680. Are there any set times of prayers for the Sikhs ?
There are no set times in the sense that missing a time of prayer is to be regarded as sin. The Sikhs are asked to keep repeating the hymns whenever they find time. Usually they read Japji in the morning and Rehras in the evening but there is no set time for them. Some people like to read Japji before sunrise some after if. Similarly some say Rehras before sunset and some after it.
681. Are there any feast or fast days for the Sikhs ?
There are no feast days and neither are there any fast days. The Sikhs may have a feast at any time and may observe a fast if they find it useful for health. Observing fasts as a part of religion for spiritual benefit has no value in Sikhism.
682. Are there any restrictions regarding food ?
There are no restrictions for the Sikhs regarding food, except that the Sikhs are forbidden to eat meat prepared as a ritual slaughter. The Sikhs are asked to abstain from intoxicants.
683. Are there any religious injunctions that may make certain types of employment non-acceptable to the Sikhs ?
The Sikhs believe in dignity of labour and are always ready to accept whatever work they may find. The baptised Sikhs will however refuse to accept a job which requires them to remove their turban or to shave off.
684. What is the place of "service" in Sikh Religion ?
Manual labour and service to God's creation are an essential part of Sikhism. The Sikh Gurdawaras are the training places where the Sikhs practice the teachings of their Gurus demonstratively. In the Sikh Temple the usual service involves singing hymns, sweeping the temple precincts, fanning the congregation, cooking and serving food in the Langar (free kitchen), drawing water or procuring fuel for the kitchen. From an early age the children learn to serve and shoulder responsibility in the kitchen while doing selfless services side by side with the grown-ups. The Gurus laid stress on the purity of life attained through honest labour done with a sense of giving. Guru Nanak argued "This world is the chamber of God wherein the True One resides (Eh jag sachhe ki hai kothri sachhe ka vich wass) so whatever service we do in this world will secure for us a seat in the court of the lord" (Vich Dunia sev kamaye ta dargah baisan paiye). The Guru thus wanted his followers to be the servants of society and move in the rhythm of the universe in harmony with His laws. In Sikhism service is considered to be of three types. It is done with Tan (body-manual service), Dhan (money-material service), Man (mind-intellectual service). Manual service can be done anywhere, i.e., in the kitchen, on the road, feeding the hungry, caring for the sick, serving the lepers, repairing the temple, dusting the shoes of the holy congregation, and extending ready patronage to the weak, the needy and the distressed. The Gurus extolled service so much that they said "Useless are the hands and feet if they do not serve humanity (Bin sewa dhrig hath paer). The Gurus practically demonstrated this in their lives. Intellectual service involves understanding the holy scriptures, interpreting the text and education the others about it. It also involves praying for others and wishing the good of everybody. Material service means donating money for langar, school, temples, asylums, hospitals wells and other works of public good. The Gurus have laid down that every Sikh should donate one tenth of his earnings to charity. In donating money the Sikh would not take into account the race, religion, sex, colour or social status of the recipient because this would result in strengthening his egoism. Service done as a labour of love frees man from greed, pride and undue attachment and teaches him humility, forgiveness, mercy, alms-giving, charity and rational understanding. Guru Nanak was the first of all to demonstrate the practically of this idea when he bought a farm at Kartarpur, worked with his own hands and declared: "Work hard and share your earnings with others This is the only way to find 'the way'."
685. What is Sarbat Khalsa ?
When the Sikhs assemble to discuss an issue affecting the Sikh nation as a whole, the assembly is called The Sarbat Khalsa. Every Sikh is entitled to attend it. Sarbat Khalsa used to meet twice a year on Baisakhi day and Diwali day but the practice became dormant when Ranjit Singh became the king of the Punjab. The practice was revived in 1986 when The Sarbat Khalsa was convened at Akal Takhat (Amritsar) to discuss the implications of the operation Blue Star of June 1984 which resulted in the sacriledge and destruction of the Akal Takhat and holy Sikh Temples at Amritsar and 48 other places. Decisions made at the Sarbat Khalsa are binding on all Sikhs throughout the world.