Lobh: Greed, Avarice


Aug 20, 2009
[Posted for forum member arshi ji because of technical issues.


The colour most people like best is the colour of money. One can put a price on the principles held by such individuals. It is only those with inner-spiritual strength that are successfully able to resist the onslaught of greed. Guru Gobind Singh Ji by injecting the spirit through ‘khandey de pahul’ spurred his Sikhs to lay down their lives to uphold their principles. The offers of wealth and jannat by the Moghul oppressors held no sway. Read on how Greed can disrupt our spiritual journey and the remedies to overcome it.

lobh (greed, avarice)
by Rajinder Singh ‘Arshi’​


Lobh may be defined as an incessant tendency towards gaining worldly possessions and wealth. Such obsession in one simple word is ‘greed’. This constant propensity towards materialistic values is fuelled by avarice for things that are not really necessary for leading a normal life, a life based on decent values and honest living.

The driving force behind a greedy person‘s intention is the desire for attention, comfort and in some cases power. Greed knows no limits. The abyss of greed is bottomless. A greedy person is always hungry for more wealth and never achieves contentment (bina santokh nahin ko raja - M: 5 - GGS 279). Greed renders the person’s life worthless.

ahinis aodhghatai nahee jaanai bhaio lobh sang hauraa (M: 9 - GGS 220).

The greedy person does not see that his life is decreasing as each day passes by. Greed has rendered his spiritual progress weak and worthless.


Unless one is born with a silver spoon in his or her mouth most of us do not want more from life apart from loving parents (which is a blessing in itself) a happy childhood and a stable family life. As we grow older we become world-wise and often get corrupted by the worldly values we pick up from people surrounding us. This has a direct impact on our attitude towards our later life. Our earlier years, therefore, have a great impact in moulding our characters. Broadly three main types of persons emerge.


The first type is a person who develops a habit of only taking. He never believes in giving anything. It is just take and seek for more. Such a person is utterly selfish and lives only for himself and those he may call his.He either does very little or what he does is purely driven by self-interest.

The second type, whilst taking from life also believes in giving something back to society. Often he will give with expectation of a return. This person tries to balance things up. He looks upon life as a ‘give and take’ affair more like a trade or a barter system; he works hard for the comforts of life but also contributes to society for the amenities he enjoys such as a good environment and a welfare system.

The third type is a noble soul who is always looking to help people and society. He is always engaged in thinking of ways how he may acquit himself with honour and grace, A charitable person who gives without reservation, without expecting anything in return. Needless to say this kind of a person belongs to the rare species. But there are many more such souls than we think; kind and noble people who maintain a balance between good and evil on this earth, Such a type of person will often sacrifice his self interest for the benefit of society. Philosophers, saints, thinkers and reformers belong to this category.

The intensity of greed varies from person to person. The first two types experience a greater degree of greed than the third.

In the first category mentioned above we find individuals ranging from drifters and scroungers at the lower end (for example people ‘milking’ the social welfare system) to people going to any lengths to secure wealth (serious fraudsters and criminals) forming the upper end. There is little chance for people of such inclinations to rise above their worldly needs towards spiritual development. They are quite happy to remain stagnant and entrenched in the lowest strata of spiritual existence(Tammo Gunni).

In the second category, at the lower end, we find the average householder who strives to run his household but at the same time occasionally gives for good causes. At the upper end are the intensely ambitious individuals who would go to any lengths to get what they want but at the same time will also contribute to society, which may or may not be their primary aim. Professionals and politicians are good examples of these. We may refer to this group as ‘rajsi’or‘rajo gunni’ i.e. in the middle strata of spiritual existence. With Guru’s grace some from this group will conquer the five evils and progress to the Satto Gunnistatus i.e. the higher level of spiritual existence. Fewer still may eventually attain ‘Param Pad’(the highest status of spiritual being – the supreme state).

The third category, of noble souls, is not initially driven by greed. However, success in their pursuits and the adulation of society sometimes awakens ego and they get caught in other negative attributes of the human soul, amongst them greed.If only they could fight off ego, a few from this group shall attain Param Pad.

But only the chosen few reach the status of a brahmgiani (the highest spiritual accolade). Bhagat Kabir reinforces this view when he says:

rajj gunntamm gunn sat gunn kahee-aei eh tayree sabhmaaiaa;
cẖa*uthey paḏ ka*o jo nar cẖīnĥai ṯinĥ hee param paḏ paeyaa. (Kabir - GGS 1123).

Rajj Gunn signifies characteristics of energy and activity tainted with worldly attachment and ego; Tamm Gunnrepresents qualities of darkness and spiritual suffocation;Sat (or satto) Gunnembodiesattitudes of tranquility, compassion and charity. However, these are all creations of maya (illusion). Only the man who rises above these three to the Fourth Stage (Param Pad)attains the supreme Spiritual Bliss. Just because a person is in the third category will not automatically confer on him the right to this accolade.

This view is supported by Guru Amar Das who states that pundits and scholars are not necessarily elevated to Param Pad:

Paṛr parṛ pandiṯ monee thakey cẖa*uthey paḏ kee saar na paavṇi*aa (M:3GGS 117).

Reading and reciting, the pundits, the religious scholars,and the silent sages have grown weary, but they have not foundthe supreme essence of the Fourth State.


Perhaps this is the most easily justifiable vice of the ‘five thieves’. Whoever you speak to, will find some reason or excuse for his or her avarice and greed. Typical responses are

“We both work because we need to send our child to a private school”.

“We need a bigger house since each child needs a separate room“.

‘Every time I see someone in a Mercedes,I feel embarrassed driving a Ford focus” – ‘keeping up with the Jones’s syndrome.

“The standard of living is so high my salary does not stretch far enough. Well I need to entertain friends otherwise I will lose my face“.

This constant focus on materialistic values drives the individual into a perpetual cycle of‘grab and consume culture. This preoccupation with the materialistic chase takes the person away from activities needed for spiritual development.

Sikhism does not deny an individual the normal comforts of life. It does not impose a life of sacrifice and austerity. Quite to the contrary Sikhism is against a life of denial, penance, isolation and physical austerities. But the Gurus have been at pains to point out the difference between comforts for a normal life and pure greed for wealth and possessions which are really not necessary for a balanced lifestyle - a balance between personal and family welfare and the good of the society in general. A life which constantly focuses on itself has missed the point and purpose of mortal birth. A person who does not contribute to the well-being of society and people more unfortunate than himself has utterly wasted the opportunity to make the most of his humanly existence.

Sikh Gurus did not object to a person using his talents and opportunities to acquire fame or wealth provided such fame does not feed ego, and provided such wealth does not corrupt the person’s soul. Success must not stand in the way of good and charitable work.Neither should fame and wealth become an obstacle in that person’s spiritual development. The soul must remain untainted from the adverse affects of success and worldly prosperity. Attachment to wealth and worldly possessions creates a barrier between the individual and his soul. He must be clear in his mind as to the objective of chasing worldly possessions. If the aim is merely to amass wealth and pump up one’s ego than the individual is going to grow further and further away from his quintessence soul. Such ruthless pursuit of materialistic values acts like a poison which will lead to even greater obsession for things that are really not necessary for a meaningful life. This obsession often drives the person to obtain wealth at whatever the costs, resorting to cheating, stealing and forceful grabbing of another’s estate.

Guru Arjan states:

lobh bikhi*aa bikhai laagė hir viṯ chiṯḏukẖaaee. Khin bhangunaa kai maan maatay asur jaaneh naahee (M: 5 – GGS 408).

Absorbed in materialistic values and comforts some people hurt others. Driven by greed they even steal and grab from others to appease their immoral leanings. Such egoistic demons little realise that worldly possessions can perish in an instant. Just as too much food weighs on the body excess wealth will weigh on an individual’s soul. Like a climatic fog which forms a screen between the individual and his sight, greed stands as a screen between him and his soul. Such a person will never see inwards, into his soul, but always outwards into the materialistic world. Mind of a greedy person becomes warped. Guru Amar Das observes:

maṯ budh bhavee na bujhee anṯar lobhvikaar (M: 3 - GGS 27).

The greedy person’s mind is incapable of comprehending the true purpose of life; his thinking is dominated by worldly pleasures.

A lobhee (greedy person) cannot see beyond his own needs. He is incapable of serving others. He will preach to others but not practice what he preaches. Guru Amar Das Ji endorses this when he says:

lobhee an ka*o seyvḏey paṛr veyḏaa karai pookaar ( M:3 - GGS 30).

Evil and corrupt people, full of greed, pretend to be religious and display their purity through needless rituals, but inside they are filled with greed, filth and vices (karam ḏẖaram such sanjam karahi anṯar lobh vikaar – Guru Ram Das: GGS1423)

Hypocrisy and deception are labelled as evils of this world. People who practice these wander around in confusion(pakhand pakhand kar kar bharmay lobh pakhand jaggburi*aarey - Natt M: 4 – GGS 981).

Kabir warns that the human body wears away moment by moment and that in old age no one will even pour water in your cup (chhin chhin tan chheejai jaraa janaavai - GGS656). Despite all this, Kabir adds, a man will go to deceitful and hypocritical lengths to acquire wealth to squander on his wife, children and others(baho parpanch kar par dhan liaavai; sutdaaraa peh aan lutaavai–GGS 656).

There is no doubt that a person has to carry out his householder’s duties but this should be done in an honest and clean manner. Cheating and committing questionable acts on behalf of the family are not recommended as the very people you risk your all will not stand by you in your hour of need.

Guru Amar Das endorses the above thoughts of Bhagat Kabir when he states:

deykh kutamb mohi lobhaanaa chaldiaa naal na jaaee (M: 3 – GGS 32).

You allow yourself to be drawn into emotional attachment to your family but none of them will go along with youin the end.

Why then must the jeeva (human being) engross himself in pursuits which will not benefit him in the end? Such actions will only bind his soul more and more into futile activities. Guru Tegh Bahadur ji leaves one in no doubt when he says that lalach (greed) leads a person astray:

bhoolio man maaiaa urjhaaio. Jo jo karam keeo laalach lag tih tih aap bandhaaio (GGS 702).

Your mind has strayed from the True Path, being engrossed in maya (greed, attachment}. Your acts in the pursuit of greed have only served to bind you down further (in the world of greed and attachment).


Many people will ask whether accumulating wealth is greed. This is a good question, since it is not always right to jump to a conclusion. However, a further question needs to be asked here. What is the purpose of accumulating wealth? Is it for the welfare of family, society or is it for a charitable purpose? All of these causes may justify the need to create wealth. But if it is only for the purpose of boosting ego or the desire to show off (pre-act intention)then it is pure greed. Some people may have even sinister reasons for accumulating wealth as it helps in buying power. More than often such people abuse power; they use it for manipulating society for their own ends(post-act application).

Greed may occur at community, national or even international level. One country builds up power to suppress or invade another. Most of us have seen this in our own lifetimes on several occasions. Some people even don on the garb of piety as a cover for evil and corrupt activities.

karam dharam such sanjam karahi antar lobh vikaar (M: 3 - GGS 1423).

We see hypocrisy and pretense of religious rituals to prove piety and maryada (religious discipline) but in realty these people are filled with greed and are corrupt to the core.


Greed has a bad effect on a person’s sensitivity. He does not think twice about slandering a fellow human being. All he is interested is in self-interest even when it is to be achieved by hurting others. He becomes stone-hearted; devoid of feeling and sensitivity(Nar ninḏak lobẖee man kaṯẖor – Guru Nanak: GGS 1170). The greedy person forgets the real purpose of this mortal life; he gets entangled in the web of greed (Karṇo huṯo so nā kī*o pari*o lobẖ kai fanḏẖ - Guru Tegh Bahadur: GGS 1428).

Greed in turn breeds egotism which can only lead to pain and utter darkness in the end, says Guru Nanak (Lab lobẖahankaar so peeraa - GGS 414)

The manmukh and the greedy can never achieve mokash. His hypocritical and self-centred approach to life will cloud his vision. He will forever wander in duality. In the ocean of life’s strife and karma the waves of greed will weigh heavily on the soul’s boat which will eventually sink (manmukẖ pakẖand bẖaram vigūṯė lobẖ lahar naav bẖaar buda*eeaa -Guru Ram Das: GGS 834).

The greedy person will never find peace. Greed leads to corruption and consequences of corruption are well known to most of us. This path leads to anguish and misery. Guru Amar Das proclaims “Without the Lord’s name no one has ever found peace. The attraction of maya will only entrap you further leading to greater pain and misery” (doojai kinai sukẖ na paa*i*o piraa jeeo bikẖi*aa lobẖ lubẖaa*ey– GGS 246).

A greedy person, caught in his egotism, is incapable of distinguishing between falsehood and righteous living.

karam na jaaṇaaḏẖaram na jaaṇaa lobẖee maa*i*aa-ḏẖaae.
I do not know about karma and good deeds; I do not know about Dharma and righteous living. I am so greedy, chasing after Maya(M: 5 - GGS 624).

The message from Guru Amar Das leaves one in no doubt of the fate that meets the greedy person “Black are the faces of greedy people. They waste away their lives and leave in disgrace” (muh kaaleṯinH lobẖeeaan jaasan janam gavaaeye - GGS 1417).


How do we curb the desire for unnecessary materialistic things which may or may not enrich our earthly lives but which will definitely not help our progression towards the merger with the Universal Soul? We can start with an attempt to subdue this passion for greed.

Regular meditation

Regular meditation keeps the mind in check and is a constant reminder of the true purpose of life.

The Shabad represents Lord’s Bani, being the best utterances a person can make. Always sing them, listen to them, and read them, O brother, and the Perfect Guru shall save you (parabh banee sabad subhaakhiaa; gaavhu sunhu parhahu nitbhaaee gur poorai too raakhiaa M: 5 – GGS 611).

The waves of greed and avarice are subdued, by treasuring the Lord's Name in the mind (lab lobẖ lahar nivaaraṇaʼn har naam raas manaʼnM: 1- GGS 506).

Utterance of Guru’s Shabad will drive away greed. Falsehood will banish and you shall obtain the true fruit (Guru Nanak – GGS 598). Intuitive wisdom will set in and the filth of greed shall depart.

Nurture humility and keep good company

Humility is the hallmark of the House of Nanak. It is the paramount objective of every Sikh (Amritdhari or Sehajdhari) to nurture this. The system (maryada) installed by the Sikh Gurus in the functioning of Gurdwaras facilitates the process of developing humility. The tradition of langar assists in instilling the spirit of sewa and a feeling of equality amongst members of the congregation. Guru Amar Das, the Third Nanak, himself wrote and put up a notice proclaiming: ‘Pehaley pangat paachai sangat’ (sacramental food before congregation). This automatically ensures all would sit together and eat the sacramental food (Guru’s langar) without distinction of a person's worldly caste or status. Regular visits to the Gurdwara offer the privilege of saadh sangat (the company of persons attuned to Guru’s teachings).

It is a well known fact that a person is known by the company he keeps. Obviously one cannot be choosy about colleagues at work and close relatives – these are fete accompli situations. However, a person is free to make choices as regards who he socialises with. There are those who always look at people above their station in life and not the ones below. There is nothing wrong with that provided the general approach is to improve one’s own status by hard work and talent. But to look this from the point of view of wealth will only nurture greed. Such people can never be charitable as they are incapable of looking at people below them. Such people lack compassion and are only driven by greed. Company of this group of people is to be avoided since greed is just as infectious as any tropical disease.As far as humanly possible do not trust greedy people advises Guru Amar Das (Lobhee kaa vesaahu na keejai jey kaa paar vasaa*ey -
GGS 1417). Instead seek the company of people with compassion, those who want to contribute towards the well-being of society and not just line up their own pockets.

Sewa – Serving humanity – Charity

Ego and humility are the opposites. Only the most blessed ever get rid of ego. However, a person’s lifestyle can have great influence on reducing ego. There is no better way than making efforts to serve the humanity(Sewa). Sikh Gurus have laid great emphasis on this aspect of a Sikh’s life. The communal kitchen (langer) mentioned above not only puts all on the same platform but also offers the opportunity to actively participate in the activity be it cooking, serving, washing utensils or other organisational roles involved in running the noble tradition of langar.

A Sikh is expected to contribute regularly to good causes, amongst which is a contribution towards the successful operation of Sikh Gurdwaras. In the times of the living Sikh Gurus the tradition of dasbandh was introduced equivalent to the Christian’s tithe. This was ofcourse an essential part of building a nation whose prime objective was to serve humanity in every way possible. But above all Guru Gobind Singh stressed that helping the meek was even more important than giving to the Guru. He said “garib daa moohn meri golak” - literally translated this means that the mouth of the poor is my kitty.

Pre-act intention and post-act application

Before embarking upon a lucrative activity question the objective and the end result. If this isonly to serve your own whimsical interests than it is greed. However, if this for the betterment of your career and the development of your talents than share your rewards with people more unfortunate than yourself, i.e. charity.

Cut down attachment

Bhagat Kabir warned that going to deceitful and hypocritical lengths to acquire wealth for the sake of one’s family will not assist the transition of soul towards the Universal Soul. The very people a person runs around all his life will not stand by him in his hour of need (baho parpanch kar par dhan liaavai; sutdaaraa peh aan lutaavai – GGS 656).

Guru Nanak says “renounce greed and possessiveness, and become carefree” – Lab lobhṯaj hohu nichinḏaa– GGS1041.

This does not mean an individual cannot work for the prosperity and well being of his family. The issue is at what cost? In doing so one must not compromise honesty and integrity. It is no good ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul’. The interest of the society as a whole must also be kept in mind. This aspect of a person’s inclination will be discussed in a lot more detail in the next article (moh – attachment).

Spiritual pyramid (Reconciling Maslow’s Triangle)

Just as people driven by ambition follow the Maslow pyramid starting from physiological needs to self-actualisation, plan one with your spiritual needs(see appendix below). This will help you to rise above social status and colour and to rid yourself of possessiveness and greed (jaaṯ varan ṯey bhaey aṯeeṯaa mamṯaa lobh chukaa*i*aa -Guru Nanak: GGS 1345).

Remember the whole world is just a dream. Do not,seeing it fill yourself with greed.

ih sansaar sagal hai supno ḏeykh kahaa lobhaaai (M: 9 -GGS 1231).

The entire world, consumed (burnt) by greed and desire, continually wails in distress. But if it meets the True Guru (the pain-relieving Saviour) it will not burn any longer.


Please refer to attached image file.

Copyright: Rajinder Singh "Arshi" (ISBN 0 948522 02X)

Page 1

Randip Singh

May 25, 2005
United Kingdom
Correct me if I am wrong...

But is not

Moh = Materialism attached to wordly things, be it people places or things (eg money)

Lobh = Greed, wanting more than your fair share, or someone who wants more than their needs?


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
randip ji

Yes, Moh is attachment and Lobh is greed. But I think the point made is that Moh creates the conditions in which the others, including Lobh, fester and thrive. Behind all of it is egotism. That part is my theory of it.

What I like about the essay is that it is different. So often we read about lust, anger and ego. Not as often about greed. You have included greed in your essays on "meat eating." this essay makes for a good conversation about connections.:wah:


Aug 20, 2009
Yes, Moh is attachment and Lobh is greed. But I think the point made is that Moh creates the conditions in which the others, including Lobh, fester and thrive. Behind all of it is egotism. That part is my theory of it.

Spot on Narayanjot Kaur ji. I couldn’t have put it better.

In the article that follows this one ‘moh’ I have said that in simple terms we may define moh as an attachment to materialistic values and worldly relations. In fact all five evils are interconnected - one feeds the other but they do affect each person differently. For example greed feeds ego and often the ego drives one towards greed, krodh or moh.

In one of his lectures, Maskeen ji observed that Lobh is considered to be the dominant of the five thieves of Kalyug (Ego ruled Treta and Kaam Duapar). When I tried to analyse what he said it made me think and I realized what he said made a lot of sense. I drew the following conclusions.

In Satyug (or Sat Yuga) dharma stood on all four feet an all embraced contentment and meditation (SGGS 445). Treta (three parts Truth) lost one – i.e. humility was lost as ego entered. Duapar (two parts Truth) only stood on two feet – humility had already vanished and now people became kaami – lost control over their senses. Kalyug (the Dark Age), the current era stands on just one foot having also lost contentment. In the current age we have little humility, obsessed with lust we run after materialistic pursuits. We taste life with the mind looking outwards (some refer to this as the 'objective' mind) , i.e. with our outward orientated sensory system and not with our soul (may be referred to as the 'subjective' mind). That is why we continually argue about what is right to wear and eat. As we start looking inwards, these issues will automatically resolve. I, for one, do not wish to engage in these issues, as at my stage of life time is limited and I still have a long journey ahead of me. Engaging in matters of food and clothes whilst important must not dominate our spiritual pursuit. Perhaps, Guru willing, I will be able to talk more about these issues in time to come.

Why do we need more? We are living in a ‘grab and consume culture’ i.e. we go beyond what we need for a balanced life (householder’s and spiritual). This preoccupation drives us away from spiritual development. Our quest for more often leads us to obtain wealth at any cost, resorting to cheating, stealing and forceful grabbing of another’s estate. Guru Arjan Dev JI observed that in the process we hurt others. Driven by greed we even steal and grab from others to appease our immoral leanings.

Sikhism does not deny us our normal comforts of life but we need to distinguish between comforts for a normal life and pure greed for wealth and possessions

Moh is a tendency to remain attached to people we love and the wealth we have created. Moh can drive people to kill, maim and rob to obtain wealth - all for what – to squander over wife, children and others (Kabir – SGGS 656). This is why Guru Amar Das Ji warns us not let ourselves be drawn into emotional attachment, e.g. to our family as none will go with us in the end. Engrossed in maya (greed, attachment}. the mind will stray from the True Path, Tour acts in the pursuit of greed will only served to bind you down further (in the world of greed and attachment) – SGGS 702).


Rajinder Singh ‘Arshi’
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Randip Singh

May 25, 2005
United Kingdom
randip ji

Yes, Moh is attachment and Lobh is greed. But I think the point made is that Moh creates the conditions in which the others, including Lobh, fester and thrive. Behind all of it is egotism. That part is my theory of it.

What I like about the essay is that it is different. So often we read about lust, anger and ego. Not as often about greed. You have included greed in your essays on "meat eating." this essay makes for a good conversation about connections.:wah:

Indeed, Greed is the number one cause of Environmental problems. Over consumption, over exploitation, over eating, over use etc etc are all linked to greed.

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