What is cruelty? Cruelty is any act that causes distress, discomfort, pain and/or suffering to a living organism. It does not always involve violence although most people associate violence with acts of cruelty - this does not always follow. One can be cruel without using violence.
Any act of mercilessness, pitilessness and ruthlessness done without any feelings of kindness in ones heart; a feelings of extreme and complete heartlessness is termed cruel. Any act of harshness, brutality or barbarousness on any living being causing it to suffer tension, annoyance, discomfort, irritation and/or pain is termed cruel.
Guru Nanak's message
In Sikhi cruelty is not permitted; it is an aspect of human life that has been addressed very clearly by the Sikh Gurus. "Cruelty, material attachment, greed and anger are the four rivers of fire. Falling into them, one is burnt, O Nanak!" (SGGS p 147).
If anyone wants to follow the Sikh way, they must discard cruelty, material attachment, greed and anger otherwise they will end up getting burnt! What is the point of living a life where in the end you are thrown into the fire!
So don't be a Manmukh (ego-centric, self willed person) but follow the Guru's instruction and become Gurmukh; follow the well thought out instructions of the wise Guru! The Guru tells us, "The hearts of the self-willed manmukhs are hard and cruel; their inner beings are dark. Even if the poisonous snake is fed large amounts of milk, it will still yield only poison." (SGGS p 171)
Remove that "hardness" and "darkness" in your heart and become pure and pristine; discard the negative features in your personality and adopt a path of righteousness bringing peace to your life. Don't be like a snake which even when fed with pure life-giving milk (considered sacred by some cultures) still indiscriminately yield deadly life-destroying poison!
Why are people cruel?
Sacred Gurbani tells us that it is those who do not realise the existence of the Divine who display cruelty. Those who understand the ways of the Divine do not harbour cruelty in their hearts. The Gurbani line, "He takes the intoxicating drugs of cruelty and corruption, and is plundered. He is not conscious of the Creator Lord God." (SGGS p 1229) makes is clear that cruelty is a litmus test of ones distance away from God.
The more cruelty that a person display, the further he or she is from true religion and from the way of the Infinite Soul. So go on, apply this litmus test on your own actions! How much do you hurt others? Why do you do it? Don't you realise that God is in all?
Step on the correct path now; discard the cancer of cruelty that resides in your heart; walk on the path of the tall ones like Guru Nanak, Baba Farid, Bhagat Namdev and the like! Don't associate with the ugly ones and don't follow the path trampled by the likes of Hitler, the Mughals, the Taliban and many many more like them. Who will you walk with on this journey to the Almighty? Whose path Nanak or Hitler?
Importance of discarding cruelty
If you wish to make your life on this planet meaningful and purposeful, then you must discard your cruel ways. Don't ever do anything to harm or disturb others; bear kindness in your heart at all times.
Without tackling the evils in our hearts, we cannot progress in our spiritual life; only if we get rid of our evil ways can we obtain contentment in our minds. Gurbani informs us, "So slaughter your evil nature, doubt and cruelty; consume the five demons and you shall be blessed with contentment." (SGGS p 1158) So do away with the demons within you to progress on the path of Sikhi!
However, the Guru warns us, "Some have cruelty in their hearts - they constantly act in cruelty; as they plant, so are the fruits which they eat." (SGGS p 302) Don't fall into this trap. Ones cruel acts will result in "pay back time" - this is the way of the Lord - What you sow you will have to reap. So refrain from doing nasty things!
If you do not heed to this warning, then the Guru tells us in clear terms that you will be committed to perpetual cycle of painful life and death thus: "Intoxicated with the taste of corruption, cruel pleasures and countless sins, he is consigned to the cycle of reincarnation." (SGGS p 615)
The way forward
Place this beautiful and priceless tuk (verse) of the Guru in a prominent location deep in your heart; remember it always; never forget it and the Divine will bring peace to your life; sadness and doubt will disappear from your life.
"When one's light merges into the Light, and one's intuitive consciousness is joined with the Intuitive Consciousness, then one's cruel and violent instincts and egotism depart, and scepticism and sorrow are taken away. The Lord abides within the mind of the Gurmukh, who merges in the Lord's Union..." (SGGS p 21)
Walk with the Tall ones
Take into your heart the purity of the Lord's Light, discard forever your cruel instincts, embrace kindness and mercy; throw away the ego which gives the 'me' in you undue importance; realise the greatness of the Divine and enjoy continuously the sparkling delights of the Almighty day and night, "Hundreds of thousands, even millions of pleasures and delights are enjoyed by one who falls at the Guru's Feet." (SGGS p 101)
Why don't you, beautiful soul of the Divine, fall at the feet of the Pure one? Listen to the Guru; change your path; direct yourself to the right path to your Eternal Home. Join the Sadh Sangat, the true and pure travellers on the path of the Lord, sing the songs of the True One; for nothing else with be your help in the end; only the Lord will be your saviour; your friend and your helper; follow only on His path; discard all other ways!
Background of Sikhi values
Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh faith built the religion on the firm foundation of Sewa (selfless service) and Simran (meditation). On this bedrock stand the three pillars of - Naam Japna (focus on God), Kirat Karni (honest living) and Vand Chakna (sharing with others) with the support of which one is able to follow the path of righteousness and become a better and more spiritually concious human being.
The Guru further asked his Sikhs (disciples/students) to focus their efforts on evolving various positive traits by adhering to the following virtues - Sat (Truth), Santokh (Contentment), Daya (Compassion and kindness), Nimrata (Humility) and Pyare (Love). The founder Guru also asked the Sikh to shun various negative human vices; one of these vices is cruelty to others. He asked his Sikhs to be ever kind and polite to all and to never practise cruelty.
What to do?
What do I do to improve my life and live a better life of higher consciousness? The Guru has guidance for us; some instructions are direct and some indirect. The Guru says: "One who eradicates cruelty from within his own mind, looks upon all the world as his friend." (SGGS p 266)
When you see all the world as your friend then you are moving in the correct direction; Further, "Let the Fear of God be your food, drink and support." (SGGS p 151) - Keep the thought of the Lord in your mind and fear of the Infinite One!
Together with the fear of the Divine, by singing the soothing Gurbani Shabads, your "stone heart" will become softer and then peace and joy will enter it thus: "O Shaykh, abandon your cruel nature; live in the Fear of God and give up your madness. Through the Fear of the Guru, many have been saved; in this fear, find the Fearless Lord. Pierce your stone heart with the Word of the Shabad; let peace and tranquillity come to abide in your mind. If good deeds are done in this state of peace, they are approved by the Lord and Master." (SGGS p 551)
One who then continues to do good deed in this state, enters the realm of the Lord; your mind will then abide in perpetual peace and tranquillity; nothing will be able to disturb this state of bliss in the state Nirvana.
What Gurbani tells us:
Cruelty ..... is a river of fire
In the following Shabad, Guru Sahib informs the Sikhs of the importance of keeping away from four negative human traits - cruelty, material attachment, greed and anger. Anyone who fails to do so will be burnt by the consequences! Guru Sahib asks the devotee to practise good deeds and actions and that only then can one be saved from the fires of hell!
|ਹੰਸੁ ਹੇਤੁ ਲੋਭੁ ਕੋਪੁ ਚਾਰੇ ਨਦੀਆ ਅਗਿ ॥ ਪਵਹਿ ਦਝਹਿ ਨਾਨਕਾ ਤਰੀਐ ਕਰਮੀ ਲਗਿ ॥੨॥|
|Hans hėṯ lobẖ kop cẖārė naḏīā ag. Paveh ḏajẖeh nānkā ṯarīai karmī lag. ॥2॥|
|Cruelty, material attachment, greed and anger are the four rivers of fire.|
Falling into them, one is burned, O Nanak! One is saved only by holding tight to good deeds. ॥2॥
Abandon your cruel nature
This beautiful Shabad by the third master, Guru Amar Das, is telling the mind to let go of the "inner harshness/force" - (ਅੰਦਰਹੁ is anḏrahu which means "from the inside"; ਜੋਰੁ is jor which means "force") - Let go of this inner harshness/ cruelty; have fear of the Lord and relinquish your madness. By reciting the word of the Shabad - Gurbani, peace and tranquillity will come to your mind; and any good deeds and actions done in this state of mind will be approved by the Lord. So, the Guru is asking the devotee to change the state of the mind and become humble and tranquil thus:
|ਸਲੋਕ ਮਃ ੩ ॥|
ਸੇਖਾ ਅੰਦਰਹੁ ਜੋਰੁ ਛਡਿ ਤੂ ਭਉ ਕਰਿ ਝਲੁ ਗਵਾਇ ॥ ਗੁਰ ਕੈ ਭੈ ਕੇਤੇ ਨਿਸਤਰੇ ਭੈ ਵਿਚਿ ਨਿਰਭਉ ਪਾਇ ॥
ਮਨੁ ਕਠੋਰੁ ਸਬਦਿ ਭੇਦਿ ਤੂੰ ਸਾਂਤਿ ਵਸੈ ਮਨਿ ਆਇ ॥ ਸਾਂਤੀ ਵਿਚਿ ਕਾਰ ਕਮਾਵਣੀ ਸਾ ਖਸਮੁ ਪਾਏ ਥਾਇ ॥
ਨਾਨਕ ਕਾਮਿ ਕ੍ਰੋਧਿ ਕਿਨੈ ਨ ਪਾਇਓ ਪੁਛਹੁ ਗਿਆਨੀ ਜਾਇ ॥੧॥
|Salok mehlā 3.|
Sėkẖā anḏrahu jor cẖẖad ṯū bẖao kar jẖal gavāė. Gur kai bẖai kėṯė nisṯarė bẖai vicẖ nirbẖao pāė.
Man kaṯẖor sabaḏ bẖėḏ ṯūŉ sāŉṯ vasai man āė. Sāŉṯī vicẖ kār kamāvṇī sā kẖasam pāė thāė.
Nānak kām kroḏẖ kinai na pāio pucẖẖahu giānī jāė. (1)
|Shalok, Third Mehl:|
O Shaykh, abandon your cruel nature; live in the Fear of God and give up your madness.
Through the Fear of the Guru, many have been saved; in this fear, find the Fearless Lord.
Cruelty has not left you ... why?
Bhagat Parmanand tells us to discard cruelty and embrace kindness for other living being otherwise this lifetime will be wasted. Maharaj says that without good deeds and remembrance of the Lord, this priceless jewel of a life is lost for a shell. Keep company of the wise and holy and learn the lesson of Gurmat.
|ਹਿੰਸਾ ਤਉ ਮਨ ਤੇ ਨਹੀ ਛੂਟੀ ਜੀਅ ਦਇਆ ਨਹੀ ਪਾਲੀ ॥ ਪਰਮਾਨੰਦ ਸਾਧਸੰਗਤਿ ਮਿਲਿ ਕਥਾ ਪੁਨੀਤ ਨ ਚਾਲੀ ॥੩॥੧॥੬॥|
|Hinsā ṯao man ṯė nahī cẖẖūtī jīa ḏaiā nahī pālī. Parmānanḏ sāḏẖsangaṯ mil kathā punīṯ na cẖālī.((3)(1)(6))|
|Cruelty has not left your mind; you have not cherished kindness for other living beings.|
Parmaanand has joined the Saadh Sangat, the Company of the Holy. Why have you not followed the sacred teachings?((3)(1)(6))
cruel-minded .... shall suffer in pain
Although in this shabad, the Guru is referring to "cruel-minded rulers", this verse applies to any person in a dominant position. If because of that honoured position, which you have obtained due to your past good deeds and karmas, you practise cruelty on your subordinates, then be warned, the Guru promises you suffering in pain for a very long time. Take heed; listen to Gurbani and amend your ways; have mercy in your mind; see the God's light in all; be kind and considerate! - Don't be cruel to anyone.
|ਦਾਨੰ ਪਰਾ ਪੂਰਬੇਣ ਭੁੰਚੰਤੇ ਮਹੀਪਤੇ ॥ ਬਿਪਰੀਤ ਬੁਧ੍ਯ੍ਯੰ ਮਾਰਤ ਲੋਕਹ ਨਾਨਕ ਚਿਰੰਕਾਲ ਦੁਖ ਭੋਗਤੇ ॥੨੪॥|
|Ḏānaŉ parā pūrbėṇ bẖuŉcẖanṯė mahīpaṯė. Biprīṯ buḏẖyaŉ māraṯ lokah Nānak cẖirankāl ḏukẖ bẖogṯė. (24)|
|The kings of the earth are eating up the blessings of the good karma of their past lives.|
Those cruel-minded rulers who oppress the people, O Nanak, shall suffer in pain for a very long time. (24)
Manmukhs are hard and cruel
|ਮਨਮੁਖ ਹੀਅਰਾ ਅਤਿ ਕਠੋਰੁ ਹੈ ਤਿਨ ਅੰਤਰਿ ਕਾਰ ਕਰੀਠਾ ॥ ਬਿਸੀਅਰ ਕਉ ਬਹੁ ਦੂਧੁ ਪੀਆਈਐ ਬਿਖੁ ਨਿਕਸੈ ਫੋਲਿ ਫੁਲੀਠਾ ॥੩॥|
|Manmukẖ hīarā aṯ kaṯẖor hai ṯin anṯar kār karīṯẖā. Bisīar kao baho ḏūḏẖ pīāīai bikẖ niksai fol fuṯẖīlā.(3)|
|The hearts of the self-willed manmukhs are hard and cruel; their inner beings are dark.|
Even if the poisonous snake is fed large amounts of milk, it will still yield only poison.(3)
Eradicate cruelty .... world becomes a friend
|ਮਨ ਅਪੁਨੇ ਤੇ ਬੁਰਾ ਮਿਟਾਨਾ ॥ ਪੇਖੈ ਸਗਲ ਸ੍ਰਿਸਟਿ ਸਾਜਨਾ ॥|
|Man apunė ṯė burā mitānā. Pėkẖai sagal sarisat sājnā.|
|One who eradicates cruelty from within his own mind,|
looks upon all the world as his friend.
Practicing cruelty ... lost in darkness
|ਪਰ ਦ੍ਰੋਹ ਕਰਤ ਬਿਕਾਰ ਨਿੰਦਾ ਪਾਪ ਰਤ ਕਰ ਝਾਰ ॥ ਬਿਨਾ ਸਤਿਗੁਰ ਬੂਝ ਨਾਹੀ ਤਮ ਮੋਹ ਮਹਾਂ ਅੰਧਾਰ ॥੨॥|
ਬਿਖੁ ਠਗਉਰੀ ਖਾਇ ਮੂਠੋ ਚਿਤਿ ਨ ਸਿਰਜਨਹਾਰ ॥ ਗੋਬਿੰਦ ਗੁਪਤ ਹੋਇ ਰਹਿਓ ਨਿਆਰੋ ਮਾਤੰਗ ਮਤਿ ਅਹੰਕਾਰ ॥੩॥
|Par ḏaroh karaṯ bikār ninḏā pāp raṯ kar jẖār. Binā saṯgur būjẖ nāhī ṯam moh mahāŉ anḏẖār.(2)|
Bikẖ ṯẖagurī kẖāė mūṯẖo cẖiṯ na sirjanhār. Gobinḏ gupaṯ hoė rahio niāro māṯang maṯ ahaŉkār.(3)
|He practices fraud, cruelty and slander against others; he sins, and washes his hands.|
Without the True Guru, he has no understanding; he is lost in the utter darkness of anger and attachment.(2)