MOH, from Sanskrit root muh meaning "to become stupefied, to be bewildered or perplexed, to err, to be mistaken," stands in ancient texts for perplexity or confusion as also for the cause of confusion, that is, avidyā or ajñāna (ignorance or illusion). In another context, it stands for "the snare of worldly illusion, infatuation." Its function is twofold : it bedims the discernment of truth, prevents the discernment of reality, and it creates an error of judgement or leads to wrong knowledge (mithyā jñāna). Men believe in an eternal reality of their own existence or ego; they see truth in what is false and seek happiness in what begets suffering. In Punjabi moh generally means love of and attachment to worldly things and relations. In Sikh Scripture, the term frequently occurs coupled with māyā (māiā) as Māyā-moh interpreted both as infatuation for or clinging to the illusory world of the senses and as illusion of worldly love and attachment. Sikh interpretation of māyā, however, differs from that of classical advaita philosophy, which considers the phenomenal world unreal and therefore an illusion caused by human ignorance. In Sikhism, the visible world is a manifestation of God Himself and is therefore real; yet it is not satya or true in the sense of being immutable and eternal. This world of mass, form and movement woven into the warp and woof of time and space is God's play created at His pleasure and is as such real and sacred; but it represents only one transient aspect and not the Ultimate Reality. māyā is not an illusion in the sense of a mirage, a factual nullity; it is a delusion which represents transient as permanent and a part as the whole. Moh for māyā, i.e. for this transient world of the senses, hinders the soul's search for its ultimate goal and is, therefore, one of the Five Evils. It is related, on the one hand, to kām (desire, love) and lobh (possessiveness, covetousness) and, on the other, to ahaṅkār (sense of I, my and mine). That is how moh has been referred to as a net, māiājāl (GG, 266). Gurū Nānak advises shedding of moh as it is the source of all evil and a cause for repeated births and deaths. (GG, 356).

         The antidote to moh is non-attachment. This is not easy, for the Gurūs preach active participation in life rather than renunciation and escapism. Ultimately, of course, all depends on nadar or God's grace. Says Gurū Nānak "nadari kare tā ehu mohu jāi by— (His) grace alone will this moh be cancelled" (GG, 356). The right remedy is the understanding (giān) that the mundane world, its relations and affairs, demanding one's participation and involvement are transient. Non-attachment thus is not non-action, but an attitude to action characterized by Gurū Nānak as that of a bājīgar, participant in a sport. The world, says Gurū Nānak in a hymn in Mārū measure, "is like a seasonal pastureland where one passeth but a few days.... Like the bājīgar one plays one's part here and departs" (GG, 1023). An image in gurbāṇī describing the ideal life is that of the lotus which, although living in water, keeps its head above it without allowing itself to be submerged.


  1. Śabadārth Srī Gurū Granth Sāhib. Amritsar, 1969
  2. Avtar Singh, Ethics of the Sikhs. Patiala, 1970
  3. Sher Singh, The Philosophy of Sikhism. Lahore, 1944

L. M. Joshi