyare (Love); and who at all times constantly repels the inner five evils of Kam (Lust), Krodh (Rage), Lobh (Greed), Moh (Attachment) and Ahankar (Ego).

The Guru Granth Sahib defines the Sikh in these terms:

SGGS Page 305 Full Shabad
Fourth Mehl:

One who calls himself a Sikh of the True Guru,
shall rise in the early morning hours and meditate on the Lord`s Name.
Upon arising early in the morning, he is to bathe, and cleanse himself in the pool of nectar.
Following the Instructions of the Guru, he is to chant the Name of the Lord, Har, Har.
All sins, misdeeds and negativity shall be erased.
Then, at the rising of the sun, he is to sing Gurbani;
whether sitting down or standing up, he is to meditate on the Lord`s Name.
One who meditates on my Lord, Har, Har, with every breath and every morsel of food
- that Gursikh becomes pleasing to the Guru`s Mind.

The Guru requires the Sikh to lead a life of discipline; to rise early in the morning; to cleanse oneself both externally (bathing) and internally (Naam simran) ; to meditate on the Almighty; to discard negative traits of the mind; and grasp the positive vibes from the Guru's word (Gurbani). By doing this the Sikh will become pleasing to the Guru. A Sikh must know his or her duty to oneself, the family and the community and perform this to the best of his or her ability. To lead a life of Chardikala - "positive outlook" and "buoyant and optimistic attitude to life" accepting God's will as the ultimate reality. To study and seek spiritual guidance from the Guru at difficult time and to remember the Lord always. AT all times to seek the company of the Sadh sangat - holy congregation or spiritually wise people.


A famous Sikh kirtan performer, Snatam Kaur

The summary of the main beliefs of a Sikh:

  • There is only one God for all the peoples of the world
  • All are equal before this one God
  • To respect all beings and to protect protect the weak.
  • To live by ones hard labour and enterprise - Kirat Karni
  • To remember the gift of life from the Almighty and to rely on Him only
  • To engage in regular remembrance of God - Naam Japna and Simran
  • One must live a life of a householder committed to Selfless service (Sewa) to the community
  • To shares ones wealth with the needy - Wand ka Chakna
  • To be vigilant and defend one's life from the evil internal forces - Lust (Kham), Anger (Krodh), Greed (LobH), Attachment (MoH), and Ego (aHankar).
  • To promote positive qualities both personally at in the community. To embrace Sat (Truth); Daya (Compassion); Santokh (Contenment); Nimrata (Humility); and Pyare (Love) as positive qualities of life.