Sikh Ethics II
CORRECTIVES / RESOURCES
In order to develop virtues, one must also utilize other resources, like self-discipline, moral reason, natural suffering and the company of saintly beings.
Forced regulation due to fear or guilt feeling cannot be called self-discipline. Self-discipline comes from within. his natural and gentle and comes spontaneously like water from a spring. It emanates from creative love- the love of man for God. Jut as a child has his father as his ideal, so the seeker of “The Truth” has God as his ideal. He wants to be like Him! Truthful, Just, Generous and Compassionate, in short at one with His virtues. This all-embracing love leads man to think about the welfare of God’s creation and the uplift of his fellow-men. The lure of material possessions is instinctive, but a seeker wants these things not for his own pride or display, but for sharing them with others. The sharing or giving principle is the essence of self-discipline. It is as natural as a child’s love for his father or the sharing of sweets and chocolates with friends.’ The Guru says:
“With self-discipline and the control of desire, we forsake vice and see the miracle of man’s perfection.” (AG, 343)
“Control your craving, and wisdom will dawn on you; this wisdom will express itself in deeds.” (AG, 878)
(ii) Moral reason
God’s divine essence in man manifests itself as moral reasoning. The popular word for it is conscience. The conscience is independent of any religion or belief. Even those who have no religion possess conscience; they know what is wrong and what is right. But this does not mean that religion is not necessary for an individual. Sikhism believes that man has both reason and conscience to guide him, qualities which other animals seem to lack. In the struggle between good and bad, it is man’s inner voice which suggests him the correct course to follow. However, many people stifle their consciences or turn a deaf ear to it. The Guru says:
“The mind knows every thing, and does evil wilfully;
How can one get peace, when with torch in hand, one falls into the well!” (AG, 1376)
Conscience is the guide to good character and noble action. The Guru says:
“Without developing a moral conscience. salvation can not be attained; the egoist wanders aimlessly like an insane person. He does not listen to his conscience; he does not lead a dynamic life. He talks a lot of logic and philosophy, and is stepped in sin. The voice of the conscience is the voice of God.”
Undoubtedly, it is the conscience which enables us to lead a balanced and virtuous life. Good conduct and noble deeds go together. They give peace of mind and moral courage to the individual. The command of moral reason is the Will of God. According to Guru Nanak, the Will of God is ingrained in man, and if he follows it, he will be a man of righteousness. (Japji, 1).
The law of Karma postulates that evil actions bring suffering. In certain cases, suffering like a purgative rids man of evil emotions. There is also another kind of suffering which we may call ‘creative suffering.’ Good and noble souls undergo this kind of suffering, not because of Karma or evil deeds done in the past, but for the purpose of countering inequality, injustice, tyranny and bigotry. The true martyr suffers torture and death, not for having done any thing wrong himself but for the fact that goodness has to be used as the means to conquer evil, in others. Many apparent tragedies in life are caused by this apparent waste of good to uproot evil. The sufferings of men when upholding high principle are not pitiable, but noble, inspiring and blessed. Even in normal beings, suffering is a means to encourage reform. Guru Nanak calls suffering a ‘remedy,’ because when we are in difficulties, we turn to God for help. As such, suffering has a positive purpose to serve in life. It is pain and tragedy which often goad man to endeavor for spiritual uplift.
(iv) Holy company
As mentioned earlier, the society of those who travel on the spiritual path is a great incentive for the seeker.He can get help and guidance from a God-oriented person—Gurumukh. The Gurus have stressed the value of association with saintly persons and the congregation. The Guru says:
“Just as the castor plant becomes fragrant in the vicinity of the
sandal-tree, In the same way, the wicked may become perfect if they remain in
the company of the saints.” (AG, 861)
In the company of the holy. the seeker gives up his defects and vices, and feels inspired to climb the steps of the spiritual ladder through good conduct and service.
VICES ACCORDING TO SIKHISM
The five major vices according to the Sikh faith are Lust (Kam), Anger (Krodh), Greed (Lobh), Worldly attachment (Moh), and Pride (Ahankar). There are many minor vices like deceit, falsehood, backbiting, hatred, stealing, suspiciousness, profanity, vindictiveness, self-abuse through the use of intoxicants and drugs etc. but here, we shall deal only with the five major vices mentioned above.
Excessive sexual activity is harmful, physically, mentally and morally. It gives rise to many psychological problems. The common cause of divorce is adultery, which means infidelity to the marital partner. It leaves a bad impression on the children who feel insecure and neglected. Illegal sexual conduct is due to sex perversion. It produces disease, nervous tension and emotional outbursts. Guru Nanak says:
“As borax melts gold, so do lust and anger consume the body.” (AG, 932)
Moreover, lust creates feelings of guilt. Pre-marital and extramarital sex produce emotional disorders and often involve lying, revenge and crime. It washes away the benefit of many good things done earlier often at his life’s end, the lustful man feels repentant for the misery he has brought to himself and many others. For the momentary pleasure of satisfying his own passion, he aggressively tramples over the sensitivities and rights of others. Some people take a sadistic satisfaction in inflicting injury and punishment in orgies with their partners. Sometimes unnatural and beastly acts are committed by the lustful men. Homo-sexuality, lesbianism and prostitution are some of the more frequent manifestations of lustful behaviour. All these practices are forbidden to Sikhs. Immodesty in thoughts, word or deed is to be shunned.
Anger is another form of self-indiscipline. It is a spontaneous emotional reaction to insult or frustration—actual or imaginary—which leaves its mark on both the angered and the victim The Guru says:
“An angry man frets and fumes, abuses and suffers humiliation.” (AG, 1288)
Anger leads to quarrels, violence and victimisation, An angry man becomes impatient, peevish or sullen. At the time a person’s mental faculties are lost in the excitement and explosiveness of the situation. Anger may be a symbol of emotional imbalance, of conceit or of mercurial temper. The Guru preached that God is present in all, and therefore to be angry with another is to reject the God in him. Sweetness of speech and courteous conduct are recommended in Sikhism.
A small measure of anger may be necessary for maintaning discipline or correcting one who is at fault. Righteous indiguetion for purpose of reform is excluded from the ambit of anger. Anger is the destroyer of social relations and harmony in society. Hatred and jealousy are often consequences of anger. As such, we should be vigilant and keep both our patience and composure.
Greed is the excessive love of money or possession. A greedy person grabs whatever he can whenever he can. It is not that he really needs the things, it is his excessive passion for acquisition and hoarding which makes him rapacious. Generally a greedy person is selfish, discontented, untrustworthy as he runs hither and thither to collect whatever he can. The Guru says:
“A greedy man is like a mad dog who wanders in different directions;
He devours both lawful and forbidden food.” (AG, 50)
This quotation tells us that a greedy person’s mind is restless and excited, and that he of ten takes what is prohibited to him, this resulting in his antisocial behaviour as he misappropriates for himself that which belongs to others. Greed is a major sin; it creates an instable condition of mind and leads to inhuman behaviour. A greedy man cannot be trusted and as such his company is to be avoided.
4. Worldly attachment
Attachment to the fleeting and the perishable is called moh. This attachment does not only relate to wealth and possessions, but also to near and dear relatives. Man is caught in the illusion of the importance of mundane things, he feels that their possession will give him peace and joy.For example, in order to express his attachment to his family, men often do many foolish things and often get steeped in vice. The Guru says:
“Give up attachment, for it leads to sin.” (AG, 356)
This does not mean that one has to neglect the family or the care of one’s dependents. What is implied by attachment, is that one does not “keep some distance” or draw a line between ‘interest in the family’ and ‘deep involvement in family affairs.’ A person must discharge his responsibilities, but at the same time must also think of the things of the spirit which alone can lead to his moral development. They should realise that all things will ultimately perish and therefore attachment to them, will bring only sorrow and despair in the end.
Pride is nothing but a reflection to self-esteem and arrogance. It is Ego, writ large. It includes touchiness, superiority complex and aggressiveness. Some people are proud of learning, youth, wealth, power and charisma. Others boast of the performance of religious duties and charitable works. Pride makes’ one blind to the merits of others. It produces a false sense of one’s superiority and Often sense of jealousy and domination. The proud man is foolish and mean in his relationship with others. By his ego, he creates enemies, and also falls in the estimation of others. A man of achievement should not blow his own trumpet; he should feel humble and grateful to God for what he has attained. Pride is both socially wrong and morally undesirable. The Guru says:
“A person who gives up pride in the company of saints is supreme; He who considers himself as low is regarded as the highest of all.”
Guru Tegh Bahadur warns us against the pride of one’s achievement:
“O seers! Renounce the pride of your spirituality.” (AG, 219)
God does not like pride. Those who are proud of their spiritual attainment are rejected in God’s Court. Humility is the passport to the Divine Mansion.
While personal ethics ensure the development of the body and the mind, social ethics pertain to man’s relations with the community and his contribution to the uplift of society. Sikhism lays emphasis on social equality and the participation of the individual in projects of welfare and community development. The Free Kitchen (langar) isa forum of service and ensures equality of men and women. The King and the pauper eat the same food at the same place. This is a step towards the creation of a casteless and classless society.
Moreover, Sikhism did a lot towards the uplift of women in Indian society. The Gurus removed the age-old disabilities of woman like sex-segregation in worship, veiling of woman, female infanticide, widow remarriage and suttee. Women were allowed to perform religious ceremonies like men. Adultery and divorce are prohibited among the Sikhs. TheAnand marriage ensures the equality of the bride and bridegroom and their families. The Gurus favoured a compact family-unit. Moreover, self-regulation in sex became the accepted norm of married life.
Guru Gobind Singh laid down the fundamentals of social conduct for his followers in the following words:
“O Sikhs, borrow not, but if you are compelled to borrow, faithfully restore the debt. Speak not falsely and associate not with the untruthful. Associating with holy men,practise truth,lóve truth and clasp it to your hearts. Live by honest labour and deceive no one. . . . Deem another’s property as filth (untouchable). Preserve your wife and children from evil company. Eat regardless of caste, with all Sikhs who have been baptised and deem them your brethren.”
Exploitation of labour in any form is forbidden in Sikhism. Every Sikh must help in the economic uplift of the community. The income of Sikh shrines and charitable institutions is to be used for the benefit of the poor, the needy and the sick or for projects of public welfare. The leaders of Sikh society, are also under an obligation to use public funds for welfare of the masses. Whatever a King or the Ruler has to do after the welfare of his subjects is to defend them from a country’s enemies. In the case of war, civilians and wounded soldiers are not to be killed.
Universal brotherhood and respect for the followers of other religions is commanded by the Gurus. Sikhs run schools and colleges, where students belonging to other faiths also receive education. Sikh clinics and charitable institutions are not exclusive. A Sikh works and prays for the good of all humanity in his daily prayer (Ardas).
SIKH CODE OF DISCIPLINE
The first nine Gurus laid down the routine of a Sikh as follows: He should getup at dawn, take abath and sit down for prayer and meditation. He should attend to his job orgo out to work during the day. In the evening, he should offer prayers; he should read or recite the Kirian Sohia before going to bed. Whenever possible, he should attend the Gurdwara or the congregation and participate in the service.
Guru Gobind Singh established the Khalsa Brotherhood in 1699 and gave additional instructions to his baptised followers which are summarised below:
1. Believe in One God, The Ten Guru and The Guru Granth Sahib.
2. The Mool-mantra states the basic tenet of Sikh Faith; the Gurmantra is “Waheguru.”
3. Daily recite The Five Banis (Japji, Jaap Sahib, Sawaiyas, RehrasChaupai and Kirtan Sohla).
4. Maintain the Five K’s (Panj Kakaar).
5. Do not steal, plunder, gamble or exploit the poor.
6. Do not covet another’s wealth or wife
7. Do not use intoxicants like wine, hemp, opium, toddy, etc.
8.Commit no religious offence (Kurahit) like cutting your hair, using tobacco, eating Halal (ritual meat) or committing adultery. If a Sikh does any of these things, he has to be rebaptised, after due pennance.
9. Celebrate no Hindu ceremonies on birth, death or marriage, no sacred thread, no Havan (fire-worship), no pitris (ancestor feeding), no worship of idols, graves, monasteries, tombs or muths.
10. Have no relationship with Minas, Dharmalias, Ram-Raias and Massands.
Besides the above, oral instructions were given to his followers and later compiled by them, in the form of Rahat-namas (Codes of conduct). These are also to be followed. Main points from the important codes are given below:
Rahat-nama Bhai Daya Singh
i. A Sikh should not practise any of the ascetic practices of Yogis and sanyasis; they should not engage in Tantra, Mantra and Jantra.
ii. A Sikh should solemnize his marriage and those of his children according to the Sikh ceremony called Anand Karaj.
iii. A Sikh should not give his daughter in marriage to a Pant (apostate).
iv. A Sikh should not have any faith in Brahamanical, Vaishanava or Shiva deities.
Rahat-nama Bhai Desa Singh
i. A Silch should give one-tenth of his income to religious and charitable causes.
ii. He should keep away from characterless men and women.
iii. He should not use money from temple offering or charitable institutions for himself. If he is a Granthi or ragi, he should take only what is absolutely necessary for his needs.
iv. He should disassociate himself from Patits (apostates).
Rahat-nama of Bhai Chaupa Singh
i. A Sikh should marry Sikh.
ii. He should teach his children how to read the Guru Granth Sahib and also explain the meaning to them.
iii. He should not dye his hair or beard or pull out the hair from the body.
iv. He should not break his word or promise or commit perjury or treachery
v. He should always use the Sikh greeting: Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa, Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh.
Rahat-nama of Bhai Nandlal
i. A Sikh should comb his hair twice daily and tie his turban afresh every time.
ii. He should not listen to vulgar and filthy songs or poems.
iii. He should cover his head while going out, and while he takes food.
There is another composition called Tankhah-nama of Bhai Nandlal which details the minor lapses called ‘Tankhah’ (literally meaning fine). Some of these lapses are mentioned below:
i. No talking or gossiping during hymn-singing, recitation of prayers or sermons.
ii. No unequal distribution of Karah Prasad (sacred pudding).
iii. The drinking of liquor or alcohol is forbidden.
iv. The casting of evil glances or making gestures to women in the congregation, or the withholding or the misappropriation of the money of one’s daughter or Sister is forbidden.
v. Non-contribution of Daswand (tithe) is a tankhah
vi. Slander and gambling are prohibited.
Shromani Gurdwara Parbhandhak Committee, Amritsar, issued instructions to the Sikh community in a booklet called Sikh RahatMaryada in 1945, as a result of the deliberations of a representative Sikh Board. This pamphlet contains a fairly comprehensive code of Sikh practices and way of life. Some of the major points mentioned therein are listed below:
1 A Sikh should base his life on the teachings of the Ten Gurus, Guru Granth Sahib and other scriptures and teachings of the Gurus
2.Sikh should believe in the oneness of the Ten Gurus, that is a single soul or entity existed in the Ten Gurus.
3.A Sikh should have no dealings with caste, black magic or superstitious practices, such as, the seeking of auspicious moments, echpses the practicd’of feeding Brahmins in the belief that the food will go to one’s ancestors. Ancestor-worship, fasting at differing phases of the moon, the wearing of sacred thread and similar rituals.
4. The Gurdwara should serve as the Sikh’s central place of worship. Although the Guru Granth Sahib is the focus of Sikh belief, nonS&h books can be studied for general enlightenment.
5. Sikhism should be distinct from other religions, but the Sikh must in no way give offence to other faiths
6. It is the duty of a Sikh to teach Sikhism to his children
7. Sikhs should not cut their children’s hair. Boys are to be given the name ending with Singh, and girls the name of Kaur.
8. Sikhs should not partake of alcohol, tobacco, drugs or other intoxicants.
9. Sikhs should live on money that has been honestly earned.
10. Sikhs should not commit adultery.
11; A Sikh should live his life from birth to death according to the tenets of his faith.
12. Any clothing may be worn by a Sikh, provided it includes a turban (for males), and shorts or similar garment.
The above instructions can be divided into two heads, namely religious or social. The religious commandments are meant to preserve the Sikh tenets and practices, while the social instructions are intended to make the Sikh a responsible citizen. The idea behind the above instructions is to make a Sikh both a religious person and a sensible member of the country. Breaches of these instructions or vows taken at Amrit (Kurhats or tankiiah) are subject to punishment.’ The offender must publicly apologize to the congregation and perform whatever penances is suggested by five chosen members of the congregation. This wherever possible should be some form of manual work. The penance must be accepted without questioning and Ardas (Supplication) is recitèd immediately after its declaration.
The Sikh Character
The Sikh character has evolved during the last five hundred years. The examples were set by the Gurus and those prominent Sikhs who have moulded Sikh history. They were the warriors on the battle-field, who would still appear humble when doing their daily chores. By their manliness and spirit of service, they have succeeded in situations where others have failed. They faced a lot of persecution in the eighteenth century. Even during their holocausts, the Sikhs only strengthened their resolve to stand firm against tyranny and fanaticism. Their stories of valour and exómplary conduct area matter of history. They have received compliments from their adversaries. Qazi Nur Mahommed, the Muslim historian who came in the retinue of Ahmed Shah Abdali to India in 1762, wrote about the Sikhs thus:
“Do not call the Sikhs ‘dogs,’ because they are lions, and are brave like lions in the battle-field, they never kill a coward and do not obstruct one who flees from the field. They do not rob a woman of her gold or ornaments, be she a queen or a slave-girl. Adultery does not exist among these ‘dogs.’ None of them isa thief. . . the ‘dogs’
never resort to stealing and none of them is a thief. They donot keep company with any adulterer or thief.”
The Sikhs are generally well-behaved, open-minded and cheerful.They are not afraid of facing new challenges and crises. They stood the shock, atrocities and killings at the Partition of India in 1947 and soon rehabilitated themselves by dint of hard work, perseverance and courage.
The Sikhs are known for their initiative, enterprise and industry. They easily adapt themselves to changes in climate, environment and situation. They know how to maintain their dignity and self-respect and the honour of their women-folk. They are admired for their patriotism and devotion to duty. The Sikhs are good farmers and sturdy soldiers. During the last forty years, they have taken to the learned professions with great eagerness and have made their mark both on the regional and national levels. Many of them are working as physicians, engineers, teachers, mechanics and technicians not only in India, but also in many foreign countries. Their success in the Far East,, Kenya, Great Britain, Canada and the United States of America has not only helped the Punjab economically, but also added to the affluence of the countries where they have settled. Where ever they have emigrated, they have set up their religious, cultural and educational institutions and also helped various community projects for the welfare of local people. It may e noted that 10% of total sikhs live abroad.
1. Minor sins are called “Tankhah,” and call for award of penalties.
2. Major sins are called “Kurahit,” and requireRebaptism (Amrit)
3. Sattee is the practice of a widow burning herself on or after the death of her husband.
4. See AnandSahib.
5. Maya is the name of the Hindu goddess of wealth or materialism.
6. Macauliffe: The Sikh Religion, Vol V, p. 105.
7. Many of the Rahat-namas repeat common instinctions; these have been excluded.
8. SikhRahat-Maryada, ShromaniG2. Committee, Amritsar,Publicalion 1978, p. 34.