By Denise Smith
The true path to God lies in the service of our fellow beings.
– The Guru Granth Sahib
Sikhism arose through the teachings of Guru Nanak (c 1469-1538) in the Punjab region of
India. It emphasizes the importance of family life, philanthropy, service and defence of the
faith. Sikh philanthropy has been extensive and the terms of this service transcends
throughout the community.
The concepts and outcomes of unselfish giving for Sikhs is derived from the writings in the
Guru Granth Sahib which is the spiritual guide for mankind, and it plays a central role in
“guiding” the Sikhs’ way of life.
Its place in Sikh devotional life is based on two fundamental principles: that the text is
divine revelation and that all answers regarding religion and morality can be discovered
The Concern for others is central to the teachings of Sikhism, as illustrated by the story of
Guru Nanak, founder of the Sikh faith and the Guru Granth Sahib.
Guru Nanak went to the river Bain for his bath. After plunging into the river, Guru Nanak did
not surface and it was reported that he must have drowned. The villagers searched
everywhere, but there was no trace of him. Guru Nanak was in Holy Communion with God.
The Lord God revealed himself to Guru Nanak and enlightened him
Through this enlightenment and his missions Nanak established three pillars of teachings:
Vaṇḍ Chakkō: Sharing with others, helping those with less who are in need
Kirat Karō: Earning/making a living honestly, without exploitation or fraud
Naam Japna: Chanting the Holy Name and thus remembering God at all times3
The emphasis on giving is also seen in the institution of the Langar which is a free
communal eating space attached to every temple. Guru Nanak started the practice of
Langar against the nature of the caste system in which the food of a higher caste was
considered polluted by even the shadow a lower caste. The Guru insisted that all people,
rich and poor, beggar and king, should be able to sit together on the same level, to eat a
meal and to be served by those of an equally varied social background.
Sikhism is viewed by many as a unique religion outside of Western tradition. It is known for
the special concept of Wand Ke Chhakna (charity). It is a concept of giving to those and
caring for the welfare of the needy, less fortunate and sick. The concept is to have co-
operative and peaceful living. It is serving each other without selfish motives and to achieve
a sense of social and economic equality through social responsibility. The sharing of
earnings, labor, wealth, religion and knowledge is a platform for the welfare of human
beings as a whole without discrimination of caste, colour, creed and gender.
The message of Sikhism is that giving of charity to the less fortunate is fine, but we should
also be prepared to give up something of our privileged status and standard of living, often
obtained at the expense of the less fortunate.