Sikhs believe that God loves humans and reaches out to all humans through Grace – gurprasad or True Guru. Therefore, the proper religious practice is to respond to God through prayer and/or song. Since God reaches out to all humans, everyone is equal and religious identity is meaningless. If humans choose God and live a God-centred life they will join with God in the afterlife. If humans have centred their energies on something else, Sikhs believe they will suffer in heavens and hells before returning to the cycle of rebirth and will roam through species till they again receive the opportunity of human life.
The Guru Granth Sahib Ji is a collection of the hymns of six of the human Gurus and 36 mystics from a variety of religious traditions including Islam and Hinduism. Sikhs also follow the historical practice of the ten human Gurus who lived between 1469 and 1708. In particular, they follow the example of the final human Guru who instituted the Khalsa.
Sikh practice should be based on the teachings in the Guru Granth Sahib, examples from the life of the human Gurus, and the Code of Conduct of the Khalsa (Rahit Maryada).
Distinctive features of Sikhism include equality of women and men, no priesthood, inclusion of writings from members of different religions in the sacred text and belief in 1 Unborn God (Judaism and Islam) combined with belief in rebirth, samsara, the Void and the Middle Way (Buddhism).
Individual Sikhs feel confidence in a Being that loves and supports them – they are fundamentally ‘ok’ – and show tolerance and curiosity in the culture and beliefs of others. As a community Sikhs have championed progressive social, political and economic change in India due to the teachings on equality, democratic decision-making (the Khalsa), the dignity of labour and the importance of sharing and social justice. Having no priesthood has led to difficulties in transmission of the religion to younger generations, particularly in the West, but at the same time makes possible fresh interpretations of the tradition that have contributed to successful integration of the Sikh Diaspora into host communities around the world.