Society U.K. (Regd)
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+44 020 8574 1912
Charity No: 262404
about Euthanasia (assisted dying or mercy killing)
Sikh View about
Euthanasia (assisted dying or mercy killing) and Suicide
“This body is the Lord’s Temple wherein is revealed the
jewel of Divine comprehension”
Guru Amardas, Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS), Ang 1346
“Kabir, difficult to obtain is the human birth.”
Bhagat Kabir SGGS A. 1365
“Kabir, world is passing away to meet ultimate death.
However, no one knows how to die. He who dies such a death
(in Lord’s Will) dies not again.”
Bhagat Kabir SGGS A. 555
This article is in two parts:
1. First part introduces some related concepts
from Sikh ideology
2. Second part sums up Sikh view in the context of
the current debate about legalising mercy killing or assisted dying.
(Important note: The concept of “God” in Sikhi (preferred to
“Sikhism”) is as described in the Mool Mantar – Source Mystical
Description - the first composition of Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS),
the Sikh Holy Scripture; and none other, despite many
traditional names for the Timeless, Creator Being used in SGGS. The
Mool Mantar is repeated more than a hundred times in SGGS and is the
basic teaching on which are founded Sikh ideology, institutions and
the Sikh way of life referred to as Sikhi. )
Related concepts from Sikh ideology
[In this part, only some of the many references are quoted from
SGGS in the footnotes as examples. Opening words are given in
Gurmukhi (roman letters) for quick reference.
Otherwise, numerous similar references can be quoted from Gurbani
(Guru’s Word in SGGS) which confirm the same Sikhi concepts.]
The main challenge for a human being in life is from the wandering
mind (mann). “A person acts according to the wishes of the
mind. The mind feeds on virtues and vices. Intoxicated with the wine
of Maya -worldly attractions, contentment never comes.”
Mann, the wandering mind, due to all the trials and
tribulations of life, is driven to distress and despair, which can
lead to death wish. It can only be controlled through study
and knowledge. This is the thinking or discerning part of the mind
referred to as matt. Sikhs pray for the control of matt
In Sikhi, the mind is controlled and brought to a stable condition
through Gur-matt (the Mind or Word of the Guru) . In
that state the mann is God-centred .
The wandering mind is controlled through study and practice of
Gurbani (Guru’s Word). The study of the lives of
the Guru-persons from 1469 to 1708, and the Khalsa history and
tradition give numerous teaching examples of challenges in many life
situations. These were faced and, ultimately, overcome through
the positive mental state of charrdi kalaa (a peculiarly
Sikh concept of ascending energy).
For example, old people sometimes start thinking they are a burden
on family and society. The Third Guru, Guru Amardas showed by own
example how much can be achieved in advanced age. Based on Guru
Nanak Sahib’s founding ideology, most of the Sikh institutions were
set up by Guru Sahib.
The starting point for every Sikh is to know the purpose of human
life. The ultimate Sikh goal of human life (manas janam
meaning human birth) is to seek union with the Timeless Lord (Akal
Purakh), remembered by many names in SGGS.
This is achieved when self or own will is surrendered to God’s Will
(Bhana or Hukam Rzaee) .
Only God’s Will remains when the human soul is united with the
Supreme Soul (Param-atma) . That state of God union and
God experience is achievable in this life.
Through such realisation and surrender of self to His Will, my
experience of life also becomes His experience through me . My
pain or pleasure become His, in His Will.
My birth was in His Will . When the time comes, my death too will be
by His Will .
Meanwhile, knowing that He is with me all the time in every
situation, through pain and pleasure, suffering and in comfort
, I remain in positive spirit through constant God-awareness.
That is the concept of “ascending energy”, or charrdi kalaa,
in Sikhi acquired through constant God awareness (Naam
simran) while seeking the good of all
Human life is an opportunity to harmonise human experience with God
experience and remove the apparent duality between the two; so that,
ultimately, only God experience remains . So that only God, the
Timeless Creator Being, is experiencing Own creation through the
human body and mind experience. Only His Name - His
qualities described by numerous names - remains and “my name”
is no more .
To stress: human experience becomes God’s Own experience through the
human mind and body. For the human being this is achievement
of the state of sehaj avastha or Sehaj anand (state
of equipoise, equanimity and ultimate bliss) in all situations and
life experiences . Being equanimous in pain and comfort, a Gurmukh
(Guru-ward person) remains positive (in charrdee kala)
and detached from joy or sorrow .
Human experience is God experience and human suffering is part of
Experience of both, pain and comfort, or, suffering and
happiness (dukh and sukh) are seen as human
experiences leading to the same of ultimate surrender of self to the
Will of the Creator, Timeless Being (Karta, and Akal
If comfort and pleasure leads the human mind away from the goal of
human life, then pain can be the cure for that disease (rog)
The Sikh view is that after countless lower life forms (chavraasi
lakh joon) which took the soul through the evolutionary
process, human life (manas janam) was achieved . Human
life is at the top rung of the ladder of evolution.
Human life is a rare opportunity to experience God awareness.
Human life, at the top rung of the evolutionary ladder of
life, offers the opportunity to evolve further and merge human
experience with God experience, so that self-consciousness is no
more and the human being attains and remains in a state of God
experience, through pain and comfort.
A Sikh attains and remains in a state of charrdi kalaa
through constant God remembrance (Naam simran) while living a
full life of a householder. Pain and pleasure are not his or
her’s; but God’s in God’s Will (Bhana).
In Sikh tradition, Sikh martyrs willingly accepted physical pain
inflicted by oppressive regimes while fearlessly resisting injustice
and religious bigotry. None is recorded in Sikh history as
even contemplating taking own life. They always remained in charrdi
kalaa (positive spirit).
When the duality between self awareness and the God experience is
removed then self is no more. There is only the One Creator Being,
the Timeless Being, experiencing everything through each and every
human experience. Any cause for despair and depression is removed by
acceptance of Bhana (His Will).
Sikh tradition started during the Guru period, cares for the needy
and the sick and provides relief from pain with the use of medicine.
There is some evidence that the Guru’s not only provided hospitals,
but also searched far and wide and kept the most advanced medicines.
Sikhi supports medical research. Helping those who are not well and
providing relief from pain is part of Sikh tradition.
Current debate about legalising mercy killing or assisted dying.
I quote Lord Indarjit Singh with appreciation, “Sikhs accept that
life is a gift of God to be cherished and preserved wherever
possible, but we are also required to bear in mind the important
Sikh teaching of compassion, dignity and care for the suffering.
These two considerations are not necessarily incompatible.” (See
below web link for his full speech in the House of Lords on 12
In addition to obvious physical reasons to do with the discomfort of
ageing, physical disability, suffering from some incurable disease
or terminal illness, prolonged pain etc, there are often mental and
emotional reasons why a person would wish to end own life.
Modern life is full of stress due to the rat-race to do well
materially. The peer pressure and the competition to succeed is
intense. We have a crowded world and rapid advances in science,
technology and information technology. Sometimes, the human mind is
unable to cope with all that is going on around us. That leads
to mental disorder, depression and suicidal tendencies.
The quality of social life is poor and becoming worse each day. In
industrialized wealthy countries, human beings are more like moving
parts in large machines. They are not motivated from within to
pursue creative activities while remaining close to nature and God,
but by the requirements of the suffocating modern business-centred
It may even be argued that the root cause of some world conflicts
identified with religious ideologies, is, in fact, an expression
of dissatisfaction with modern living. It is a form of
mental illness which expresses itself in suicidal
Whatever the cause, the trend to legalized assisted dying is a
slippery and dangerous slope. As discussed in the first part, Sikh
ideology gives very clear pointers to what can be done to educate
and motivate aimless lives to understand and serve the purpose of
human birth (manas janam).
There are advances in medical science which offer pain relief and
cure. Old age is not a burden on anyone. No matter what the
physical condition; old age can be a blessing for the family and the
Society. By their very presence, elderly parents keep families
together and are able to contribute to society though knowledge and
experience of a life time. Advances in physical care lessen the
burden of physical management of elderly people.
There are too many flaws and even risks in the argument that an
individual has the “right to die” promoted by some politicians
and organizations like “EXIT”.
God gave us human life and only God has the “right” to take it away.
No one has the “right” to take it away .
Providing medicinal or surgical relief from pain, psychological
treatment, and not prolonging life artificially can be distinguished
from the act of ending life –assisted or by self.
Otherwise, God’s Will (Bhana) and human surrender to that
Will; and acceptance of pain and pleasure as part of life in His
Will, is the Sikh way (Sikhi).
The societal dangers of legalizing assisted dying are only too
obvious. These have been well expressed by Lord Indarjit Singh and
In conclusion, Sikhs would support the line taken by Lord Indarjit
Singh which he summarized as follows, “In summary, while we should
always be on our guard against the notion of individual autonomy
trivialising life, we need to recognise that, from an individual’s
perspective, life can become pretty intolerable and there is an
argument for helping to end it in strictly controlled circumstances.
The danger is that, if we go down this path, it could itself be a
slippery slope to trivialising life, altering the very ethos on
which medical care is provided.”
Not assisted dying, but Guru-guided living, is the Sikh way.
Further Reading -
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quotations from this article
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