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40. Modern Youth face Modern Questions -
Social Aspects

  1. Sikh students have formed their associations in almost every university in Canada.  They sometimes invite speakers to know more about their faith and answer their questions.  Once, I was to address the Sikh youth association at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada.  I talked about the uniqueness of the Sikh faith.  It was expected to attract attention and provide self-esteem to the youth.  However, soon I realized that the students were not interested my lecture.  Observing this cold response given to my talk, I stopped after about ten minutes and said, “That is all I wanted to say.  The rest of the time is for you to ask questions.”

    One student gave me a great surprise when he asked, “You are telling us what we can read in the books.  Every preacher tells us the same thing.  We want  to know from you the Sikh philosophy regarding euthanasia (mercy killing) and life on plug (keeping the patient alive through supporting gadgets.  We have heard the views of different religions on these topics.  They do not satisfy us.  We are divided on this issue.  Tell us what Sikhism has to say regarding this.”

    I did not know the answer.  Therefore, I thought it advisable to frankly admit this fact.  I told them, “There is no direct answer in Gurbani about these questions, but we can discuss the answer according to the general directions given in the hymns.  We may be able to understand some aspects of these issues to make our own decision.”

    After quoting some hymns and giving their translations, I told the students, “We are supposed to serve the sick and helpless.  Doing sewa is our duty.  Some people want to end the life when it actually is nothing but suffering as is the case with terminally ill people.  By doing this, they just want to save them from pain and agony.  Gurbani does not permit killing a human being or committing suicide to save oneself from the pain or problems of life. Giving pain may be God’s way of teaching lessons to those who suffer and also those who serve such people.  We must follow the principle of doing sewa as long as a person is breathing.  I think, therefore, that euthanasia is against the Sikh faith.

    Artificial plug-life makes the patient suffer longer.  Some of them who are made to remain in a vegetative state for months are actually not living.  The plug may be pulled on such a person. Artificial heart and lung support may be justified only when a person has a chance to be cured from the illness.  Otherwise, keeping a person breathing with modern technology is prolonging his pain.  It is not desirable to keep a patient alive artificially when it is known that he will not be able to live his life.

    Before concluding, let me remind you that these are my personal observations.  Further, I agree with you that Sikh theologians need to sit together to discuss such issues and come to a joint decision for the guidance of the community.



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