Sikhi and drugs – What Sikhi says about the drugs?

From the ancient times humans have used and abused the plants, fruits, herbs, and other stuff Kartar, (Creator) gave to us to enjoy or heal from the ailments. Kartar gave grapes; man made the wine out of it. Kartar gave plants, flowers, and herbs; man made drugs out of those.

Sometimes Kartar gives us hardships to test our character and virtues. These hardships are the opportunities to test and build strong virtuous character. But due to our limited understanding, we fail to recognize these opportunities, and start thinking of adversity as a curse.

ਦੁਖੁ ਦਾਰੂ ਸੁਖੁ ਰੋਗੁ ਭਇਆ ਜਾ ਸੁਖੁ ਤਾਮਿ ਨ ਹੋਈ ॥

Suffering becomes the medicine (opportunity to improve), and pleasure the disease (where there is pleasure, there is no desire for Kartar). But if the real pleasure (spiritual bliss) is achieved, then no disease remains

ਤੂੰ ਕਰਤਾ ਕਰਣਾ ਮੈ ਨਾਹੀ ਜਾ ਹਉ ਕਰੀ ਨ ਹੋਈ ॥੧॥

You are the Creator Lord (you understand this mystery); I (with limited understanding) can’t grasp this. Even if I try to understand, I can’t. ||1||

M1 – SGGS Ang 469

Instead of facing the hardships with courage and wisdom, we become stressed, overreact to the hardships, and try to find shortcuts to get rid of the pain and suffering. Due to the overreaction, we imagine the worst possible outcomes of the mundane events happening in the life.

As Seneca, the great-first century Roman philosopher writes to his friend Lucilius in a letter:

“We are more often frightened than hurt; we suffer more often in imagination than in reality.”

– Seneca – Letters from a Stoic

Humans have the habit of over exaggerating the problems than they are in reality. To overcome this soul crushing habit, Seneca advises his friend:

“What I advise you to do is, not to be unhappy before the crisis comes; since it may be that the dangers before which you paled as if they were threatening you, will never come upon you; they certainly have not yet come.

Accordingly, some things torment us more than they ought; some torment us before they ought; and some torment us when they ought not to torment us at all. We are in the habit of exaggerating, or imagining, or anticipating, sorrow.”

– Seneca – Letters from a Stoic

Due to overthinking and suffering in imagination, we may develop anxiety, depressions or other mental health problems which may lead to drug use.

Why people go towards drugs

There are many reasons why people start using the drugs. Some of them may be bullying at school or work, financial distress, job loss, business loss, medical issues, lawsuits, trauma caused by violent events, social connections, business links or just bad company. The problem may simply start as stress. Stress is the part or our daily lives, but constant stress becomes anxiety and prolonged anxiety may become depression and cause other mental health issues.

Mental health problems

Mental health problems are a major cause of people turning to drugs. If we ignore the mental health problems for long time, it may become too overwhelming to deal with the suffering or agony caused by these problems. We may need the external help of experts to deal with the particular problem. There is no shame in asking for help, when needed.

But some people feel embarrassed and hesitate to ask for help and may go deeper into the problem. Without timely help, we may get in contact with the wrong people, who may introduce the drugs. In despair, some people start drinking alcohol or taking marijuana, or some other drugs. These drugs may temporarily seem helpful as they make us numb or disconnected from reality, while under influence, but in the long run these drugs complicate the problem and make it even worse. Moreover, drugs can be addictive and hence make the user dependent on them. Instead of fixing the original problem, they will create new physical or mental ailments.

We must deal with the problems head-on to win over and move over, instead of trying to forget them with the help of drugs. Get expert advice, counseling or medicines when needed. Mental health ailments are just like other physical diseases. So, do not hesitate to ask for expert help.


Some people just start taking the gateway drugs like beer, wine, cocktails, marijuana etc. just because they see other people using them in parties, events, or school groups. To fit in the so-called high society some people, especially youth, may get attracted. Once they use these drugs, they lose the social fear or stigma of drugs (which protected them before) and become comfortable using themselves and long-term use can become addiction.

Social media, movies, concerts

In the modern social media dominated world, a lot of youth will get attracted towards drugs by seeing the drug use glorified in movies, songs, concerts etc. If someone tries to search for some information about drugs on the internet, he will be bombarded with ads about various drug products, as the social media platforms and search engines are designed to serve ads based on search keywords. These media ads can pull in the unsuspecting users towards the drugs.

Bad company

It makes enormous difference with whom we hang-out and spend our time together. If anybody in our circle uses alcohol or drugs, he/she may influence our decision making. So, be careful in selecting the circle you want to be in. If we remain in good circle, the virtues of our friends which we admire, will influence us to acquire those virtues, and will help us develop good character. Similarly, in the company of bad people, we will pick up some of the vices from them. In the following Sabad, Guru ji is advising us to seek the company of the Gurmukhs (Guru oriented Sikhs), who can keep us lovingly attached to Naam.

ਜਿਨੀ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਨਾਮੁ ਸਲਾਹਿਆ ਤਿਨਾ ਸਭ ਕੋ ਕਹੈ ਸਾਬਾਸਿ ॥

Those Gurmukhs who praise the Naam are applauded by everyone.

ਤਿਨ ਕੀ ਸੰਗਤਿ ਦੇਹਿ ਪ੍ਰਭ ਮੈ ਜਾਚਿਕ ਕੀ ਅਰਦਾਸਿ ॥

Grant me their company, O God – I am a beggar at your door; this is my prayer.

ਨਾਨਕ ਭਾਗ ਵਡੇ ਤਿਨਾ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਾ ਜਿਨ ਅੰਤਰਿ ਨਾਮੁ ਪਰਗਾਸਿ ॥੪॥੩੩॥੩੧॥੬॥੭੦॥

O Nanak, great is the good fortune of those Gurmukhs, who are filled with the Light of the Naam within. ||4||33||31||6||70||

M4 – SGGS Ang 41

Drugs and spirituality

Surprisingly, in some faiths the intoxicants were used by the spiritual seekers also. They confused the intoxication or highness of the drugs with samaadhi (deep meditation). Guru Nanak had a dialogue with the Sidhas and Yogis of the time in fifteenth century. When they asked Guru Nanak about marijuana, his reply was:

ਭਉ ਤੇਰਾ ਭਾਂਗ ਖਲੜੀ ਮੇਰਾ ਚੀਤੁ ॥

The respectful fear of You, O Kartar, is my marijuana; my consciousness is the pouch which holds it.

ਮੈ ਦੇਵਾਨਾ ਭਇਆ ਅਤੀਤੁ ॥

I have become an intoxicated hermit with this marijuana (the respectful fear of Kartar the Creator).

M1 – SGGS Ang 721

Guru Nanak disillusioned their concept of samaadhi and explained them that it’s not the marijuana which will take you in samaadhi, but it’s the respectful fear of Kartar. Respectfully remembering Kartar in our mind will take us towards the higher realm of samaadhi, not the intoxicants.

Similarly, Bhagat Kabir also had a dialogue with Yogis, who were using marijuana and wine to enhance their experience of samaadhi. Bhagat Kabir says

ਕਬੀਰ ਭਾਂਗ ਮਾਛੁਲੀ ਸੁਰਾ ਪਾਨਿ ਜੋ ਜੋ ਪ੍ਰਾਨੀ ਖਾਂਹਿ ॥

Kabeer, those mortals who consume marijuana, fish, and wine

ਤੀਰਥ ਬਰਤ ਨੇਮ ਕੀਏ ਤੇ ਸਭੈ ਰਸਾਤਲਿ ਜਾਂਹਿ ॥੨੩੩॥

No matter what pilgrimages, fasts and rituals they follow, they will all go to hell. ||233||

Bhagat Kabir – SGGS Ang 1377

Prohibition of drugs in Sikhi

Drugs are completely prohibited in Sikhi. A Sikh should not even go close to these substances. In the rehitnaamas (code of conduct), Bhai Jeewan Singh (Jaita Ji) and Bhai Nand Lal Ji documented the orders of tenth Guru Gobind Singh Ji to the Sikhs.

ਹੁਕਾ ਔ ਕੁਠਾ ਚਰਸ ਤੰਬਾਕੂ ਭੂਲਹਿ ਸਿੰਘ ਨਜੀਕ ਨ ਜਾਵੈ ॥

Hookah, Kutha (Halaal meat), Cannabis and Tobacco, a Singh shouldn’t go near these even by mistake.

– Rahitnama Bhai Jeewan Singh (Jaita Ji) – ॥ ੧੧੮ ॥

ਕੁੱਠਾ ਹੁੱਕਾ ਚਰਸ ਤਮਾਕੂ॥

Kutha (Halaal meat), Hookah, Cannabis, Tobacco;

ਗਾਂਜਾ ਟੋਪੀ ਤਾੜੀ ਖਾਕੂ॥੩੬॥

Ganja (hemp), hashish, toddy, and other such ruinous substances.

ਇਨ ਕੀ ਓਰ ਨ ਕਬਹੂ ਦੇਖੈ॥

One who never even looks upon these;

ਰਹਤਵੰਤ ਸੋ ਸਿੰਘ ਵਿਸੇਖੈ॥੩੭॥

Consider him my Singh of conduct.

– Rehitnama Bhai Nand Lal Ji

In Gurbani there are many Sabads prohibiting the use of intoxicants.

ਮਾਣਸੁ ਭਰਿਆ ਆਣਿਆ ਮਾਣਸੁ ਭਰਿਆ ਆਇ ॥

One person brings a full bottle of wine and fills his cup.

ਜਿਤੁ ਪੀਤੈ ਮਤਿ ਦੂਰਿ ਹੋਇ ਬਰਲੁ ਪਵੈ ਵਿਚਿ ਆਇ ॥

Drinking the wine, his intelligence departs, and madness enters his mind;

ਆਪਣਾ ਪਰਾਇਆ ਨ ਪਛਾਣਈ ਖਸਮਹੁ ਧਕੇ ਖਾਇ ॥

He cannot distinguish between his own and others, and he is struck down by his Lord and Master.

ਜਿਤੁ ਪੀਤੈ ਖਸਮੁ ਵਿਸਰੈ ਦਰਗਹ ਮਿਲੈ ਸਜਾਇ ॥

Drinking it, he forgets his Lord and Master, and he is punished in the Court of the Lord.

ਝੂਠਾ ਮਦੁ ਮੂਲਿ ਨ ਪੀਚਈ ਜੇ ਕਾ ਪਾਰਿ ਵਸਾਇ ॥

Do not drink this false wine at all, till you have the capacity to avoid it.

ਨਾਨਕ ਨਦਰੀ ਸਚੁ ਮਦੁ ਪਾਈਐ ਸਤਿਗੁਰੁ ਮਿਲੈ ਜਿਸੁ ਆਇ ॥

O Nanak, the True Guru comes and meets the mortal; by His Grace, one obtains the True Wine of Naam.

ਸਦਾ ਸਾਹਿਬ ਕੈ ਰੰਗਿ ਰਹੈ ਮਹਲੀ ਪਾਵੈ ਥਾਉ ॥੧॥

He shall dwell forever in the Love of the Lord Master and obtain a seat in the Mansion of His Presence. ||1||

M3 – SGGS Ang 554

The drugs, named in the Gurbani or Rehitnaamas, are not the only ones prohibited in Sikhi, but all types of intoxicants and drugs are prohibited. The names of the drugs are not inclusive of all, these are just examples and most common drugs consumed by people at that time.

This body is the Temple of Kartar

If somebody brings in tobacco, wine, or any intoxicant inside the Gurdwara, and get caught, he may get beaten up seriously for defiling the Gurdwara. But remember that our body is the temple of Kartar. It needs to be kept pure and not defiled by the intoxicants.

ਹਰਿ ਮੰਦਰੁ ਏਹੁ ਸਰੀਰੁ ਹੈ ਗਿਆਨਿ ਰਤਨਿ ਪਰਗਟੁ ਹੋਇ ॥

This body is the Temple of Kartar, in which the jewel of spiritual wisdom is revealed with Guru’s instruction.

ਮਨਮੁਖ ਮੂਲੁ ਨ ਜਾਣਨੀ ਮਾਣਸਿ ਹਰਿ ਮੰਦਰੁ ਨ ਹੋਇ ॥੨॥

The self-willed manmukhs do not understand this at all; they do not believe that the Kartar’s Temple is within. ||2||

M3 – SGGS Ang 1346

Guru Gobind Singh’s Horse and Tobacco

Guru Gobind Singh and his fauj (army) were on their way to Anandpur. Guru ji was on his horse when it abruptly halted in front of a field they were about to go through. Guru ji turned his mighty horse around and told the fauj they would take another route, going the long way around the field. Later one of the Guru’s soldiers asked the guru, “Guru ji why are we going the long way when we could have just walked through the field that we halted at, surely we would be home by now”.

The Guru replied, “That field was planted with tobacco, and my horse having caught the scent of tobacco, refused to go any further. It refused to walk through such an unclean place. If my horse was not willing to enter the field of tobacco then neither should my Sikhs be exposed to such pollution.”

Sakhi – Guru Gobind Singh’s Horse and Tobacco

Understanding Dukh (sufferings)

Dukh (suffering) is pervading everywhere

When we struggle with our pain, suffering or adversities, we start to feel lonely as if I am the only one suffering and everybody else is enjoying the beautiful life. As the saying goes “The grass is greener on the other side“, it seems that everybody is happy with their life. With the advent of social media, this feeling is highly amplified as most people don’t put the dark side of there life on the social media. They mostly put the happy moments on social media. Due to this everybody seems happy, but in reality everybody is suffering from various reasons, like study or job stress, financial issues, family issues, business, economy, wars etc. This phenomenon is not new, even the people in the old times also had the similar feelings as Baba Fareed Ji says:

ਫਰੀਦਾ ਮੈ ਜਾਨਿਆ ਦੁਖੁ ਮੁਝ ਕੂ ਦੁਖੁ ਸਬਾਇਐ ਜਗਿ ॥

Fareed, I thought that I was the only one suffering; but in reality the whole world is inflicted with pain and suffering!

ਊਚੇ ਚੜਿ ਕੈ ਦੇਖਿਆ ਤਾਂ ਘਰਿ ਘਰਿ ਏਹਾ ਅਗਿ ॥੮੧॥

When I climbed the hill (risen above my personal suffering) and looked around, I saw this fire (of suffering) in each and every home. ||81||

Sheikh Fareed – SGGS Ang 1382

Dukh (sufferings) are opportunities

We should understand that the adversities or sufferings are opportunities to test and improve our virtues. We should treat Dukh (suffering) and Sukh (pleasures) as the facets of the same coin. Just like we wear different clothes on different days, similarly somedays we may experience Sukh (pleasures) and somedays Dukh (suffering). It’s useless to wish for pleasures only. It’s the Dukh (suffering), which brings us closer to Kartar, as we remember Kartar in challenging times.

ਨਾਨਕ ਬੋਲਣੁ ਝਖਣਾ ਦੁਖ ਛਡਿ ਮੰਗੀਅਹਿ ਸੁਖ ॥

O Nanak, it is absurd to ask to be spared from suffering by begging for pleasure.

ਸੁਖੁ ਦੁਖੁ ਦੁਇ ਦਰਿ ਕਪੜੇ ਪਹਿਰਹਿ ਜਾਇ ਮਨੁਖ ॥

Pleasure and suffering are the two garments given, to be worn by human, from the Court of the Lord.

ਜਿਥੈ ਬੋਲਣਿ ਹਾਰੀਐ ਤਿਥੈ ਚੰਗੀ ਚੁਪ ॥੨॥

Where you are bound to lose (by asking only for pleasure), there, you ought to remain silent (live according to Kartar’s Will). ||2||

M1 – SGGS – Ang 149

It’s the human nature that we always ask for Sukh (pleasures), and we never ask for Dukh (suffering). But we forget that Dukh and Sukh will keep coming like day and night. In the time of Dukh we understand the value of Sukh. We understand others’ pains and sufferings through our own experience. This causes us to develop empathy. We are forced to find the root cause of our sufferings.

ਸੁਖ ਕਉ ਮਾਗੈ ਸਭੁ ਕੋ ਦੁਖੁ ਨ ਮਾਗੈ ਕੋਇ ॥

Everyone begs for pleasure; no one asks for suffering.

ਸੁਖੈ ਕਉ ਦੁਖੁ ਅਗਲਾ ਮਨਮੁਖਿ ਬੂਝ ਨ ਹੋਇ ॥

But in the wake of pleasure, there comes great suffering. The self-willed manmukhs do not understand this.

ਸੁਖ ਦੁਖ ਸਮ ਕਰਿ ਜਾਣੀਅਹਿ ਸਬਦਿ ਭੇਦਿ ਸੁਖੁ ਹੋਇ ॥੫॥

Those who see pain and pleasure as the same, find spiritual bliss; they are pierced through by the Sabad. ||5||

M1 – SGGS Ang 57

Once we understand that Dukh and Sukh are given by the same Creator according to our Karma (past actions), we stop complaining about Dukh and develop courage to face Dukh gracefully. We seek the company of the Gursikhs (Guru oriented Sikhs) and learn from them the techniques to deal with the Dukh. Guru ji says that if we really want to get rid of the pain and suffering of life and want to enjoy the spiritual bliss, then seek the company of the holy (sadh sangat) and sing the praises of Kartar, with love and devotion.

ਗਾਵੀਐ ਸੁਣੀਐ ਮਨਿ ਰਖੀਐ ਭਾਉ ॥

Sing, and listen, and let your mind be filled with love.

ਦੁਖੁ ਪਰਹਰਿ ਸੁਖੁ ਘਰਿ ਲੈ ਜਾਇ ॥

Your pain shall depart, and peace shall come to your home (mind).

M1 – SGGS – Ang 2

How can we help?

Personal Level

At personal level, the best help we can do is to try to understand the issue of the drug user. Instead of passing the judgement that this person is vigarhiya hoya (just spoiled) or something like that, understand that there are some underlying causes why this person started on drugs in the first place.

“Understanding someone’s suffering is the best gift you can give another person. Understanding is love’s other name. If you don’t understand, you can’t love.”

– Thich Nhat Hanh – How to Love

We can personally help in some ways.

  • Having empathy is the biggest help we can provide.
  • Just listening to the drug victim is a tremendous help. That will make him/her feel heard as a member of the community.
  • Do not spread rumors about the victim.
  • Try to help if you can – help in finding the expert who can treat the problem, help in finding work, or suggest some skill upgrades so that the person can get some paid work.
  • At the very least do not pass judgements about the victim.

Community Level

At the community level we need to create the awareness about the mental health and drug abuse issues to eliminate the stigma of mental health problems, provide welcoming atmosphere and promote the privacy culture to keep the privacy of the people so that they will be open to sharing the issues, without the fear of getting stigmatized, early on before the problems get bigger.

  • Gurdwara’s can provide the mental health resources. Creating a separate space for a dispensary, where volunteer doctors, psychiatrist or psychologists can provide mental and physical health services privately. If Gurdwara asks for help from sangat, we will definitely find volunteer experts in mental health and drug abuse issues.
  • In the Gurdwara schools in addition to Gurbani and Punjabi we also need to focus on teaching the essential life skills like positive mindset, mental toughness, love of music, self-motivation, emotional intelligence, self-control, ethical living, assertiveness, stress management, anger management, relaxing techniques etc.


The person using the drugs, can also self-help by realizing that the circumstances I am going through are not in my control. But how I respond to the circumstances is in my control. Focus on what’s in my control and stop thinking about what’s not in my control.

What’s in my control

Acknowledge the problem: Most of the times the drug users are not even willing to accept that they have the drug use problem. They try to hide the fact from family and friends. If we do not even accept that there is some problem, then how we can take any remedial action? Muster some courage and accept that I have the problem, and I want to get rid of it. Yes, it takes courage to accept the problem, but it takes us long way. Accepting it will put us on the remedial path.

Find the root cause and take remedial actions: Try to introspect to find the root cause of the problem, which pushed me into the drug use and try to take remediation actions, which are in my control. For example:

  • Job Loss – try to find new job, try to learn new skills.
  • Bullying at school or work – report bullying to management, try to change the school or workplace.
  • Violence, trauma or death in family – remember that it was an event in the past, try to move on. Sometimes it’s too hard to forget, so get professional help or counselling if needed.
  • Deception or betrayal – remember that you are not the only one deceived or betrayed. Deception and betrayal are prevalent in the world. Just learn the lesson and move on. Tell the issue to your family or friends. They may be able to help if there is any misunderstanding.

Get out of home: People having mental health or drug abuse issues, they mostly remain inside the house. But remember that loneliness increases the mental health problems. Try to get out of your room, sit with family or friends, go out for walk, play with kids or pets like dog or cat, plant vegetable garden etc. There are so many activities to do outdoors. Just get out of your home and do something you like. Going out will make you feel as a part of society.

Join the drug de-addiction program: Some drugs are highly addictive and very hard to stop using them. In those circumstances the drug de-addiction and rehabilitation programs may be helpful to slowly wane-off of the drugs. It may take a few weeks or months and may cost a bunch. But you can’t live whole life as a drug user. It not only affects you, but it also affects the loved ones, family, friends, community and society. No man is an island. Everybody affects everybody else. Try to get help from NGOs or non-profit organizations who can provide the rehabilitation services in your area.

Remember that we all are just like actors in the grand drama of the universe. We must play the roles given to us by the director (the Creator). So why not play with dignity and grace?

What’s not in my control

The things which are not in my control, I cannot do anything about that. I cannot change the world. But I can change myself. So, focus on changing myself. Learn to live the life in Kartar’s Bhana (Creator’s Will). When the Sikh remains in Kartar’s Bhana, he will understand that I am just playing my role in the grand drama of the Creator’s creation. Whatever the role is given, we need to play that. Whoever plays it with sincerity and love, comes closer to the Creator and wins the game of life, others lose it.

ਜੋ ਨਰੁ ਦੁਖ ਮੈ ਦੁਖੁ ਨਹੀ ਮਾਨੈ ॥

That man, who amid pain, does not feel pain (remain calm),

ਸੁਖ ਸਨੇਹੁ ਅਰੁ ਭੈ ਨਹੀ ਜਾ ਕੈ ਕੰਚਨ ਮਾਟੀ ਮਾਨੈ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥

who is not affected by pleasure, affection, or fear, and who looks alike upon gold and dust;||1||Pause||

ਨਹ ਨਿੰਦਿਆ ਨਹ ਉਸਤਤਿ ਜਾ ਕੈ ਲੋਭੁ ਮੋਹੁ ਅਭਿਮਾਨਾ ॥

who is not swayed by either slander or praise, nor affected by greed, attachment, or pride;

ਹਰਖ ਸੋਗ ਤੇ ਰਹੈ ਨਿਆਰਉ ਨਾਹਿ ਮਾਨ ਅਪਮਾਨਾ ॥੧॥

who remains unaffected by joy and sorrow, honor, and dishonor;||1||

ਆਸਾ ਮਨਸਾ ਸਗਲ ਤਿਆਗੈ ਜਗ ਤੇ ਰਹੈ ਨਿਰਾਸਾ ॥

who renounces all worldly hopes and desires, and remains desireless in the world;

ਕਾਮੁ ਕ੍ਰੋਧੁ ਜਿਹ ਪਰਸੈ ਨਾਹਨਿ ਤਿਹ ਘਟਿ ਬ੍ਰਹਮੁ ਨਿਵਾਸਾ ॥੨॥

who is not touched by sexual desire or anger – within his heart, God dwells. ||2||

ਗੁਰ ਕਿਰਪਾ ਜਿਹ ਨਰ ਕਉ ਕੀਨੀ ਤਿਹ ਇਹ ਜੁਗਤਿ ਪਛਾਨੀ ॥

That man, blessed by Guru’s Grace, understands this way.

ਨਾਨਕ ਲੀਨ ਭਇਓ ਗੋਬਿੰਦ ਸਿਉ ਜਿਉ ਪਾਨੀ ਸੰਗਿ ਪਾਨੀ ॥੩॥੧੧॥

O Nanak, he merges with the Lord of the Universe, like water with water. ||3||11||

M9 – SGGS Ang 633


Tej Partap Singh

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