I recently watched the Punjabi movie Shareek. Basically it’s about a family that destroys themselves fighting over rights to land. It’s probably one of the saddest movies I have seen in a long time, because it is only too real and speaks to the problems of ego, pride, jealousy, anger, greed, and seeking revenge. It not only showed the pain caused by revenge, but also how unnecessary it all was.
Having been born and raised in Canada, I barely have a basic understanding of the importance of land to the culture in Punjab. From what I’ve read, according to the book “Punjab Society: Perspectives and Challenges”, land is important to people because it serves basic needs/security, emotional satisfaction, identification, and most importantly people indicated that it was a symbol of prestige (1). I think another reason land is important to Punjabi culture is that it has been passed on through the generations and is a part of collective memories and our heritage. The problem is that, as stated above, it has predominantly become a “symbol of prestige” and therefore a driving force for dividing people and claiming superiority. This goes to the extent of leading to destruction of relationships and even murder. Suddenly land becomes more important than life itself, even though the purpose of our life was actually to connect mind to God, not collect as much land as possible. How can we say we truly understood Sikhi if a piece of earth is more important than life itself?
This problem of pride also exists here in Canadian society, in a different form. Here, there is pride over how big your house is, what kind of job you have, what kind of car you drive, clothes you wear, and even how “religious” you appear to others. Just like in India, here people still fight over who their children should marry based on how much “power” or “status” it will give their family instead of what really matters. Somehow this even becomes a motive to kill for, which is totally against Sikhi. Image and reputation is all an illusion in the first place but it’s too hard for some people to see when they are wrapped up in ego.
Pride is obviously one of the five dhoots (kaam, krodh, lob, moh, ahankaar). As Sikhi wiki describes, “Pride makes human beings believe that they are more important than others. It makes them treat others badly and unequally, leading to injustice. Pride makes human beings take personal credit for the successes, good qualities, wealth and talents they have. It makes them forget that God is responsible for these things and leads them away from reunion. Pride leads to Haumai because it makes people believe that they are the most important thing in life and leads to self-centredness” (2). I couldn’t have said it better myself. If we were to take even a portion of what we dedicate toward pursuits of pride, into dedicating ourselves to our true purpose in life we would be living in heaven on earth. Guru Arjan Dev Ji says “O pride the cause of our coming and going in the world, O soul of sin, thou estranges friends, confirms enmities and makes men spread out the net of illusion far and wide, and tires men by keeping ever on the round, and making them experience now pleasure, now pain. And men walk through the utter wilderness of doubt: thou afflicts men with incurable maladies” (3). Even in the Zafarnama, the famous letter from Guru Gobind Singh Ji to Aurangzeb, he is not vengeful and spreading hatred towards Aurangzeb, but rather speaking against his actions and telling him to change (quote zafarnama). Guru Ji even talks about the good qualities of Aurangzeb but goes on to say that he has to answer to God for his actions. “Aurangzeb is the king of kings. He is the lord of the world and has all the riches. But he is far from the teachings of his religion” (4). Even after Guru Ji lost his sons and parents at the hands of Aurangzeb, he shows there isn’t space for vengeful and hateful thinking in Sikhi. Out of all the lines in the Zafarnama, the most are actually spent towards praise of God showing again how Guru Ji has taught us to focus on our true purpose.
I would encourage everyone, to just think about how your pride is prevalent in your daily life and is interfering in your relationship with God and ways for you to move beyond it, such as doing sewa and spending time with people who encourage you to focus on spiritual pursuits not material ones. We should focus on developing our honesty, humility, work ethic, compassion and respect for others; on developing relationships and connections rather than divisions and separations. There’s nothing wrong with being proud of who you are and where you come from but when our pride interferes in our relationship to God, our family and our friends, it becomes a problem that needs to be addressed.
1 Gill, Manmohan Singh. Punjab Society: Perspectives and Challenges. New Delhi: Concept Pub., 2003. E-book. Page 118.