LOBH, meaning greed, avarice, covetousness or cupidity arising out of the acquisitive instinct of man, has been denounced in almost every ethical system. Sikhism treats it as one of the Five Evils that hinder man's spiritual progress as well as his moral growth. Personifying lobh in one of his hymns, thus does Gurū Arjan address him: "O lobh, you have lured the best of men who gambol about under your sway. Their minds waver and run in all directions. You have respect neither for friend nor for one worthy of adoration, neither for father, mother or kindred. You make one do what one must not do..." (GG, 1358). Lobh is indeed a variant of kām. While the latter means desire in general or erotic desire in particular, the former implies inordinate desire to possess worldly goods, more often than not at others' cost. It may take one of the two forms. A lobhī or greedy person may either desire to grab and enjoy or he may grab and accumulate, becoming either a profligate or a miser. In both cases, as Gurū Arjan says, "pelf becomes the breath of life for the greedy" (GG, 914). Greed leads to such vices as mendacity, exploitation and abuse of power. It destroys stability and tranquillity of the mind. To quote Gurū Nānak, "The greedy mind is never still and wanders in all four directions" (GG, 876). "It stays not with the compassionate Lord" (GG, 359).
Antidote to lobh is contentment (sabr, santokh) and not absolute renunciation. "Happiness lies in contentment," declares Gurū Arjan. "Worthless are the dominions if they bring not fulfilment" (GG,745). The Gurū recommends grihastha or normal life of a householder, and does not totally discard worldly possessions; what is disapproved is attachment to them and hankering after them. "What we eat and drink is sacred", says Gurū Nānak, "for that is God's own gift" (GG, 472). But these "riches cannot be accumulated without sin, " and, what is more, "these accompany not man in death" (GG, 417) . Gurū Amar Dās, Nānak III, warns: "Do not be led astray by māyā...Know that your millions shall not keep you company," (GG, 1087). On the other hand, as says Gurū Nānak, "Contentment is the quality of the angels."
L. M. Joshi