Care for Environment – Sikhism

The Golden Temple - Amritsar

The Sikh religion was founded in the late 15th century in the Punjab by Guru Nanak (1469-1539) and takes its name from the word “sikh” meaning “disciple.” It is founded on faith in one Supreme Being and meditation on the divine Name with devotion, while living a householder life of virtue, honest work, and selfless service while seeking to establish justice in the world. As part of that justice in the world, EcoSikh has been active in the area of climate mitigation for more than a decade.


We are called to the vision of Guru Nanak, which is a World Society comprising God-conscious human beings who have realized God. To these spiritual beings the earth and the universe are sacred; all life is unity, and their mission is the spiritualization of all.

Guru Nanak in his philosophy states that the reality that humans create around themselves is a reflection of their inner state. The current instability of the natural system of the earth—the external environment of human beings—is only a reflection of the instability and pain within humans. The increasing barrenness of the earth’s terrain is a reflection of the emptiness within humans.

This environmental crisis cries out for an immediate and urgent solution. It requires going back to the basic question of the purpose of human beings in this universe and an understanding of ourselves and God’s creation.

The solution to problems manifest in our world lies in prayer and in accepting God’s hukam. It is difficult to translate certain Sikh concepts accurately. Hukam is one such concept — it may be best described as a combination of God’s will, order, and system. With an attitude of humility, and surrender to the Divine Spirit, conscientious human beings can seek to redress the current crises of the environment and of social justice. In the Sikh Way this is done through the guidance of the Guru, who is the Divine Master and messenger of God. — Compiled under the guidance of Sri Singh Sahib Manjit Singh, the Jathedar of Anandapur, one of the five spiritual and temporal heads of The Sikh Religion, and Sri Akhal Takhat Sahib, his deputy.

Manohar Singh Grewal reads The Sikh Faith Statement on Nature, found in the Faith for Earth: A Call to Action resource, a document created by the Parliament of the World’s Religions and the United Nations Environment Program Faith for Earth Initiative. This recording is used in the Center for Ecumenical and Interreligious Engagement’s Study Guide to the Faith for Earth resource. Take a listen: https://buff.ly/3d1mkp2

Manohar Singh Grewal obtained his ScD in Material Science from MIT Cambridge in 1972, and is the Current Trustee, Chairperson of Communication Committee and serving as member of Climate Action Task Force of The Parliament of World’s Religions.

The Sikh religion was founded in the late 15th century in the Punjab by Guru Nanak (1469-1539) and takes its name from the word “sikh” meaning “disciple.” It is founded on faith in one Supreme Being and meditation on the divine Name with devotion, while living a householder life of virtue, honest work, and selfless service while seeking to establish justice in the world. Sikhism, as it is also called, affirms the unity of humanity and the equality of all people. The line of the Sikh Gurus was ended by the tenth and last Guru, Guru Gobind Singh (1666-1708), after whom Sikhs take as the Guru their holy scripture, the Sri Guru Granth Sahib.

 

San Jose Gurdwara
San Jose Gurdwara Solar Panels. Photo by Meeka Studio.

The Sri Guru Granth Sahib says

Air is the guru; Water the father; and Earth the great mother. Day and night are two male and female nurses in whose lap the entire world plays. — Epilogue to the Japji or Morning Prayer, by Guru Nanak. www.sikhs.org.

You Yourself created the Universe, and You are pleased. You Yourself are the air, water and fire; You Yourself unite in Union. You Yourself are the moon, the sun, the most perfect of the perfect. You Yourself are spiritual wisdom, meditation, and the Guru…

You Yourself are the bumble bee, the flower, the fruit and the tree. You Yourself are the water, the desert, the ocean and the pool. You Yourself are the great fish, the tortoise, the Cause of causes; Your form cannot be known.

Men, trees, sacred shrine of pilgrimage, banks of sacred rivers, clouds, fields, islands, continents, worlds, solar systems and universes; the four courses of creation – born of eggs, born of the womb, born of the earth and born of sweat; oceans, mountains and all beings —zi O Nanak, He alone knows their condition.

O Nanak, having created the living beings, He cherishes them all. The Creator who created the creation takes care of it as well. He, the Creator who formed the world, cares for it. — Guru Nanak, Sri Guru Granth Sahib, p. 1020 and p. 467. www.sikhs.org.

 

The Gur Granth Sahib
The Guru Granth Sahib

Upon that cosmic plate of the sky, the sun and the moon are
the lamps.
The stars and their orbs are the studded pearls.
The fragrance of sandalwood in the air is the temple incense,
and the wind is the fan.
All the plants of the world are the altar flowers in offering to
You, O Luminous Lord.
What a beautiful Aartee – lamp-lit worship service – this is!
O Destroyer of Fear, this is Your Ceremony of Light.
The Unstruck Sound-current of the Shabad is the vibration of
the temple drums.
You have thousands of eyes, and yet You have no eyes.
You have thousands of forms, and yet You do not have even
one.
You have thousands of Lotus Feet, and yet You do not have
even one foot.
You have no nose, but you have thousands of noses. This Play
of Yours entrances me.
Amongst all is the Light – You are that Light.
By this Illumination, that Light is radiant within all.
Through the Guru’s Teachings, the Light shines forth.
That which is pleasing to Him is the lamp-lit worship service.
My mind is enticed by the honey-sweet Lotus Feet of the Lord.
Day and night, I thirst for them.
Bestow the Water of Your Mercy upon Nanak, the thirsty songbird,
so that he may come to dwell in Your Name.
— Guru Nanak, Sri Guru Granth Sahib, p. 13. www.sikhs.org.

The Sikh Religion and the Environment

The Sikh scripture declares that the purpose of human beings is to achieve a blissful state and be in harmony with all creation … In Sikh beliefs, a concern for the environment is part of an integrated approach to life and nature. As all creation has the same origin and end, humans must have consciousness of their place in creation and their relationship with the rest of creation. Humans should conduct themselves through life with love, compassion and justice. Becoming one and being in harmony with God implies that humans endeavour to live in harmony with all of God’s creation… The emphasis is on mastery over the self and the discovery of the self; not mastery over nature, external forms and beings. Sikhism teaches against a life of conspicuous, wasteful consumption… The Gurus taught humans to be aware of and respect the dignity in all life, whether human or not. Such a respect for life can only be fostered where one can first recognise the Divine spark within oneself, see it in others, cherish it, nurture and fulfil it. — “Environmental Theology in Sikhism,” www.ecosikh.org

Trees greening the Gurdwara

A Sikh place of worship, where the Sri Guru Granth Sahib is enshrined, is called a Gurdwara. A grassroots movement is underway around the world, in which Sikhs are “greening” their gurdwaras through increased energy efficiency, switching to renewable energy, water conservation, waste reduction and recycling, tree-planting and landscaping, and eating organic and healthy food, which they may grow in a gurdwara garden.

One Million Trees

One Million Trees
To celebrate the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak in November 2019, Sikhs around the world planted one million trees “as a gift to the entire planet.” A commitment was made to plant 550 trees in 1,820 locations globally as “Guru Nanak Sacred Groves.” Many of these have already been planted in Punjab, the birthplace of Guru Nanak and homeland of the Sikh Religion. The initiative has adopted the “Miyawaki technique” of recreating native forests, including micro-forests, developed by Japanese botanist Akira Miyawaki. For more information, visit http://www.ecosikh.org/250-days-60-guru-nanak-sacred-forests-2/, and visit afforestt.com to learn about the Miyawaki technique.

 

Langaar meal
Langar lunch prepared by Toronto’s Sikh community for the Parliament of the World’s Religions. Photo by Will Pearson.

EcoSikh

EcoSikh is a response from the Sikh community to the threats of climate change and the deterioration of the natural environment. Our organisation arose as part of the Long Term Plans for Generational Change programme initiated in 2009 by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC) to help the world’s major religious traditions create long-term plans to improve their relationship with the environment.

EcoSikh connects Sikh values, beliefs, and institutions to the most important environmental issues facing our world. We draw on the rich tradition of the Sikh Gurus and the Khalsa Panth to shape the behaviour and outlook of Sikhs and the world, ensuring that our deep reverence for all creation remains a central part of the Sikh way of life.

Guru Nanak Dev Ji, the first embodiment of Divine Light in the Sikh tradition, laid the foundation for a sacred vision for the environment when he composed the salok as second Mehala:

ਪਵਣੁ ਗੁਰੂ ਪਾਣੀ ਪਿਤਾ ਮਾਤਾ ਧਰਤਿ ਮਹਤੁ ||
‘Pavan Guru Pani Pita, Mata Dharat Mahat !’
(Air is the Guru, Water the Father, and the Earth is the Great Mother)

 


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