Karma, Free Will and Grace | Understanding Basics of Sikhism

Karma in Sikhism

6 min readJul 17, 2022


Sikhism differs from these higher religions in many aspects. Yes, by and large, there is no free will for an individual. One is circumstanced by one’s heredity, environment, training, motive, etc. in every conceivable action that he does. If a man is coerced into doing, or not doing a thing, he cannot be held responsible for its consequences, just as a diseased state of mind is not responsible for the crime it commits without being willing to. The present-day democratic laws admit of this failing in a man’s make-up, namely, that if driven by circumstances that mentally unhinge a man even temporarily, he should not be held wholly guilty. Again Sikhism believes :

a. That it is a certain measure of God’s grace that he has blessed us with the human birth.

b. That if the term ‘past is pressed to its logical conclusion, then, there was a time when man was not only God was. Then, when did he choose, first, to do the evil for which he is being punished birth after birth?

c. Maya is not a tangible entity, as the world is. It is not Anarvachni (neither is nor is-not) as Sankara put it. It is only a delusion of the mind that through gnosis and inner awakening can be seen in its true light. The world is the abode of God, and so also is the human body. Of course, it is God who takes us to the Right Path and also strays us away from it, and, in essence, everything being in the image of God, there is nothing that is inherently bad or evil. There is no principle of evil, as such, though there are things that are evil. But God is wholly good and our awakened conscience is proof of it), it is our destiny to choose good and to dispel evil. But, we have the choice within our limitations also to dispel God and to choose evil, which then, leads to a lower (human) birth and incessant hell, which is coming and going, pain, and sorrow. But, he who identifies himself with the All-good, his comings and goings are ended and even if he takes rebirth, there is no sorrow for him. Even in pain, he is cool and composed, like the lotus with its roots planted in mud. Why a man chooses evil at a given time, leading to his re-birth in the house of pain, is one of the fundamental questions. That, however, is a part of the mystery which is God and should be better left unanswered.

Free Will in Sikh Religion

However, here before us we see men in pain and sin, and though being constantly warned by God within them, they choose Him not and go their own peculiar ways led by the Writ of habit (Kirat), which is a part of their subconscious mind. There is, thus, an element of choice within them, all the time, to exercise their free will, however, limited that freedom is, as is obvious to anyone with a little sense of his own Psyche.

To assert that man is wholly free is to assert the impossible and the absurd. Only a man without a mind is free to do what he chooses. And even when a man chooses, it is never his final choice as he knows to his cost soon thereafter. All men are circumstanced by the laws of the universe, the state of the society, the family, their pedigree, the degree of their sensibility, their primary needs without which life is just impossible, and so on. But, when all this is allowed for, there still remains in each individual a higher consciousness (which the Gurus call God-consciousness) which enables one to choose good, to discriminate between good and evil, and what leads to a permanent state of equipoise or to a constant state of anxiety, perplexity (mind’s ceaseless coming-and-going) and heaviness of the heart and the soul. Thus, while a man, being endowed with intellect, ego, and will, has the capacity to choose, he is so circumstanced that what he chooses, ultimately, is neither the result of intellect nor will, but more often of a blind force habitual, the sub-conscious, the instinctive part of one’s mind that one is amazed, even shocked, at the way one is driven against one’s own better judgments and interests. Then, one is left with no choice but to rationalize and justify one’s ill-assorted doings.

This being so, most of our activity is not “our own”, nor do we desire to own it, or reap its fruits because we ourselves, seemingly are the doers of a deed, and must bear its consequences, essentially, as we have seen above, it is not we who are the doers, but something other than ourselves, which the sages call for lower-self-which most of the time is doing the deeds for us, by proxy as it were.

The modern behaviorists identify this within us and make us believe that man exists only at the animal or the instinctive level. Researchers in modern psychology also affirm that man’s “real” self is in his subconscious mind where he stores all his past, that his conscious mind either rejects or suppresses but nevertheless craves. Whatever we gather from our surroundings and parentage in the very early years of our lives since our conception in the mother’s womb-hopes, fears, sex, ego, and other sub-normal passions like anger, envy, greed, and undue attachments-direct and guide all our activity throughout life and the acquired intellect and wits are there only to rationalize our “natural” (or animal) urges and behavior.

Grace or Kirpa in Sikhi

Prophet Mohammad, Guru Nanak. Arjun and Gobind Singh-but this pain being self-sought and for a higher purpose does not bring sorrow in its train; only bliss. Others are the victims of pain and hence writhe and suffer; for, their suffering has no saving grace. The martyr and the criminal are both put to death, but can one, in his senses, identify one with the other? They both suffer, but on a different plane of existence. And, it is the plane that matters, not the fact of suffering. The poison that philosopher Socrates tasted was no different from the phial which killed the power-hungry Adolf Hitler in a fuming dungeon. But their effect, both on themselves and the world at large, was certainly not the same.

The Gurus aver that apart from the conscious and the subconscious, there is in man-and man only-a super-consciousness ( the Atman ), which if awakened and identified with, landsman on the plane of eternal bliss. But, this can happen only if the man himself believes with all the passion he is capable of that he is not mere consciousness, not non-consciousness, but something higher and beyond it: This consciousness is acquired pot to possess more material goods or services, or occult powers (though these may result as a consequence of one’s awakening but are never employed by the Awakened except to rescue man from himself) but to be free and he ‘ourselves’, and thus being ourselves to liberate ourselves. The example of such a one liberates the others also from pain and sin.

We have seen elsewhere how the Absolute becomes related, perception leads to conception, intuition (or ‘tuition’ from within) to objective knowledge: how energy is converted into matter and vice-versa, how the negative or no-thing-ness results in the positive and the tangible; how darkness is potential light, how the sub-conscious overcomes and defeats the conscious. Therefore, one may reasonably conclude that if one hitches one’s mind’s wagon to the superconscious state within it, though the process or the objective may seem “unreal” like God, what results from it is not so intangible and is very certain, and can be experienced by one’s within as wholly blissful and liberating.




I am a Blogger from Khalsa linage, Loves my Guru, and is here to spread his words.