At this writing, little is known regarding the shooting yesterday at the Oak Creek Sikh Temple in which seven people died, including the shooter. We do know that police were called at about 10:15 AM. Upon arrival some police officers began immediately helping a wounded victim. At that point the officers were ambushed by the perpetrator, and one was shot multiple times. A second officer shot and killed the shooter. Of those killed, four were inside the temple; two, plus the shooter, were outside.
But what are the basic premises of the Sikh religion?
Basic to the system of panentheism, of which the Sikh religion is a part, is the belief that a divine exists, suffuses every element of nature, and extends beyond it in space and time. In panentheism, believers assert that God pervades the cosmos. “All is God.”
The Sikh religion, the fourth largest in the world, centered in India, is more specific. The origins of Sikhism are found in the teachings of Guru Nanak Dev who said that “Realization of Truth is higher than all else; higher still is truthful living.” Sikhs strive to achieve the qualities of a “saint-soldier.” A Sikh must have the courage to defend the rights of the wrongfully oppressed or persecuted, regardless of race, place of origin, creed, or gender.
In Sikhism, the Supreme Being is termed Vahiguru. The figure “1” signifies the universality of God, who is shapeless, timeless, and sightless. Before creation, Sikhs believe, nothing existed except God and “hukam” which is interpreted as God’s will, or order. And when God willed, the cosmos was created. Vahiguru then nurtured "enticement and attachment" to maya, or the human perception of reality.
Guru Nanak Dev said God is not wholly unknowable. He is omnipresent in all creation and visible to the spiritually awakened. Through meditation, Guru Nanak continued, comes communication between God and human beings. Readers may be interested to learn that Nanak taught that there are many worlds on which God has created life.