What is the definition of a Sikh?

According to the Panthic Sikh Rehat Maryada (Chapter 1, Article 1):

“Any human being who faithfully believes in
i. One Immortal Being,
ii. Ten Gurus, from Guru Nanak Sahib to Guru Gobind Singh Sahib,
iii. The Guru Granth Sahib,
iv. The utterances and teachings of the ten Gurus and
v. the baptism bequeathed by the tenth Guru, and who does not owe allegiance to any other religion, is a Sikh”

In essence, one who is embarked upon the search for truth, is a Sikh.

The fifth Master, Guru Arjan Sahib Ji, says:

ਮੈ ਬਧੀ ਸਚੁ ਧਰਮ ਸਾਲ ਹੈ ॥ ਗੁਰਸਿਖਾ ਲਹਦਾ ਭਾਲਿ ਕੈ ॥
“I have established the Temple of Truth. I sought out the Guru’s Sikhs, and brought them into it.”
(Ang 74)

In this Shabad (hymn) Guru Arjan Sahib Ji has defined the term ‘Sikh’ as the seeker of truth. Those who consider the term ‘Sikh’ to be based on the Sanskrit term ‘Shishya’, meaning student or disciple, seem to have altogether missed the real point. To be a disciple one needs a teacher. Thus begins the race of every disciple to adopt a teacher or a guru.

Only she/he is a Sikh who believes in and is committed to one Akaal Purakh (the Supreme Being), the ten Divine Masters (Guru Nanak through Guru Gobind Singh), the Shabad Guru (Guru Granth Sahib) and their collective teachings and does not believe in any other religion or doctrine.

According to Mahan Kosh by Bhai Kahan Singh, a Sikh is one who follows the path delineated by Guru Nanak; who accepts Guru Granth Sahib as his/her scripture and considers the ten Gurus as one.

The third Master, Guru Amar Daas Ji says:

ਆਪੁ ਛਡਿ ਸਦਾ ਰਹੈ ਪਰਣੈ ਗੁਰ ਬਿਨੁ ਅਵਰੁ ਨ ਜਾਣੈ ਕੋਏ ॥
ਕਹੈ ਨਾਨਕੁ ਸੁਣਹੁ ਸੰਤਹੁ ਸੋ ਸਿਖੁ ਸਨਮੁਖੁ ਹੋਏ ॥੨੧॥
“Renouncing selfishness and conceit, he remains always on the side of the Guru; he does not know anyone except the Guru. Says Nanak, listen, O Saints: such a Sikh turns toward the Guru with sincere faith, and becomes sunmukh. ||21||”
(Ang 919)

Thus, a Sikh is not one who claims to have adopted someone as his/her guru. Rather, a Sikh is one who has accepted truth and truthful living as the foremost principle of life as taught by our great Gurus.

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