Suffering and the Problem of Evil
In one of his quatrains, Bhai Gurdas articulated the notion that suffering and self-sacrifice are a small price to pay for the ensured success of the community, and links liberation of the self to its ability to bear pain:
Cut every piece of my body: little nails on my feet to every limb
I give over my entire self to the Sikhs
Take every piece of me and burn it in a fire, grind it in a mill,
and let the ash fly in the wind, in every direction
Wherever the Sikhs' feet walk the Guru's path,
lay out my remains under them
Touching their feet, I will be forever engrossed
O! Compassionate and merciful ones, save this sinner thus! (Kabitt 672)
Elsewhere, Bhai Gurdas added that the pious are pure and caring, while it is the impious who commit unrighteous acts.
Whatever method one takes to respond to tyranny, whether humble submission or active revolt, a level of fearlessness is required. This fearlessness, itself a characteristic of the divine, will be bestowed by the divine on the devotee. Guru Nanak said that no one can scare the one who attains fearlessness through the Guru's word (GG 221). The ninth Guru, Guru Teg Bahadur (1621-1675), whose name means "Brave Swordsman," whose father girded two swords, and who himself was captured and executed by the Mughals, wrote that divine power is a blessing that can break all bonds and make anything possible to achieve (GG 1429).
In the modern era, there have been a number of Sikh individuals and organizations who have stood up on behalf of the uncared-for in society. For example, Bhagat Puran Singh (1904-1992) is considered the unsung Sikh equivalent of Mother Teresa, having established an orphanage and place of care for the disabled and destitute of Punjab. Today, Sikh hospitals, schools, and other organizations seek to alleviate the suffering of others. The institution of langar (free meals) at Sikh gurdwaras all over the world provides basic meals to the hungry.
1. What is the cause of suffering in Sikh thought?
2. What are the choices in the face of oppression?
3. How do Sikhs today deal with the problem of suffering?