Human Vices and Sikh Philosophy
Kam, Krodh, Lobh, Moh and Ahankar (lust, anger, greed, attachment, pride) are the five psychological forces of evil nature that cause impurity of thought and action. These are the stumbling blocks in the path of spiritual growth and moral upliftment of an individual. Authors of the different schools of thought have discussed these pervasive evils in their major works. Buddhist sources mention passion (raga), wrong intention (pratigha), excessive pride (mana), nescience (avidya), false opinion (kudrsti) and thoughts of distrust (vichikitsa) as the primary attackers of one's mind and intellect. The principal obstructions talked about in Jainism are nescience (avidya), ego (asmita), passion (raga), ill desire (dvesa) and will to live for a long time in this world (abhinivesa). The Bhagavad Gita also enumerates at different places passion, ill will, attachment, deceit, excessive ego, greed and nescience as major drawbacks of human conduct. In Sikhism, one recognizes these evils and also underlines the need to subdue them. It is a common truth: evil begets evil. It is a universally accepted fact that man's wrong doings invite corresponding serious consequences. The law of Karma is also endorsed by Newton's third law of motion which explains that every action has a reaction.Many religious thinkers are of the view that bliss in this world or in the other world can be attained through virtuous actions.
In this paper, I have tried to explain how the above mentioned human vices have been dealt with in the Sikh philosophy and what solutions have been suggested to keep them under control.
The Sanskrit word Kam refers to bodily pleasures, sensual fulfilment and gratification of lustful desires. The Sikh Gurus also considered 'Kam' as a powerful instinct which should be properly understood and controlled just like other negative urges and desires. In the Adi Granth, Guru Arjun Dev said, "O Kam, thou lands men in hell, and makes them wander through myriad wombs, and cheatest all minds, sways all the three worlds and vanquishes all one's austerities, meditation and culture. Thou, whose pleasure is illusory, thou that makes one unsteady and poor and punishes high and low alike". In order to keep Kam in check, the Sikh Gurus advocate Grihastha Jivan and reject the practice of Sannyasa.
They believe that unrestrained inclination towards sexual passions is unhealthy and undesirable. They strongly condemn carnal bonds outside marriage. Guru Gobind Singh said: "Love your own wedded wife even more but do not go to another woman's bed even in a dream".
But Kam blinds man to higher virtues. Guru Teg Bahadur also said in this context. "In the sinning heart reigns Kam and the fickle mind breaks out of control. Kam casts its noose upon yogis, jangams and sannyasis. Only those imbued with God's name fall not a prey to it and are able to go across the ocean of existence". It is often stated in the Sikh scripture that the satisfaction obtained from Kam is short-lived and one often regrets later. Studies show that tendency of promiscuity is permanent in an individual. He is not satisfied with a single sexual object. The study of Bandura and waters may be referred to in this regard which talks about many cases where the affected person finally required clinical treatment. The psychological force which leads one to this course of action makes him forgetful of his own self care and protection. Consequently he brings home death and disease. Gurubani also confirms it: "Bhogi kao dukh rog viapai" (p. 1189) (Painful diseases afflict those who are sexually promiscuous). According to the Sikh thought, only love of God and absorption in his name can save man from the clutches of Kam.
Krodh or unbridled anger too is an uncontrolled emotion like Kam and both usually appear in combination. Gurbani says that "Kam krodh jia meh chot, Naam visar chale man khot" ((Sexual desire and anger are the wounds of soul. The evil-minded ones forget the Naam and then depart. It goes without saying that Anger is a devilish disturbance of peace and compassion in the life of an individual. It begets terror and abuse. Gurbani rightly says, "Mani hiradai krodh mahaa bisalodhu nirapdhaavahi laari dukh paaiaa." (Having hearts and minds filled with the horribly poisonous essence of anger, the kings fight their wars and obtain only pain.) Gurbani introduces 'Anger' on several occasions as a 'Demon' or 'Chandaal'.
Emphasizing the need to have company of good tempered people, Guru Ramdasji suggested, "Unna paas duaas na bhiteeai jin antar krodh chandaal" (Man should not keep the company of those who nurture violent anger inside). A thirteenth century Sufi saint, Sheikh Farid, whose compositions make part of Guru Granth Sahib recommended tolerance and forgiveness as a solution to control anger. He voiced his thoughts saying "Faridaa buray daa bhalaa kar gussaa man na hadhaaeyi; dayhee rog na lagee palae sabh kich paeay". Here Shaikh Farid affirmed that one should forgive a wrong doer and should not harbour malice in one's mind. Doing so, one will not attract any disease, and will gather blessings of Almighty.
However, if circumstances prevail where the enemy persists in wrongful doings, krodh can be channelised into a retaliatory action. Under pressing circumstances, Guru Gobind Singh had to come face to face with Raja Hari Chand Handooria (a skilled archer) at the Battle of Bhangani. The tenth Guru Sahib stated in his autobiography "Jabe baan lageo tabe ross jagaio" and he rightly used his wrath for a righteous action. In this, Guru Gobind Singh has taught mankind that for self-defence, one should know to convert negative energy into a positive result.
A feeble mind generates a never-ending greed or temptation to gather sometimes all that does not belong to oneself. There is an unrestrained urge for earthly possessions even under conditions of self sufficiency. A lobhi is utterly selfish and unreliable. Gurbani cautions common man: "Lobhi ka vesahu na kijai je ka par vasae. (One should not trust greedy people, if one can avoid doing so). Greed renders an individual insensitive. He becomes self-centred and stone-hearted Guru Nanak Dev appropriately preached: "Nar Nindak lobhee man kathor". (The evergrowing greed makes a man miserable). Guru Amar Das counsels such a man that Maya misleads him and the true name of God can only bring him eternal peace. "Doojai kinai sukh na paaio pijaa jeeo bikhiaa lobh lubhaaey". (A greedy person can never attain Mokash. His greed will weigh heavily on his soul's boat which will sink at last in the karmic ocean). Guru Ram Das prescribed; "Manmukh pakhand bharam vigute lobh lahar naav bhaar budeeaa"( why should a human being then indulge in pursuits which will be of no avail in the end? These activities will only entangle further the Jeeva Atma in worldly bonds).
But the desire for unnecessary materialistic things can be checked by practising regular meditation. The utterance of God's name will clear the mist of greed. This will drive away falsehood and humility will be developed in the human spirit. Another method of getting rid of this evil is to do Sewa or Charity. The community kitchen is also a part of the same process. Stressing the need to help the poor, Guru Gobind Singh said, "Garib daa moohn meri golak". In this manner, the corrupted soul will be liberated from the age old sins. Once this burden is shed, man will live in his true consciousness.
Moh is often interpreted as attachment to worldly pleasures or relations. Though fascination for material possessions act as entanglements for the soul yet Sikhism preaches active participation in life rejecting thereby a life of renunciation and escapism. The Sikh Gurus describe an ideal life of an individual to be like that of a lotus which, while living in water, keeps its head above it without allowing itself to be submerged in it. Kabir in the holy Sikh scripture questions the mortal as to why he is so proud of his big or small possessions. All his gains and powers will last for a short period. Death will take away all that he has accumulated. Even his closest relations like mother, father, spouse, children will not go with him in the end. Only the ones who chant the holy shabad are steady forever. Guru Nanak also asks the Manmukh why should man spend his life in collecting wealth when one day he is going to depart from this world? He says : "Maya jaal pasaareya bhitar chog banaye" i.e. Maya has spread her net and in it she has kept her bait. The bird of human desire is caught in it and cannot escape. The one who does not remember his Lord is caught in the cycle of life and death and comes and goes again and again.
Gurubani says that "Maati sio maati rali naaga outh jai". (In the end his dust shall mix with dust. He will arise and depart naked). Moh for worldly articles results from ignorance about the changing nature of things and can be seen as the outcome of delusion. Ignorant people wander about miserably for objects of Maya, not realizing that life will just pass them by and they will miss the very goal of human life.
Excessive pride over one's wealth, power, assets or deeds is explained as Ahankar. A person may feel that he is more blessed than others in certain matters and therefore may consider himself superior. He may complain about the faults of the other people but his own self-conceit increases. Pride propels him to take credit for every little thing he possesses. He pats himself for all talents and achievements. He is completely oblivious of the part played by God in his success. He requires humility in his attitude and conduct but he takes to Haumai (Pride). Consequently, he drifts away from divine reunion. Gurbani reminds us : Not the sun, the Moon, the planets, the seven continents, the oceans, food or the wind nothing is permanent. Everything is there for a limited period. The only method to curb Moh is resorting to name of God: Har ka naam man vasai haumai krodh nivaar. (egotism and anger are cleaned when the name of God reigns in his mind). Only the true name of God can break this vicious cycle and can lead him to salvation. So man should spend some time in prayer and in developing good thoughts and deeds. Pride should be completely annihilated as it leads to pain. The thoughts and feelings of pride are founded on false fragmentary notions.
These five vices posing threat to the human personality should be always kept under check. A man living in ignorance and entrapped by innumerable desires falls a prey to these vices. It is on account of this ignorance that one forgets that the world where one is born and lives is only a 'Karam bhumi' and not the final destination. The actual goal of a mortal is to realize the presence of God, to reach out to Him with complete knowledge and to be liberated from the cycle of death and birth. Religion helps him in his endeavour. Guru Arjun Dev, like other Gurus also reminds man, "Having gained a body this time, a rare opportunity you have got; this is your chance to meet God".
Moral discipline brings proximity to God. One's deeds bring one closer to God or take away from Him. For a Sikh, the acceptance of God's will or Hukam is a concept that requires absolute clarity and complete comprehension. But submission to the God's command does not mean that one cannot exercise 'Freewill'. It simply implies that one should willingly act in harmony with the Divine Will. By adopting the Divine values one rises above the negativities of character, egoism and self-centredness. Religion, therefore, also helps in creating a better society.
Sikhism teaches man to live peacefully even under adverse circumstances. A man will just reap what he sows. It is not possible to have good rewards for one's bad actions. Thus, following the theory of 'Hukam', one can save oneself from drowning in this ocean of 'Maya'.
Faith in the eternal God instils balance in life. One is not shaken by grief nor is one swayed by moments of joy. One never shuts one's eyes to the fact that God alone is real and rest everything else is an appearance. The objects of the world will fade away with time but the existence of God is forever. The philosophy of Sikhism, in a way, counsels man to spend his life span judiciously so that the cycle of transmigration ends.
In order to control vices, Sikhs have been advised by the Gurus to attend the congregations of good, honest and pious people. Besides, they should make themselves useful to others by engaging in 'Sewa'. One prepares and serves food in 'Langar', cleans utensils and shoes of 'Sangat' and sweeps the place for the comfort of everyone. This practice is considered morally elevating and developing spiritual values. The Sikh community counts this entire activity vital in suppressing 'ego' and increasing 'humility' and eventually in transforming human society for the better.
As a true devotee of God, a true Sikh incessantly tries to better himself through his thoughts, words and actions. He constantly strives to imbibe the five virtues in himself: Sat (truth), Santokh (contentment), Pyar (love), Daya (compassion) and Nimrata (humility). He probably faces a little difficulty learning these virtues in the beginning but gradually, with practice, it becomes a habit.
ęCopyright Institute of Sikh Studies, 2015, All