Sikh Philosophy Can Help Modern Man Face His Challenges and Problems
What are the main challenges and problems of modern man? I feel that these are: Fear, Anxiety and Insecurity. What is the root cause of these? Alienation from one’s true self caused by capitalist consumer culture is the main cause of the challenges and problems faced by modern man. Capitalism has alienated modern man from nature, society, family and self. Self-alienation is the ultimate price extracted by consumerism of capitalism. The philosophy of Sri Guru Granth Sahib helps us to reverse this phenomenon by realizing and uniting with our true self.
Consumerism of capitalism incites excessive material desires. The desire pathway leads to mental imbalance and frustration in the end; because desires can neither be defined nor be fulfilled. Needs can be defined and therefore can be fulfilled. This leads to stability and contentment. Fear, anxiety and insecurity are the result of the alienation and frustration from the unfulfilment of human desires. These psychic maladies are the byproducts of capitalist consumerism. Unbridled desires and frustration lead to imbalance and an imbalanced state of mind. An imbalanced mind cannot connect with one’s true self. Our true self is the source of our inner strength that enables us to cope with the challenges and problems that we face in our life. Gurbani reminds us about this true self:
My self! in aspect art thou image of Divine Light:
Thy own exalted origin realize!
Myself ! The Lord is ever by Thee;
Listen to the holy master’s teaching and live in bliss.1
The Sikh philosophy emphasizes that we should achieve a balanced state of mind and get connected with our true self. For this purpose, we should first control our wandering mind and reach a state of equipoise. The one who has controlled the mind has conquered the world. “Let all mankind be thy sect. Conquering thus thyself, mayst thou be lord of the world.”2 Because then he can feel the way he wants to feel regardless of whatever is happening in the outside world. This state can be called an end of our suffering, a state of eternal bliss or wondrous joy called Vismad. The Sikh philosophy tells us that as a human being we are entitled to this state as long as we are connected with our true self and are living in harmony with nature.
All boons within the self lie, not without,
Whoever seeks for these outside, is in illusion straying.3
Alienation from nature and our true self makes us vulnerable to vicissitudes in our lives. We lose our balance. The unbalanced state of our mind is the main cause of our suffering. Consumer culture of capitalism has made this situation worse. It has practically negated the spiritual aspect of life and has led to unbalanced materialism. This imbalance in society has made the unbalanced state of our mind worse. The Sikh philosophy, by promoting spiritual enlightenment, can restore balance in society as well as in our mind and that will lead to stability in society as well as mental stability. Such a state of mind becomes less susceptible to psychic affliction like fear, anxiety and insecurity. Gurbani provides us the guidance:
My self! in One sole Lord thy hope of succor centre
All other hope discard
Saith Nanak: The Name you contemplate,
Whereby may your objectives be fulfilled.4
The Sikh philosophy suggests a very simple formula to cope with fear. There are two kinds of fears; fear of worldly things and fear of God. One is negative and the other is positive. Fear of worldly things makes us weak, whereas fear of god makes us a stronger person. There is space for only one fear in our heart. In other words, we can have either the fear of worldly things, or we can have fear of God. We can get rid of our worldly fears by replacing it by the fear of God. Fear of God is realized by spiritual awakening. When we realize that the essence our existence is not our body or mind, it is our soul, then we become fearless because there is no weapon or force that can destroy our soul. Fear only exists at the level of body and mind. There is no fear at the level of soul.
My self! why share in depression? The Lord is fulfiller of desires.5
Anxiety is the constant worry about what is going to happen to us. This is the result of limiting one’s existence to oneself alone and not looking at it as a part of the whole. If we consider our existence as a part of the whole, then we will not feel anxious about what is going to happen to us. Because whatever is going to happen will happen according to universal will and natural law ( Bhana and Hukam) rather than our efforts alone. The Sikh philosophy, while emphasizing the role of human efforts, also prepares us to accept the results because they are determined by universal will and natural law. To cope with anxiety, we have to constantly remember our creator and keep reminding ourselves that whatever is happening is happening according to His will. Therefore, we should stop worrying and gladly accept it because He is our father and friend and He knows what is in our best interest. We are destined to abide by His will and commandment:
Through obedience to His Ordiance and Will,
Saith Nanak: This blessing too is pre-ordained.6
By Divine Ordinance are beings marked with nobility or ignominy,
By the Ordinance are the visited with bliss and bale.7
Insecurity is the result of a feeling of a lack of support and back up from our real benefactor. To feel secure, we seek security from money and property as well as from influential and powerful people. However, Sikh philosophy tells us that instead of making us more secure, money and property make us more insecure because now we are constantly worried that somebody may take these away from us. Similarly, the influential and powerful cannot make us feel secure because they are constantly worried about losing their influence and power.
People that appear to be so important,
Are all by malady of anxiety gripped.8
The holy Name is my prop—
My prop the holy name, annuller of all desire.
In serenity and joy is it in the self lodged, all desire fulfilling.
May I even be a sacrifice to the Master in whom such power are reposed.
Saith Nanak: Listen my devotee friends! in the holy Word repose your love.
My prop is the holy Name.9
The Sikh philosophy tells us to seek support only from the one that is the most powerful and is prevailing everywhere, Omni potent and Omni present. Where can we find Him? According to Sikh philosophy, you do not have to go anywhere to find Him. Because He is present inside you. Recognizing your true self, you will get connected with Him. Self-awareness and self-realization will lead you to the ultimate source of energy; that will give you the strength to face all your challenges and problems.
All boons within the self lie, not without.
Whoever seeks for these outside, is in illusion straying.10
Once connected with with Divine Creator, human mind becomes detached from the daily ups and downs of human life. It is an ideal state of mind and an ideal state of human existence.
He alone has known the Essence
Who meets indifferently pleasure and suffering.
Worldly honour and neglect, and has risen beyond joy and sorrow -
Such a one has realized the Essence in this world.11
1. ਮਨ ਤੂੰ ਜੋਤਿ ਸਰੂਪੁ ਹੈ ਆਪਣਾ ਮੂਲੁ ਪਛਾਣੁ ॥ ਮਨ ਹਰਿ ਜੀ ਤੇਰੈ ਨਾਲਿ ਹੈ ਗੁਰਮਤੀ ਰੰਗੁ ਮਾਣੁ ॥, Sri Guru Granth Sahib, p. 441
2. ਆਈ ਪੰਥੀ ਸਗਲ ਜਮਾਤੀ ਮਨਿ ਜੀਤੈ ਜਗੁ ਜੀਤੁ ॥ Sri Guru Granth Sahib, p.6
3. ਸਭ ਕਿਛੁ ਘਰ ਮਹਿ ਬਾਹਰਿ ਨਾਹੀ ॥ ਬਾਹਰਿ ਟੋਲੈ ਸੋ ਭਰਮਿ ਭੁਲਾਹੀ ॥ Guru Granth Sahib, p. 102
4. ਧਰ ਜੀਅਰੇ ਇਕ ਟੇਕ ਤੂ ਲਾਹਿ ਬਿਡਾਨੀ ਆਸ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਨਾਮੁ ਧਿਆਈਐ ਕਾਰਜੁ ਆਵੈ ਰਾਸਿ ॥ Sri Guru Granth Sahib, p. 257
5. ਕਾਹੇ ਮਨ ਤੂ ਡੋਲਤਾ ਹਰਿ ਮਨਸਾ ਪੂਰਣਹਾਰੁ ॥ Sri Guru Granth Sahib, p. 959
6. ਹੁਕਮਿ ਰਜਾਈ ਚਲਣਾ ਨਾਨਕ ਲਿਿਖਆ ਨਾਲਿ ॥ Sri Guru Granth Sahib, p. 1
7. ਹੁਕਮੀ ਉਤਮੁ ਨੀਚੁ ਹੁਕਮਿ ਲਿਿਖ ਦੁਖ ਸੁਖ ਪਾਈਅਹਿ ॥ ਇਕਨਾ ਹੁਕਮੀ ਬਖਸੀਸ ਇਕਿ ਹੁਕਮੀ ਸਦਾ ਭਵਾਈਅਹਿ ॥ Sri Guru Granth Sahib, p. 1
8. ਵਡੇ ਵਡੇ ਜੋ ਦੀਸਹਿ ਲੋਗ ॥ ਤਿਨ ਕਉ ਬਿਆਪੈ ਚਿੰਤਾ ਰੋਗ ॥Sri Guru Granth Sahib, p. 188
9. ਸਾਚਾ ਨਾਮੁ ਮੇਰਾ ਆਧਾਰੋ ॥ ਸਾਚੁ ਨਾਮੁ ਅਧਾਰੁ ਮੇਰਾ ਜਿਿਨ ਭੁਖਾ ਸਭਿ ਗਵਾਈਆ ॥ ਕਰਿ ਸਾਂਤਿ ਸੁਖ ਮਨਿ ਆਇ ਵਸਿਆ ਜਿਿਨ ਇਛਾ ਸਭਿ ਪੁਜਾਈਆ ॥ Sri Guru Granth Sahib, p. 917
10. ਸਭ ਕਿਛੁ ਘਰ ਮਹਿ ਬਾਹਰਿ ਨਾਹੀ ॥ ਬਾਹਰਿ ਟੋਲੈ ਸੋ ਭਰਮਿ ਭੁਲਾਹੀ ॥ Guru Granth Sahib, p.102
11. ਸੁਖੁ ਦੁਖੁ ਦੋਨੋ ਸਮ ਕਰਿ ਜਾਨੈ ਅਉਰੁ ਮਾਨੁ ਅਪਮਾਨਾ ॥ ਹਰਖ ਸੋਗ ਤੇ ਰਹੈ ਅਤੀਤਾ ਤਿਿਨ ਜਗਿ ਤਤੁ ਪਛਾਨਾ ॥ Guru Granth Sahib, p. 219