VIRTUES AND EVILS
(Rajinder Singh ‘Arshi’)
This is a summary of the previous five articles on the negative traits (the Five Thieves) that hound us throughout our lives. The Five Evils not only dominate our lives but also block our spiritual advancement. The table at the end of the article shows the attributes needed to turn the negative energy into positive outcomes.
A manmukh will not learn even from his parents. Gurmakh, on the other hand, will keep an open ‘spiritual’ mind and will learn all the time, from Scriptures, Sadh Sangat and general members of the public. Like a programmed radio frequency, he will pick up the right vibes automatically. He will learn from Sikhs and non-Sikhs alike. True wisdom is not the monopoly of Sikhs only – that is why Guru Arjan Dev Ji incorporated the Bani of non-Sikh saints and philosophers in Guru Granth Sahib.
In the earlier articles a brief study was made of the five thieves (also referred to as the five evils, stalwarts, or simply negative traits). Guru Nanak recommends that these must be subdued to hold our consciousness in place (panch maar chit rakhahu thaa-ay – SGGS 1189).
The five evils are summarised below:
1. Kaam (lust)
This may be defined as an essential and natural desire, but controlled and coupled with a sense of responsibility and commitment. This is a necessary process for procreation as designed by mother nature. A person with an obsessive propensity towards sensual desires is often referred to as a ‘kaami pursh’ - a person obsessed with unrestricted propensity towards lust.
Sikhism does not prohibit normal and responsible relationship in the ‘house-holder scenario’ (grahisthi). However, relationship outside marriage or in the form of unrestrained animal lust for pure physical gratification, without a sense of commitment, is sinful. Sikhism supports responsible and controlled physical relationship between man and women only within the sanctity of marriage (grahista).
If the fire and energy which generates unrestrained inclination towards kaam is channeled into meditation then ‘kaam-ras’ (tendency towards sensual pleasures) can be transformed into ‘nam-ras’ (the ambrosial nectar of Lord’s name).
2. Krodh (anger or rage)
There is no direct or satisfactory English translation of krodh (as we understand it from Gurbani). Whilst rage is perceived as the violent extreme, anger is the milder version of krodh. The need to differentiate between gussa (anger) and rage is therefore important, although common anger can easily develop into hatred and violent rage
Negative emotions arising ‘within’ manifest themselves in violent forces of destruction ‘without’ and gradually surrender to rage which, if not controlled, will erupt, causing havoc and destruction outside through violent action and reaction on part of the individual concerned. As a consequence it results in misery for both the offending person and many others. Krodh fired by ambition is even more dangerous. It has caused world unrest which we can see happening in our own lifetime.
Krodh must be controlled, at the very least, if not completely eradicated. The energy which fires up krodh should be diverted into mercy and righteous action. It must be channeled into valour and courage to stand up for Truth and protection of the weak and infirm.
3. Lobh (greed)
Lobh is 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
To 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 divine merger with the Universal Soul, we must resolve to subdue this passion for greed. The following courses of action are recommended:
· Regular meditation
· Nurture humility and keep good company
· Serve humanity through Sewa and charitable work
· Question the objective of the activity
· Cut down attachment
· Nurture contentment
4. Moh (attachment)
Moh represents a condition of stupification, utter bewilderment or perplexity. In simple terms we may define moh as an attachment to materialistic values and worldly relations. The influence of Moh clouds and corrupts our mind and renders it incapable of making rational and unbiased decisions, opinions and judgments.
Moh drives us to entrap our souls in the quagmire of maya and we may reach a point of no return, at least in this lifetime. Only the grace of Guru may save us.
Maya, an infatuation for the ’illusory’ world represents the transient world with all its delusions, distractions and illusory senses. Our existence on this earth is a passing phase and all the accolades in the world may not render our souls to travel lightly when this mortal life comes to an end.
The antidote of moh is detachment. But detachment must not be interpreted as isolation or celibacy, which is shunned by the Sikh Gurus. Detachment here means that whilst living in the real world one must not let the world control the mind but train the mind to negotiate life according to the tenets as expounded by the Sikh Gurus. A Sikh must seek gyan (spiritual knowledge) from the Living Light Guru Granth Sahib. If only a Sikh listens to his Guru he will uncover the priceless gems inherent in his soul.
Clean living will render the mind clean, sharp and discerning, and like a processed film roll, receptive only to pure thoughts which will result in noble deeds. Pure intelligence is like the purest of paper ready for writing pure thoughts by burning the emotional attachment and grinding it into suitable ink for the task:
jaal moh ghas mas kar maṯ kaagaḏ kar saar – Guru Nanak SGGS 16.
Transform the ecstasy of attachment (moh-ras) into the ecstasy of love (prem-ras). Rememberthatour existence in this world is a passing phase – it is not eternal.
5. Hunkaar or Houmai (ego/egoism)
We spend the bulk of our lives chasing mundane things only to boost our perception of self importance. This obsession with worldly pleasures widens the gap between our conscious mind and the quintessence soul. The mind clouded with the smoke of maya leads the soul astray and away from meditation. Egoism, pride and bondage must be renounced if one is to seek liberation. Guru Tegh Bahadur advises:
taj abhimaan moh maya fun bẖajan raam chiṯ laava­o - SGGS 219).
To renounce houmai and the related ills of excessive and over-bearing ambition and anxiety one must seek the company of the Holy (Saadh Sangat). With constant meditation we must dig a deep pit and in it bury our egotistical pride, emotional attachment and the desires of my mind (Guru Arjan Dev SGGS 671). Just as the thick simmal tree stands tall, straight and proud but does not produce anything of value, in the same way an egocentric person can never benefit society.
Greed, pride and arrogance will render a scholar’s knowledge useless on the spiritual plane, where he is simply seen as a fool (SGGS 140). Serving humanity and sharing one’s fruits with others (vand shakna) go a long way in subduing ego. Guru Nanak, therefore, stresses the need to inculcate humility as an essential quality for the spiritual seeker.
The mind is chainchal (restless and dynamic), one moment it is here and the next it takes off on its flights of fancy - in a split second the thought process assumes many shapes and forms. For this reason the mind has to be reined in, it has to be harnessed; it must be tampered with the sublime touch of Shabad, caressingthe soulintoa spiritual awakening, searching for that ultimate goal of Sehaj Avastha.
Only when the mind is tamed will it begin to look for solutions to harness the negative propensities of kaam, krodh, lobh, moh and hunkaar. Only then will the mind search for remedies to rein in the evils that torment the soul and lead it astray. A mind engaged in negative pursuits will ‘corrupt’ the soul - a sick mind will generate spiritual ailments whilst a healthy mind will engage in simran and rid the the body and the mind of all ailments:
kar isnaan simar parabh apnaa man tan bha-ay arogaa.
After your cleansing bath praise the Lord and your body and mind will become free of (physical, mental and spiritual) ailments. (SGGS 61)
TABLE: TRANSFORMING ENERGY
NEGATIVE ENERGY .... ACTION: CULTIVATE/DO .... POSITIVE OUTCOME
Lust (kaam) .... Meditation (Naam-ras) .... Bliss (anand)
Rage (krodh) .... Tolerance (dheeraj) .... Mercy, kindness (daya)
Lobh (greed) .... Contentment (santokh, sabar) .... Virtuous life style
Moh (attachment) .... knowledge, wisdom (Gyan) .... Detachment from maya
Ahankar (ego) .... Service, charity (seva) .... Humility (nimrata)
1 Being the first edition this article may undergo changes for quality and accuracy.
2 For simplicity, throughout this article, I have referred to the masculine gender but, wherever appropriate, this should be read as including the female gender.
3 Differences of opinion are inevitable when interpreting Gurbani. The author most humbly regrets any inaccuracy or errors in quoting or interpreting Gurbani and prays Sat Guru grants him greater insight into understanding the Guru’s word.
Copyright Rajinder Singh ’Arshi’