Spiritual References

The Guru Granth Sahib (Sikh holy book) is a compilation of spiritual hymns with a common philosophy but written by different spiritual masters. The scripture contains compositions of the Sikh Gurus, Bhagats (saints) and Bhattas (poets of the Sikh Gurus). It is a treasure of divine knowledge and mysticism and is a guide for a spiritual and sustainable life. According to the hymns, 'spirituality' means love for God and His Kar (creation).

Sikh Eco-Theology

The care for the environment, the sense of ecology, the protection of bio-diversity and sustainable living have all been part of the basic tenets of the Sikh faith. The Sikh Gurus explained that the whole universe is the creation of one God. The Guru Granth Sahib states that the aim of human existence is to reach a blissful life. We have to live in harmony with the earth and all of God’s Kar. The Sikh environmental ethos affirms that every part of nature belong together and are in a physical as well as metaphysical relationship. The influence of Sikh ideals has also endowed a spirit of egalitarianism, enterprise and hard work in the agrarian structure of Panjab.

Guru Nanak Sahib ji in the Japji Sahib 

Tis vich dhartee thaap rakhee dharamsaal.
'Within the universe, the planet Earth was established as
a shrine and a school for souls'.
(on page 7 of the Guru Granth Sahib) 

Pavan guru paanee pitaa maataa dharat mahat.
'Air is the Guru, water is the father, and the
earth is the great mother of all'.
(on page 8 of the Guru Granth Sahib)

The Sikh Gurus were well aware of the dangers of pollution and its detrimental effects. This is clearly highlighted in the above Shalok (Epilogue) to the Japji Sahib (the Sikh morning prayer). This shows that we should respect the air, water and earth and avoid polluting these essentials elements of life on planet Earth. Guru Nanak Sahib in ‘his philosophy states that the reality that humans have created around themselves is a reflection of their inner state’ (SCORE). Thus, the continued degradation of Panjab’s ecosystems is an expression of the loss of spirituality in Panjabis.

 

The Sikh philosophy advocates the equality of mankind, compassion for fellow beings and the preservation of nature, which is a gift of God. The rhythm of the year is felt through the Nanakshahi calendar (the Panjabi calendar) and the Bara Mah (Spiritual hymn of the twelve months) of Guru Nanak Sahib and Guru Arjan Sahib. Thus, the Sikh faith plays a significant role in creating and sustaining a momentum for ecological conservation. Environmental concerns must be viewed as part of the broader issue of human development and social justice. The Sikh faith follows a three hundred year cycle. In 1999 the next cycle was named the Cycle of Creation, and this has already led to a dramatic increase in environmental awareness and practices by Sikhs.
 

Panjabis and their Love of Nature

The Panjabis have been primarily a peasant and farming community. As such, they have a great love and a fascination for trees and animals. Through the centuries, they have acted as the guardians of the environment and ecology of Panjab. This is because they depend on that very environment for their survival. There is a well-known Panjabi proverb that explains the love for nature by the Panjabis.

‘God sleeps in the trees, dreams in the animals and wakes in human beings’

A Panjabi’s life is a life of harmony with other individuals and with other forms of life on earth. The Panjabi sense of care for the environment is primarily duty based. This approach to the environment is even today a part of the living legacy of Panjab. That legacy is gifted with a sacred and time-tested spirit and with that there is hope and promise for the future of Panjab. The environmental agenda has to be implemented with this sense of spirituality, morality and universality from the scriptures. The spiritual faiths provide us with an ecological vision of the unity of life and consciousness with all existence. This is precisely the inner vision and practical approach that we need now, when the very fabric of living in Panjab is under siege. There is a need to combine environmental protection of Panjab with sacredness, spirituality and traditions. Thus, the conservation of Panjab’s land, waters, animals and ecosystems will have to be based on both sacred and ecological values. The path from spirituality to ecology is a path of enlightenment to the spiritual rebirth of Panjab.

Sacred - Earth in space
p2
Sacred Q - Shalok Japji Sahib2
Sacred - Digging in Govindwal

The Sikh Gurus believed in practical measures to protect the environment. The third Sikh Guru, Amar Das had a baoli (a well with steps leading to water level) constructed in the holy town of Goindwal. It is widely known that the Guru ji had the baoli constructed to provide drinking water, sensing the contamination of the Beas River.

Sacred - Guru Arjan Sahib and well

Guru Arjan Sahib (the fifth Sikh Guru) had a well dug in Chheharta village in Amritsar, Panjab to help the villagers suffering on account of drought. This well was dug to commemorate the birth of his' son, Bhai Har Gobind (later the sixth Sikh Guru).

Baba Buddha (a respected figure in the Sikh history) is known to have retired to a rakh (Bir forest). There various species of the animals, including tigers and deer, lived in harmony.

Guru Har Rai (the seventh Sikh Guru) had gardens and parks with flowers and fruit trees in Kiratpur, Panjab. Guru ji also had herbal gardens and an animal sanctuary. He also ran an herbal treatment centre.

Sacred - Baba Buddha
Sacred - Guru Har Rai in garden
Sacred - Holla Mahalla Celebrataions

Nihang Singhs on horses at the Holla Mahala celebrations in Anadpur Sahib