DAYA (usually spelt data in Punjabi), from Skt. Day meaning to sympathize with, to have pity on, stands for compassion, sympathy. It means `suffering in the suffering of all beings.` It is deeper and more positive in sentiment than sympathy. Daya, cognitively, observes alien pain; affectively, it gets touched by it and moves with affectional responses for the sufferer; and co-natively, it moves one to act mercifully, pityingly, with kindness and forgiveness.

Daya is antithetical to hinsa (violence).One imbued with daya “chooses to die himself rather than cause others to die,” says Guru Nanak (GG, 356). Daya is a divine quality and a moral virtue highly prized in all religious traditions. In the Sikh Scripture, mahadaial (super compassionate), daiapati (lord of compassion), daial dev (merciful god), karima, rahima (the merciful one), etc., have been used as attributive names of God (GG, 249, 991, 1027, 727). In Sikh ethics, too, daya is, inter alia, a basic moral requirement, a moral vow.

“Keep your heart content and cherish compassion for all beings; this way alone can your holy vow be fulfilled” (GG, 299). At the human level, one can comprehend feeling of another`s anguish, but as a theological doctrine it is to risk allowing suffering in God`s life.This has often caused much controversy in theological circles. God does not suffer in the sense of pain from evil as evil, but may suffer compassion (daya) as bearing the pain of others to relieve them (of pain as also of evil).

That is why at the time of Babar`s invasion of India, Guru Nanak, when he witnessed the suffering of people, complained to God: eti mar pal kurlane tain ki dardu na aia So much agony were they put through So much anguish did they suffer Were you not, 0 God, moved to compassion ? (GG, 360) The Guru, in the image of God, is also daYa/ purakh (compassionate being) and bakhasand (forgiver) GG, 681 Daya is a virtue of the mind. In Indian thought, virtues are classified into (i) those of the body: dana (charity), paritrana (succouring those in distress), paricharana (social service); (ii) those of speech: satya (veracity), hitovachana (beneficial speech), priyavachana (sweet speech), svadhyaya (reciting of Scriptures) and (iii) those of the mind which, besides daya, also include aparigraha (unworldliness) and sraddha (reverence and piety).

In Sikh thought daya is considered the highest virtue: athsathi tirath sagal punn jia daia parvanu The merit of pilgrimages of holy places sixty-eight, and that of other virtues besides, equal not compassion to living beings. (GG, 136) Daya, in fact, is considered to be Truth in action: sachu ta paru janiai ja sikh sachi lei ; daiajanaijia kikichhu punnu danu karei Truth dawns when truthful counsel is accepted, Seeking familiarity with compassion, ne gives away virtuous charity. (GG, 468) Daya is, in reality, true action or action par excellence (karm sar) as are truth and contentment, the other two high virtues (GG, 51).

References :

1. Sher Singh, The Philosophy of Sikhism. Lahore, 1944
2. Nripinder Singh, The Sikh Moral Tradition. Delhi, 1990
3. Avtar Singh, Ethics of the Sikhs. Patiala, 1970