Defining a Sikh

Karminder Singh Dhillon,
PhD (Boston), Kuala Lumpur.

One of the first things a student of philosophy (or  most social sciences, for that matter) discovers regarding definitions of concepts  is that they are rarely, if ever, universally accepted (read perfect). The definition of a Sikh is no exception and should not be. Anyone who expects to crystallize, in a few universally acceptable statements called a definition –  a spiritual process that took ten Gurus two and half centuries to construct – is bound to be disappointed. So staggering is the diversity of our most basic text – 1430 pages, 5,867 shabads by more than two dozen authors who lived over a period spanning half a century and come from different faiths – that defining Sikhi based on the Guru Granth Sahib alone is a daunting task.  To some, it may seem that the nature of Sikhi and the SGGS and by extension that of a Sikh is so spiritually inclusive that it was intended to defy a universal definition. Yet none of these has stopped or should stop the attempt. After all, we live in a world where definitions matter.
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