Is drinking permitted in Sikhism?

The Sikh Rehat Maryada (the Sikh booklet of Code of Conduct) states:

ਙ) ਸਿੱਖ ਭੰਗ, ਅਫੀਮ, ਸ਼ਰਾਬ, ਤਮਾਕੂ ਆਿਦ ਨਸ਼ੇ ਨਾ ਵਰਤੇ। ਅਮਲ ਪ੍ਰਸ਼ਾਦੇ ਦਾ ਹੀ ਰੱਖੇ।
“(j) A Sikh must not take hemp (cannabis), opium, liquor, tobacco, in short any intoxicant. His/her only routine intake should be food.”
(SRM: Chapter X, Article XVI)

Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji clearly states:

ਝੂਠਾ ਮਦੁ ਮੂਲਿ ਨ ਪੀਚਈ ਜੇ ਕਾ ਪਾਰਿ ਵਸਾਇ ॥
“Do not drink the false alcohol at all, as far as it lies in your power.”
(SGGS – 544)

The Sikh Gurus banned the use of intoxicants including alcohol on account of its harmful effects. It is physically harmful and mentally disturbing.

The body is considered the Temple of God and therefore a Sikh treats his or her body like a Gurdwara. If someone were to drink alcohol, even the slightest, and enter Sri Harmandir Sahib (the Golden Temple), all people would say that he or she has violated the sanctity of the place of worship and the people the guards there would by force remove the person and deliver an appropriate punishment. If drinking alcohol and going to Harmandir Sahib is so bad, then how much sin is committed when one pours the poison of alcohol in the “Harmandir” (temple) of the body? Gurbani says:

ਹਰਿ ਮੰਦਰੁ ਏਹੁ ਸਰੀਰੁ ਹੈ ਗਿਆਨਿ ਰਤਨਿ ਪਰਗਟੁ ਹੋਇ ॥
ਮਨਮੁਖ ਮੂਲੁ ਨ ਜਾਣਨੀ ਮਾਣਸਿ ਹਰਿ ਮੰਦਰੁ ਨ ਹੋਇ ॥2॥
“This body is the Temple of the Lord, in which the jewel of spiritual wisdom is revealed. The self-willed manmukhs do not know anything at all; they do not believe that the Lord’sTemple is within. ||2||”
(SGGS – 1346)

In Persian language, wine is called Sharaab (ਸ਼ਰਾਬ) which literally means ‘the water of mischief’ (ਸ਼ਰਾਤੀ ਪਾਣੀ). By drinking alcohol the intellect is destroyed. Waheguru is forsaken and the gem of the human life is wasted. Drinking alcohol not only causes biological damage but ruins families, relationships and leads individuals to do misconduct and commit sins. Guru Arjan Dev Ji describes those who drink alcohol as:

ਦੁਰਮਤਿ ਮਦੁ ਜੋ ਪੀਵਤੇ ਬਿਖਲੀ ਪਤਿ ਕਮਲੀ ||
ਰਾਮ ਰਸਾਇਣਿ ਜੋ ਰਤੇ ਨਾਨਕ ਸਚ ਅਮਲੀ ||੪||੧੨||੧੧੪||
“The false-minded people who drink the alcohol are like the husbands of prostitutes (i.e. shameless and without self-dignity or respect) and their thinking is stupid. But those who are imbued with the sublime essence of the Lord, O Nanak, are intoxicated with the Truth.”
(Ang 399)

Alcohol is a depressant that slows brain activity down. While one or two drinks makes most people feel relaxed, more alcohol may cause feelings of anxiety, depression, and often aggression. Sometimes people say “I will only have one glass” but in the mood of joy or sometimes when a person is feeling so low, that the one glass becomes two, then three and eventually the whole bottle of alcohol. Therefore, why become part of this slippery slope pattern?

Alcohol’s first effect as it reaches the outer brain is to distort your judgement and lower you inhibition, while producing euphoria (a sense of pleasure). As you consume more alcohol, and it reaches the cerebellum, your coordination and perception are affected, and you can have memory blackouts. As the alcohol reaches your mid-brain, reflexes diminish; you experience confusion, stupor, and may lapse into a coma. Once the alcohol finally reaches the medulla, or inner core of the brain, your heart rate drops and breathing ceases, resulting in death. Research suggests that continued alcohol use can cause depression. Alcohol robs brain cells of water and glucose, the brain’s food, contributing to a hangover the next day. Furthermore Alcohol depresses the body’s immune system making it easier to get sick. It also disrupts your sleep patterns, further depressing the immune system. Other complications include osteoporosis, obesity, or liver damage. Alcohol has been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney disease, heart disease, constipation, and strokes.

Guru Amar Daas Ji, the third Guru, made drinking liquor/alcohol a Kurehat (prohibition) for the Sikhs:

ਸਲੋਕ ਮ: 3 ॥
ਮਾਣਸੁ ਭਰਿਆ ਆਣਿਆ ਮਾਣਸੁ ਭਰਿਆ ਆਇ ॥
ਜਿਤੁ ਪੀਤੈ ਮਤਿ ਦੂਰਿ ਹੋਇ ਬਰਲੁ ਪਵੈ ਵਿਚਿ ਆਇ ॥
ਆਪਣਾ ਪਰਾਇਆ ਨ ਪਛਾਣਈ ਖਸਮਹੁ ਧਕੇ ਖਾਇ ॥
ਜਿਤੁ ਪੀਤੈ ਖਸਮੁ ਵਿਸਰੈ ਦਰਗਹ ਮਿਲੈ ਸਜਾਇ ॥
ਝੂਠਾ ਮਦੁ ਮੂਲਿ ਨ ਪੀਚਈ ਜੇ ਕਾ ਪਾਰਿ ਵਸਾਇ ॥
ਨਾਨਕ ਨਦਰੀ ਸਚੁ ਮਦੁ ਪਾਈਐ ਸਤਿਗੁਰੁ ਮਿਲੈ ਜਿਸੁ ਆਇ ॥
ਸਦਾ ਸਾਹਿਬ ਕੈ ਰੰਗਿ ਰਹੈ ਮਹਲੀ ਪਾਵੈ ਥਾਉ ॥1॥
“Salok, Third Mehl: One person brings a full bottle, and another fills his cup. Drinking which, his intelligence departs, and madness enters his mind; he cannot distinguish between his own and others, and he is pushed away by his Lord and Master; One should strictly avoid this evil alcohol by drinking of which one forgets Waheguru and is punished in His Court. Do not drink the false wine at all, to where it is in your power. O Nanak, with God’s Grace a person obtains the True intoxication of the Lord’s Name. That person dwells forever in the Love of the Lord Master, Waheguru, and obtains a seat (meaning honour) in the Mansion of His Presence. ||1||”
(SGGS – 554)

Furthermore, Gurbani tells us:

ਸੁਰਸਰੀ ਸਲਲ ਕ੍ਰਿਤ ਬਾਰੁਨੀ ਰੇ ਸੰਤ ਜਨ ਕਰਤ ਨਹੀ ਪਾਨੰ ॥
ਸੁਰਾ ਅਪਵਿਤ੍ਰ ਨਤ ਅਵਰ ਜਲ ਰੇ ਸੁਰਸਰੀ ਮਿਲਤ ਨਹਿ ਹੋਇ ਆਨੰ ॥1॥
“The Saints, i.e. The Gurmukhs, do not consume alcohol even if it is prepared by using Gangaa-jal (sacred water of the Ganges). This wine, and any other polluted water which mixes with the Ganges, is not separate from it (similarly a person from a lowly background who joins the pure Lord Vaheguru does not remain separate from Him). ||1||”
(SGGS – 1293)

Yogis, men who practised Yoga as a religious path to meet Waheguru used to drink alcohol to focus their minds when sitting cross legged trying to meditate. Guru Nanak Dev Ji condemns the consumption of liquor and alcohol:

ਇਕਤੁ ਪਤਰਿ ਭਰਿ ਉਰਕਟ ਕੁਰਕਟ ਇਕਤੁ ਪਤਰਿ ਭਰਿ ਪਾਨੀ ॥
ਆਸਿ ਪਾਸਿ ਪੰਚ ਜੋਗੀਆ ਬੈਠੇ ਬੀਚਿ ਨਕਟ ਦੇ ਰਾਨੀ ॥੧॥
“Those who keep association with the (strong) five desires, put the meat of a boiled chicken in one pot, and in the other pot they put alcohol. They sit around (this meat and alcohol), and amidst these (corrupt and wicked men) sits the noseless one, the shameless queen (i.e. Maya – the illusionary world). ||1||”
(Ang 476)

ਪੂਰਾ ਸਾਚੁ ਪਿਆਲਾ ਸਹਜੇ ਤਿਸਹਿ ਪੀਆਏ ਜਾ ਕਉ ਨਦਰਿ ਕਰੇ ॥
ਅੰਮ੍ਰਿਤ ਕਾ ਵਾਪਾਰੀ ਹੋਵੈ ਕਿਆ ਮਦਿ ਛੂਛੈ ਭਾਉ ਧਰੇ ॥2॥
“(O Yogi!) The Perfect Lord naturally gives the cup of Truth, to the one upon whom Waheguru casts His Glance of Grace. One who trades in this Amrit, the Divine-nectar, which gives eternal spiritual life – how could he ever love the alcohol of the world? ||2||”
(SGGS 360)

Bhagat Kabeer Ji says:

ਕਬੀਰ ਭਾਂਗ ਮਾਛੁਲੀ ਸੁਰਾ ਪਾਨਿ ਜੋ ਜੋ ਪ੍ਰਾਨੀ ਖਾਂਹਿ ॥
ਤੀਰਥ ਬਰਤ ਨੇਮ ਕੀਏ ਤੇ ਸਭੈ ਰਸਾਤਲਿ ਜਾਂਹਿ ॥੨੩੩॥
“O Kabeer! Those mortals who consume marijuana (drugs), fish (meat) and wine (liquor) – no matter what pilgrimages, fasts and rituals they follow, they will all go to hell. ||233||
(SGGS – 1377)

Guru Gobind Singh Ji in his Rehatnama (ethical code of conduct) addressed to Bhai Chaupa Singh banned the consumption of any alcohol for any Sikh.

ਗੁਰੂ ਕਾ ਸਿੱਖ ਸ਼ਰਾਬ ਕਬੀ ਨ ਪੀਵੇ ||
guru ka sikh sharaab kabee na peevai
“A Sikh of the Guru is never drink alcohol.”
(Rehitnama: Bhai Chaupa Singh)

Drinking alcohol even in small quantities to enjoy its effect is against Gurmat. Alcohol and liquor are forbidden because of their ill effects on the mind and body and foremost it is addictive drug. BBC Health documented that a recent medical study has proven to show that drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause physical and mental birth defects. Each year, more than 40,000 babies are born with some degree of alcohol related damage. Although many women are aware that heavy drinking during pregnancy can cause birth defects, many do not realize that moderate or even light drinking also may harm the foetus.

Alcohol, especially in excess, is responsible for altering brain activity and affecting concentration and reflexes. As a result, individuals under the influence of alcohol are more susceptible to accidents especially while driving. Other side affects include insomnia (the inability to fall asleep and stay asleep), heartburn and high blood pressure. Excessive use or abuse of alcohol can contribute to increased levels of triglyceride in the blood that can then lead to heart disease.

We should feel blessed that our Guru was a Perfect Guru who was All-Knowing. In the last few decades the Western world has discovered the ill effects of alcohol on our mind, body and even on society. As a result restrictions were gradually brought on the drinking and driving, campaigns on the effects of alcohol abuse on youngsters, and the damage alcohol does to mothers and society in the whole. Furthermore however, our Guru told us this over 500 years ago.

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