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All the Holy Land faiths found connections with the Punjabi Sikhs, but Jewish groups felt a surprise affinity.
The monotheistic Sikhs are a religious and ethnic group, a minority - like the Jews - who have suffered generations of persecution and worries about assimilation, intermarriage and keeping the religion relevant to their youth.
They revere their scriptures as the ultimate guru, teacher and source of enlightenment. Written without punctuation, numbered verses are used to track the readings and to bind those who have lived in Diaspora as a result of exile. The text mentions 1,100 names of God, an entity without gender or form. God, known as "The Ultimate Reality," may not be pictured in two or three-dimensional art. Every person, regardless of faith, is said to contain sparks of the divine and anyone can lead prayers; there are no clerics.
Marriage and having children are considered divine activities and infidelity is forbidden. Though many Sikhs avoid substances that may harm the body or mind, early Sikhs rejected ascetic self-denial and observe a commandment to rejoice in God's name. Hard and honest work is considered a good deed, as is service to the Sikh and larger community, the place of worship and the unfortunate.
Ten percent of their earnings and a portion of their time should be allotted to charity. Sikhs around the world consider each other family and in the Diaspora they have created vibrant Sikh communities worldwide.
The highest attributes are divided into acts of faith in God - as in prayer and meditation - and acts of loving kindness toward fellow humans. Despite an accent on mercy and compassion, violence is permitted in special circumstances, such as self-defense, and Sikhs are known as good warriors, aspiring to be "saint-soldiers." Sikhs don't cut their facial (or head) hair as a sign of respect to God's will and as a mark of distinction.
Nonetheless, there are marked differences between Sikhs and Jews. Sikhs emphasize karma and reincarnation, practice cremation and have outlawed fasting.
The Sikh faith was founded in the late 15th century in northern India by Guru Nanak, who preached tolerance and equality for every person, regardless of caste, religion or gender. These ideas were always on his mind as a boy growing up Hindu, but crystallized after he mysteriously disappeared in the River Bein. According to tradition, he emerged after three days, saying that God is the one being, transcendent and without form, and that "there is no Hindu; there is no Muslim."
There were 10 gurus in succession; the final one declared that the holy book, the Guru Granth Sahib, is the final and eternal guru. Today, the main body of Orthodox Sikhism upholds this belief, while divergent streams claim to have a living guru in human form.
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