Sikh Dharam

Ethics and Behavior toward Animals

Authored by: Jagbir Jhutti-Johal

The Routledge Handbook of Religion and Animal Ethics

Print publication date:  October  2018
Online publication date:  September  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138592728
eBook ISBN: 9780429489846
Adobe ISBN:


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Sikh moral and ethical values are based on the idea of natural law – similar to the Roman Catholic idea of natural law – the way God wants the universe to work. The gurus engaged in discussions about matters such as obligations to society, to family and to God. These dialogues promoted strong ethical and moral values, which guided followers on how to live and behave in this world if they wished to achieve liberation from the cycle of birth and rebirth. Moral and ethical values regarding marriage and family are contained in stories and hymns within the Guru Granth Sahib, Dasam Granth, compositions of Bhai Gurdas, Janam-sakhis and Rahit-namas, and have been handed down from generation to generation and have been interpreted and formalized in the Rehat Maryada (Code of Conduct), which provides guidance on religious matters. These values have generally been adhered to but are being tested and changes have taken place in the realm of Sikh ethics and morality. There are many new modern issues that are confronting the Sikhs today, which have not been discussed in the Guru Granth Sahib, the ‘Eternal Guru’, but nevertheless through interpretation and analysis one can get guidance on how a Sikh should live in a world whose values and ethics are changing as a result of scientific advances and changes in social organization. There is not a single statement in the Guru Granth Sahib which could be interpreted to say this is what the Gurus said. As a result religious teachings contained within the Guru Granth Sahib are analysed and reassessed to get an understanding of what the Gurus would have thought. From the Guru Granth Sahib I will look at three concepts: Karma (reincarnation -‘reap what you sow’), Hukham (the will of God) and Sarbat da bhalla (wellbeing, peace and prosperity for all), and discuss how they are used to discuss the issue of animal ethics, particularly with reference to animal cruelty for medical advances and animal cruelty for cosmetics etc.

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