The general concept of sin is that it is “action in wilful disobedience of the Will of God or the Commandments of the Scriptures.” According to Dr. S. Radhakrishanan, “Sin is not the violation of a law or a convention, but of the central source of all finiteness through ignorance or an assertion of the independence of that ego, which seeks its own private gain at the expense of others.” Amongst Christians there is the concept of ‘Original Sin.’ This refers to the disobedience of God’s order by Adam and Eve in eating the fruit of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden. Sikhism has no such belief. Man is essentially of divine essence. However, on account of his self-assertion or ego, he ignores his divine source and then pretends to act in sheer ignorance. He then thinks that he is distinct from God and builds around himself, like the spider’s web, a shell of the ego (haumai) which makes him forget the God in himself. Man’s building up of this separate identity and his own self-conceit cause him to do things which then set in motion a chain-reaction.
Man’s ego takes many forms. The most obvious is selfishness or pride due to position, power, money or knowledge. It promotes a sense of superiority within him and also a sense of a disregard for others. This alienates him from his fellow-men and leads to sin and exploitation. Egoistic actions are like chains round the neck of the individual. Egoism is the root of man’s evil thought and action. The Guru says:
“The Lord has produced a play on the role of egoism.
There is one mansion and five thieves who do evil within.” (AG, 1096)
The five thieves mentioned above are the five major vices in Sikhism, namely, Lust (Kam), Anger (Krodh), Greed (Lobh), Worldly attachment (Moh) and Pride (Ahankar). Some of the others sins mentioned by the and Sikh theologians are atheism, inertia, deceits, slander and ingratitude . Guru Gobind Singh further laid down four prohibitions, which are regarded as “major sins” for the Khalsa. Additionally some minor sins” are mentioned in the Rahat-namas.
Is it possible to undo or escape the consequences of one’s sins? Some methods of atonement are provided by some religions by way of confession, sacrifice, austerities or fine. Generally speaking, the minor sins are said to be forgives by holy works, prayers and voluntary community-service. There is no particular penance provided by the Sikh Scriptures. Remembrance of the Holy Word or God’s Name washes away the pollution of sin. Similarly association with saintly beings removes the stain of sin:
“Listen, my friends, to the benefits of attending in the company of saints:
Filth is removed millions of sorrows vanish and the mind becomes
pure!” (AG, 809)