There is a well-known proverb: “Hope sustains life”. Let us hope that neuroscience finds the verity of this age-old proverb. Hope is defined as a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen. Its equivalents are aspiration, anticipation, optimism and eagerness. The Cambridge dictionary gives its meaning as follows: to want something to happen or to be true, and usually have a good reason to think so”.

Research indicates that hope can help us manage stress and anxiety and cope with adversity. It contributes to our well-being and happiness and motivates positive action. Discussions of hope can be found throughout the history of philosophy and across all Western philosophical traditions, even though philosophy has traditionally not paid the same attention to hope as it has to attitudes like belief and desire. Almost all major philosophers acknowledge that hope plays an important role in regard to human motivation, religious belief or politics.

All religions provide a ray of hope for their followers. Hope has been a blessing in disguise. It is an inbuilt characteristic of human nature. Humanity evolved to the present stage based on hope despite the dictum: “survival of the fittest”. Hope is linked to desire and expectation. If desires are not fulfilled, one becomes pessimist. The difference between hope and desire is palpable. In Sikh religion, the term used for “hope” is “aas” which can be interchangeably used for hope and desire. In Sikh scripture, Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS), hope and desire are juxtaposed. Human prays to God with a hope that his desires will be fulfilled but it depends upon the grace of God to accept his prayer.

In Christianity, we find references to hope in several chapters (Books) of the Bible. In tough and uncertain times, it can be difficult to look beyond what’s currently happening in your life and see the light at the end of the tunnel. Whether you’re going through a big life change, a hard time for your family, or personal health concerns, an optimistic frame of mind can help you see a difficult challenge as an opportunity for gratitude. When you’re feeling low, try to find the silver linings in your hardships. The Bible is also a great place to find scripture that sparks hopefulness. We quote some of our favorite verses about hope as follows:

Jeremiah 29:11: "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

Romans 12:12: "Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer."

Psalm 147:11: "The Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love."

Proverbs 23:18: "There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off."

Romans 15:13: "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."

A Peep into the Sikh Way of Life: In Sikhism, ‘Chardi Kalaa’ is the Punjabi term for aspiring to maintain a mental state of eternal optimism and joy. Sikhs are ideally expected to be in this positive state of mind as a sign of their contentment with the will of God (bhana), even during times of adversity. As a young boy in High School, I experienced a change in my life from riches to rags. The circumstances were created by a family feud which devastated my dreams in life. However, I got solace from my deep faith in the Sikh scripture and its universal message of hope. 

My readings into SGGS gave me moral strength to face the upheavals of my life. The Guru gives a clear-cut formula to get rid of worries in life by making an honest effort [SGGS, M.5, p.522]:

ਉਦਮੁ ਕਰੇਦਿਆ ਜੀਉ ਤੂੰ ਕਮਾਵਦਿਆ ਸੁਖ ਭੁੰਚੁ ॥
Uḏam kareḏi▫ā jī▫o ṯūʼn kamāvḏi▫ā sukẖ bẖuncẖ.
Make the effort, and you shall live; practicing it, you shall enjoy peace.

ਧਿਆਇਦਿਆ ਤੂੰ ਪ੍ਰਭੂ ਮਿਲੁ ਨਾਨਕ ਉਤਰੀ ਚਿੰਤ ॥੧॥
Ḏẖi▫ā▫iḏi▫ā ṯūʼn parabẖū mil Nānak uṯrī cẖinṯ. ||1||
Meditating, you shall meet God, O Nanak, and your anxiety shall vanish. ||1||

Sikh religion has a view of life which differs from other Indian religious traditions. For example, Guru Nanak rejected the asceticism being practiced by Siddh-Nath-Yogis in his debate known as Siddh Goshit in SGGS. He advocated the life of a house holder who earns his livelihood by dint of hard labour and shares the fruits of his earnings with needy persons in the society. Sikh Gurus were highly critical of those who exploited the poor and lived as parasites. There were no restrictions imposed on the lifestyle of followers. On the contrary, it was recommended to get liberated by leading a disciplined life of joy and merriment [SGGS, M.5, p. 522]:

ਨਾਨਕ ਸਤਿਗੁਰਿ ਭੇਟਿਐ ਪੂਰੀ ਹੋਵੈ ਜੁਗਤਿ 
Nānak saṯgur bẖeti▫ai pūrī hovai jugaṯ.
O Nanak, meeting the True Guru, one comes to know the Perfect Way.

ਹਸੰਦਿਆ ਖੇਲੰਦਿਆ ਪੈਨੰਦਿਆ ਖਾਵੰਦਿਆ ਵਿਚੇ ਹੋਵੈ ਮੁਕਤਿ ॥੨॥
Hasanḏi▫ā kẖelanḏi▫ā painanḏi▫ā kẖāvanḏi▫ā vicẖe hovai mukaṯ. ||2||
While laughing, playing, dressing and eating, he is liberated. ||2||

Guru Nanak promoted a work culture in his followers which was based on a three-step formula: “Kirat karo, vand chhako and Naam japo” which translates to “earning by honest means, share your earnings with the needy, and meditate on qualities of God”. This mode of liberation is unique compared with other Indian traditions [SGGS, M.1, p. 1245]: 

ਘਾਲਿ ਖਾਇ ਕਿਛੁ ਹਥਹੁ ਦੇਇ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਰਾਹੁ ਪਛਾਣਹਿ ਸੇਇ ॥੧॥

Ghaal Khaae Kishh Hathhahu Dhaee || Naanak Raahu Pashhaanehi Saee ||1||

One who works for what he eats, and gives some of what he has. O Nanak, he knows the Path. ||1||

A Critique of Hope and Desire in the Sikh Scripture (SGGS): A Sikh is advised to follow the Gurmat, the path laid out by the Gurus. If he follows it, all his hopes and desires get fulfilled. My reading of the SGGS convinced me that ‘hope’ and ‘desire’ must be in tune or compatible, otherwise ‘desires’ can dominate the mind and prove overwhelming and disastrous in the long run. There need to be equilibrium between hopes and desires. The quotes from SGGS give an insight to the idea of ‘hope’ in Sikh religion:

ਆਸ ਮਨੋਰਥੁ ਪੂਰਨੁ ਹੋਵੈ ਭੇਟਤ ਗੁਰ ਦਰਸਾਇਆ ਜੀਉ ॥੨॥      [SGGS, M.5, p. 104]
Ās manorath pūran hovai bẖetaṯ gur ḏarsā▫i▫ā jī▫o. ||2||
His hopes and desires are fulfilled, when he gains the Blessed Vision of the Guru's Darshan. ||2||      

The ultimate hope of a Sikh is to merge with Supreme Reality (God) and this is fulfilled by the grace of God [SGGS, M.5, p.105]:

ਕਰਿ ਕਿਰਪਾ ਪ੍ਰਭ ਸੰਗਿ ਮਿਲਾਇਆ 
Kar kirpā parabẖ sang milā▫i▫ā.
Showering His Mercy upon us, God has united us with Him.

ਆਵਣ ਜਾਣ ਰਹੇ ਵਡਭਾਗੀ ਨਾਨਕ ਪੂਰਨ ਆਸਾ ਜੀਉ ॥੪॥੩੧॥੩੮॥
Āvaṇ jāṇ rahe vadbẖāgī Nānak pūran āsā jī▫o. ||4||31||38||
Our comings and goings have ended, and through great good fortune, O Nanak, our hopes are fulfilled. ||4||31||38||

The hopes can be fulfilled by regular meditation [SGGS, M.5, p.263]:

 ਪ੍ਰਭ ਕੈ ਸਿਮਰਨਿ ਪੂਰਨ ਆਸਾ 

Parabẖ kai simran pūran āsā.

In the remembrance of God, hopes are fulfilled.

It may look strange that Sikh religion has a unique viewpoint on the idea of hope in the life of a Sikh. It is recommended that hopes and desires should not become ‘wishful’ thinking which impedes the progress of life. One should follow the three step formula of Sikhi as commended by Guru Nanak.

 ਆਸਾ ਮਨਸਾ ਮੋਹਣੀ ਗੁਰਿ ਠਾਕੀ ਸਚੁ ਬੋਲੁ ॥   [SGGS, M.1, p.59]

Āsā mansā mohṇī gur ṯẖākī sacẖ bol.
The enticements of hope and desire are quieted by the Guru, whose Word is True.

ਆਸਾ ਮਾਹਿ ਨਿਰਾਸੁ ਬੁਝਾਇਆ ॥ Āsā māhi nirās bujẖā▫i▫ā.   [SGGS, M.1, p. 154]
In the midst of hope, the Guru teaches us to live above hope and desire.

ਆਸਾ ਮਨਸਾ ਦੋਊ ਬਿਨਾਸਤ ਤ੍ਰਿਹੁ ਗੁਣ ਆਸ ਨਿਰਾਸ ਭਈ ॥  [SGGS, M.1, p.356]

Āsā mansā ḏo▫ū bināsaṯ ṯarihu guṇ ās nirās bẖa▫ī.
Hope and desire have both been dispelled; I have renounced my longing for the three qualities.

ਮੇਰੇ ਮਨ ਅਹਿਨਿਸਿ ਪੂਰਿ ਰਹੀ ਨਿਤ ਆਸਾ ॥ [SGGS, M.3, p.29]

Mere man ahinis pūr rahī niṯ āsā.

O my mind, day and night, you are always full of wishful hopes.

Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikh religion, gave a clarion call to humanity not to crave for happiness which ultimately leads to sorrow. Life needs to be lived in equipoise. Pain and pleasure are intermingled in life. Peace comes to those who follow the Shabda, the wisdom of the Guru as enunciated in Sikh scripture [SGGS, M.1, p.57]:

ਆਸ ਅੰਦੇਸਾ ਦੂਰਿ ਕਰਿ ਇਉ ਮਲੁ ਜਾਇ ਸਮਾਇ ॥੪॥
Ās anḏesā ḏūr kar i▫o mal jā▫e samā▫e. ||4||
Let your hopes and anxieties depart; thus pollution is washed away. ||4||

ਸੁਖ ਕਉ ਮਾਗੈ ਸਭੁ ਕੋ ਦੁਖੁ ਨ ਮਾਗੈ ਕੋਇ 
Sukẖ ka▫o māgai sabẖ ko ḏukẖ na māgai ko▫e.
Everyone begs for happiness; no one asks for suffering.

ਸੁਖੈ ਕਉ ਦੁਖੁ ਅਗਲਾ ਮਨਮੁਖਿ ਬੂਝ ਨ ਹੋਇ 
Sukẖai ka▫o ḏukẖ aglā manmukẖ būjẖ na ho▫e.
But in the wake of happiness, there comes great suffering. The self-willed manmukhs do not understand this.

ਸੁਖ ਦੁਖ ਸਮ ਕਰਿ ਜਾਣੀਅਹਿ ਸਬਦਿ ਭੇਦਿ ਸੁਖੁ ਹੋਇ ॥੫॥
Sukẖ ḏukẖ sam kar jāṇī▫ahi sabaḏ bẖeḏ sukẖ ho▫e. ||5||
Those who see pain and pleasure as one and the same find peace; they are pierced through by the Shabad. ||5||

Bhagat Kabir in SGGS seems to be in consonance with Guru Nanak when he rejects the idea of having wishful thinking of attaining a place in heaven. He ordains his followers to rely on the Will of God and desist from false hopes in life:

ਜਬ ਲਗੁ ਮਨਿ ਬੈਕੁੰਠ ਕੀ ਆਸ ॥ਤਬ ਲਗੁ ਹੋਇ ਨਹੀ ਚਰਨ ਨਿਵਾਸੁ ॥੩॥ [SGGS, Kabir, p.325]
Jab lag man baikunṯẖ kī ās. Ŧab lag ho▫e nahī cẖaran nivās. ||3||
As long as the mind is filled with the desire for heaven, he does not dwell at the Lord's Feet. ||3||

ਹੋਨਾ ਹੈ ਸੋ ਹੋਈ ਹੈ ਮਨਹਿ ਨ ਕੀਜੈ ਆਸ ॥੧॥    [SGGS, Kabir, p.337]
Honā hai so ho▫ī hai manėh na kījai ās. ||1||
Whatever will be will be, so don't get your hopes up in your mind. ||1||

Guru Arjun, the fifth Guru of the Sikhs, who compiled the Sikh scripture (SGGS) in 1604 and installed in Harmandir Sahib, known as Golden Temple now, reaffirms the message of Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikh religion, in no uncertain terms. The lesson is crystal clear for the followers of the Sikh religion to have faith in the grace of God who is capable of fulfilling all hopes of his devotee. 

ਉਤਰਿ ਜਾਇ ਤੇਰੇ ਮਨ ਕੀ ਪਿਆਸ ॥ ਪੂਰਨ ਹੋਵੈ ਸਗਲੀ ਆਸ ॥  [SGGS, M.5, p.179]

Uṯar jā▫e ṯere man kī pi▫ās. Pūran hovai saglī ās.

The thirst of your mind shall be quenched, and all hopes shall be fulfilled.

ਹਰਿ ਸੰਗਿ ਰਾਤੇ ਪੂਰਨ ਆਸ ॥੨॥         [SGGS, M.5, p.201]
Har sang rāṯe pūran ās. ||2||
One who is attuned to the Lord, sees all his hopes fulfilled. ||2||

ਜਿਉ ਭਾਵੈ ਤਿਉ ਰਖੁ ਤੂੰ ਸਚਿਆ ਨਾਨਕ ਮਨਿ ਆਸ ਤੇਰੀ ਵਡ ਵਡੇ ॥੩੩॥[SGGS, M.5, p.317]

Ji▫o bẖāvai ṯi▫o rakẖ ṯūʼn sacẖi▫ā Nānak man ās ṯerī vad vade. ||33||
If it pleases You, then save me, True Lord. Nanak places the hopes of his mind in You alone, O greatest of the great! ||33||

To conclude, Sikh religion does not guarantee fulfilling of ‘HOPE’ if the followers go astray from the path of Gurmat laid down by the Sikh Gurus. This path entails “Kirat karo, vand chhako and Naam japo” which translates to “earning by honest means, share your earnings with the needy, and meditate on qualities of God”. Hopes and desires are fulfilled by the grace of God.
Acknowledgement: I am indebted to organizers of Vishwaneedam Centre for Asian-Blossoming, Puducherry and Chennai, India for inviting me to present my views at International Webinar on ‘Hope in Sikh Religion’ under the forum “Cultivating Transformative Faith and a New Ecology of Hope”.

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