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Sikh Center, Flushing, NY, 2003,
in the Punjab region of what is now Pakistan. There are more than
20 million Sikhs in the world, most residing in the Punjab region
of India. The religion traces to Guru Nanak (lived 1469-1538 CE)
who sought to harmonize teachings of Hinduism and Islam. Guru
Nanak traveled widely to spread his insights considered to come
from direct experience of God's truth. He taught people to transcend
divisions and hostility based on religions, elitism, and differences
of customs such as vegetarianism or meat eating. He often taught
through hymns accompanied by his Muslim friend and musician in
order to connect well with ordinary people. His poetry was strongly
influenced by the Indian mystic Kabir, who perceived God as the
Supreme Being within yet transcending all-the human soul's true
Sikhs recognize ten historical
Gurus, or spiritual teachers who are sources of divine guidance,
starting with Guru Nanak and concluding with Guru Gobind Singh
(1798). The Sikh scriptures (Guru Granth Sahib) are considered
to be the 11th Guru.
Sikh concern for social welfare can be illustrated by a story
from Guru Nanak's life. Once while staying at the home of a low
caste host, he was invited to a rich man's banquet for holy men.
Guru Nanak refused to attend, but rather ate the simple food at
his host's home. The rich man complained, so Guru Nanak accepted
food from him. The Guru took the rich man's food and the poor
man's food in different hands and squeezed. Blood dripped from
the rich man's food while milk dripped from the poor man's food.
This revealed that the rich man's food came from exploiting the
poor, while his host's food came from honest work. The Sikh emblem
Khanda represents these ideals. A ring signifies the oneness of
God; a two edged sword represents God's truth and justice; and
two curved crossed swords indicate God's spiritual power.