Values and Commitments

Understanding how moral values and a sense of obligation can come from beliefs and experience;

 

Evaluating their own and others’ values in order to make informed, rational and imaginative choices.

 

Rules and Ethical Guidelines

The core values of Sikhism come from God. God is Sach (true, real) and so the aim of life is being sachiara (authentic, truthful, real). The godly show God’s qualities as a calf shows us something of the nature of a cow. The quality of loving kindness (meeta) is a fundamental one to describe social relations. The basic qualities humans need to serve God are fearlessness and truthfulness.

Sikhs consider that all people know what is true since God dwells within us as a reflection in a mirror and fragrance in a flower. God’s Hukam (Divine Will) is written in our very being.

Sikhs focus on God and being godly. A person who does this is called a gurmukh. The opposite is a manmukh (self-centred person). It is wrong to deny God and focus on our own doubts (haumai). By battling their own nature humans lose mastery of themselves and become a slave of five basic emotions – pride, anger, lust, greed and attachment.

Sikhs believe that a person should develop their relationship with God. This will reflect itself in godly conduct with other people. The community should work efficiently to expand God-fuelled loving kindness in social interactions rather than doubt-fuelled selfish acts.

Within the Sikh tradition, there are no ‘rules’ as such, but the Rahit Maryada (Code of Conduct) establishes a framework for spiritual practice which emphasizes moral acts as the basis, purpose and reflection of spiritual progress.

Ethical discussions are informed by reference to the teachings of the Guru Granth Sahib Ji. For example, regarding the organization of society, the Guru Granth Sahib Ji says:

“Henceforth: such is the Will of God: No one shall coerce another, no one shall exploit another Everyone, each individual, has the inalienable birth-right to seek and pursue happiness and self-fulfilment. Love and persuasion is the only law of social coherence.” (Guru Granth Sahib Ji: 74).

Sikhs have an active obligation to disobey any law that violates these principles, e.g. Guru Nanak Dev Ji breaking the ban on music in Baghdad, Guru Hargobind Ji commanding Sikhs to bear arms and ride horses in violation of Islamic law on dhimmitude.

Moral Exemplars

Sikhs use the Gurus and their contemporaries as their role models and as a reference point for action and for guidance on political, social and environmental issues.

Regarding the martyrdom of the Ninth Guru for leading a non-violent political campaign, Sikh scripture says that,

Tegh Bahadur broke the mortal vessel of his body by striking it at the head of the Emperor of Delhi and retreated to his ‘Original Abode’, the God. Truly incomparable is this great deed done to assert and protect three basic human rights: the first, to secure for everyone the liberty to worship; the second, to uphold the inviolable dignity of every person’s private and personal point of contact with God and their right to observe dharma, what they conceive as basic principles of cosmic or individual existence, and the third to uphold every good person’s imprescriptible right to pursue their own vision of happiness and self-fulfilment (Dasam Granth, 54).

The Gurus also promoted ‘vechar’ a sharing dialogue, rather than ‘baad’, debate. This is because what is being shared is the product of personal experience rather than an intellectual exercise where people are trying to apply language to that which is beyond language.

Individual and Social Responsibility

A Sikh should be focused on God at all times and places. How Sikhs find God will depend, in part, on how they approach God. The Gurus themselves enjoy a pantheistic vision in which they find God within themselves and all things. “One Light fills all creation. That Light is You” (Guru Granth Sahib Ji: 13). The implication of this is an attitude of mystic revolution, seeking God within yourself and serving God in others. This ideology is formalized in the saint-soldier ideal of the Khalsa, Guru and disciple in one time.

For Sikhs, with regard to health, the body is the temple of God so it should not be abused. Thus anything that harms the body should be avoided. Since the body has been designed by God there is no need to try to improve it, by for instance, cutting the hair. Four hymns state that the female period is natural and not the result or cause of any pollution or hurt or wound.

With wealth, the Sikh ideal is ‘outwardly rich, inwardly a fakir’. A Sikh believes that a person should work hard to earn a living and not depend on begging, directly or indirectly through a system of benefits. At the same time people should share their money to earn good karma. Two stories from Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s life illustrate this. The first called the ‘true deal’ involved him in choosing to spend money feeding the hungry, rather than investing it in business. The second involves him in challenging a millionaire to return a needle to him in the next world. The confused man asks how this could be possible and then understands that you cannot take the money with you.

Euthanasia and Abortion

Sikhs should always strive for life though often this commitment can lead to difficult choices.

For Sikhs, voluntary euthanasia would be wrong as life belongs to God. However, non-voluntary euthanasia might be acceptable since the person could not survive without constant medical intervention. Abortion should not take place unless it is beneficial for the mother, for instance, her life is in danger.

Sex

For Sikhs, only sex in marriage is acceptable since marriage is a reflection of commitment that two people feel for one another and sex is an expression of that commitment.

Crime and Punishment

Sikhs say that a primary purpose of punishment is reparation. For example, Sikhs who breach the Sikh Rahit Maryada (Code of Conduct) should confess their shortcomings and be awarded community service.

War

As for war, several of the Gurus took part in wars. The basic principle is that armed conflict is only acceptable when all peaceful methods have failed. There is no enemy in the combat – what is being opposed is the oppression being resisted. Therefore, when any person is wounded they should be helped. Bhai Kannayya performed this noble service during the wars of the Tenth Guru, Guru Gobind Singh Ji. Moreover, no one should be attacked once they have surrendered. It would make use of indiscriminate weapons, such as weapons of mass destruction, wrong.

The Environment

For Sikhs, the environment and the forces of nature are regarded as sentient. This means that the wind, water, fire, planets, galaxies, solar systems all praise God (Guru Granth Sahib Ji: 6).

Animals are regarded as sentient and as worshipping God. While many Sikhs are vegetarian for this reason, the official view is that it is acceptable to eat meat so long as it does not damage your health and it is not killed in a sacrificial way, e.g. halal meat. The reason is that vegetables are also regarded as living things, so why is the discrimination being made? (Guru Granth Sahib Ji: 1189).

Websites

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