The Sikh Way of Life and the Guru's Teachings

Gurmat Principles The Guide to Sikh Living

Traditional Dress of the Khalsa
Traditional Dress of the Khalsa. Photo © [Khalsa Panth]

The life of every Sikh has both personal and panthic, or communal, elements. For a devout Sikh, the secular life (Miri) incorporates standards of spiritual living (Piri). The Sikh way of life follows gurmat, principles taught by the ten gurus over a period of three centuries. Regardless of initiation status, a Sikh is to adhere to the conventions of the Sikh code of conduct from the time of birth and throughout all of life until death. Sikhs are to congregate with the like-minded company and when meeting, greet one another saying, "Waheguru ji ka Khalsa - Waheguru ji ki Fateh," or "Khalsa belongs to God - Victory belongs to God".

Communal Aspects of Sikh Life

A Sikh's public life and responsibilities include:

  • Obligation - serving the collective consciousness and community of Sikhs.
  • Initiation - duty to live as a committed member of the Sikh Community.
  • Discipline - be subject to reprimand for default of commitments of Initiation.
  • Fundamentals - responsibility to live according to Sikh principles.
  • Appeals - petitions are made to Akal Takat, the seat of religious authority for all Sikhs.

Personal Aspects of Sikh Life

The individual Sikh’s private life incorporates:

  • Worship – meditating on God, and reading from the sacred scripture of Guru Granth.
  • Living - abiding by the teachings of the ten gurus and instruction of Guru Granth.
  • Employment - earning an honest income, and considering the sharing of earnings and engaging in voluntary, selfless, service, to be an offering to the Guru.

Sikh Religion and Worship

  • A Sikh believes in, and worships only one God.
  • A Sikh regards the succession of ten gurus, and the written word of the Guru Granth, a channel through which divine light manifests as salvation.
  • Sikhs worship in the gurdwara, congregating with spiritual companions, and communing with God, by singing divine hymns selected from the Guru Granth.
  • Sikhs perform ardas, a formal prayer, and read from Guru Granth before embarking on important endeavors.
  • The uniqueness of Sikhism is upheld without any derogatory attitude towards others, or belittling of others faith.

Daily Practice of the Sikh

The daily worship schedule of a Sikh is:

  • Wake up three hours before dawn and bathe.
  • Contemplate one God, repeating the name Waheguru until daybreak.
  • Review the required prayers of nitnem:
    • Morning - Japji Sahib, Jap Sahib, Tev Prasaad Swaye.
    • Evening - Rehraas.
    • Bedtime - Kirtan Sohila.
  • Utter a prayer after morning and evening nitnem.
  • Study and learn to read, and to write the Gurmukhi script.
  • Make a habit of reading from the scripture of the Guru Granth daily endeavoring to complete an entire reading every few months, or according to ability.

Family Life of the Sikh

The gurus taught the value of family life by example.

  • A Sikh is customarily wedded to another Sikh.
  • Sikhs are not to abort or kill an unborn or newborn baby, nor keep company with killers of a child.
  • A Sikh child is named according to the Sikh manner.
  • A Sikh respects a child's hair and keeps it unaltered and intact.
  • Along with general education and studies, children receive tutoring in Sikhism.
  • All Sikhs are to learn Gurmukhi script.
  • Sikhs may study other faiths.
  • A Sikh maintains intimate relations with a husband or wife only. Relationships with others are regarded as being the same as that of a parent, sibling, or child.

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Sikh Attire and Appearance

The required dress code for a Sikh is kachhera, an undergarment, and turban. A Sikh woman may opt to tie turban, but veiling her face and cloaking her body is considered improper. Earrings, nose rings, and other such ornamental piercings, are prohibited.

A Sikh keeps every hair on the head, face, and entire body intact and completely unaltered.

Sikhism does not condone:

  • Wearing a sacred thread.
  • Sporting a tuft of hair.
  • Shaving the head in observance of the dead.
  • Wearing a necklace of herbs picked from a grave site.
  • Painting a ritual mark on the forehead

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Sikh Conduct and ​Comportment in Gurdwara:

Sikhs cover the head and go barefoot in the presence of the Guru Granth. Shoes may not be worn inside a gurdwara, or anywhere the Guru Granth is present, except when transporting the Guru Granth outside.

No one entering a gurdwara may possess tobacco or any kind of intoxicant.

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A Sikh, regardless of initiation status, does not smoke or otherwise use tobacco in any form, or indulge in other intoxicants including:

  • Opium and narcotics.
  • Other addictive substances.
  • Beer, wine or other liquor.
  • Marijuana, hemp, bhang and other cannabis products.

A Sikh avoids dishonest associations, gambling, and stealing.

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Customs Which Are Not in Accordance With the Gurus' Teachings

A Sikh reveres only the scripture of Guru Granth. Reading books of other religions is permissible for study purposes. A Sikh is to disregard and give no credence to:

  • Observance of gender bias, caste, status, or lineage.
  • Conjuring, incantations, charms, or clairvoyance.
  • Superstition, divination, omens and oracles.
  • Auspicious dates, horoscopes, or astrology.
  • Ritualistic worship, feasting, or fasting on particular dates.
  • Offering food to ancestors or for the deceased.
  • Grave markers, monuments, or cremation sites.
  • Idolatry, or ceremonial lighting of lamps or candles.
  • Pilgrimages, places, or scriptures sacred to other faiths.
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Your Citation
Khalsa, Sukhmandir. "The Sikh Way of Life and the Guru's Teachings." Learn Religions, Mar. 4, 2021, Khalsa, Sukhmandir. (2021, March 4). The Sikh Way of Life and the Guru's Teachings. Retrieved from Khalsa, Sukhmandir. "The Sikh Way of Life and the Guru's Teachings." Learn Religions. (accessed May 29, 2023).