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MOH (Gurmukhi: ਮੋਹ) in Punjabi means attachment to worldly things and relations; this is one of the five evils of the human mind recognised by the Sikh Gurus; the other four evils of the mind are: Kam or lust, Krodh or rage/anger, Lobh or greed and Ahankar or ego/pride.
The word is derived from Sanskrit root "muh" meaning “to become stupefied, to be bewildered or perplexed, to err, to be mistaken,” stands in ancient texts for perplexity or confusion as also for the cause of confusion, that is, avidya or ajnana (ignorance or illusion).
In another context, it stands for “the snare of worldly illusion; infatuation.” Its function is twofold: it bedims the discernment of truth, prevents the discernment of reality, and it creates an error of judgement or leads to wrong knowledge (mithya jnana). Men believe in an eternal reality of their own existence or ego; they see truth in what is false and seek happiness in what begets suffering.
What does Gurbani say?
In Punjabi Moh generally means unshakeable and deep love of and attachment to worldly things and relations. In Sikh Scripture, the term frequently occurs coupled with maya (maia) as maya-moh interpreted both as infatuation for or clinging to the illusory world of the senses and as illusion of worldly love and attachment. Sikh interpretation of maya, however, differs from that of classical, advaita philosophy, which considers the phenomenal world unreal and therefore an illusion caused by human ignorance.
|ਪੰਕਜੁ ਮੋਹ ਪਗੁ ਨਹੀ ਚਾਲੈ ਹਮ ਦੇਖਾ ਤਹ ਡੂਬੀਅਲੇ ॥੧॥ |
पंकजढ़ मोह पगढ़ नही चालै हम देखा तह डूबीअले ॥१॥
|Pankaj moh pag nahī cẖĝlai ham ḝekẖĝ ṯah dūbī▫ale. (1)|
|In the swamp of emotional attachment, their feet cannot move. I have seen them drowning there. (1)|
Here 'Moh' is compare to a person stuck in a muddy swamp where he or she is unable to move their feet' hence they drown. This is what this attachment to worldly goods and relations can lead a person. The asks us to do all the good deeds in this world but without this attachment; do good as your duty to God and His creation, not for the emotions entanglements with the world.
The World is God's play
In Sikhism, the visible world is a manifestation of God Himself and is therefore real; yet it is not satya or true in the sense of being immutable and eternal. This world of mass, form and movement woven into the warp and woof of time and space is God’s play created at His pleasure and is as such real and sacred; but it represents only one transient aspect and not the Ultimate Reality. Maya is not an illusion in the sense of a mirage, a factual nullity; it is a delusion which represents transient as permanent and a part as the whole.
Moh for maya or 'attachment to the world', i.e. for this transient world of the senses and pleasures, hinders the soul’s search for its ultimate goal and is, therefore, one of the Five Evils as it stops us progressing spiritually.
It is related, on the one hand, to kam (desire, love) and lobh (possessiveness, covetousness) and, on the other, to [[[ahankar]] (sense of I, my and mine). That is how 'moh' has been referred to as a net, 'maiajal' (GG, 266).
|ਛੂਟਸਿ ਨਾਹੀ ਊਭ ਪਇਆਲਿ ॥ ਮੋਹਿ ਬਿਆਪਹਿ ਮਾਇਆ ਜਾਲਿ ॥|
छूटसि नाही ऊभ पइआलि ॥ मोहि बिआपहि माइआ जालि ॥
|Cẖẖūtas nāhī ūbẖ pa▫i▫āl. Mohi bi▫āpahi mā▫i▫ā jāl.|
|You cannot escape to the heavens, or to the nether regions,|
if you are entangled in emotional attachment and the net of Maya.
Guru Nanak advises shedding of 'moh' as it is the source of all evil and a cause for repeated births and deaths. (GG, 356).
|ਏਤੁ ਮੋਹਿ ਫਿਰਿ ਜੂਨੀ ਪਾਹਿ ॥|
एतु मोहि फिरि जूनी पाहि ॥
|Ėṯ mohi fir jūnī pāhi.|
|In this attachment, people are reincarnated over and over again.|
Non-attachment is not the answer!
The antidote to moh is non-attachment. This is not easy, for the Gurus preach active participation in life rather than renunciation and escapism. Ultimately, of course, all depends on nadar or God’s grace. Says Guru Nanak “nadari kare ta ehu mohu jai—by (His) grace alone will this moh be cancelled” (GG, 356).
|ਨਦਰਿ ਕਰੇ ਤਾ ਏਹੁ ਮੋਹੁ ਜਾਇ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਹਰਿ ਸਿਉ ਰਹੈ ਸਮਾਇ ॥੬॥੨੩॥ |
नदरि करे ता झहढ़ मोहढ़ जाइ ॥ नानक हरि सिउ रहै समाइ ॥६॥२३॥
|Naḏar kare ṯā ehu moh jā▫e. Nānak har si▫o rahai samā▫e. (6)(23)|
|But if He bestows His Glance of Grace, then this attachment departs.
O Nanak, then one remains merged in the Lord. (6)(23)
Understanding the "real" nature of the world
The right remedy is the understanding (gian) that the mundane world, its relations and affairs, demanding one’s participation and involvement are transient. Non-attachment thus is not non-action, but an attitude to action characterized by Guru Nanak as that of a 'bajigar', participant in a sport.
The world, says Guru Nanak in a hymn in Raga Maru measure, “is like a seasonal pastureland where one passeth but a few days. . . Like the 'bajigar' (juggler) one plays one’s part here and departs” (GG, 1023).
ਐਥੈ ਗੋਇਲੜਾ ਦਿਨ ਚਾਰੇ ॥ ਖੇਲੁ ਤਮਾਸਾ ਧੁੰਧੂਕਾਰੇ ॥ ਬਾਜੀ ਖੇਲਿ ਗਏ ਬਾਜੀਗਰ ਜਿਉ ਨਿਸਿ ਸੁਪਨੈ ਭਖਲਾਈ ਹੇ ॥੯॥
|Aithai go▫ilṛā ḏin cẖāre. Kẖel ṯamāsā ḏẖunḏẖūkāre. Bājī kẖel ga▫e bājīgar ji▫o nis supnai bẖakẖlā▫ī he. (9)|
|In this green pasture, the mortal stays only a few days. He plays and frolics in utter darkness.|
The jugglers have staged their show, and left, like people mumbling in a dream. (9)
Most people, the Guru tells us, spent their time on Earth in "complete darkness" about its real purpose and "when the show is over, depart." In the next tuk (line), the Guru tells how one can make the journey of life more meaningful. They alone are blessed, who adopt the Almighty Lord in "their minds" and "centre on Him"; there is a need to remember the Lord and meditate on Him, so that the true purpose of this journey on Earth is realised.
|ਤਿਨ ਕਉ ਤਖਤਿ ਮਿਲੀ ਵਡਿਆਈ ॥ ਨਿਰਭਉ ਮਨਿ ਵਸਿਆ ਲਿਵ ਲਾਈ ॥ ਖੰਡੀ ਬ੍ਰਹਮੰਡੀ ਪਾਤਾਲੀ ਪੁਰੀਈ ਤ੍ਰਿਭਵਣ ਤਾੜੀ ਲਾਈ ਹੇ ॥੧੦॥ |
तिन कउ तखति मिली वडिआई ॥ निरभउ मनि वसिआ लिव लाई ॥ खंडी बढ़रहमंडी पाताली पढ़रीई तढ़रिभवण ताड़ी लाई हे ॥१०॥
|Ŧin ka▫o ṯakẖaṯ milī vadi▫ā▫ī. Nirbẖa▫o man vasi▫ā liv lā▫ī. Kẖandī barahmandī pāṯālī purī▫ī ṯaribẖavaṇ ṯāṛī lā▫ī he.(10)|
|They alone are blessed with glorious greatness at the Lord's throne,|
who enshrine the fearless Lord in their minds, and lovingly center themselves on Him.
An image in gurbani describing the ideal life is that of the lotus which, although living in water, keeps its head above it without allowing itself to be submerged.
- 1. Sabadarth Sri Guru Granth Sahib. Amritsar, 1969
- 2. Avtar Singh, Ethics of the Sikhs. Patiala, 1970
- 3. Sher Singh, The Philosophy of Sikhism. Lahore, 1944
Above adapted from article By L. M. Joshi
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