Guru Granth Sahib on family life

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Sikh mother with her 6 sons and 1 daughter

Guru Nanak stressed the importance of the "way of the householder" as the ideal pattern of life for the seeker of liberation, rejecting the ascetic alternative. He himself lead a family life, was married and went onto have a family who performed very well the tasks expected of them in society.

All his successors upheld the same ideal of normal family life, expressing it in their own lives as well as in their teachings. The third Guru, Amar Das (1479–1574) proclaimed: "Family life is superior to ascetic life in sectarian garb because it is from householders that ascetics meet their needs by begging" (AG, p. 586). To understand the family relationships, caste and gender issues need to be addressed from the Sikh perspective.


Accordingly, the Guru Granth Sahib provides support for the institute of family; the holy Granth advocates the performing of mutual duties and responsibilities in the family setting. One needs to stay "detached" yet distribute love, affection and hard labour to make the environment pleasant and endearing to the raising of children and the protection of parents and grand parents. The family unit is the basic unit of a Sikh society.

The Guru tells us: "...immersed in family life, the Lord's humble servant ever remains detached; he reflects upon the essence of spiritual wisdom" (SGGS p 599). One needs to play their full part in the family by exercising their full commitment to this noble establishment; to be full immersed in this social nucleus but at the same time to be detached so that the emotional entanglements do not spin out of control; every person in the family has duties and obligations to others in the unit just as the others have reciprocal duties and obligation to their opposites.

It is better to be a householder

The Sikh Gurus did away with the long established tradition of Sannyasa (meaning "renunciation" or "abandonment") and did not recommend the way of the recluse as the best way to connect with God; the Guru said, "instead of wearing these beggar's robes, it is better to be a householder, and give to others" (SGGS p 587).

The way of the householder was deemed better by the Gurus and all the Guru followed this route in their own personal lives. The holy Granth warns the wondering recluse - "You have not cleansed the filth from within yourself, although outwardly, you wear the dress of a renunciate. In the heart-lotus of your self, you have not recognized God - why have you become a Sannyaasee?(1)" (SGGS p 525). The path of family life is route recommended by the Guru Granth Sahib.

However, when living as a householder, one needs to exercise certain special type of "detachment" which the Guru express here - "As the lotus flower floats unaffected in the water, so does he remain detached in his own household" (SGGS p 949). So living in the family life still remain clear of the entrapment of the world - the filth in the muddy water and rise above the muddy water into the sky and endow the pure values of Dharm (or righteousness); stay clear of the five passion that accompany you everywhere; stay aloof of the emotional jungle and keep your mind clear, pure and alert. That's the way of the Sikh!

Within the family remain in Samadhi

While living as a family member, the Guru tell us to floats above the negativity which is compared to the muddy water and remain detached. Within the family attain a state of peace or Samadhi thus "In their own household and family, they are in natural Samaadhi" (SGGS p 1246). When living as a householder, one has to take advise and learn from the Guru. The Guru tells us to discard the Five evils - sexual desire, anger, greed, emotional attachment and egotism and live with the positive virtues of Truth , Contentment, Compassion, Humility and Love.

Then in the company of Sadh Sangat - holy congregation one can focus on love and remain balanced thus - "Meet with the Saints of the Lord, and focus your love; remain balanced and detached within your own household.(1)(Pause)" (SGGS p 1246)

What Gurbani tells us

ਗਿਰਹੀ ਮਹਿ ਸਦਾ ਹਰਿ ਜਨ ਉਦਾਸੀ ਗਿਆਨ ਤਤ ਬੀਚਾਰੀ ॥ ਸਤਿਗ੝ਰ੝ ਸੇਵਿ ਸਦਾ ਸ੝ਖ੝ ਪਾਇਆ ਹਰਿ ਰਾਖਿਆ ਉਰ ਧਾਰੀ ॥੨॥
Girhī mėh saḝĝ har jan uḝĝsī gi▫ĝn ṯaṯ bīcẖĝrī. Saṯgur sev saḝĝ sukẖ pĝ▫i▫ĝ har rĝkẖi▫ĝ ur ḝẖĝrī. (2)
Immersed in family life, the Lord's humble servant ever remains detached; he reflects upon the essence of spiritual wisdom.

Serving the True Guru, he finds eternal peace, and he keeps the Lord enshrined in his heart. (2)

ਮਨਹਠਿ ਜਿਸ ਤੇ ਮੰਗਣਾ ਲੈਣਾ ਦ੝ਖ੝ ਮਨਾਇ ॥ ਇਸ੝ ਭੇਖੈ ਥਾਵਹ੝ ਗਿਰਹੋ ਭਲਾ ਜਿਥਹ੝ ਕੋ ਵਰਸਾਇ ॥ ਸਬਦਿ ਰਤੇ ਤਿਨਾ ਸੋਝੀ ਪਈ ਦੂਜੈ ਭਰਮਿ ਭ੝ਲਾਇ ॥
Manhaṯẖ jis ṯe mangṇĝ laiṇĝ ḝukẖ manĝ▫e. Is bẖekẖai thĝvhu girho bẖalĝ jithahu ko varsĝ▫e. Sabaḝ raṯe ṯinĝ sojẖī pa▫ī ḝūjai bẖaram bẖulĝ▫e.
With his stubborn mind, he begs, and grabs, and annoys those who give.

Instead of wearing these beggar's robes, it is better to be a householder, and give to others. Those who are attuned to the Word of the Shabad, acquire understanding; the others wander, deluded by doubt.

ਆਪ੝ ਨ ਚੀਨਹਿ ਤਾਮਸੀ ਕਾਹੇ ਭਝ ਉਦਾਸਾ ॥੫॥ ਇਕਿ ਬਿੰਦ੝ ਜਤਨ ਕਰਿ ਰਾਖਦੇ ਸੇ ਜਤੀ ਕਹਾਵਹਿ ॥ ਬਿਨ੝ ਗ੝ਰ ਸਬਦ ਨ ਛੂਟਹੀ ਭ੝ਰਮਿ ਆਵਹਿ ਜਾਵਹਿ ॥੬॥
Āp na cẖīnėh ṯĝmsī kĝhe bẖa▫e uḝĝsĝ.(5) Ik binḝ jaṯan kar rĝkẖ▫ḝe se jaṯī kahĝvėh. Bin gur sabaḝ na cẖẖūthī bẖaram ĝvahi jĝvėh.(6)
The unenlightened people do not understand themselves - why have they become renunciates? (5)

Some control their sexual energy, and are known as celibates. But without the Guru's Word, they are not saved, and they wander in reincarnation.(6)

ਤਿਸ੝ ਕਾਰਣਿ ਕੰਮ੝ ਨ ਧੰਧਾ ਨਾਹੀ ਧੰਧੈ ਗਿਰਹੀ ਜੋਗੀ ॥੫॥ ਕਾਮ੝ ਕ੝ਰੋਧ੝ ਅਹੰਕਾਰ੝ ਤਜੀਅਲੇ ਲੋਭ੝ ਮੋਹ੝ ਤਿਸ ਮਾਇਆ ॥ ਮਨਿ ਤਤ੝ ਅਵਿਗਤ੝ ਧਿਆਇਆ ਗ੝ਰ ਪਰਸਾਦੀ ਪਾਇਆ ॥੬॥
Ŧis kĝraṇ kamm na ḝẖanḝẖĝ nĝhī ḝẖanḝẖai girhī jogī.(5) Kĝm kroḝẖ ahaʼnkĝr ṯajī▫ale lobẖ moh ṯis mĝ▫i▫ĝ. Man ṯaṯ avigaṯ ḝẖi▫ĝ▫i▫ĝ gur parsĝdī pĝ▫i▫ĝ.(6)
He is not affected by actions, responsibilities and entanglements; in the entanglements of his household, he maintains the detachment of Yoga.(5)

He renounces sexual desire, anger, egotism, greed, attachment and Maya. Within his mind, he meditates on the reality of the Imperishable Lord; by Guru's Grace he finds Him.(6)

ਸੋ ਗਿਰਹੀ ਜੋ ਨਿਗ੝ਰਹ੝ ਕਰੈ ॥ ਜਪ੝ ਤਪ੝ ਸੰਜਮ੝ ਭੀਖਿਆ ਕਰੈ ॥ ਪ੝ੰਨ ਦਾਨ ਕਾ ਕਰੇ ਸਰੀਰ੝ ॥

ਸੋ ਗਿਰਹੀ ਗੰਗਾ ਕਾ ਨੀਰ੝ ॥ ਬੋਲੈ ਈਸਰ੝ ਸਤਿ ਸਰੂਪ੝ ॥ ਪਰਮ ਤੰਤ ਮਹਿ ਰੇਖ ਨ ਰੂਪ੝ ॥੨॥

So girhī jo nigarahu karai. Jap ṯap sanjam bẖīkẖi▫ĝ karai. Punn ḝĝn kĝ kare sarīr.

So girhī gangĝ kĝ nīr. Bolai īsar saṯ sarūp. Param ṯanṯ mėh rekẖ na rūp.(2)

He alone is a householder, who restrains his passions

and begs for meditation, austerity and self-discipline.
He gives donations to charity with his body; such a householder is as pure as the water of the Ganges.
Says Eeshar, the Lord is the embodiment of Truth. The supreme essence of reality has no shape or form. (2)

ਵਿਚੇ ਗਿਰਹ ਉਦਾਸ ਅਲਿਪਤ ਲਿਵ ਲਾਇਆ ॥ ਓਨਾ ਸੋਗ੝ ਵਿਜੋਗ੝ ਨ ਵਿਆਪਈ ਹਰਿ ਭਾਣਾ ਭਾਇਆ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਹਰਿ ਸੇਤੀ ਸਦਾ ਰਵਿ ਰਹੇ ਧ੝ਰਿ ਲਝ ਮਿਲਾਇਆ ॥੩੧॥
vicẖe girah uḝĝs alipaṯ liv lĝ▫i▫ĝ. Onĝ sog vijog na vi▫ĝpa▫ī har bẖĝṇĝ bẖĝ▫i▫ĝ. Nĝnak har seṯī saḝĝ rav rahe ḝẖur la▫e milĝ▫i▫ĝ.(31)
In the midst of their household, they remain detached; they are lovingly attuned to the Detached Lord.

Sorrow and separation do not cling to them at all. They are pleased with the Lord's Will.
O Nanak, they remain forever immersed in the Primal Lord, who blends them with Himself.(31)

More Gurbani

1. Guru Arjun Dev ji says about an ideal family on page (Ang) 371 where the pivot in family is good natured lady.

"She is blessed with thirty two qualities and truthful and unblemished in her progeny .She is obedient ,sagacious and beauteous.She fulfills the wishes of the heart of her groom,the Lord.She has soothed ,in every way ,her husbands's younger brother's wife and her husbands's elder brother's wife.In all the family ,she is the noblest.She is the counselor of her husband's younger brother and elder brother.Blessed is the house,where she has really entered because she abides in peace and bliss"

2. Guru Ram Dass says on Page 1200

"Why O son,you quarrel with your father? It is a sin to quarrel with him who begot you and brought you up"

3. Guru Nanak says on page 433

"One simple plan to make our family happier is to learn and practice to control Kam, Krodh, Lobh, Moh and Hankar in our lives.By controlling Kam one becomes a viritous person , controlling Krodh one becomes a fighter to fight only against injustice, controlling Lobh one acquires the qualiy of contentment, Controlling Moh one learns to practice True love and by controlling Hankar one acquires the quality of self esteem with humility "

4. On page 64

"Beholding your family ,you are lured away by emotional attachment ,but when you leave,they will not go with you."

5. On page 70

"They drown themselves,and drown their entire family,speaking lies,they eat poison."

6. On page 70

"When you are wrapped up in the attachment of household and family,sometimes feeling joy and then other time sorrow."

Thus Family in Sikhism is framed as per the guidelines laid down by SGGS.

See also