MANMUKH, the ego-guided person, as opposed to gurmukh who is Gurū-guided. The gurmukh-manmukh bipolarity represents the personality typology employed in the Sikh sacred literature. Basically it opposes and contrasts theocentric and egocentric personality types. The word manmukh is compounded of man (mind, lower self) and mukh (face) : thus one who has his face towards his own mind or ego is egocentric. "The gurmukh keeps his face towards the Gurū for guidance while the manmukh turns away from him—gurmukhi sanmukhu manmukhi vemukhīā" (GG, 131). Thus is a manmukh characterized in another verse : "This is of the nature of a manmukh that he cherishes not (the Lord's) Name and reflects not on (His) Word" (GG, 509). While the gurmukh ever lives in the presence of God, the manmukh remains oblivious of Him. "The manmukh depends upon his own intelligence and calculations (not realizing that) whatever happens is by God's Will—manmukhi gaṇat gaṇavaṇī karatā kare su hoi" (GG,60). His own calculations put him into karmic bondage, for he becomes a slave to his own impulses. Anger and avarice, lust and delusion, arrogance and passion tighten their grip on him. He obeys his own impulses refusing to reckon any law outside of himself. He never cares to listen to the word of the Gurū or the advice of the holy . "He is lost in the wilderness of his own delusions and passions—manmukhi bharami bhavai bebāṇi" (GG, 941) . Forgetting the Giver, that is God, he chases material goods all the time. The longer he remains under the sway of his baser self (man), the farther he drifts from God's grace. The manmukh is compared to a stone which, even if kept in water for long, remains unsoaked at heart : "manmukh patharu sailu hai dhrigu Jīvaṇu phīkā. jal mahi ketā rākhīai abh antari sūkā" (GG, 419). He allows his senses to be ruled by his passions : his egoity stands between him and the Lord.

         Gurū Nānak applied the term manmukh to those persons who were ego-ridden materialistic, and hypocritical. They pose to be religious, but are in reality proud and evil-minded. His successor-Gurūs, besides the above typology, applied the term to persons who calumniated the Gurū, opposed his teachings and doctrines and kept away from the saṅgat (fellowship of the holy). Bhāī Gurdās had the Gurūs' calumniators in mind when he discoursed on manmukhs in his Vārs. After the institution of the Khālsā, those kesādhārīs who did not receive pāhul were, in a sense, considered to be manmukhs like those who took pāhul but then did not abide by stipulated conduct. Apart from this latter-day usage, the term in its original conceptual signification refers to one who believes in duality (dvaitbhāva) and who led by his self-will refuses the Gurū's guidance and wantonly indulges his impulses. He loves the gifts but forgets the Giver.


  1. Śabadārth Srī Gurū Granth Sāhib. Amritsar, 1964
  2. Sher Singh, The Philosophy of Sikhism. Lahore, 1944
  3. Ishar Singh, The Philosophy of Sikhism. Delhi, 1985
  4. Jagjit Singh, Perspectives on Sikh Studies. Delhi, 1985
  5. Khazan Singh, History and Philosophy of Sikh Religion. Patiala, 1964
  6. Nripinder Singh, The Sikh Moral Tradition. Delhi, 1990
  7. Avtar Singh, Ethics of the Sikhs. Patiala, 1970

Jaswant Siṅgh Nekī