Five Jewels and Five Thieves
Updated: May 17
Welcome to the fifth key, which will focus on an aspect of Sikhism, which I consider the most important teaching from the first Sikh guru - Nanak. This extraordinary man was born roughly 500 years ago in the northern region of India before it was divided and called 'Pakistan'. Nanak was born to Hindu parents, but even as a child, Nanak had many Muslim friends, and this was a cause of concern for his father. As Nanak grew older and wiser, it was apparent that he was destined to embrace the life of a spiritual teacher. After a miracle where Nanak disappeared in a river for 3 full days after bathing, he emerged from that river declaring "There is no Hindu and no Muslim." The Gurmukhi words 'Ik ongkar' literally translate to "God is one". Nanak was a musician and singer, and his songs would take on a similar role as the Psalms of King David. Just like other saints, mystics and avatars before, many miracles followed Nanak.
Like so many other Americans, I discovered the unique wisdom of Sikhism by practicing Kundalini yoga. Due to a recent scandalous fallout concerning the founder of this brand of yoga, I no longer practice it, but I give credit where it is due - Kundalini yoga helped me discover these Sikh teachings, and ultimately led me to my Guru Kabir. For the most part, Americans haven't the slightest idea about Sikh religion. The concept of "langar" - the free kitchen - is just one of many unique aspects of this faith. All Sikh places of worship - called gurdwaras - offer a free meal to everyone, regardless of their religion. If somebody is a Muslim, Jew or Christian visiting the Sikh gurdwara, they will be offered a free plate like everyone else. The only condition being to cover the head upon entry, which is a long held tradition. This generosity sets an example that is much to be admired among religions, since Sikhs do not proselytize. They won't even tell you about their beloved guru Nanak unless you ask. I had to read books for myself to learn.
Although I am not Sikh, I highly admire their gurus and teachings. The first Sikh guru, Nanak would eventually compose hundreds of musical hymns for spiritual teachings. Of all the wonderful teachings and stories of Nanak, the one that stood out for me the most is the concept of five jewels, and five thieves. These are spiritual truths that apply to all religions, and if practiced, could change the world. For the rest of this Seal, I'll focus on each one with a brief explanation, starting with the five jewels...
1. Sat / Truth - this is the most valuable jewel in Sikh religion, because like their Hindu cousins, the Sikhs also embrace the concept of reincarnation and ultimate liberation. Without the ultimate Truth, we continue in the endless cycles of birth and death, which Nanak often described as the 'terrible world ocean'. An ocean is a beautiful place to look at, but being immersed in it with large waves and hungry, carnivorous creatures, it becomes a terrifying place. Without Truth, we are drowned in an illusory world of lies.
2. Santokh / Contentment - also a valuable jewel in the yoga philosophy, contentment means being in a state of peace and ease despite any situation and lack of material necessities. It is the core of the modern, minimalist movement happening worldwide. As the saying goes, sometimes less is more. Appreciating the smallest things gives us an entirely different perspective in our lives. This jewel gives us lasting happiness, no matter what.
3. Daya / Compassion - a jewel often discussed by the Dalai Lama and highly regarded in Buddhism, compassion is the forerunner to mercy. This is the ability to understand and relate to others suffering. Without compassion, we humans are capable of the cruelest acts, such as genocides and slavery.
4. Nimrata / Humility - a topic often addressed by Jesus himself, humility reminds us that we are all essentially the same. Humility puts our egos and social biases in check. Beyond our clothes, social status and citizenship, we are all human. Humility allows us to serve others while refusing to be put on a pedestal. The opposite of humility is pride, and pride is often the downfall of many people who had potential for greatness. Pride is also the cause of classism, racism and dictatorship. Humility is the remedy.
5. Pyaar / Love - in the Greek language, there are five different definitions to describe love. Obviously, this jewel isn't the romantic love as often understood in the English language. Love is the all-encompassing affection. It's the ability to observe living things through the aspect of divinity, and to do no harm. Without love, there would be no friendships, family relations and acts of charity and goodness. Love brings out the best qualities in any human being, and is said to be the law of the highest, celestial realms.
And now for the five thieves, which come to rob the jewels !...
1. Kaam / Lust - often confused as romantic love, feelings and desires of lust usually have a sexual connotation. Simply stated, lust is a thief that causes people to lose self-control. In lust, people behave irrationally. Lust usually leads to acts of violence and manipulation. Lust is the thief that has robbed many marriages.
2. Krodh / Anger - the Buddha Siddartha once said that holding onto anger is "like holding a burning coal to throw at someone." It's burning your own hand the whole time ! Just like lust, anger often leads to irrational acts of violence. Anger also leads to hate, and as a thief, it robs joy and love.
3. Lobh / Greed - this thief is actually the root cause of many robberies ! Greed causes humans to desire more than what they actually need. It leads to selfishness, anger and desire. Greed causes suffering when we don't get everything we want, and it's the root cause of poverty worldwide. Greed is the thief that robs us of contentment and acts of a charity. A greedy person is never happy nor fulfilled, even when they have more than enough.
4. Moh / Attachment - a thief that is often warned about in Buddhism. Simply stated, attachment leads to suffering. Our world is a place of temporary things. We have jobs, money and possessions which can be lost at any moment. We have relatives and beloved pets that will all die eventually. Because of our human condition, we all feel some kind of attachment to something. In modern times, many people are attached to technological gadgets. Let these things go, and you will be on the path to mental and spiritual freedom. This thief robs your freedom and happiness.
5. Hankaar / Ego - any psychologist will tell you that every human is born with an ego. It's essentially our sense of identity. An inflated ego causes one to be narcissistic. This thief robs compassion through disregard for others. The ego - I - is selfish at its core. It's the opposite of selflessness. Pride and ego are nearly synonymous. An inflated ego enhances the illusion that you are separate from anything else, especially other people. In reality, we're all connected through our symbiosis with the Earth and each other. Have you ever seen the movie 'Cloud Atlas' ? Do yourself a favor, and stream it on Netflix ! The ego is a fake amigo. Make it small, and see what the universe does for you.
In concluding this key, I would like to thank avatar Nanak and all the wonderful Punjabi Sikhs I've met here and abroad. I hope the day comes when the Sikh faith gains the recognition and understanding it deserves. As they say... "Sat Siri Akal / Truth never dies" !