What Does Gurbani Say About Gambling?

Gambling With Roulette Wheel, Playing Cards, Chips and Dice
Gambling With Roulette Wheel, Playing Cards, Chips and Dice. Photo © [Magictorch / Getty Images]

Question: What Does Gurbani Say About Gambling?

What does Gurbani and Gurmat, the Sikhism scripture and code of conduct, have to say about gambling and gamblers, games of chance and gamers?

Answer:

Gurmat, Gurbani and Gambling

Gambling which involves betting may take many forms, such as cards, dice, roulette wheels, slot machines, fights, sports, races, lotteries and raffles.

Gurmat, compiled from the tenets and teachings of the 10 Gurus, forms the basis of Sikh Reht Maryada, or the Sikhism code of conduct.

Gurmat teachings prohibit gambling as a means of personal gain. Sikhs are advised not to gamble in games of chance, but to earn a living by honest means while engaged in earnest hard work.

The scripture of Gurbani makes it very clear that gambling is ultimately a losing proposition. The writings of the authors of Guru Granth Sahib including Guru Nanak Dev, Guru Amar Das, Guru Raam Das, Guru Arjun Dev and Bhagat Beni, Bhagat Kabir, Bhagat Nam Dev, as well as the compositions of Bhai Gur Das, address gambling, and the gambler. Life is the gamble of the soul, and a living spent in any way other than contemplation of the divine, is considered a loosing gamble. Those whose devotional consciousness is fixed attentively on the divine are compared with the addiction of the gambler focused on gaming. Many references categorize the gambler addicted to gaming who continues to gamble despite continual losses with lecherous adulterers, slanderers, scoundrels and thieves.

Examples of Scripture Regarding Gambling and Gamblers

First Guru Nanak Dev ji likens the fate of those caught up in immoral addiction to that of seeds processed and ground between the stone wheels of a grinding mill:

  • "Chor jaar joo-aar peerrae ghaanee-ai ||
    The thief, adulterer and gambler are pressed like the mustard seed in the mill stone." SGGS||1287

    Third Guru Amar Das ji compares the incarnated soul to the bride of the divine:

    • Jhoothee jhooth lagee jeeo koorr muthee koorri-aa-rae ||
      The false bride is attached to falsehood and the insincere one is cheated by her insincerity.
      Koorr nivaarae gurmat saarae jooai janam na haarae ||
      She who drives out her falsehood, acting in accord with the Enlightener's instruction, loses not her life in the gamble." SGGS || 244

    Fourth Guru Raam Das ji refers to life as a gamble:

    • Manmukh karam karae ahankaaree ||
      The ego centric do their deeds in egoism.
      Jooai janam sabh baajee haaree ||
      They lose their life entirely in game of gamble.
      Antar lobh mehaa gubaaraa fir fir aavan jaavaniaa ||7||
      Within is the terrible darkness of greed, and so they come and go continually again and again, reincarnated." ||7|| SGGS || 129

    Fifth Guru Ajrun Dev ji likens the gambler to the addiction of an immoral looser:

    • "Haar joo-aar jooaa bidhae endree vas lai jitano ||
      As the looser addicted to gambling remains attached to the game of chance, so do the senses overpower the one held fast in their bondage." SGGS||212
    • "jio jooaar bisan na jaa-e ||
      The gambler's addiction does not leave him.
      Har naanak ehu man laa-e ||8||
      So to the Lord is the mind of Nanak fixated." ||8|| SGGS || 837
    • "Chor jaar joo-aar tae buraa||
      [The slanderer] the thief, fornicating adulterer and gambler are immorally wicked." SGGS||1145
    • Chalae juaaree du-e hath jhaar||
      At the end the gambler is left with both hands empty." SGGS||1158
    • "Hattvaanee dhan maal haatt keet ||
      The shopkeeper deals mercantile goods to earn a profit
      Joo-aaree joo-ae maa-eh cheet ||
      The gambler fixes his focus on the game.
      Amalee jeevai amal khaa-e ||
      The opium addict's life is consumed by the poppy.
      Tio har jan jeevai har dhiaa-e ||1||
      Just so does God's humble servant live remembering the Lord." SGGS||1180

    Bhagat Beni prescribes measures to avoid losing the soul's gamble of life:

    • "Kar palav saakhaa beechaarae ||
      The mortal deems the hands to be leaves and branches of the body tree.
      Apnaa janam na jooai haarae ||
      He lose not life in gambling.
      Asur nadee kaa bandhai mool ||
      He plugs the source of the river of evil inclinations.
      Pachhim faer charraavai soor ||
      Turning away from the spiritual darkness of west, he makes the sun of divine knowledge rise in the east.
      Ajar jarai su nijhar jharai ||
      Bearing the unbearable, nectar drops trickle from within.
      Jaga(n)naathh sio gosatt karai ||7||
      Then does one have discourse with the Lord of the world." ||7|| SGGS || 974

      Bhagat Kabir advises to make something of life or face consequences of losing the game:

      • "Keh kabeer kichh gun beechaar ||
        Says Kabeer, think of doing some good deeds.
        Chalae ju-aaree due hath jhaar ||4||2||
        In the end, the gambler shall depart empty-handed." ||4||2|| SGGS || 1158

      Bhagat Naam Dev the addiction of the lecher to that of the gambler:

      • "Jio bikhee haerai par naaree ||
        The lustful lecher looks upon another man's wife.
        Kouddaa ddaarath hirai juaaree ||3||
        The gambler focuses his gaze upon the throwing of dice||3||
        Jeh jeh daekho teh teh raamaa ||
        Wherever Naam Dev glances, there he sees God.
        Har kae charan nit dhiaavai naamaa ||4||2||
        Naam Dev ever contemplates the Lord's feet while focused on His Name." SGGS || 873

      Bhai Gur Das writes of gamblers liking them to vile scoundrels:

      • "Joo-aaree joo-aaree-aa vaekarmee vaekaram rachandae ||
        The gambler keeps company with other gamblers as does the rascal mix with scoundrels." Vaar || 5
      • Kitarrae lakh asaadh jag vich kitarrae chor jaar joo-aaree ||
        In this world there are countless wicked persons, thieves, adulterers and gamblers." Vaar || 8
      • "Jio joo-ae joo-aaree-aa lag daav oupathae ||
        Gamblers indulge in gambling play though they lose their stake." Vaar ||27
      • "A-oughatt rudhae mirag jio vit haar ju-aaree ||
        The situation of the gambler who is losing is similar to that of a deer caught up in a snare." Vaar || 36

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