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In Sikhism, Five Thieves are the five major weaknesses of the human personality at variance with its spiritual essence, and are known as "thieves" because they steal a person's inherent common sense. These five thieves are kaam (lust), krodh (wrath), lobh (greed), moh (attachment) and ahankar (ego or excessive pride).[1] The arishadvargas are six in number.

The primary aim of a practicing Sikh is to subdue these five inner vices and render them inactive. The actions of one's mind (and by extension, one's body) should be above, beyond and without interference from these five inner evils. It is a Sikh's dharma and duty not to become subjected to these five lusts of the mind. Sikhs strive to live a life of devotion with a positive attitude or spirit, accepting God's engaging in community service (Sewa) and practicing the Five Virtues. By taking these positive steps, the Five Thieves are gradually overcome and rendered powerless. Adopting this daily routine and discipline, ones actions become pure (nirmal) and rewarding. Through this process, any negativity and erroneous thinking in a person's heart and mind are removed.

Significance of five

Some Sikhs regard the number five as special because of its presence in earlier Indian mythology and philosophy. Examples include the five rivers of the Punjab; the five faces of Shiva; the five aggregates of human personality (panca-skandha) and five moral precepts (pancasila) analyzed by the Buddha; the five vows of Jainism (pancavrates); the five fires (pancagni) and five koshas (sheaths or wrappers) investing the self (pancakosah) spoken of by the Upanisads; the five abstentions (yamas) and five observations (niyamas) of Yoga; the five senses; the five gross and subtle elements (panca mahabhuta or panca tattva); the Panj Pyare (the five loved ones); and even the Five Ks in Sikhism.

Despite the commonness of the number five, Sikh theology attaches no significance to the number itself. On the contrary, the Sikh teachings forbid the belief in superstition, and advise that the one who seeks the path to God must believe only in the naam (that is, God). Thus, a belief that the number five is significant, according to the Sikh theology, would be to become ensnared by the five evils themselves (specifically attachment – an inability to seek the truth because of one's belief in illusory constructs).


The early Vedic literature bears no direct reference to the concept of 'five thieves'; the terms moha, kama, krodha and aham do occur in the Vedic texts, but they are not explicitly enumerated as a series of "thieves". However, each of these is separately condemned in various sections of The Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads. We observe that ascetic sages of both the Vedic and non-Vedic tradition propounded the philosophy of renunciation and the methods of sense-control. In the Bhagvad Gita, the control of one's senses, as well as being imperturbable in the face of kama, moha, krodha and aham, are among the marked traits of the Shresta Vyakti (the Perfect Man) and Yogi (Knower). Many of the Upanisads display an awareness of the evils like raga or passion, avidya or nescience, moha or delusion, and ahankara or egoity. These thieves are also mentioned and condemned in some of the post-Buddhistic Upanisads such as the Prasna, Svetasvatara, Aitareya, Isa and Mundaka. The last-named text refers to 'the sages whose defilements have been destroyed' (ksinadosah), although it does not enumerate the 'defilements'.

Long before these later Upanisads, also, leaders of sramanic philosophers had expounded soteriological techniques in which eradication of all evils and imperfections was considered sine qua non for ultimate release. It is in the teachings of Kapilamuni, Parsvanatha, Sakyamuni and Mahavira that one finds a detailed discussion of the nature and function of kama, krodha, lobha, moha and ahankara and many other kindred vices.

The old Pali texts contain three lists of evils and factors which obstruct meditation and moral perfection. The list of five 'hindrances' (nivaranas) consists of sensuous desire, ill will, sloth and torpor, restlessness and sceptical doubt. These hindrances blind man's mental vision and make concentration difficult. The list of ten 'fetters' (sanyojanas), which bind beings to sansara, comprises the following: belief in a permanent individuality, sceptical doubt, belief in the efficacy of mere moral observances and rituals, sensual passion, ill will, desire for existence in the material world, desire for existence in the immaterial world, conceit, restlessness and nescience.


The first two in the list of five hindrances, sensuous desire (kamacchanda) and ill will or malice, are the same as the first two in the list of five evils mentioned in the Sikh canon. Likewise, belief in a permanent individuality (satkayadrsti), sensual passion (kamaraga), ill will, conceit (mana) and nescience (avidya), included in the Buddhist list of ten fetters, are comparable to egotism, lust, wrath, pride and delusion or attachment of Sikh enumeration.

The third Buddhist list of ten 'defilements' (Pali kilesa, Punjabi kalesh and Skt. klesa), includes the following: greed (lobha), hatred (dosa), delusion (moha), conceit (mana), false views, sceptical doubt, sloth, distraction, shamelessness and recklessness. In this list, again, the first four defilements are nearly identical with those included in the list of' ‘five evils' minus lust (kama). This last evil is mentioned separately and repeatedly in the Buddhist scriptures in Pali as well as in Sanskrit. Similarly wrath (krodha) is mentioned separately as a powerful enemy of holy life. Early Buddhist sources describe the triad of lobha, dosa (dvesa), and moha as the three roots of evil (akusala-mula).[2] One of the standard Buddhist words for evil is klesa which may be translated as 'defilement' or ‘depravity’. A list of six defilements is found in some Buddhist Sanskrit sources and includes passion (raga), ill will (pratigha), conceit (mana), nescience (avidya), false view (kudrsti), and sceptical doubt (vichikitsa).


The Jaina sources also contain details concerning evils and defilements. All the five evils of the Sikh list are found repeatedly mentioned in the sacred literature of Jainism. The Avasyakasutra has a list of eighteen sins which includes among others wrath (krodha), conceit, delusion (maya), greed, and ill will. The standard Jaina term for evil is 'dirt' or 'passion' (kasaya). The Dasavaikalikasutra states that four kasayas, viz. wrath, conceit, delusion and greed, cause rebirth. The Uttaradhyayanasutra mentions moha, trsna (synonym of kama) and lobha as the sources of sorrow.

The Yogasutra (II. 3) has a list of five defilements or hindrances called panca-klesah. These are nescience (avidya), egoity (asmita), passion (raga), ill will (dvesa) and the will to live (abhinivesa). Avidya equals moha; asmita is identical with ahankara; raga is similar to kama; dvesa is not different from krodha; and abhinivesa belongs to the category of lobha understood as continuous desire for existence in sansa


Main article: Six Enemies

Bhagavad Gita

The Bhagavad Gita mentions all the five evils although they are not all enumerated together at the same place as forming a pentad. The text mentions kama as lust and at one point it is identified with krodha. Besides kama and krodha which are called asuri (demonic) traits, the Bhagavad Gita mentions passion (raga), ill will, attachment, delusion, egoity, greed, conceit and nescience (ajnana), and employs terms such as papa, dosa and kalmasa for impurities or defilements. In one verse hypocrisy, arrogance, conceit, wrath, harsh speech and nescience are described as demoniac qualities. Medieval Buddhist, Jainist, and Brahmanical authors of religious and philosophical works continued to discuss the meaning, nature and methods of eradicating the five and more evils. The Tantric adepts (siddhas) recommended rather radical techniques of combating the evil psychological forces, especially through the method of 'conquering passions through passions'. Reference may be made here to Tulasidasa who, in a series of quadriparti verses (chaupais) in his Ramacharitamanasa, acknowledges the universality of kama, krodha, lobha, moha, mana and trsna which afflict not only men but also the gods.The evils are want,idleness,disease,ignorance and squalor

The Five Inner Thieves

There is no philosophical or theological explication of the five thieves, collectively or individually, in Sikh Scripture, but man is repeatedly warned against them. They have been called diseases or maladies which afflict human beings with disastrous effects. In at least five instances there is a list in the Sikh Guru Granth Sahib which consists of the following: kam, krodh, lobh, moh and abhiman or ahankar. At one place instead of moh and abhiman we have "mad" and "ninda". Here the word "mad" may be interpreted in the sense of 'intoxication born of egoity'. The word ninda means slander. In two of the seven instances cited here the members of the evil pentad are called 'five thieves' (panj-chor). In a hymn by Kabir the list has trishna (craving), kam, krodh, mad and matsar as the five evils. The word trishna (Skt. trsna) means craving or desire, while the word matsar means jealousy. Often the five evils are referred to as 'the five' (panj) or 'all the five' (sare panj). At places the five organs of sense (jnanendriyas) are also often referred to as "the five".

One, two, three or four of the five cardinal thieves are repeatedly mentioned almost throughout the body of the Sikh canon. The triad kam, krodh and lobh finds as frequent a mention as the triad kam, krodh and ahankar or moh, lobh and ahankar. Among the five evils the one that is condemned more than the others is ahankar. When only two of the five are mentioned, the pair consists either of kam and krodh, or of moh and "guman", or of lobh and moh; when a group of four out of the five evils is cited, it usually consists of the first four, kam, krodh, lobh and moh. Since the Sikh canon is a composite text containing the religious poetry not only of the Gurus but also of several saints and Sufis from various regions, synonyms, occasionally from different languages, occur. Thus lobh is also called lalach; man is called garab (Sanskrit garva) and guman; moh is also called bharam (Skt. bhrama). A word of most frequent occurrence is haumai. It is perhaps derived from aham, 'I' or egoity, the essential element of ego; hankar, ahankar are its semantic cognates. The word man is employed in a double sense; sometimes it is clearly used in the sense of 'honour' or 'respect'. In most cases, however, it is synonymous with "abhiman".

Devotion and Sadh Sangat

Loving devotion (bhagti, bhakti) to God is, according to Sikhism, the way to ultimate release. One can love God only when one has annihilated self-love; this means that the devotee must be humble and surrender themself fully unto God. The Gurus stress the necessity of taking refuge in God. To this end, one must first renounce pride (man). Constant awareness of God (simran) is the panacea for all ills. Devotion to God eradicates the evils in an instant and purifies the body (GG, 245). The destruction of evils may be viewed both as a cause and consequence of the practice of nam simran. Awareness of God's presence comes only when lust, wrath, avarice, attachment and egoity have departed from the devotee; when the devotee lives in constant awareness of God, the evils touch them not. Such a person is unaffected by pleasure and pain, for they have freed themself from evils such as lobh, moh and abhiman. Guru Tegh Bahadur describes such a sage as one liberated while still alive and calls them an image of God on earth (GG, I426-27).

Another way of overcoming haomai and other evils is to keep the company of the saints (sant) or Sadh Sangat (holy congregation) who both radiate virtuous qualities. One kills lust, wrath, greed and other depravities of the evil age (kali-kales) by taking refuge in the sangat, the holy fellowship. It is by discarding the most powerful of evils, egoity, that one can get admission to this sacred society. Egoity ceases as one takes to the company of the holy (GG, 271). A third method of overcoming the evils is to submit oneself to the instruction of the spiritual preceptor (guru). Those who would overcome the five evils must follow their teaching. The wisdom obtained from the preceptor is like a swift sword (kharagu karara) which cuts through confusion, infatuation, avarice and egoity (GG, 1087). One celebrates God's virtues through the favour of the sage (sant prasadi) and destroys lust, anger and insanity born of egoism (unmad). In Guru Nanak's Sidh Gosti it is stated that without the preceptor one's efforts bear no fruit. The importance of living up to the instruction of the holy preceptor can be judged from the concept of the 'Guru-oriented person' (gurmukh) so central to the Sikh moral system. A gurmukh is one who has turned their face towards the Guru, that is to say, a person who by practising what the Guru teaches has freed themself from the depravities and lives in the Divine presence. They achieve this position by conquering the evils under the guidance of the Guru and ever remains in tune with the Supreme Reality.


The existence of Five thieves could possibly be linked out of interdependence on each other. Philosophical implication of the matrix portrays the observational decrease in one thief upon willfully controlling the other, or vice versa

Dosh Kama (Lust) Krodh (Rage) Lobh (Greed) Moh (Attachment) Ahankar (Conceit)
Kama (Lust) Rejection Money and Materials required to have alpha traits Pleasure False sense of superiority
Krodh (Rage) Triggers false sense of ego which has to be defended
Lobh (Greed) Being greedy can cause self centered behavior, thus objectification We get angry if we don't get what we think we should Attachment to illegitimate things Greed causes shallowness of spirit which forces us to defend our wrongs as well
Moh (Attachment) We get angry if we lose what we think rightfully belongs to us Attachment makes us want more of it without being aware Attachment causes shallowness of spirit which forces us to defend our wrongs as well
Ahankar (Conceit) False sense of superiority makes us lust because we think we deserve it Rejection Money and Materials required to have alpha traits Attachment to worldly things

See also


Above adapted from article By L. M. Joshi


  1. ^ Izzo, John B. (2017). The Five Thieves of Happiness. Oakland, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers. p. 7. ISBN 9781626569348.
  2. ^ Priyadarshana, Wasantha (March–August 2017). "Buddhism As a System of Psychotherapy" (PDF). The Smaratungga Journal of Buddhist Studies and Education. 1: 37.