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Gateway to Sikhism

Ahankar (pride)

Ahankar (pride), also written as hankar in the Punjabi language, is another of the springs of action under discussion. If one takes into consideration all the references to it in the Sikh scripture and allied literature, it would be easily seen that ahankar is considered to be a greater evil than the other propensities. But before we commence our examination of this propensity it may be necessary to state that this meaning of ahankar as pride is different from ahankar in the sense of the principle of individuation as understood in the Sankhya school of Indian Philosophy. The term which more appropri¬ately conveys this principle of individuation in Sikhism is houmai. So ahankar in Sankhya somewhat corresponds to houmai in Sikhism. Presently, however, we are examining a psychological propensity and not a metaphysical category as it is used in Sankhya.

Ahankar may arise from one's possession of beauty or power.' Another cause for the rise of this propensity could be that the individual becomes proud of his acts of charity or of some religious merit attained by him through pilgrimages.' It is in this sense that "riches of the world which give rise to pride are called poison" because, thereby, "one is drowned and loses real honour."3 At another place, Guru Arjan Dev says, "0 pride the cause of our coming and going in the world, 0 soul of sin, thou estranges friends, confirms enmities and makes men spread out the net of illusion far and wide, and tires men by keeping ever on the round, and making them experience now pleasure, now pain. And men walk through the utter wilderness of doubt: thou afflicts men with incurable maladies."' These passages give us an understanding of the nature of this propensity. and behaviour pattern of the agent under it as well as the intensity of its psychological charge.

Nature of pride

The distinguishing mark of pride appears to be that it is secondary in the sense that it, in itself, is effect of factors such as possession of riches, acts of philanthropy or the performance of scriptural duties. These may give an individual the feeling that he has some superiority over others and then this feeling may become a tendency in him to treat others as inferior to his own self. This would estrange him from humanity at large. Kabir says in this connection: "Thou thinks thyself to be great by tiny little deeds; but they who look upon others as small through words, thoughts, or deeds are cast in hell."' Pride, as pointed out in this passage may be reflected in word, thought and deed. The intellectuals may easily fall a prey to it. As Kant says about himself, "There was a time when I despised the masses who know nothing. Rousseau has set me right. This blind prejudice disappears.
I learn to honour men . . .."" A.K. Teale, commenting upon this, says, "Now it may be surprising that a child of German Pietism should wait upon the author of Emile to learn about the inherent worth and dignity of every human being regardless of birth, rank, or station." But he himself clarifies further that "it may not be quite so surprising when we recall the prevalence of intellectual pride among learned people."

However, it may be called secondary only in the sense of its origin and not in respect of its importance or its capacity to give rise to some particular types of action. From another view this tendency may appear to become a sourcetendency and, there¬fore, primary in relation to these later tendencies like hatred, etc. Second, the man may, under its influence, treat even his friends as strangers, that is, he may refuse to acknowledge his relation¬ship or fulfil his social obligations. Though, at times one may perform even heroic deeds for feeding one's pride, but the Guru holds such actions in low estimation. He says, "heroes are not they who die of ego. . ." In the same passage he cites the Vedas to support this view. He says: "But God loves not pride, the Vedas proclaim this truth." Third, pride is of no avail in win¬ning over enemies, rather it accentuates the enmity and jealousy already existent between individuals, since a proud man may be scorned, shunned or feared but not loved and respected in any real sense. Fourth, this propensity blinds the individual to the underlying unity of mankind and of existence and, therefore, it will divert him from the realization of the ideal of spiritual

This propensity, therefore, has been accorded a negative value and Sikhs are enjoined to eschew it. Bhai Gurdas, the scribe of the first recension of the Adi Granth, says, "a Sikh loses pride and takes to good deeds."'

Behaviour of the agent under pride

We find from the passages quoted earlier, that the person under the influence of pride remains restless and is exhausted in his attempt to fulfil the heavy demands of this propensity. The proud person is called blind' or suffering from false notion.' This refers to those actions of a person which seem to be based on considerations of his difference from others and which actions would, consequently, again be directed towards the furtherance of those differences. Thus the person would continuously be moving in a vicious circle. This also brings to light that the actions would be directed towards the self. And this selfdirectedness would be continued through words, thoughts and deeds. Also, pride does not always lead one to pleasure but one may also ex¬perience pain under it. The behaviour pattern informed by it must therefore, be something like spreadingout and shrinkingin.

Psychological power of pride

Psychologically speaking pride seems to have sway over the sentiment of friendship but it appears to acquire some reinforce¬ment in the case of already existent enmity towards someone. Second, the possibilities of sway and intensity of sway in pride would, relatively speaking, increase with the achievements of the person and may be a continuous source of danger to the intellectuals and others in this regard.

Some comparative references

In respect to ahankin. Sikh ethics seems to differ generally from the various schools of Indian philosophy, except in the case of Vidyanaranyaswami of the Vedanta school, who recognises this propensity and mentions it by the name of darpa in his treatment of motives in Jivanmuktiviveka.

In the teachings of Hatha Yoga special attention is given to the eradication of pride. According to this school, "there is no friend higher than knowledge and no greater enemy than ahankar."

Sikhism also has a striking resemblance to Christianity in this regard. Von Hilderbrand points out that "the Gospels, St Augustine and the whole Christian theology and philosophy consider pride to be the deepest and the most fundamental root of moral evil." He quotes St. Augustine to support it. St Augustine remarks: "The head and origin of all evil is pride which reigns without flesh in the devil."'

We may refer here to Nicolai Hartmann's attempt to "break down the seemingly antinomic relation between humility and pride"4 and show the approvable compatibility of their simulta¬neous coexistence. However, the fact that he attempts to re¬define humility and pride as "genuine humility" and "genuine pride" shows that the solution offered by him does not break down the antinomic relation between pride and humility, as commonly understood, but may do so in some special sense sought to be conveyed by the use of the additional symbol `genuine'. That could be one argument against the above attempt of Hartmann. But we may also submit that it is not impossible to show that even what he calls "genuine pride" is a moral evil in the sense in which we have been discussing it and that, as such, it still stands in the antinomic relation, with humility. According to Hartmann "genuine pride is far removed from vain selfadmiration," which may mean that only that pride is immo¬ral which is not based on some achievement but which is a vain claim, in the sense of a false claim. (Emphasis added.) Now it is precisely this pride of achievement which is the pride that is recognised by common sense, Sikhism, Christianity as well as by Kant (in the passage referred to earlier). Again, Hartmann says that "true moral pride" arises when "one measures oneself by a standard which is absolute and unattainably high." This, plainly speaking, would not give rise to moral pride but moral humility. Thus Hartmann may be seen to have defined pride not in terms of pride but in terms of humility. We may submit that in fact what is shown by him is that there is no antinomy between humility and humility: even though for the humility used in the first instance Hartmann substitutes the symbol "genuine pride" still conveying the generally accepted meaning of humility. Thus we may conclude that Hartmann has not con¬clusively shown that pride is not immoral and not antinomic to humility. And, in a way his solution is rather linguistic than substantial in nature. In Sikhism this pride of achievement is treated as evil. Guru Arjan Dev says that one who has pride of dominion, or of beauty, or wealth is an evil person.' It Is held that even the pride of good deeds is evil' and if a man does good deeds under pride all his toil has gone to waste.' Similarly, the deeds done with the motive of being held high by others are called "acts which goodness touches not."' In all these texts, we may notice the keenness of the Gurus to ensure that pride is overcome. Bhai Nand Lal, the courtpoet of Guru Gobind Singh, has laid special stress on the need to overcome selfglori¬fication? The author of Go/prate/proud reports Guru Ramdas as having said that the first requisite for a Sikh was to shed the pride of the mind.' Pride is the outcome of the failure of the individual to see the interrelatedness of life and existence as a whole. It is the psychological narcissism fraught with dangerous potentialities, both for the self as well as the social, and is abso¬lutely incompatible with the realization of the Spiritual. Pride, therefore, may be seen as an immoral propensity.

Source: Ethics of the Sikhs : Avtar Singh will strive to be most comprehensive directory of Historical Gurudwaras and Non Historical Gurudwaras around the world.

The etymology of the term 'gurdwara' is from the words 'Gur (ਗੁਰ)' (a reference to the Sikh Gurus) and 'Dwara (ਦੁਆਰਾ)' (gateway in Gurmukhi), together meaning 'the gateway through which the Guru could be reached'. Thereafter, all Sikh places of worship came to be known as gurdwaras. brings to you a unique and comprehensive approach to explore and experience the word of God. It has the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, Amrit Kirtan Gutka, Bhai Gurdaas Vaaran, Sri Dasam Granth Sahib and Kabit Bhai Gurdas . You can explore these scriptures page by page, by chapter index or search for a keyword. The Reference section includes Mahankosh, Guru Granth Kosh,and exegesis like Faridkot Teeka, Guru Granth Darpan and lot more.
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