In a word, Sikhism is about community.
To celebrate the establishment of the Khalsa, the community of the pure, by 10th Guru Gobind Singh in 1699, the Gursikh Sangat Hamilton-Wentworth invited the surrounding community Saturday to help celebrate what is essentially the Sikh New Year to an open house at the Gurdwara on Old Guelph Road for food, music and conversation.
Some 40 non-Sikhs happily took up the invitation, relished the samosas and other delights and kept special guest speaker Harinder Singh, co-founder and chief programming officer of the Sikh Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas, going with questions on everything from political troubles in India to evangelism 45 minutes after his presentation on customs, culture and traditions ended
This pleased temple director Harpreet Gill, of Hamilton.
“They are asking good questions, that means people are listening to what is said,” said Gill ,as the speaker explained to a couple that Sikhism is not so much a religion as a community of people who have chosen to live in a certain manner they believe will help them “develop the best” in them.
Gill said the temple had an open house a few years back and after Saturday’s event will certainly do it again.
“This is how you open up, with (a) dialogue with the community.”
Like adherents to different Western religions, Sikhs have added different customs and protocols to the basic doctrine along the way — such as men and women sitting on opposite sides of the temple — but that is not absolutely necessary, he said. It reflects what each particular community of Sikhs is comfortable with in their traditions.
In a light and chatty manner, Singh stressed that, at its core, Sikhism is about individual choice and the commitment to fight for justice for others, even those not of their own community.
A Sikh man or woman can choose to wear a turban or not. It’s a personal choice, as are the other ‘Five Ks’ or gifts which, if all five are adopted, signifies the wearer as ‘Khalsa’ — one who is committed to a principled submission to Sikh ideals.
Before someone dons the five articles, they “must be willing to stand up for other’s rights even if they do not agree with them.
“They must represent freedom and justice.”
Sikhs aren’t trying to get to heaven or reach paradise, he said. Instead they are to seek to develop wisdom and what is best in themselves.
It is not so much a religion as a commonwealth of like feelings, he said.
“It is about who we are here on this earth, and that is to become like god because god is what is best in each of us.”
God in Sikhs, he said. has no one name but stands for one force, identifiable by truth, a pervasive creator, fearless but not feared by others.
Grace is becoming perfection-like.
“We are supposed to become our own Messiah.”
Visitors who’d sat cross-legged on carpets for refreshments before Harinder Singh’s talk and peppered him with questions afterwards said they came to see what the inside of the temple looked like and to find out more about the people who make up 2 per cent of Canada’s population.
The 5 K’s
Sikhs who have made a public commitment to the faith through baptism are called members of the Khalsa. They adopt five symbols. These symbols (the Five K’s) are not only a means of showing the Sikh identity, but they also have spiritual meanings and are powerful symbols of the faith
The Five Ks are the five items of dress given to Sikhs by Guru Gobind Singh when he gathered together the first members of the Khalsa in 1699.
• Kesh — uncut hair and beard, as given by God, to sustain him or her in higher consciousness; and a turban, the crown of spirituality.
• Kangha — a wooden comb to properly groom the hair as a symbol of cleanliness.
• Katchera — specially made cotton underwear as a reminder of the commitment to purity.
• Kara — a steel circle, worn on the wrist, signifying bondage to Truth and freedom from every other entanglement.
• Kirpan — the sword, with which the Khalsa is committed to righteously defend the fine line of the Truth.