Ethics of Guru Nānak

Ethics of Guru Nānak

Ethics of Guru Nānak

The religion of Guru Nānak is the religion of householders. He has totally rejected the division of varṇas (castes) and āśramas1 (stages of life) enjoined by Hindu śāstras.

For him none is born great, none is inferior to the other; the walls and prejudices created in society are only man-made. He advocates the removal of all social barriers between man and man, man and woman.

Phakaṛa jātī phakaṛu nā'u.

Pride in social status is empty;
pride in personal glory is useless. (sggs p.83)

The Guru’s ideology has no place for asceticism and passivity. Activity is the keynote of the Guru’s philosophy and the basis of his ethics.

The ethics and religion of Guru Nānak are complementary. They are the body and spirit of his thought. For a spiritual discipline, the code of conduct is a necessity.

The ethics is the basis of the spiritual edifice:

Unless the virtues are imbibed, the seeker cannot move further on the spiritual plane. A balanced combination of action, knowledge and devotion is required.

The Guru is against any kind of ritualism1, because the final beatitude can never be obtained through rituals. In this context all rituals are useless.

All paths, which do not lead to the Lord, are to be avoided.
In this sense, all the godly qualities should be practised in life.

Karama dharama kari mukati magāhī.

Practicing religious rituals, they sought liberation,

mukati padārathu sabadi salāhī.

But the treasure of liberation comes only by praising the Śabad. (sggs p.1024)

Japu tapu sajamu sādhī'ai tīrathi kīcai vāsu.

You may chant and meditate, practice austerities and self-restraint,
and dwell at sacred shrines of pilgrimage;

puna dāna cagi'ā'ī'ā binu sācē ki'ā tāsu.

You may give donations to charity, and perform good deeds,
but without the True One, what is the use of it all? (sggs p. 56)

Godly Qualities


God is Truth; therefore the seeker should attach the greatest importance to truth.

Truth is a liquor1 with the sugar of the Name of the Lord. When truth comes,2 Truth (Lord) is realised. But great patience3 is required for the realization of Truth.

The followers of māyā do not like Truth.4 Without the wealth of truth none can obtain peace.5 Those who recognise truth, they are always happy,6 but for this the grace of the Lord is necessary.7

Truth is higher8 than everything else, but truthful living is still higher.
The purity of mind is necessary for the attainment of truth.9
A person who tells lies can never become pure.10

Sacu sarā guṛa bāharā jisu vici sacā nā'u.

The Wine of Truth is not fermented from molasses.
The True Name is contained within it. (sggs p.15)

Sacu milai sacu ūpajai saca mahi sāci samā'i.

Meeting the True One, Truth wells up.
The truthful are absorbed into the True Lord. (sggs p.18)

Sacu milai satōkhī'ā hari japi ēkai bhā'i.1.

Those contented souls who meditate on the Lord with single-minded love, meet the True Lord. ||1|| (sggs p.18)

Sākata sacu na bhāva'ī kūṛai kūṛī pāṁi.

The Shaktas, the faithless cynics, do not like the Truth;
false are the foundations of the false. (sggs p.22)

Jinā rāsi na sacu hai ki'u tinā sukhu hō'i.

Those who do not have the Assets of Truth-
how can they find peace? (sggs p.23)

Jinī sacu pachāṇi'ā sē sukhī'ē juga cāri.

Those who have realized the Truth
are at peace throughout the four ages.(sggs p.55)

Nadari karē sacu pā'ī'ai binu nāvai ki'ā sāku.5.

When the Lord bestows His Glance of Grace, we obtain the True Name.
Without the Name, who are our relatives? ||5|| (sggs p.55)

Sacahu ōrai sabhu kō upari sacu ācāru.5.

Truth is higher than everything;
but higher still is truthful living. ||5|| (sggs p.62)

Suci hōvai tā sacu pā'ī'ai.2.

If you are pure, you will obtain the True Lord. ||2||(sggs p. 472)

Mukhi jhūṭhai jhūṭhu bōlaṇā ki'u kari sūcā hō'i.

With false mouths, people speak falsehood.
How can they be made pure? (sggs p.56)


God is without any fear; therefore the seeker should shed away all kinds of fears except the fear of the Lord. His fear will make the seeker fearless, because the Fearless will be realised.1

Bhai tē nirabha'u pā'ī'ai jisa dā atu na pārāvāru.

Through the Fear of God, the Fearless Lord is found;
He has no end or limitation. (sggs p. 1288)

Bhai vici nirabha'u pā'i'ā.

Through the Fear of God, one attains the Fearless Lord;

tā sahajai kai ghari ā'i'ā.3.

Then, one enters the home of celestial bliss. ||3||(sggs p.599)

Bhai mānai nirabha'u mērī mā'i.4.

One who abides in the Fear of God, becomes fearless, O my mother. ||4||(sggs p. 1187)


God is without any enmity; therefore the seeker should always be amicable and peaceable.1 The enmity leads towards anger and destructive tendencies.

Every bad action is the result of enmity and a far-sighted person will always avoid such a course. Even bad words are the cause of quarrels and enmity; therefore they are to be avoided.

Ego flares up inimical thoughts. It is a serious malady,2 therefore the seeker has to remain at a distance from this evil in order to keep up his spiritual health.

Madā mūli na kīca'ī dē lamī nadari nihālī'ai.

Do not do any evil at all; look ahead to the future with foresight.(sggs p.474)

Madā kisai na ākhi jhagaṛā pāvaṇā.

Do not speak ill of others, or get involved in arguments.(sggs p.566)

Ha'umai dīragha rōgu hai dārū bhī isu māhi.

Ego is a chronic disease, but it contains its own cure as well. (sggs p.466)


God is love; therefore the seeker should always love the creation of the Lord, if he has at heart the love of the Lord.

One who considers others like himself is honoured in the court of the Lord.1
He never hates anybody.

Love and devotion are complementary;
therefore love is an essential requisite for a devotee of the Lord.

Nānaka tā ka'u milai vaḍā'ī āpu pachāṇai saraba jī'ā.24.

O Nanak, he is blessed with glorious greatness;
he realizes himself in all beings. ||24|| (sggs p.940)


God is pure; therefore the seeker should remove all impurities. Everybody, except the Lord and his accepted devotees, is impure.1

The purity can be achieved in the company of the preceptor (who is like a touchstone).2

Mērē prabha bhāvani sē ūjalē sabha mailu bharījai.

They alone are pure, who are pleasing to my God;
all others are soiled with filth.(sggs p.1012)

Mailā ūjalu tā thī'ai pārasa sagi bhījai.

The filthy become pure,
when they meet with the Guru, the Philosopher's Stone.(sggs p.1012)


God is just; therefore the seeker should avoid any kind of injustice.

The justice of God is based on truth;1 therefore the seeker is required to base his life on truth and justice.

Vaḍī vaḍi'ā'ī jā vaḍā nā'u.

Great is His greatness, as great as His Name.(sggs p.463)

Generosity and Graciousness

God is the Giver of everything. He gives to every Jīva irrespective of his merits in his present life. The giver gives, but the receiver is sometimes tired.1

The seeker should always aim at giving and serving others without expecting anything as remuneration. This is called Karma Yoga.

God is gracious also, besides being generous.
The seeker can exhibit graciousness by forgiving the erroneous and the sinner.

Dēdā dē laidē thaki pāhi.

The Great Giver keeps on giving,
while those who receive grow weary of receiving.(sggs p.2)


God is sweet; therefore the seeker should also be sweet in word, deed and actions.

The qualities of God are innumerable. He is the bestower of qualities, but there is none who can in turn give any quality to God.1 We have given only a few above, which the seeker can practise in life.

Nānaka niraguṇi guṇu karē guṇavati'ā guṇu dē.

O Nanak, God blesses the unworthy with virtue,
and bestows virtue on the virtuous.

tēhā kō'i na sujha'ī ji tisu guṇu kō'i karē.7.

No one can even imagine anyone
who can bestow virtue upon Him. ||7||

The Guru believes that there are two kinds of actions, i.e., good and bad:
The doer cannot escape from reaping the fruits of his actions.
He has to undergo punishment for his bad actions.1

If He rules the world with high-handedness and drifts away from the path of God, he will go to hell quite naked and will repent for his evils.2

Madā cagā āpaṇā āpē hī kītā pāvaṇā.

He obtains the rewards of his good and bad deeds. (sggs p.470)

Cīja karani mani bhāvadē hari bujhani nāhī hāri'ā.

They act out their minds' desires,
but they do not understand the Lord, and so they are ruined.

Kari phuramā'isi khā'i'ā vēkhi mahalati maraṇu visāri'ā.

Asserting their authority, they eat,
and beholding their mansions, they forget about death. (sggs p.472)

Nagā dōjaki cāli'ā tā disai kharā ḍarāvaṇā.

He goes to hell naked, and he looks hideous then.

kari a'ugaṇa pachōtāvaṇā.14.

He regrets the sins he committed. ||14|| (sggs p.471)

The Chārvāka hedonism has been rejected outright by the Guru:

All the worldly pleasures enjoyed by our senses end in pain and misery. The pleasures create disease and the ensuing pain becomes the remedy.1 It proves a blessing in disguise, because it puts us on the right path. The bodily and mental ills are cured with the expert advice. The Guru comes to our rescue.

It is necessary to discriminate between the ‘good’ and the ‘pleasant’:

The ‘good’ is a pointer to spiritual life and the ‘pleasant’ to the mundane.
The ‘good’ leads to self-realization which is the result of self-restraint.

Self-restraint may not be misunderstood for self-mortification as against self-indulgence. Self-mortification has been rejected by the Guru. Self-indulgence to a certain limit is not bad.

Lust, anger, greed, attachment and ego are bad in themselves, but their rightful use helps in spiritual advancement.

The thought, word and deed are the three significant factors which determine the moral standard of an individual.

The thoughts which arise in the mind manifest themselves either through speech or through bodily action; therefore the consideration of the moral standard rests on the behaviour exhibited through the body, speech and mind.

The virtue and righteousness exhibited through body, speech and mind is known as Dharma and evil and unrighteousness is called Adharma.

The Guru has laid emphasis on adopting Dharma2 and discarding off Adharma.

We will discuss the behaviour of body, speech and mind, one by one.

Dukhu dārū sukhu rōgu bha'i'ā jā sukhu tāmi na hō'ī.

Suffering is the medicine, and pleasure the disease,
because where there is pleasure, there is no desire for God.

Kūṛahu karē viṇāsu dharamē tagī'ai.

One is destroyed through falsehood;
through righteousness, one prospers.


While addressing the body, the Guru says:

Thou art careless, O body! Thou thinkest that thou art immortal, but this world is a mere sport (of the Lord). Thou practiseth greed and falsehood and overburdenst thyself. That is why I have seen thee humiliated like the ashes on the earth.

Listen to my advice. Thou wilt not be born again and only the good actions will keep thee company, my jīva!

I say unto thee, my body! listen to my advice. Thou calumniatest others and indulgest in false tattling. Thou seest the wives of others stealthily, O jīva! and practise theft and evils.

When the Soul leaves Thee, thou remainest behind (in solitude), like a deserted woman.

O body! Thou remained in dreams, what good thou hast done. When something was stolen, thou liked it. Neither thou received any respect in this world nor any honour in the other and just wasted thy precious birth. I underwent great misery O Baba (Elder one)! No one pays any attention to me. The finest horses, gold, silver, stocks of fine clothes accompanied none and were left behind. Foolish body! I have tasted all the sweets and fruits, the sweetest is the Name of the Lord. Having laid the foundation, the wall was raised, but the same became a heap of ashes. The blind gathers (the wealth) and does not share with others, thinking that it was his own. But it must be borne in mind that it belongs to none, like the wealth of Lanka (Ceylon)...1

Amrita kā'i'ā rahai sukhālī bājī ihu sasārō.

With your nectar-like body, you live in comfort,
but this world is just a passing drama.

labu lōbhu mucu kūṛu kamāvahi bahutu uṭhāvahi bhārō.

You practice greed, avarice and great falsehood,
and you carry such a heavy burden.


Kūjā mēvā mai sabha kichu cākhi'ā iku amritu nāmu tumārā.4.

I have tasted all the sugar candy and sweets,
but Your Name alone is Ambrosial Nectar. ||4||

dē dē nīva divāla usārī bhasamadara kī ḍhērī.

Digging deep foundations, the walls are constructed,
but in the end, the buildings return to heaps of dust.

sacē saci na dē'ī kisa hī adhu jāṇai sabha mērī.

People gather and hoard their possessions, and give nothing to anyone else –
the poor fools think that everything is theirs.

sō'ina lakā sō'ina māṛī sapai kisai na kērī.5.

Riches do not remain with anyone –
not even the golden palaces of Sri Lanka. ||5|| (sggs p.154-55)

The above-mentioned thoughts of the Guru lay bare the reality of the body.
The prominent vices connected with the body are:

cruelty towards others in the act of the accumulation of wealth, the theft of wealth belonging to others, and sexual hunger.

The body is quite careless about the real objective of its birth in this world. It passes the night in sleeping and the day in enjoying, and thus the most precious opportunity in this birth is wasted.1

Raiṇi gavā'ī sō'i kai divasu gavā'i'ā khā'i.

The nights are wasted sleeping, and the days are wasted eating.(sggs p.156)

The first virtue connected with body is Ahimsa or non-injury to living beings. The Guru is quite emphatic on this virtue. He says,

Truthful is he, who abides by the true advice:
who shows mercy towards the jīvas and gives, in charity, to the needy

In order to rise higher on the spiritual plane, one should know within himself the significance of mercy towards all and treat all the jīvas like himself.2

The Guru has mentioned four fires:
violence, attachment, greed and anger.3

The first place has been given to Hiṁsā or violence; therefore a man of God forgets and forsakes violence, ego and greed.4 Violence is the result of ego, which is not liked by the Lord.

Sacu tā paru jāṇī'ai jā sikha sacī lē'i.

One knows the Truth only when he receives true instruction.

da'i'ā jāṇai jī'a kī kichu punu dānu karē'i.

Showing mercy to other beings, he makes donations to charities.(sggs p.468)

Jīvatu marai tā sabhu kichu sūjhai atari jāṇai saraba da'i'ā.

If one remains dead while yet alive, then he understands everything;
he knows the Lord deep within himself, who is kind and compassionate to all.

nānaka tā ka'u milai vaḍā'ī āpu pachāṇai saraba jī'ā.24.

O Nanak, he is blessed with glorious greatness;
he realizes himself in all beings. ||24||(sggs p.940)

Hasu hētu lōbhu kōpu cārē nadī'ā agi.

Cruelty, material attachment, greed and anger are the four rivers of fire. (sggs p. 147)

Jisu manu mānai abhimānu na tā ka'u hisā lōbhu visārē.

One whose mind is pleased and appeased, has no egotistical pride.
Violence and greed are forgotten. (sggs p.1198)

Violence is said to flare up because of 3 things, i.e., wealth, woman and property.1

One wants to usurp the wealth and property of others. He keeps an eye on other ladies. His hunger for the wealth and women of others is insatiable. In order to possess them he resorts to stealing and trespassing.

But the Guru is very critical about this way of life:

The thief feels pleasure in stealing and likes his profession, but he neither receives respect in this world nor in the next. He wastes his precious birth.

The judge never appreciates a thief, though the thief may praise the judge.

If the thief talks ill of the judge, the judge does not lose anything. No body reposes his confidence in a thief, therefore how can an action of a thief be liked?2

Kari cōrī mai jā kichu lī'ā tā mani bhalā bhā'i'ā.

When I stole something by deception, then my mind was pleased.(sggs p.155)

Cōru salāhē cītu na bhījai.

If a thief praises someone, his mind is not pleased.

jē badī karē tā tasū na chījai.

If a thief curses him, no damage is done.

cōra kī hāmā bharē na kō'i.

No one will take responsibility for a thief.

cōru kī'ā cagā ki'u hō'i.1.

How can a thief's actions be good? ||1||(sggs p.662)

All kinds of worldly enjoyments end in misery.1 They result in disease and death. All the sensual and sexual pleasures bring innumerable ills and sorrows for the enjoyer.

The fool reaps the harvest of grief from the worldly pleasures and commits sins.2

The sexual pleasure and anger both weaken the body.3

The Guru says:

The desire for the wealth of others, the lust for the love of other women and calumny are poison and result in misery”.4

For this reason the Guru advises the man of the world to keep away from the wealth and women of others, telling him clearly that greed and ego are poison and evil,5 and that he should forsake fraudulent ways, calumniation, lust and anger.6

Bahu sādahu dūkhu parāpati hōvai.

For his excessive indulgences, he receives only pain; (sggs p.1034)

Bhōgī ka'u dukhu rōga vi'āpai.

Painful diseases afflict those who are sexually promiscuous. (sggs p.1189)

Mūrakhu bhōgē bhōgu dukha sabā'i'ā.

The fools enjoy their pleasures;
they must also endure all their pains. (sggs p.139)

Kāmu krōdhu kā'i'ā ka'u gālai.

Unfulfilled sexual desire and unresolved anger waste the body away, (sggs p.932)

Para dhana para nārī ratu nidā bikhu khā'ī dukhu pā'i'ā.

Caught in slander and attachment to the wealth and women of others,
they eat poison and suffer in pain. (sggs p.1255)

Para dārā para dhanu para lōbhā ha'umai bikhai bikāra.

Others' wives others' wealth greed, egotism, corruption and poison; (sggs p.1255)

Dusaṭa bhā'u taji nida parā'ī kāmu krōdhu caḍāra.1.

Evil passions, slander of others, sexual desire and anger - give up all these. ||1|| (sggs p.1255)

The virtuous action of the body is thus the service of others.

Instead of keeping an eye on the wealth of others, one should help others from one’s honestly earned income.1 The foremost activity of the body should be to work hard for the welfare of the family and society.

Ghāli khā'i kichu hathahu dē'i.

One who works for what he eats, and gives some of what he has

nānaka rāhu pachāṇahi sē'i.1.

- O Nānak, he knows the Path. ||1|| (sggs p.1245)

The duty of the Head of the family is to work in order to fulfil the needs of his family and his own requirements He should also share his earnings with the needy.

The Guru says, “One should labour for one’s necessities and should also give something in charity. He will recognise the way of the Lord”.

The help to others should be without any desire for remuneration.
Charity without any expectation of reward is real charity.
One should always be ready for social service for the good of humanity.
The foremost aim of an ideal Sikh is the service of humanity.


It is said that the tongue can inflict a deeper wound than the sword:

One word can break off the dear ones in a moment; therefore one should utter every word with care. The language should be sincere and sweet. The Guru says,

The unsavoury tongue makes the mind and body unsavoury. The harsh person is unsavoury for everybody and is known as a person of harsh temperament.

Such a person receives disrespect in the court of the Lord. The courtiers spit at him. He is called a fool and receives the punishment of shoes”.1

With harsh words the love dies down2 and the friendship ends. Therefore the true Sikh will never talk ill of anybody.3 The true knowledge teaches us this lesson.

The speech, which brings us respect, is the model speech,4 the unsavoury speech leads us to misery. Therefore a seeker always speaks sweet words and makes his tongue sweet. He always speaks truth and never tells a lie.

That tongue is pure, which repeats the True Name of the Lord:5

With the nectar of the Name the tongue loses all impurities.6 Without this nectar the longue is always unsavoury. Such a tongue should be burnt.7

The fool is blind, his tongue is not sweet, he does not follow the advice8:

He always quarrels with others having been poisoned with maya. His tongue is not imbued with the nectar of the Name of Hari, its speech is always unsavoury.

Nānaka phikai bōli'ai tanu manu phikā hō'i.

O Nanak, speaking insipid words,
the body and mind become insipid.

phikō phikā sadī'ai phikē phikī sō'i.

He is called the most insipid of the insipid;
the most insipid of the insipid is his reputation.

phikā daragaha saṭī'ai muhi thukā phikē pā'i.

The insipid person is discarded in the Court of the Lord,
and the insipid one's face is spat upon.

phikā mūrakhu ākhī'ai pāṇā lahai sajā'i.1.

The insipid one is called a fool;
he is beaten with shoes in punishment. ||1|| (sggs p.473)

Ṭūṭi parīti ga'ī bura bōli.

Love breaks, when the speech goes sour. (sggs p.933)

Kisa hī madā ākhi na calai saci kharā saci'ārā hē.14.

Do not call anyone else bad; follow this way of life.
Those who are true are judged to be genuine by the True Lord. ||14|| (1027)

Madā kisai na ākhī'ai paṛi akharu ēhō bujhī'ai.

Do not call anyone bad; read these words, and understand.

mūrakhai nāli na lujhī'ai.19.

Don't argue with fools. ||19|| (sggs p.473)

Jitu bōli'ai pati pā'ī'ai sō bōli'ā paravāṇu.

Those words are acceptable, which, when spoken, bring honour.

phikā bōli vigucaṇā suṇi mūrakha mana ajāṇa.

Harsh words bring only grief. Listen, O foolish and ignorant mind! (sggs p.15)

Bōlahi amrita bāṇi rasana rasā'i'ā jī'u.

They chant the Ambrosial Word of His Bani,
savouring it with their tongues. (sggs p.688)

Bōlahi sācu mithi'ā nahī rā'ī.

They speak the Truth - not an iota of falsehood. (sggs p.227)

Jihavā sūcī sācā bōlu.

That tongue which chants the True Name is pure. (sggs p.905)

Jihavā sūcī hari rasa sārā.2.

My tongue is purified
by the most sublime essence of the Lord. ||2|| (sggs p.224)

Jihavā jala'u jalāvaṇī nāmu na japai rasā'i.

Let that tongue be burnt in flames,
which does not chant the Naam with love. (sggs p.59)

Mūrakhu hō'i na ākhī sūjhai.

The fool does not realize what he sees with his eyes.

jihavā rasu nahī kahi'ā būjhai.

He does not taste with his tongue, and does not understand what is said. (sggs p.414)

The unrighteousness with respect to speech consists in practising falsehood, tartness of expression, calumniation and gossiping. All these acts stand in the way of spiritual progress.

The calumny is a great sin. One who practises calumny can never attain release. He is like a counterfeit coin.1 He is black-faced, his speech being full of ill-will for others.

The Guru says,

The tongue is not imbued with the love of Hari. It speaks always unsavoury language. It is engaged in the calumny of saints. The animal never rises to the higher plane.2 The calumniators are enchained.3 They will be the dwellers of hell and gloom”.4

Ai jī khōṭē ṭha'ura nāhī ghari bāhari nidaka gati nahī kā'ī.

The false have no place of rest, either inside or outside;
the slanderer does not find salvation. (sggs p.505)

Jihavā ragi nahī hari rātī jaba bōlai taba phīkē.

Your tongue is not imbued with the Love of the Lord;
whatever you say is tasteless and insipid.

sata janā kī nidā vi'āpasi pasū bha'ē kadē hōhi na nīkē.2.

You indulge in slander of the Saints;
becoming a beast, you shall never be noble. ||2|| (sggs p.1126)

Nidaka lā'itabāra milē haṛhhavāṇī'ai.

Slanderers and gossipers are hand-cuffed. (sggs p.1288)

Nidā kari kari naraka nivāsī atari ātama jāpai.

Slandering others, one lives in hell; within him is hazy darkness. (sggs p.1013)

The righteousness regarding to speech consists in the practice of veracity, uttering of speech for the good of humanity, sweetness of utterance and the recitation of scriptures.

All these acts are done for the good of individual soul and for the society.

The recitation of scriptures is an act of faith. The sayings of the sages inspire us for higher ideals and nobler acts, thus paving the way for our spiritual enlightenment.

The practice of listening and imbibing the spirit of the scriptures creates within us the sacred fear of the Lord.1

Pōthī purāṇa kamā'ī'ai.

Let the reading of your prayer book be the oil,

bha'u vaṭī itu tani pā'ī'ai.

And let the Fear of God be the wick for the lamp of this body. (sggs p.25)


The mind is the pivot of worldly life. It is related to intellect (Buddhi).

The prayer of a Sikh lays emphasis on the higher plane for the intellect and lower for the mind,1 because the mind is mostly attracted towards the vices.

The upper plane of intellect (right thinking) will obstruct vices from entering the plane of mind, being overshadowed by it.

The mind, if let loose, can play havoc, and, if kept under control, can raise us spiritually. These different states of mind have been depicted by the Guru:

“Mind is the king, active with varied desires. Mind is the Yogi, ending separation. The mind understands the reality by singing the praises of the Lord.

Such persons who have subdued the mind with the Word of the Guru are very rare”.2

“The mind is māyā and runs everywhere. It is like a bird flying in the sky. The thief is subdued by the Word and lives in the city of the body (like a civilised citizen) ...

The mind is the yogi, the mind is the enjoyer, the mind is a fool, the mind is charitable, the mind is a beggar, the mind is protected by the Guru and the Lord. By killing the five vices, it obtains comfort”3 . . .

The Guru addresses the mind in the following manner:

O mind! they are five and I am one: how can we save our property?
They plunder us always; to whom should we request for protection?
You should repeat the Name of the Lord, O mind!

The cure suggested for the malady of the mind is the primal sacred formula of the Name of the Lord. By this the sins of the previous births are washed away.5

Metaphorically, the mind is an elephant in the forest of the body.
The Guru gives the Ankuśa (goad) of the true word.6

Sikhā dā man nīvā, mat uchchī, mat dā rākhā āp Wāhigurū!

May the minds of Sikhs remain humble, and their wisdom exalted.
Waheguru! You are the protector of wisdom. (Ardās)

Manu rājā manu mana tē māni'ā manasā manahi samā'ī.

The mind is the king;
the mind is appeased and satisfied through the mind itself,
and desire is stilled in the mind.

manu jōgī manu binasi bi'ōgī manu samajhai guṇa gā'ī.3.

The mind is the Yogi, the mind wastes away in separation from the Lord;
singing the Glorious Praises of the Lord, the mind is instructed and reformed. ||3||

gura tē manu māri'ā sabadu vīcāri'ā tē viralē sasārā.

How very rare are those in this world
who, through the Guru, subdue their minds,
and contemplate the Word of the Śabad. (sggs p.1125)

Manu mā'i'ā manu dhā'i'ā manu pakhī ākāsi.

The mind is Māyā, the mind is a chaser;
the mind is a bird flying across the sky.

tasakara sabadi nivāri'ā nagaru vuṭhā sābāsi.

The thieves are overpowered by the Śabad,
and then the body-village prospers and celebrates.

jā tū rākhahi rākhi laihi sābatu hōvai rāsi.1.

Lord, when You save someone, he is saved;
his capital is safe and sound. ||1||

aisā nāmu ratanu nidhi mērai.

Such is my Treasure, the Jewel of the Nām;

guramati dēhi laga'u pagi tērai.1. Rahā'u.

Please bless me with the Guru's Teachings,
so that I may fall at Your Feet. ||1||Pause||

manu jōgī manu bhōgī'ā manu mūrakhu gāvāru.

The mind is a Yogi, the mind is a pleasure-seeker;
the mind is foolish and ignorant.

manu dātā manu magatā mana siri guru karatāru.

The mind is the giver, the mind is the beggar;
the mind is the Great Guru, the Creator.

paca māri sukhu pā'i'ā aisā brahamu vīcāru.2.

The five thieves are conquered, and peace is attained;
such is the contemplative wisdom of God. ||2|| (sggs p.1330)

Avari paca hama ēka janā ki'u rākha'u ghara bāru manā.

There are five of them, but I am all alone.
How can I protect my hearth and home, O my mind? (sggs p.155)

A'ukhadha matra mūlu mana ēkai jē kari driṛu citu kījai rē.

O mind, there is only the One medicine, mantra and healing herb –
centre your consciousness firmly on the One Lord.

janama janama kē pāpa karama kē kāṭanahārā lījai rē.1.

Take to the Lord, the Destroyer of the sins and karma of past incarnations. ||1|| (sggs p.156)

Manu kucaru kā'i'ā udi'ānai.

The mind is an elephant in the forest of the body.

guru akasu sacu sabadu nīsānai.

The Guru is the controlling stick;
when the Insignia of the True Śabad is applied, (sggs p.221)

From the above quotations, it is quite clear that the 5 evils, i.e., lust, anger, greed, attachment and ego surround the mind. These evils can be destroyed only with the Word of the Guru.

The intellect should be kept unpolluted and above all sorts of quarrels:

The right intellect should be a strong rider over the mind-horse, which is to be bridled and caught by the forelock. This intellect will lead us towards the Lord and we will be recipients of honours.1

Akali ēha na ākhī'ai akali gavā'ī'ai bādi.

Wisdom which leads to arguments is not called wisdom.

akalī sāhibu sēvī'ai akalī pā'ī'ai mānu.

Wisdom leads us to serve our Lord and Master;
through wisdom, honour is obtained.

akalī paṛhhi kai bujhī'ai akalī kīcai dānu.

Wisdom does not come by reading textbooks;
wisdom inspires us to give in charity. (sggs p.1245)

Because of its company with the evils, the vices which originate in the mind consist of ill-will towards others, greed in respect of what belongs to others and want of faith in the scriptures.

Against these vices, the virtues of mind are kindness towards others, indifference to material advantages and faith. Faith is the cause of reverence and piety.

The ethics of Guru Nānak can be summed up thus in the words of Guru Nānak himself:

“The seeker should absorb himself in the higher spiritual studies with the grace of the Guru and obtain respect and veneration.

O Creator, Thou art my Benefactor. One boon I beg of Thee and that is thy Name.

Such is the knowledge of the Lord that the evil force with evil vision runs away, the ego vanishes and the five thieves are restrained from evil-doing.

I beg such a boon: I want the rice of truth and self-control, the wheat of mercy, the platter of leaves of meditation, the milk of good actions, the clarified butter (ghee) of contentment.

I want the milk-cow of tolerance and patience whose milk be drunk by the mind-calf without obstruction. I beg of Thee the cloth of the effort for singing Thy praises, so that Nānak may remain in continued remembrance of Thy qualities.”1

Gura parasādī vidi'ā vīcārai paṛi paṛi pāvai mānu.

By Guru's Grace, contemplate spiritual knowledge;
read it and study it, and you shall be honoured.

āpā madhē āpu paragāsi'ā pā'i'ā amritu nāmu.1.

Within the self, the self is revealed,
when one is blessed with the Ambrosial Nām, the Name of the Lord. ||1||

karatā tū mērā jajamānu.

O Creator Lord, You alone are my Benefactor.

ika dakhiṇā ha'u tai pahi māga'u dēhi āpaṇā nāmu.1. Rahā'u.

I beg for only one blessing from You:
Please bless me with Your Name. ||1||Pause||

paca tasakara dhāvata rākhē cūkā mani abhimānu.

The five wandering thieves are captured and held,
and the egotistical pride of the mind is subdued.

disaṭi bikārī duramati bhāgī aisā brahama gi'ānu.2.

Visions of corruption, vice and evil-mindedness run away.
Such is the spiritual wisdom of God. ||2||

jatu satu cāvala da'i'ā kaṇaka kari prāpati pātī dhānu.

Please bless me with the rice of truth and self-restraint,
the wheat of compassion, and the leaf-plate of meditation.

dūdhu karamu satōkhu ghī'u kari aisā māṅga'u dānu.3.

Bless me with the milk of good karma,
and the clarified butter, the ghee, of compassion.
Such are the gifts I beg of You, Lord. ||3||

khimā dhīraju kari ga'ū lavērī sahajē bacharā khīru pī'ai.

Let forgiveness and patience be my milk-cows,
and let the calf of my mind intuitively drink in this milk.

siphati sarama kā kapaṛā māṅga'u hari guṇa nānaka ravatu rahai.4.7.

I beg for the clothes of modesty and the Lord's Praise;
Nānak chants the Glorious Praises of the Lord. ||4||7|| (sggs p.1329)