Air, water, earth and sky - the Lord has made these His home and temple (Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji Ang 723)
The leaves have started re-growing and the birds have returned. In our backyard we put out birdfeed in the summers and this year there's at least fifty birds singing and eating all day. It immediately made me think about what I learned from the life of Guru Har Rai Ji and shared in one of my posts. He used to feed crows and other birds during langar, started a zoo to protect and feed animals, and created a number of gardens including growing medicinal plants.
I have always noticed that my parents love to spend time gardening and doing yardwork. My grandparents have a farm where they are able to grow all of their own sabjis at home. For us, it’s hard to grow a lot of sabjis in the North but its still rewarding to be able to grow things like homegrown peas, raspberries, strawberries, carrots, etc. I think this helps us link back to our roots. Many Punjabi families were traditionally farmers and therefore land and the soil are part of who we are. I hope as a generation we don’t lose this over the years sitting inside at our desks. I have spent a lot of time in the past working on sustainability projects for the city and it made me really aware about the importance of conserving energy, protecting our environment, and its relationship to our own health. We are very fortunate to be living in such a beautiful landscape created by God and we should always remember this as part of our sewa.
I researched this topic a little bit to see what was out there about Sikhi and the environment. Almost every website that I looked at talked about the lines of Japji Sahib, “Pavan Guru Pani Pita Mata Dharat Mahat, Divas Rat Doe Dayee Daya Khele Sagal Jagat” meaning “Air is Our Guru, water is our father, and great earth is our mother. Day and night are the male and female nurses in whose lap the whole world plays.” This reminds us that it is core to our Sikhism that we take care of our environment. We are one with Waheguru, and therefore one with Waheguru’s creation. Our existence is interlinked and we must be careful to sustain our environment. A Huffington Post article by Bandana Kaur states, “The Sikh Gurus’ writings are also a rich compendium on the biodiversity of South Asia. Throughout Guru Granth Sahib, birds and trees especially are used to describe the metaphoric relationship between a disciple and the Divine. Traditional birds like the peacock, flamingo, hawk, cuckoo, nightingale, crane, swan, owl, and the koyal, and trees like the banyan, pipal, and sandalwood of Punjab are used in the Gurus’ metaphors, along with many, many other species. This diversity of life affirm’s the Divine’s creative current through land, water, and sky.” Therefore the constant mention of the environment in Gurbani reminds of its importance in our daily lives as Sikhs.
I also learned that every year the EcoSikh organization has started a worldwide Sikh Vatvaran Diwas (Sikh Environment Day) on the Gurgaddi Divas of Guru Har Rai Ji, and this year it was held on March 14th. Their organization focuses on connecting Sikh values to environmental issues and they do projects like organic langar, bike rallies, and planting trees. These are really amazing projects.
Now that we know how important environmental efforts are, we can start to think about how to incorporate these into our lives and communities. One of the great things we have done at our Gurdwara Sahib is having real dishes instead of plastic and Styrofoam for langar. In our homes or in our Gurdwara Sahib we can start with simple measures like planting/watering trees, starting a vegetable garden, putting out food for birds, being careful not to pollute the environment. Walking and biking as much as possible are also options depending on where you live.
Nature we see
Nature we hear
Nature we observe with awe, wonder and joy
Nature in the nether regions
Nature in the skies
Nature in the whole creation…
Nature in species, kinds, colours
Nature in life forms
Nature in good deeds
Nature in pride and in ego
Nature in air, water and fire
Nature in the soil of the earth
All nature is yours, O powerful Creator
You command it, observe it and pervade within it
(Guru Granth Sahib- translated on BBC website below)
http://www.sikhfoundation.org/featured/sustainable-development-of-environment-evidence-from-sikh-religion/ this one is a particularly great article to read