This is an article posted by BALPREET SINGH is legal counsel and acting executive director for the World Sikh Organization of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, Sunday, August 28, 2011 in answer to the question posed by Sikh lust “Are lascivious thoughts immoral if not acted upon?”
In the Sikh faith, sexual relations outside of marriage are not permitted. Sikhs are taught to look upon those younger than them as their children, peers as siblings and those older as parents.
The Sikh Gurus taught that the five vices a spiritual person must control are lust, anger, greed, attachment and egotism. These vices are like a veil which does not allow the individual to recognize the truth and the presence of God within. Although all five of these are inherent to the human condition, they must be controlled in order to follow the spiritual path.
The thoughts we harbor in our minds are the seeds which eventually become action and so the real effort is to conquer the mind.
Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Guru of the Sikhs said, “every day, increase your love for your wife. But not go to the bed of another woman even in your dreams.” The message for Sikhs is clear that it is not just lustful actions which are to be avoided but thoughts and dreams as well.
The main tool which Sikhs are to use to conquer lust and other vices is meditation on naam or the name of God. The mind cannot conquer itself without a tool and the tool the Gurus taught is daily meditation. By meditating on naam, one endeavors to discover God’s light within and to see it permeating throughout creation. In such a state, lust and the other vices of the mind fall away and the individual is able to recognize the truth.
Rabbi REUVEN BULKA is head of Congregation Machzikei Hadas in Ottawa and host of Sunday night with Rabbi Bulka on 580 CFRA
This sounds almost like the age old question - if a tree falls in the forest and no one hears, does it make a noise? The answer there depends on your definition - is noise something that is heard, and if no one hears it is not noise; or is noise an objective reality, whether heard or not.
Here too, all depends on how one defines immoral. Is it an action or a process? In other words, if no one knows, aside from the one doing the thinking, is it anything?
In turning your question on its head, if a person has very noble thoughts, such as the desire to build orphanages, or to provide food for the hungry, but does not carry out these thoughts, are they laudable?
One thing is clear. The words that are linked with immoral - such as evil, vicious, degrading, etc., would not apply to something that is contained only in thought.
This may come as a surprise - those who have what you refer to as lascivious thoughts but overcome them, and instead live highly moral lives, are actually the subject of great praise in Jewish tradition.
The nobility of the human spirit is apprehended not only in noble action. It is also manifest in the way that we overcome whatever “demons” float in our heads, but which we are strong enough to control, and even to expel. For example, a kleptomaniac who resists the urge to remove cash from an open safe is more worthy of praise than someone who has no such urges and walks by the open safe with no doubts about what is appropriate.
This does not mean that we should go out of the way to populate our minds with untoward thoughts, in order to fight them, win over them, and be declared righteous. That would be foolhardy.
What it does mean is that if these thoughts creep into our minds, this is no indication of inferiority or sinfulness, and instead presents the opportunity for meaningful human triumph.
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