Five Virtues – the essence of Sikh Philosophy

Previously I wrote about the Five Thieves, the five human weaknesses that rob one of its consciousness and disturb their being. The Sikh Gurus didn’t just expound on the disease, they also prescribed medicines to fight it – The Five Virtues – Sat (Truth), Santokh (Contentment), Daya (Compassion), Nimrata (Humility) and Prem (Love). Though there isn’t a specific 1-1 association prescribed by the Guru, this post is my interpretation and limited understanding of how they interplay.

Sri Guru Granth Sahib, Page 1329

Prem – Love
Love is the weapon that will defeat desire / lust. When one loves truly, they feel a deeper bond between the selves, which goes beyond the physical bodies. The self falls “truly madly” in love to the point it forgets itself. It is unconditional and all forgiving. Such love is even willing to let go, to get lost and to even lose in love, to love and hence overcome the physical desire driven by the wants of the mind. But what about desire for moksha (salvation) and other such. How must one get rid of that desire? As Guru Gobind Singh says in Sawaiye – Sach kaho sun layo sabhe, jin prem kiyo in tin hi prabh payo – so Universal Love is the key to merging with the One, that is salvation.

Nimrata – Humilty
Humility is the weapon to fight anger. When one “gets angry” on something, or someone is “making them angry”, it is the mind that has taken over the self. In that split second, the mind has won the war and is convinced that it is under threat and hence needs to be defended at all costs. Humility is putting oneself behind the other, it is truly believing that one is less important than the other. It is accepting the truth that this identity and its blessings are to be cherished with gratitude, not with pride. Humility is accepting that one can’t control how situations pan out or how people behave. Hence, it is about acceptance and letting go of the sense of control. Once humility and acceptance become dominant and interconnected between the mind and the self, then perhaps anger will subside.

Daya – Compassion
Compassion is the weapon to fight the Ego. The monkey-mind is forever looking for new and juicy bananas, to “feed the ego”. One’s “sense of identity” is constantly being reinforced by the mind by filling up on the ego. It is hard to recognize this pattern, because obviously one loves a full belly. But if the mind is full of ego, it will be very hard for the self to express itself. If the Universal Energy can’t flow freely and is blocked by a wall of Ego, the Self will be unable to receive the true blessings that provide one with virtues of truth and contentment. So why is it that compassion can defeat the Ego? Because it is recognizing that pride in oneself separates and creates divisions. Compassion helps build empathy that one is not too different than the other and has perhaps travelled the same path, made the same mistakes. Hence none is bigger or better or higher than the other. Compassion helps build the bond between the Energy Flow, to recognize that time is a construct of the mind and whatever is happening is part of a larger game. Its an elaborate lesson of snakes and ladders designed for the Mind to lose itself, to the the Self and for the Self to realize its Oneness with the Universal Energy Flow.


ਮੁੰਦਾਵਣੀ ਮਹਲਾ ੫ Mundavni Mehla 5

ਥਾਲ ਵਿਚਿ ਤਿੰਨਿ ਵਸਤੂ ਪਈਓ ਸਤੁ ਸੰਤੋਖੁ ਵੀਚਾਰੋ ॥
Thaal Vich Tin Vastu Payeo Sat Santokh Vicharo.
On the plate are three things – Truth, compassion, contemplation

ਅੰਮ੍ਰਿਤ ਨਾਮੁ ਠਾਕੁਰ ਕਾ ਪਇਓ ਜਿਸ ਕਾ ਸਭਸੁ ਅਧਾਰੋ ॥
Amrit Nam Thakur Ka Payeo Jis Ka Sabhs Adharo.
Drinking this Divine Essence, one understands the meaning

ਜੇ ਕੋ ਖਾਵੈ ਜੇ ਕੋ ਭੁੰਚੈ ਤਿਸ ਕਾ ਹੋਇ ਉਧਾਰੋ ॥
Jay Ko Khavey Jay Ko Bhunchey Tis Ka Hoey Udharo.
One who not only eats, but also digests attains permanent satisfaction

ਏਹ ਵਸਤੁ ਤਜੀ ਨਹ ਜਾਈ ਨਿਤ ਨਿਤ ਰਖੁ ਉਰਿ ਧਾਰੋ ॥
Eh Vast Tji Neh Jayi Nit Nit Rakh Ur Dharo.
This thing will never go way, meditate and remember it always

ਤਮ ਸੰਸਾਰੁ ਚਰਨ ਲਗਿ ਤਰੀਐ ਸਭੁ ਨਾਨਕ ਬ੍ਰਹਮ ਪਸਾਰੋ ॥ ੧ ॥
Tam Sansar Charan Lag Tariay Sabh Nanak Bhrm Psaro.
Grasping the feet of the Universe, you shall attain salvation and O Nanak, you will learn the Ultimate Truth.

Sri Guru Granth Sahib, Page 1429

Santokh – Contentment
The virtue of contentment is often associated with transcending greed and much has been written about it in religious literature and cultural lexicon. The understanding that the Energy has allowed me defines contentment not just from the lens of being happy with what one has, but extends it further to accept it with gratitude. A small amount of brandy mixed with honey and juices of Ginger the Paan Leaf makes a potent cough syrup; that I have been prescribed since childhood. But alcohol in copious amounts is no longer medicine, but becomes poison for the body. So is it the alcohol that is good or bad? Or is it one’s understanding of the gifts of the Universe that is limited or clouded at times? Wealth is absolutely essential for comfortable existence in this physical form, it allows one to transcend the daily mores and provides a safety net. But if there is limited gratitude or perhaps awareness of that at which the needs of ones family are content, it may lead the Self astray and miss pursuing what gives meaning and purpose to it in this particular life.

Sat – True Essence
The virtue of truth seems the most straightforward at first and is exalted as the Ultimate. But one must wonder at its usage against the thief of Attachment. In religious scriptures the oft used example is of ones attachment with their body and life; while extorting the learner to accept that it is but a chimera. The truth is that the body-life is ephemeral and can cease to exit in the next breath with no forewarning. Hence that attachment to it is considered falsehood. But, one must also accept the truth of birth. The attachment of a mother to her child and the truth of union of man & women leading to the miracle of birth is Universal, the very basis of existence. So, can one reconcile these truths, and transcend this attachment to this cycle of birth bodies and death bodies. In faith literature, the Ulitmate Truth is that this cycle itself is an illusion and the inner self is beyond such physicality. This then leads to learners seeking another truth, of Nirvana or moksha or freedom from all attachment. The little understanding the Energy is allowing me is that the truth is not attachment to the ephemeral, the chimera of physical and visible. It is something far deeper and stranger, but yet wonderfully simple at the same time. It is the ultimate expression of that Artist and its revelation in its own Art. The understanding of this truth and the merging of the ephemeral with all encompassing is non-attachment.


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