Truthful Living Means Never Exploiting Others
Kirat Karni, meaning to work honestly, live honestly, and practice honesty, is one of the primary pillars of the Sikh faith.
To perform Kirat means that you are appreciating the gift of life by attempting to make use of your time and energy for the betterment of your family and community. Kirat must be performed selflessly, without thought of personal benefits, but rather with a focus on the privilege of being able to work hard and honestly. Performing Kirat is seen as the equivalent of praying in that it brings the practitioner closer to God by expressing gratitude, selflessness and honesty.
The Sikh Way of Life
Sikhs believe that however you earn a living, it must be done honestly with an eye to the greater good, not dishonestly with an eye to accumulation and greed.
Guru Nanak’s Belief of Living Truthfully
During his travels, Guru Nanak and his companion Bhai Mardana encountered a craftsman named Bhai Lalo. Bhai Lalo brought the men food to eat, and Bhai Mardana commented that it was truly delicious. What ingredients had been put into this food? Guru Nanak wisely responded,
“That was the sweet flavour of truthfulness and honesty that you tasted. This taste is above the tepid experience of worldly delicacies.”
Guru Nanak praised honest, working people as worshippers of God who express their faith through their labors and refusal to cheat, steal, or exploit others. He advocated for the sharing of wealth. When a wealthy man in town heard that Guru Nanak had been sharing food with Bhai Lalo, who was of a low caste, he angrily demanded to know why Guru Nanak would not eat with him.
Guru Nanak squeezed the chapati of the poor man and out came pure milk. Then, he squeezed the food of the rich man in his other hand, and it produced blood. Now Guru Nanak observed:
“Wealth gathered by cruelty and corruption towards the poor is like sucking their blood which you have done. You had invited me to partake of blood, leaving food pure as milk. How could I accept it?”
In the Sikh way of life, wealth gained through the exploitation of others is not honest work, but is an affront to God. Living honestly means treating others fairly while working for our common good.