Five Thieves | Five Evils | Sikhi
General treatment of motives and propensities in Sikhism
A study of Sikhism reveals that there are 4 inter-related groups of motivation:
(1) The first group includes a cluster of 5 motives which are termed as moral evils or Five Thieves necessitating their sublimation and regulation by
(2) virtues (3) social motives and (4) the urge for the Spiritual.
In this motivational scheme only the first group is antagonistic to the unity of the self and as such merits moral culture and regulation.
We shall examine the first group in the present chapter and the others, namely, the second the third and the fourth “ethical needs” will be taken up in the subsequent chapters.
We may describe the last three groups as positive in the sense that these are desirable motives in contradistinction to the first group which may be termed as negative in the sense that these hamper the realization of the ideal self (Sachiāra).
The springs or propensities usually listed in the first cluster are
Some of these propensities are positive in the sense that they involve the attraction of the person towards someone or something, which is its objective pole,
whereas the others may be called negative which involve the repulsion of the self from someone or something which is its objective reference.
It may be important and pertinent to add here that these are not biological or primitive urges that are criticised in the ethics of the Sikhs (such as kām, etc.):
These are rather learnt dispositions characterised by indiscrimination.
These may be regarded as ego-sentiments.
The propensities such as kām, lobh, moh, krodh and Ahaṅkāra may have their origin in the biological structure but are criticised in ethics.
These are viewed as learnt dispositional activities.
Their wide and almost universal occurrence may be due to the continuity of subjective and objective conditions which sustain their motivational structure.
It will also be seen that these propensities are considered evil not only because of their consequences of indiscrimination and praxis leading to socially undesirable results
but they are criticised also because they stand in the way of the concentration by the self on the supreme values of union with the Spiritual Absolute.
We may usefully refer to John Dewey who points out, in a different context, that
“a bad habit suggests an inherent tendency to action and also holds command over us.
It makes us do things we are ashamed of, things which we tell ourselves we prefer not to do. It overrides our formal resolutions, our conscious decisions.”
In Sikhism, in this sense, pride is regarded as a greater evil than others, because, more than any other of these passions or propensities, it assumes a commanding posture and bars the way to the self-realization. It prevents the receptivity of the self to the higher ideals.
Analysis of the five propensities in Sikhism
We may now analyse and examine in detail the five propensities namely
Among these, generally speaking, kām, lobh, moh and Ahaṅkāra are sentiments while krodh may be considered as an emotion.
But this distinction of the sentiment and the emotion does not appear to be fully drawn out in Sikhism as all of these propensities are sometimes stated together and at other times in some groups without any apparent signs of distinction.
The reason for our taking up kām, lobh and moh first lies in the fact that these act as the gates of attraction in contra-distinction to ire and pride which are generally indicated in repulsion of the person from some thing or a being.