image caption: Gurmukh Singh OBE

Sikh View About War and Peace

The Ukraine war and other global conflicts and tensions make daily news. We seem to have become conditioned even to the continual threat of a nuclear war. There are other global ecological, economic, social and political challenges, mostly self-inflicted by the human race. In this situation we seek guidance from Sikh teachings to understand the root causes and to find the solutions.

In early 17th century, Bhai Gurdas wrote that Guru Nanak Sahib meditated and saw the whole world ablaze. The world was at war at every level as a result of human greed, lust, violence, and lack of compassion. Thus, Sikh ideology does not look at the question of war in isolation but in tandem with human behaviour at all levels and in all fields. Genuine peace is not possible when there is discrimination, oppression and suffering in society. In that sense, Sikh thought agrees that peace is not necessarily the absence of war.

In December 2009, I was invited to contribute an article about Sikh Approach to War and Peace to the periodical Arches Quarterly. Some main points are summarised below.

Guru Nanak Sahib looked at the root causes of conflict from individual (inner conflict) to national and international levels in all spheres of life to show the way to real peace and a harmonious way of life. By preaching Oneness of all creation he enabled the ordinary people to see through the falsehood of human divisions as them and us created by vested interests. The Guru showed the fine balance in nature and the interdependence of life on earth.

Sikh approach to war and peace starts at individual level and would agree that men are at war with one another because each man is at war with himself. (Francis Meehan). War stems from the baser human motivations such as hate, fear, greed and revenge (Albert G Huegli).

Freedom from insecurity and fear is important. This is only possible when we respect the rights of our neighbours when we give up selfish obsession with personal gain only when we enjoy sharing and doing service for others (Sikhi sewa activism), and when we remember that God resides in all. Sikh thought stresses: Where God exists there is no selfishness, where self exists there is no God. In this life, there must be balance between material ambition and spiritual well-being. Selfless service in this world, is made a pre-condition for a place of honour in the next (SGGS 26).

It is important to constantly strive for inner freedom from death, attachment and insecurity by meditating on the Name of The Fearless. All fear is destroyed through the worship of the Fearless. (SGGS 293). Only that life is good in which the inner battle is fought with determination &ndash through patience (dhiraj) and wisdom (Guru Gobind Singh, Krishnavtar)

Peace is only possible when no one inflicts pain on another. Guru Arjan, the Fifth Sikh Guru defined such a regime as halemi raj. Being dissatisfied with the prevailing oppressive conditions of an unjust peace around him, Guru Arjan declared real peace as follows:- The Merciful Master has now ordained that no one annoys, oppresses or inflicts pain on, another. All shall abide in peace in a benign regime.&rdquo (GGS p. 74) In the Sikh view, unjust regimes lose their right to rule.

Finally, peace requires even greater effort than waging wars.

(**Arches Quarterly Vol 3 Edition 5 Dec 2009, War, Peace & Reconciliation,

Gurmukh Singh OBE

Principal Civil Servant retd.