What does Sikhi say about Peace and Violence?
In the civilized world we all want peace and stop violence whenever possible and try to resolve the issues or conflicts by dialog, negotiations, and diplomacy. But we can see violence everywhere in the authoritarian, majoritarian or democratic countries. There are wars, social unrests, protests, continuously going on in the world. It is hard to imagine a peaceful world free of violence or unrest. Politics and religion are the biggest causes of divisiveness, conflict, and violence. It needs our attention and special efforts to figure out the root causes, try to bridge the gaps, establish understanding, respect, and coexistence in the world.
What is Peace?
Peace defined –
“a state in which there is no war or fighting” – Britanica
A state of tranquility or quiet: such as
a: freedom from civil disturbance
b: a state of security or order within a community provided for by law or custom
When we look deeper, peace is not just the absence of war, civil disturbance, or lawlessness. Peace can be disturbed even when there is no war, civil disturbance, or lawlessness. It can be disturbed by legal means, which may look peaceful from the outside to one group of people, but it may cause unrest or uneasiness in the other groups. This uneasiness and unrest can keep brewing for a while and can manifest occasionally in the form of protests and violence. The reason for unrest may be the unfair treatment of a group of people based on religion, color, caste, language, culture, or ideology. In majoritarian societies the majority may try to impose their ideology on the minorities. It may look perfectly ok to the majority, but it still may cause unrest in the minorities.
Guru reminds us to act in ਸਾਂਤੀ Shanti (Peace). The deeds done with a peaceful mind become fruitful.
ਮਨੁ ਕਠੋਰੁ ਸਬਦਿ ਭੇਦਿ ਤੂੰ ਸਾਂਤਿ ਵਸੈ ਮਨਿ ਆਇ ॥
Pierce your stone heart with the Shabad of Guru; let peace and tranquility come to abide in your mind.
ਸਾਂਤੀ ਵਿਚਿ ਕਾਰ ਕਮਾਵਣੀ ਸਾ ਖਸਮੁ ਪਾਏ ਥਾਇ ॥
If good deeds are done in this state of peace, they are approved by the Lord.
ਨਾਨਕ ਕਾਮਿ ਕ੍ਰੋਧਿ ਕਿਨੈ ਨ ਪਾਇਓ ਪੁਛਹੁ ਗਿਆਨੀ ਜਾਇ ॥੧॥
O Nanak, through sexual desire and anger, no one has ever found Kartar – go, and ask any wise man. ||1||
In the spiritual journey, peace is very important. When there is no peace in society it is hard to focus on spirituality and personal growth. The mind will be preoccupied with concerns for survival, and how to respond to situations. From the beginning of humanity, adversaries have been there to disturb the peace. Peace is not given; peace is established by deliberate actions to protect society. We can enjoy the spiritual journey, because our military, navy and air force are working hard to protect us and fight the adversaries if they try to disturb the peace in our country.
To establish lasting peace, we need to deal with the root causes, which disturb the peace and promote measures to bridge the gaps between different groups of people with different ideologies. The education system needs to teach the truth and facts, not the alternative facts, which the governing groups want to teach. Education and employment opportunities should be based on capabilities rather than reservations for any group, other than for economic reasons to establish fairness.
Lasting peace in society depends on the inner peace the people have. The people having inner peace can think of establishing peace in the outer society. If we are struggling with our internal peace of mind, then we may not have any motivation or energy to work towards peace in the outer society. Inner peace can be achieved only by controlling our desires and connecting with our source – the Creator.
ਹਰਿ ਧਿਆਵਹਿ ਹਰਿ ਧਿਆਵਹਿ ਤੁਧੁ ਜੀ ਸੇ ਜਨ ਜੁਗ ਮਹਿ ਸੁਖਵਾਸੀ ॥
Those who meditate on You, O Kartar, those who meditate on You – those humble beings dwell in peace in their life.
ਅੰਤਰਿ ਸੀਤਲ ਸਾਤਿ ਵਸੈ ਜਪਿ ਹਿਰਦੈ ਸਦਾ ਸੁਖੁ ਹੋਇ ॥
Peace and tranquility come to dwell within the mind; meditating within the heart, there comes the lasting peace.
What is Violence?
Violence defined –
“the use of physical force to harm someone, to damage property, etc.” – Britanica
“the use of physical force so as to injure, abuse, damage, or destroy” – merriam-webster
Anybody with a sound mind tries to avoid violence whenever possible. But still there is so much violence in the world, regardless of the economic prosperity, level of education, or technological advancements we may have achieved as human race.
In Sikhi violence is any thought, speech, action, or inaction with the intent of hurting others, physically, mentally, or emotionally.
Violence can have many ways and forms like physical or non-physical; mental or emotional; explicit or implicit; by action or inaction; with weapons or without weapons (pen, keyboard).
Violence can be caused by thought, speech and action or inaction.
ਮਨ Mann (thought)
We can cause violence just by thoughts, by thinking evil about others, planning to hurt somebody.
ਪਰ ਕਾ ਬੁਰਾ ਨ ਰਾਖਹੁ ਚੀਤ ॥ ਤੁਮ ਕਉ ਦੁਖੁ ਨਹੀ ਭਾਈ ਮੀਤ ॥੩॥
Dear brother! Dear friend! Do not harbor evil intentions against others in your mind, and you shall not suffer ||3||
ਬਚਨ Bachan (speech)
We can cause violence by speech. Hate speech, slander, name calling, bullying, mockery, belittling, ridiculing others can lead to violence. When we write derogatory or malicious texts, posts, articles those can cause grave danger and violence. Mass media has the capacity to cause mass violence. Pens and keyboards are more dangerous than swords or guns. We must watch for what we speak and write so that it will not cause any harm to the peace in society.
ਨਾਨਕ ਫਿਕੈ ਬੋਲਿਐ ਤਨੁ ਮਨੁ ਫਿਕਾ ਹੋਇ ॥
O Nanak, speaking insipid words, the body and mind become insipid.
ਰਸਨਾ ਫਿਕਾ ਬੋਲਣਾ ਨਿਤ ਨਿਤ ਹੋਇ ਖੁਆਰੁ ॥
Who speaks insipid words with his tongue is ruined again and again.
ਕਰਮ Karam (Violence by action or inaction)
Physical violence to injure or kill somebody or sexual assaults are the visible form of violence. This gets the most attention from the public and law enforcement. But physical violence is just the tip of the violence volcano. It is just the outer expression of the lava boiling inside. There are many invisible and often ignored forms of violence like:
- Meddling in others internal affairs,
- Promoting false narrative,
- Muzzling the voice of minorities by censorship,
- Spreading rumors or inflammatory speech,
- Messing with history or destroying historical evidence,
- Burning books or libraries,
- Sacrilege of scriptures,
- Defamation of persons or communities,
- Extrajudicial detainment and killing,
- Destroying or undermining other cultures and faiths with the intention of proselytization,
- Online trolling
These types of activities may not seem violent in themselves, but these are the precursors to violence and becomes magma of the violence volcano.
Guru warns us that our bad karma will produce bad results.
ਪਾਪੀ ਕਰਮ ਕਮਾਵਦੇ ਕਰਦੇ ਹਾਏ ਹਾਇ ॥
The sinners act, and generate bad karma, and then they weep and wail.
ਨਾਨਕ ਜਿਉ ਮਥਨਿ ਮਾਧਾਣੀਆ ਤਿਉ ਮਥੇ ਧ੍ਰਮ ਰਾਇ ॥੯॥
O Nanak, just as the churning stick churns the butter, so does the Righteous Judge of Dharma churn them to punish for their sins. ||9||
ਜਿਤੁ ਕੀਤਾ ਪਾਈਐ ਆਪਣਾ ਸਾ ਘਾਲ ਬੁਰੀ ਕਿਉ ਘਾਲੀਐ ॥
When you must bear the fruit of your deeds, then why do you do evil deeds that you shall have to suffer for?
ਮੰਦਾ ਮੂਲਿ ਨ ਕੀਚਈ ਦੇ ਲੰਮੀ ਨਦਰਿ ਨਿਹਾਲੀਐ ॥
Do not do anything evil at all; look ahead to the future with foresight.
Violence by inaction
Violence can be caused by inaction also. This is one of the common methods adopted by majoritarian regimes to suppress minorities.
- Ignoring the violence caused by gang or criminal activities and not doing anything to stop it.
- Neglect or Carelessness – not addressing the root causes of the violence like illiteracy, unemployment, poverty, mental health issues, drugs, uncontrolled weapons etc.
When is violence justified?
We must try everything to avoid violence and resolve our conflicts with dialogue and diplomacy. But sometimes the peaceful means does not yield results. The other party is not budging from its stand and bent on pushing you to the brink of conflict, then you must take a stand and fight.
When the collective army of neighboring kingdoms attacked Anandpur Sahib, Guru Gobind Singh Ji came face to face with king Hari Chand in the battlefield. The Guru gave him three chances in the battlefield adhering to the no-first use of force policy. The first arrow struct Guru’s horse. The Guru gave him another chance to attack. The second arrow just grazed the ear. Guru gave him one more chance. The third arrow penetrated deep into the buckle of the waist-belt. It pricked the skin but did not cause a wound.
ਤ੍ਰਿਤੀਯ ਬਾਣ ਮਾਰਿਯੋ ਸੁ ਪੇਟੀ ਮਝਾਰੰ ॥ ਬਿਧਿਅੰ ਚਿਲਕਤੰ ਦੁਆਲ ਪਾਰੰ ਪਧਾਰੰ ॥
His third arrow penetrated deep into the buckle of my waist-belt, piercing through the silken clothing.
ਚੁਭੀ ਚਿੰਚ ਚਰਮੰ ਕਛੂ ਘਾਇ ਨ ਆਯੰ ॥ ਕਲੰ ਕੇਵਲੰ ਜਾਨ ਦਾਸੰ ਬਚਾਯੰ ॥੩੦॥
Its edge pricked the body, but did not cause a wound, Kartar saved his servent.30.
When the third arrow pricked the body, it kindled the resentment and then Guru gets into the Bir Ras (warrior mode) and takes aim with his bow and arrows. King Hari Chand got killed, and his brave soldiers were trampled in the battlefield.
ਜਬੈ ਬਾਣ ਲਾਗ੍ਯਿੋ ॥ ਤਬੈ ਰੋਸ ਜਾਗ੍ਯਿੋ ॥
When the edge of the arrow hit my body, it kindled my resentment.
ਕਰੰ ਲੈ ਕਮਾਣੰ ॥ ਹਨੰ ਬਾਣ ਤਾਣੰ ॥੩੧॥
I took the bow in my hand and aimed and shot the arrow.31.
This tells us that there are some situations where armed fighting is justified.
Gurmat teaches us to resolve conflicts using diplomacy, mutual dialogue, and other peaceful means. Force can be used only as the last resort when the peaceful means fail to yield results.
ਚੁ ਕਾਰ ਅਜ਼ ਹਮਹ ਹੀਲਤੇ ਦਰ ਗੁਜ਼ਸ਼ਤ ॥
When all peaceful means of diplomacy have failed,
ਹਲਾਲ ਅਸਤੁ ਬੁਰਦਨ ਬ ਸ਼ਮਸ਼ੀਰ ਦਸਤ ॥੨੨॥
It is righteous to take the sword in hand.22.
We must stand against tyranny and injustice. A Sikh should always be ready to fight for the human rights, to protect the weak and downtrodden.
ਸੂਰਾ ਸੋ ਪਹਿਚਾਨੀਐ ਜੁ ਲਰੈ ਦੀਨ ਕੇ ਹੇਤ ॥
He alone is known as a spiritual hero, who fights in defense of the weak and down-trodden.
ਪੁਰਜਾ ਪੁਰਜਾ ਕਟਿ ਮਰੈ ਕਬਹੂ ਨ ਛਾਡੈ ਖੇਤੁ ॥੨॥੨॥
He may be cut apart, piece by piece, but he never leaves the battlefield. ||2||2||
Guru Teg Bahadur Ji gave his own life to save Hinduism from the Mughal’s who were forcibly converting the Hindus into Islam. When the Kashmiri pundits came to Guru for help, Guruji agreed to defend their faith.
ਤਿਲਕ ਜੰਞੂ ਰਾਖਾ ਪ੍ਰਭ ਤਾ ਕਾ ॥ ਕੀਨੋ ਬਡੋ ਕਲੂ ਮਹਿ ਸਾਕਾ ॥
He protected the forehead mark (tilak) and sacred thread (of the Hindus), which marked a great event in this age of Kaliyug (era of sin).
ਸਾਧਨ ਹੇਤਿ ਇਤੀ ਜਿਨਿ ਕਰੀ ॥ ਸੀਸੁ ਦੀਆ ਪਰੁ ਸੀ ਨ ਉਚਰੀ ॥੧੩॥
For the sake of Saints, He laid down His head without even a sign of pain.
Destroying the oppressors or punishing the criminals
From the beginning Sikhs have fought the tyrannical Mughal forces, stood against the atrocities of the British rulers in India, and still fighting the oppressive regimes to stand firm against bullying, tyranny, injustice, and human rights violations. Sikhi teaches us to stand our ground firmly, never be afraid of anybody and never frighten anybody.
ਭੈ ਕਾਹੂ ਕਉ ਦੇਤ ਨਹਿ ਨਹਿ ਭੈ ਮਾਨਤ ਆਨ ॥
One who does not frighten anyone, and who is not afraid of anyone else
ਕਹੁ ਨਾਨਕ ਸੁਨਿ ਰੇ ਮਨਾ ਗਿਆਨੀ ਤਾਹਿ ਬਖਾਨਿ ॥੧੬॥
– says Nanak, listen, O mind: call him spiritually wise. ||16||
Baba Banda Singh Bahadur campaigned against the Mughal rulers to crush the oppressors and free the masses from the clutches of ruthless rulers. He abolished the landlord system and made peasants the owners of land they were tilling for the landlords.
Devsaroop Kaur Chheena