PROPER CONDUCT

This is right conduct, and this is the correct lifestyle to obey the Divine Will;
this is your Bhagti. One who practices this Mantra, O Nanak,
swims across the ocean (of the worldliness)||3||28|| (sggs 377).
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Good or virtuous conduct and behavior (ਚੰਗੀ ਰਹਿਣੀ, ਆਚਰਣ, Gurmukh Lifestyle...) is much talked about but very little practiced. At home, in religious and educational institutions, in offices, in society, in politics, in sports, in business, in government, etc. — there is lack or absence of good conduct and behavior, though, in these places as elsewhere, those who hold authority never get tired of stressing the importance of good conduct and behavior. Instead of sweeping under our own rug, we recommend good conduct and behavior for others. Often time we wax eloquent about good conduct and behavior only because we want to silence our guilty conscience which continuously rebukes us for not following the behavioral rules or code of conduct we lay down for others to follow. In ignorance we judge and criticize others. The result is that those for whom good conduct is recommended feel that people who talk so much about good conduct are the very people who need it most! What does Gurbani (Sri Guru Granth Sahib, SGGS) say about our conduct?

A great one has said that "If you want to prove God, improve yourself". It would be easier to know and understand our godly status, as well as our true relationship with others if our behavior and conduct is truthful. To the contrary, if our behavior and conduct is corrupt or impure, the more difficult it would be to look within ourselves, and properly relate to other entities. True behavior can shine forth only when one is perfectly free from falsehood: selfishness, greed, corruption, deception, and so on. In the spirit of doing good to others, whatever little good one does decorously and judiciously will aid him in understanding and knowing his own true identity as Joti-Svaroopa (Mool...) . Otherwise there is no real meaning to life.

  • ਲੋਭਾਦਿ ਦ੍ਰਿਸਟਿ ਪਰ ਗ੍ਰਿਹੰ ਜਦਿਬਿਧਿ ਆਚਰਣੰ ॥ ਤਜਿ ਸਕਲ ਦੁਹਕ੍ਰਿਤ ਦੁਰਮਤੀ ਭਜੁ ਚਕ੍ਰਧਰ ਸਰਣੰ ॥੩॥: Lobhaadi darisati par gariham jadibidhi aacharnam. Taji sakal duhakrit durmatee bhaju chakrdhar sarnam ||3||: Forsake greed, and do not look upon other's home (ਪਰਾਏ ਘਰ ਵਲ ਦੇਖਣਾਂ...), and give up conduct that is "Jadibidhi" (agianst the established norms of moral, ethics ...). Renounce all evil deeds and evil inclinations, and hurry to the Lord's Sanctuary ||3|| (sggs 526).
  • ਗੁਣ ਮੰਡੇ ਕਰਿ ਸੀਲੁ ਘਿਉ ਸਰਮੁ ਮਾਸੁ ਆਹਾਰੁ ॥: Gun manday kar seel ghiou saram maas aahaar: Make virtue your bread, good conduct the ghee, and modesty the meat to eat (sggs 533).
  • ਆਚਾਰਿ ਤੂ ਵੀਚਾਰਿ ਆਪੇ ਹਰਿ ਨਾਮੁ ਸੰਜਮ ਜਪ ਤਪੋ ॥: Aachaar too veechaar aapay har naam sanjam jap tapo: (sggs 1113).

As defined in the English dictionary, "conduct implies action or behavior that shows the extent of one's power to control or direct oneself...the act, manner, or process of carrying on; a mode or standard of personal behavior especially as based on moral principles; judicious use of means to accomplish an end."

One's conduct is the direct result of his qualities, innate tendencies, latent memories or dispositions (Vaasnaas). Thus whatever individual or collective behavior exists in this world is due to inherent inclinations or psychological conditionings. For example, if one practices hatred, corruption and fraud in life, that behavior stems from his qualities or innate tendencies. All Mayaic qualities or tendencies are the flow of activities in material consciousness

With the appearance of the body, the knowledge "I-ness" or false ego-sense appears. This is the beginning of Maya. It goes in cycles, like a roller coaster. One's the false ego has arisen, it cannot stand still. It is tantamount to movement or changefulness. All movements take place through the three qualities (Gunas) of the material nature called Maya. These three GunasTaamas or misconception, Raajas or passion and Saatav or goodness — are inherent in the conditioned consciousness. The false ego expresses through these Gunas. Man's behavior and actions result from the combinations and permutations of these three qualities of the material nature.

  • ਹੰਉਮੈ ਮਾਇਆ ਮੈਲੁ ਹੈ ਮਾਇਆ ਮੈਲੁ ਭਰੀਜੈ ਰਾਮ ॥: Haumai Maya mailu hai Maya mailu bhareejai Raam: Ego-Maya is filth; mind is filled with this Maya filth (sggs 570).
  • ਹਉਮੈ ਮਾਇਆ ਵਿਚੇ ਪਾਈ ॥: Houmai Maya viche paaee: Egoism is instilled into the illusion of Maya (sggs 1044).
  • ਫਾਥੀ ਛੂਟਹਿ ਗੁਣ ਗਿਆਨ ਬੀਚਾਰਿ ॥: Faathee chhooteh gun giaan beechaar: You are trapped. You can only be saved by virtuous conduct, spiritual wisdom and contemplation (sggs 1275).
  • ਨਾਮੁ ਨ ਚੇਤਹਿ ਸਬਦੁ ਨ ਵੀਚਾਰਹਿ ਇਹੁ ਮਨਮੁਖ ਕਾ ਆਚਾਰੁ ॥: Naam na cheetahi sabad na vichaarahi ih manmukh kaa aachaar: The conduct of the Manmukh is that he does not think of the Divine Naam, and he does not contemplate the Shabad (sggs 508).
  • ਸਗਲੀ ਭੂਲੈ ਨਹੀ ਸਬਦੁ ਅਚਾਰੁ ॥: Saglee bhoolai nahee sabad achaar: All are deluded and confused, without the Shabad (Shabad-Vichaar, Gur-Giaan...) and good conduct (sggs 1190).

Once the false ego has arisen, the love for materialistic existence appears, which is the result of the primary illusion called Maya. Then one feels like enduring forever. This is the beginning of selfishness, corruption and greed. So the struggle as well as the troubles begin. Ego's craving for prolonging the material existence yearns for intense physical pleasures of the world — craving for wealth and power, desires, selfishness, evil doings, evil passions (lust, greed, anger, emotional attachment, pride, enviousness and stubbornness, and their numerous variations). This perverted view of the reality of the world is the origin of our bondage and suffering (Dukha).

  • ਹਉਮੈ ਬਿਖਿਆ ਨਿਤ ਲੋਭਿ ਲੁਭਾਨੇ ਪੁਤ ਕਲਤ ਮੋਹਿ ਲੁਭਿਭਾ ॥: Hahumai bikhiaa nit lobhi lubhaane put kalat mohi lubhibhaa: In egoism, people are continually lured by corruption, greed, emotional attachment to their children and spouse (sggs 1337).
  • ਹਉਮੈ ਮੇਰਾ ਭਰਮੈ ਸੰਸਾਰੁ ॥: Hayumai meraa bharmai sansaar: The world wanders in ego and selfhood (sggs 841).
  • Let each one remember that he will make progress only insofar as he rids himself of self-love, self-will and self-interest (Ignatius of Loyola).

The conduct is either virtuous or bad (non-virtuous). Bad or misconduct consists of evil doings wherein one does not want to do good deeds from within. The mentality of such person is to grab the wealth and possessions of others, etc. He suffers from carnal desires that spring up from the unceasing demands of the senses. In an illusion to fulfill his desires, he has no hesitation hurting others. In essence, these desires are nothing but the deluded mind. A person with such mind will be unable to integrate with others, or care for their well being. Brcause he does not know how to sacrifice his own happiness for the happiness of others.

  • ਸੀਲੁ ਬਿਗਾਰਿਓ ਤੇਰਾ ਕਾਮ ॥: Seel bigaario tayraa kaam: But the goodness of your conduct has been destroyed by lust: evil passions (sggs 374).
  • ਸੂਚੈ ਭਾਡੈ ਸਾਚੁ ਸਮਾਵੈ ਵਿਰਲੇ ਸੂਚਾਚਾਰੀ ॥: Soochai bhaadai saach samaavai virlay soochaachaaree: In the pure vessel (pure body-mind), the Truth is contained; how few are those who practice true conduct (sggs 597).
  • ਕਰਮੁ ਧਰਮੁ ਕਿਛੁ ਉਪਜਿ ਨ ਆਇਓ ਨਹ ਉਪਜੀ ਨਿਰਮਲ ਕਰਣੀ ॥: Karam Dharam kichh upaj na aaio nah upjee nirmal karnee: The karma of good deeds, and the truthfulness or righteousness, have not been developed in me, in the least; nor has pure conduct welled up in me (sggs 530).
  • ਤਸਬੀ ਯਾਦਿ ਕਰਹੁ ਦਸ ਮਰਦਨੁ ਸੁੰਨਤਿ ਸੀਲੁ ਬੰਧਾਨਿ ਬਰਾ ॥: Tasbee yaad karahu das mardan sunat seel bandhaan baraa: Let your meditation beads be the subjugation of the ten senses. Let good conduct and self-restraint be your circumcision (sggs 1084).

Virtuous conduct is devoid of evil doings. In such conduct there is no baser or Mayaic desires and fears. Hence there is no mental inclination or disposition to act in any evil manner. As indicated in the scriptures, virtuous conduct shows the following restraints: truthfulness, noninjury (not harming others by thought, word or deed), nonstealing, absence of evil passions, patience, tolerance, steadfastness, compassion towards all beings, honesty and straight forwardness, renouncing of deception and wrongdoing, moderate appetite and sleep, purity (of body, mind and speech), true contentment, sympathy, friendliness, giving and sharing without thought of reward, modesty, humility, forgiveness, power of endurance and forbearance, control of mind, etc. A man of such noble conduct do not generally commit offenses as he considers upholding ethical values paramount in life. But inadvertently when such a righteous person happens to commit an offense, he regrets his action immediately and tries his best to assuage the misdeed by undergoing the atonement of the Naam-Simran (shabad-Vichaar...).

  • ਸੀਲ ਸੰਜਮਿ ਪ੍ਰਿਅ ਆਗਿਆ ਮਾਨੈ ॥: Seel sanjam paria aagiaa maanai: With pure conduct and self-restraint, the true seeker surrenders (false ego) to the Divine Will (sggs 185).
  • ਖਿਮਾ ਗਹੀ ਬ੍ਰਤੁ ਸੀਲ ਸੰਤੋਖੰ ॥: Khimaa gahee barat seel santokham: To practice forgiveness is the true fast, good conduct and contentment (223).
  • ਸਰਮ ਸੁੰਨਤਿ ਸੀਲੁ ਰੋਜਾ ਹੋਹੁ ਮੁਸਲਮਾਣੁ ॥: Saram sunat seel rojaa hohu musalmaan: Make modesty your circumcision, and good conduct your fast. In this way, you shall be a true Muslim (sggs 140).
  • ਕਰਣੀ ਕਾਬਾ ਸਚੁ ਪੀਰੁ ਕਲਮਾ ਕਰਮ ਨਿਵਾਜ ॥: Karnee kaabaa sach peer kalmaa karam nivaaj. Let good conduct be your Kaabaa, Truth your spiritual guide, and the karma of good deeds your prayer and chant (sggs 140).
  • ਆਚਾਰਾ ਵੀਚਾਰੁ ਸਰੀਰਿ ॥ ਆਦਿ ਜੁਗਾਦਿ ਸਹਜਿ ਮਨੁ ਧੀਰਿ ॥: Aachaaraa veechaar sareer. Aad jugaad sahj man dheer: One who embodies good conduct and (Shabad-) Vichaar, his mind abides in intuitive poise and contentment, eternally (sggs 686).
  • ਸਾਚੁ ਸੀਲ ਸਚੁ ਸੰਜਮੀ ਸਾ ਪੂਰੀ ਪਰਵਾਰਿ ॥: Saach seel sach sanjmee saa pooree parvaar: True seeker has good conduct, true self-discipline, and a perfect family (sggs 1088).

If we analyze our life further, it will become obvious that we had neither bad conduct nor virtuous conduct during infancy ( the state of untainted Consciousness) and it is only when we grow that we start pursuing "this" conduct or "that" conduct. It is our innate tendencies, qualities or Maya that's doing all this. When the false ego arises, everything appears. When it subsides, everything subsides with it. When fire is there, the heat is there. Similarly, when the false ego is there, the manifestation or Maya is there.

No person can be great unless he conducts himself virtuously. When the selfishness dominates, there can be no integration or harmony, individual or collective. Hence falsehood or "I-ness" must go. It must be ruthlessly shunned and eradicated. Virtuous conduct, individual or collective, is the outcome of a long process of self-negation, and sacrificing one's own interest for the sake of others. It's a long process because once certain habits are formed, it takes considerable time and effort to remove them. By its very nature, false ego is very stubborn. That's why the Gurbani repeatedly asks us to get rid of stubborn-mindedness!

Now that we are grown up, how can we improve our conduct? And, secondly, how can we revert back to our Original state where we were free from all concepts of the ego-mind to begin with? The purpose of virtuous conduct is to grow till it is no more needed. The reason we are unable to know our True Position or virtuous conduct is that our conception of these is enslaved to external factors. But, however powerful one may be, external situations can never be under his control. False ego looks outward. The Gurbani says we must look within. The Spiritual Wisdom (Aatam Giaan) of the Gurbani is to create the right thinking in the seeker. When there is a shift in a person's life from pursuit of material life (external life, Manmukh, Maya...) to expression of Truth (internal life, Gumukh) there will be a dramatic change in his perspective of life. Spiritual Wisdom (Aatam Giaan) through Shabad-Vichaar is needed for that.

  • ਸਰਬ ਧਰਮ ਮਹਿ ਸ੍ਰੇਸਟ ਧਰਮੁ ॥ ਹਰਿ ਕੋ ਨਾਮੁ ਜਪਿ ਨਿਰਮਲ ਕਰਮੁ ॥: Sarab dhharam mehi sraesatt dhharam || har ko naam jap niramal karam ||: Of all Dharma, the best Dharma is Naam Jap (understanding of the Shabad, Naam, Hukam...); (this is the) Pure Karma (ਕੰਮ, ਆਚਰਨ, deed...). (sggs 266).
  • ਬਿਨੁ ਸਬਦੈ ਆਚਾਰੁ ਨ ਕਿਨ ਹੀ ਪਾਇਆ ॥: Bin sabdai aachaar na kin hee paaiaa: Without realizing the Shabad, no one attains good conduct (sggs 1285).
  • ਨਾਮ ਬਿਨਾ ਕੈਸੇ ਆਚਾਰ ॥: Naam binaa kaisay aachaar: Without the Naam, how can I maintain good conduct? (sggs 1330).
  • ਕਰਿ ਬੀਚਾਰੁ ਆਚਾਰੁ ਪਰਾਤਾ ॥: Kar beechaar aachaar paraataa: By Reflecting (on the Gur-Shabad...), come attain (recognize...) good conduct. (sggs 415).
  • ਇਹੀ ਅਚਾਰ ਇਹੀ ਬਿਉਹਾਰਾ ਆਗਿਆ ਮਾਨਿ ਭਗਤਿ ਹੋਇ ਤੁਮ੍ਹ੍ਹਾਰੀ ॥ ਜੋ ਇਹੁ ਮੰਤ੍ਰੁ ਕਮਾਵੈ ਨਾਨਕ ਸੋ ਭਉਜਲੁ ਪਾਰਿ ਉਤਾਰੀ ॥੩॥੨੮॥: Ihee achaar ihee biuhaaraa aagiaa maan bhagat hoi tumhaaree. Jo ih mantra kamaavai Nanak so bhavjal paar utaaree ||3||28||: This is right conduct, and this is the correct lifestyle to obey the Divine Will; this is your Bhagti. One who practices this Mantra, O Nanak, swims across the ocean (of the worldliness)||3||28|| (sggs 377).
In essence, at the moment we are primarily living an external life, that is the life of a Manmukh or materialist (Mayaic life). Internal or spiritual life relates to Truth or Pure Consciousness, while the external life relates to falsehood. A Gurmukh (spiritual being) is quintessence of internal life. Thus, the key to living a virtuous or immaculate conduct in this life is becoming a Gurmukh., "here" and "now", not after death or some other time. Lotus flower grows in mud but ever remains immaculate; this is the characteristic of a Gurmukh who, while living in the midst of Maya, remains pure. On the other hand, a frog eats slimy scum even though he lives with the lotus! This is the characteristic of a Manmukh who behaves, eats, thinks, acts, and speaks that is destructive to the society and unconducive to his own spiritual unfoldment.
  • ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਪਾਈਐ ਸਬਦਿ ਅਚਾਰਿ ॥: Gurmukhi paaeeai sabadi achaari: By becoming the Gurmukh, (by obtaining the righteous, higher...) conduct through the Shabad, attain (Mool, Realization ..). (sggs 941).
  • ਨਾਮੁ ਨ ਚੇਤਹਿ ਸਬਦੁ ਨ ਵੀਚਾਰਹਿ ਇਹੁ ਮਨਮੁਖ ਕਾ ਆਚਾਰੁ ॥: Naam n cheetahi sabadu n vichaarahi ihu manmukh kaa aachaaru: The conduct of the Manmukh (self-willed...) is that (he) does not think of the Divine Naam (Hukam, Gur-Giaan...), and does not ponder on the Shabad (Gur-Shabad Vichaar..). (sggs 508).

Real virtuous conduct, real coordination of life, real self-integration or self-unfoldment is possible only in a person who is the knower of his Mool within. Therefore, improving conduct is not the end, it is the means to the end. Because the sense of moral standard belongs to the realm of relativity which the wise one has to transcend. Accordingly, we are urged by the Gurbani to live by the good conduct, but in the same breath it asks us to go higher to the next level, realization of the Mool, where there is no duality or differences. We were That Universal Principle prior to the "birth" of the body, that is what will remain after the "death" of the body.

  • ਮਜਨੁ ਸੀਲੁ ਸਚੁ ਰਿਦੈ ਵੀਚਾਰਿ ॥ ਗੁਰ ਕੈ ਸਬਦਿ ਪਾਵੈ ਸਭਿ ਪਾਰਿ ॥: Majan seel sach ridai veechaari. Gur kai sabad paavai sabh paari: Bathing in good conduct, and contemplating the Self within the heart, one realizes the Word of the Gur-Shabad, and carries everyone across (sggs 839).
  • ਜੋਗ ਅਭਿਆਸ ਕਰਮ ਧ੍ਰਮ ਕਿਰਿਆ ॥... ਨਹੀ ਤੁਲਿ ਰਾਮ ਨਾਮ ਬੀਚਾਰ ॥: Yoga abhiaas karam Dharam kiri-aa .... Nahee tul raam naam beechaar: The practice of Yoga and righteous conduct; none of these are equal to the contemplation of the Divine Name (sggs 265).

— T. Singh
www.gurbani.org