Q49. What is the place of evil, according to Sikhism?
Everything is created by God, even evil. But what we regard as evil has a special purpose to serve. Evil is neither Satan nor any demon. This Dark Age, Kalyuga, (the age of sin) is the period when evil is likely to thrive.
The purpose of evil is to test the character of man. According to Guru Nanak: “Suffering is the remedy and comfort the disease.” Man is inherently liable to succumb to temptation. The greater his faith, the greater the evil that challenges it. Great men have faced evil and tyranny- whether in the form of a persecutor, a traitor or one’s own kith and kin- in order to prove the triumph of the spirit over matter.
The company of the evil-minded is to be shunned at all costs. It is the gateway only to the continuing cycle of birth and death. It is compared to an evil which defiles whoever comes in contact with it. Guru Arjan in the Sukhmani warns us against associating with Godless people.
The mind of man is more prone to evil than to good. Man is slow to take to virtue but swift to succumb to vice. Nonetheless, it is necessary to purge the mind of evil thoughts by constant effort, before good can enter it. Evil actions arive from evil thinking, motivated by lust, anger, greed, attachment, or pride. Other evil actions take the form of lying, drinking, gambling, begging and backbiting. Sikhism does not believe in the concept of original sin, that a man has to suffer for the sins of his forfathers.
Perhaps the strongest shield against evil is to join the society of the good and pious people. The company of holy men has a positive role to play in spiritual attainment. In their company, one is influenced by their words and deeds and therefore becomes ennobled and pious. Guru Nanak suggests a remedy against evil: “Make Truth the knife. Let it be sharpened on the whetstone of ‘The Name’. Keep it protected in a sheath of virtue.”
Egoism is the greatest evil, because it creates a wall between man and the Creator. This wall can be only removed by submission to His will and the seeking of Divine aid. In his daily prayer, the Sikh invokes God’s grace to keep him away from evil thoughts, words and deeds.