A monotheistic religion which combines beliefs from Islam and monotheistic Vaishnavite bhakti Hinduism, founded in northern India in the 16th century by the guru Nanak. Nanak spent his off hours singing, praying, and thinking with others from the same monotheistic Vaishnavite or Islamic background as himself. Seeking truth, Nanak reached a crisis at the age of 30. After bathing in a forest stream, Nanak received a vision. He emerged from the forest and annouced what he learned to those who would listen. His message stressed there was one true God, but it was not Vishnu and not Allah, but the Sati Nam, the true name. From that point on, Nanak spent the rest of his life gathering disciples (Sikhs). When Nanak was on his death bed, an arguement broke out over whether he should be buried or cremated (Islamic ritual or Hindu ritual). Nanak said that when he died, Hindu disciples should place flowers on his right and Muslims disciples should place flowers on his left. The flowers that were fresh the next morning could have the body. The morning following his death, the body had disappeared, and all the flowers were fresh. Thus whether originally Hindu or Muslim, to be Sikh places one in a new community of faithful devoted to the One True Name. Sikhism rejects caste distinctions, idolatry, and asceticism and is characterized by belief in a cycle of reincarnation from which humans can free themselves by living righteous lives as active members of society.
Sikhism also teaches that The True Name created Maya, the created world, by his Word. This means the world is real, but only God has ultimate Reality. Maya covers God like a veil. Only spiritual pure minds free of selfishness and desire can pierce the veil and perceive God. Nanak accepted karma and samsara. He also taught that selfish egoism and desire cause humans to make negative choices, accumulating negative karma. The Lord of Death, Yama, uses this to ensnare those separated from God and lost in the world, locking them into the cycle of rebirths. Ethical behavior, the prayerful repetition of the True Name, and focus on God brings control of egoism and desire. When the disciple dies free of karmic guilt, the soul is absorbed into the Sati Nam. The final goal, then, is to attain nirvana, defined as being absorbed into total blissful unity with God like water into water. In total union with God, one is free of samsara, and enjoys bliss forever. The final human guru, Gobind Singh, founded the military order of the Khalsa (The Pure). Initiates in the Khalsa signify it with the five Ks - 1) the kesh: uncut hair on head and chin. The hair is covered by a turban. 2) The kangha: the comb. 3) The kacht or kaccha: short drawers. 4) The kara: the steel bracelet. And 5) the kirpan: the short sword or knife.