Sikh Views on Wealth and Poverty
In Sikhism, the concept of wealth and poverty is closely linked to social justice doctrine. In Punjab language, wealth is known as maya and according to the Punjab-English dictionary ‘maya’ means money, wealth.
The concept of wealth in Sikhism can be understood in 2 contexts which include an illusion and material wealth which is applied to describe essence of the world not only as real but impermanent. In Sikhism, there is absolutely nothing wrong with being wealthy what is condemned is egoistic nature and greed.
One is expected to always assist the needy and poor. The gurduwara is known a place where the poor can eat in the Sikhs home and those who are wealthy are expected to give at least one tenth f their annual earnings to charity.
Sikhs believe wealth is acceptable only if it is used for purposes of helping the people by giving them work and food. To a Sikh, hard work is also considered essential as such, not working and begging is considered selfish and lazy. The rich have the responsibility of looking after the poor. Guru Amar Das says ‘Blessed is the godly person and the riches they possess because they can be used for charitable purposes and to give happiness’
The greed and desire to accumulate more wealth is condemned by the Sikh. For instance, Guru Amar Das says, ‘mayadhari ut andha bola’ which translates to ‘the worshiper of maya/wealth is utterly blind and deaf’.
Guru Nanak expressed his attitude towards accumulation of wealth in a disparaging tone and said it is acquired by acts of high handedness and injustice.
He stated that is impossible to accumulate wealth without sins and yet the wealth does not accompany the accumulator upon his death. Poverty also known as gareebi literally denotes economic state of a poor person. In Sikhism, the concept of poverty/gareebi has been applied extensively as a denotation for humility.
The term is used for a meek and humble person and it is used by Guru Nanak proudly he says ‘main greeb main masken…tera naam hai adhara’ ( I am poor and humble, I have only support of your Naam. Guru Ajan has also used the term himself as he writers ‘For me, the meek one, the only true Support art Thou, O, my true Guru.
Traditionally, while the Gurus encouraged wealth creation, they rejected categorically any unethical means used to acquire wealth. They also uphold the notion of daswandh (reserving one tenth of an individual’s earnings for purposes of charity) which has became a central part of their traditions.
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