3. Moh (attachment and delusion) | Five Evils | Sikhi

3. Moh (attachment and delusion)

Moh, as a propensity, is understood is two meanings, though both of them are inter-related:

The term is used to convey the sense of delusion, loss of consciousness, bewilderment, perplexity, error and folly. It is an inability to view the values in right perspective.

But it is also used in the sense of attachment with mundane things and in this meaning it seeks to convey attitude of the self.

In Buddhism, it is used to mean ignorance which is one of the three roots of vice. It is often used as moh jāla, that is, a net of illusion, mundane fascination.

In Sikhism this term conveys both of these senses, namely,

1. a sense of being cheated of consciousness (delusion)
2. as well as an attitude of attachment for the mundane.

In a way, delusion is more general and exhaustive in meaning and may include the attachment born out of wrong views.

It is the general view of the schools of philosophy in India, except Cārvāka, that the world is phenomenal and only relatively real, that is, it is non-permanent and, therefore, any attachment to it, in the sense of taking it to be the reality, is evil.

The central theme of Buddhism may be viewed in this sense when suffering is said to be caused by mistaking that which is changing to be eternal.

Guru Nānak says,
The whole world is engulfed by mundane values and attachment to it.

At another place he says,

Moh creates the family; through moh are all works.
Rid yourself then of moh,for it leads to nothing but sin.
O, thou brave one, shed your moh and doubt.”

The 5th Guru addresses to this propensity thus:

“O, unconquerable, O powerful hero of the battle-field,
that moves down everything before it.
It has enticed away the hearts of even the gods and their attendants,
heavenly musicians, the men, animal life and the birds.”

Nature of moh

The preceding passages reveal to us the nature of moh and the behaviour pattern of the individual moved by it, as well as its psychological charge.

We may recognise that it is a tendency whereby men cling to the things with which they identify themselves, that is, the family, wealth, etc.

This tenacity ultimately reduces the individual’s chance of viewing things in the right perspective. It narrows down the individual’s outlook and may, therefore, help cause and feed his narrow prejudices. It is all pervasive.

The reference in quotes above to heavenly musicians, gods, etc., have been drawn from the Indian mythology just to bring out this meaning clearly.

Moh may be the outcome of one’s ignorance of the real and the changing nature of the things of this world and thus, in a way, it may be said to be the result of delusion.

However, we should note the fact that the brave one is indicated to have the possibility of shedding it.

Behaviour pattern of the individual under moh

The individual under moh manifests a remarkable tenacity towards the things near and dear to him and, therefore, he may show a complete disregard for the things which are beyond his circle of preferences.

It may thus arise from the egoistic feelings and also be fed by the egoistic acts thereby creating a sort of a vicious circle.

Moh also perplexes the individual and casts him into doubt as to the real value of things. Viewed in this sense it may be understood to create hesitation and, therefore, partially inhibit the individual in his activities.

The individual moved by it may be continuously enveloped in a sort of morbidity

and because all the things to which one is attached do not survive for ever, in this ever-changing Heraclitian world, the moment one is forced to part with the object of one’s attachment one is bound to feel morose and lugubrious.

It is in this sense that Buddha taught one to adopt an attitude of non-attachment to things if one wanted to avoid pain and sorrow.

But, it may be relevant to remind ourselves, that in Sikhism the ideal life is that of the householder and, therefore, the attitude of non-attachment is to be viewed in the same perspective.

The non-attachment, therefore, is to be a matter of the attitude and is not to be realized by leaving the home and running away from social responsibilities.

Psychological charge of moh

Moh (in the passages already referred to) has, by the Guru, been called the unconquerable and also the powerful hero of the battle­field.

This description is sufficiently lucid to describe the psychological power which this motive may command and may, therefore, even over-rule other motives which may be higher in the ethical scale.

The individual who is able to escape from the command of this tendency has been called brave.

This reminds us of a similar view expressed in the Bhagavad Gītā (II, 31) by Śrī Kṛṣṇa in his sermon to Arjuna who was overcome, in the battle-field, by this attachment for his kith and kin against whom he hesitated to take up arms (I, 29). In this incident Bhagavad Gītā amply brings out the threat his propensity poses to one’s sense of duty.

The reference to the mythological stories of Hinduism has been made here to show that the influence of this propensity may extend even to persons who may appear to have attained some spiritual discipline; a warning that one has to continuously watch against it, which, incidentally, also indicates its great psychological power.

Here it may be added that the consciousness of the fact that a certain amount of affection might be inevitable when the life of the householder is held to be desirable and preferred to that of the ascetic, appears to have led the author of the Premsumārag to add the word “very much”—thus holding that one should not be very much attached.

This attempt, coming after the 10th Guru, could be seen as an attempt to rationalise, what to the author of the Premsumārag, seemed to be an arduous and difficult task.

The texts in the Ādi Granth, however, do not generally appear to grant this relaxation. An attitude of detachment seems to be the ideal cherished therein.

This absence of attachment, which may be distinguished from apathy, may be seen as the necessary spirit which sustained Sikhism, historically, during the period of its persecution.

This amply provided for the attitude necessary for making sacrifices for a cause.

A scholar of Hinduism, Swami Ramakrishnananda, asks the question: “How does attachment come?” and himself proceeds to answer that

the “man who makes much of sensual enjoyment, who thinks that out of sounds, forms and touches alone enjoyment can come, naturally becomes attached to them...

A man thinks ‘I want to be happy only in the world, and nowhere else can I be happy’ and out of this belief attachment for the world springs up.”

This process of the development of attachment appears to be accepted in Sikhism also, except that, in Sikhism it is impressed upon the seeker that the cultivation of non-attachment has to be carried on within the context of social participation.

Non-attachment, in Sikhism, is not equated with renunciation of social duties, or asceticism.

The ideal stressed by the Gurus in this regard is that one ought to live in the world just as the lotus flower lives in water:

The flower is in the water and is yet unaffected by it in the sense that it does not sink in the water. Similarly, man should not renounce the social context but at the same time he ought not to be attached to it.