Thursday, March 15, 2007

Interfaith Meeting on Environment (Part 1)

Yesterday I attended my local RE Centre interfaith public meeting which is a series of talks from different speakers from the local community representing different faiths (i.e. Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Sikh and Jew). Yesterday's meeting was the last of the series for this year and was on the topic of "ECOLOGY & the ENVIRONMENT" from the Sikh perspective and Jewish perspective. The people attending the meetings are lovely, kind and very welcoming. The majority of the public attending the events are mature people. About 25 people attended yesterday's meeting.

Below is a short summary of the talk Daas delivered on Gurmat's Perspective on the Environment & Ecology:

The Sikh Gurus strived towards creating an IDEAL SOCIETY – spiritually, ethically and environmentally.
ਦਰਪਣ ਵਾਂਗ ਧਿਆਨ ਧਰ ਆਪ ਆਪ ਨਿਹਾਲੈ ॥
"Humans are reflected (in the mirror of the world) in exactly the same way as their inner nature."
(Vaar 9, PauRee 6 - Bhai Gurdaas jee)

The current state of the external environment of human beings—is only a REFLECTION of the INSTABILITY and PAIN within us. The increasing barrenness of the earth’s terrain is a reflection of the EMPTINESS within human race.

What is the Solution?
* Accepting God’s HUKAM (Will/ System/ Command)

Through an attitude of HUMILITY and SURRENDERING to Waheguru, the conscious human being can seek to redress environmental and social justice. This is possible through the guidance of the Guru through NAAM and BAANI.

Unity of Creation – Ik Oankaar
Concern for the environment is part of an INTEGRATED approach to life and nature. The ORIGIN and END of the creation is in GOD, and it operates within His SYSTEM. The Creation is a MANIFESTATION of God - every creature, plant, and every form. God is the cause of all and He is the primary connection between all existence. God has created the system and gives support. Humans must have consciousness of their PLACE in creation and their RELATIONSHIP with the rest of creation, without this, one cannot find harmony within themselves or with God. The Guru helps us to make this CONNECTION.

Spiritual Discipline
ਜਿਸੁ ਨਾਮੁ ਰਿਦੈ ਤਿਸੁ ਪ੍ਰਗਟਿ ਪਹਾਰਾ ॥
"One who keeps Naam in their heart sees the Lord manifested in His Creation."
(Ang 1156)
Guru Nanak Sahib jee showed the Path of living a pure, complete and spiritual lifestyle whilst living in this world like floating Lotus flower on the muddy pool. Those that live disciplined lives, while remaining active in the world are capable of further spiritual progression. The Sikh Gurus were ACTIVISTICS that demonstrated respect and dignity for all living life – human and non-human. For example the Seventh Guru made beautiful gardens, opened an animal sanctuary, and a medical herb centre in Kiratpur Sahib, showing compassion to human, animals and the environment.

One must first recognise the Divine Light within oneself before seeing it in others and throughout the creation. Recognising it, one must cherish it, nurture and fulfil it. Through Gurmat, spiritual discipline, devotion to Naam, and Seva one learns to master this negativity (Panj Chor - which drives our inner disharmony and destruction of our surroundings) with positivity: Compassion, Humility, Contemplation, Contentment, and Nishkaam Seva.

Making the Guru's Message a Reality
One cannot care for the environment when there is SOCIAL INJUSTICE. Living in harmony with Waheguru implies to a life of harmony with ALL existence. This means supporting human rights, animal rights, environmentalism, working against injustice towards anybody and anything. The Sikh Gurus, through their lives, provided role models for the Sikhs. They all actively worked to stress the equality of all humans and challenged the rigid social stratification of the caste system in India. The Sixth Guru only left jail when the condition was met that all 52 innocent political prisoners would enjoy justice and freedom with him. The Ninth Guru sacrificed his life for the human rights and freedom of others.

Community-based sharing of resources
Traditional Panjabi lifestyle is based on organic materials and ensures use of the least resources, considerable reuse, and recycling. There are strong traditions of SHARING. The Sikh Gurus established towns and cities, e.g. Kartpur Sahib, each created around a religious centre focused on a lifestyle of (1) sharing, (2) fairness among people, (3) optimum utilization of resources. Even today, rural Punjab families share resources with their neighbours. For example on weddings or large family occasions, the entire village may play host to guests and share living space, beds, and so on. This is something we can all learn from and use as an ideal model in modern Western society.

The Sikh Lifestyle - Simple Diet which is Free of Intoxicants
Guru Sahib has shown a Sikh to live a life which does not harm their mind, health, others around them, society, or the environment. Therefore, Sikhs are prohibited from consuming TOBACCO, ALCOHOL or any other INTOXICANTS, and keep a simple VEGETARIAN DIET. Gurmat is against causing CRUELTY and SUFFERING to animals. The prohibiton of not to eat "Kuttha", interpreted to mean: "meat of an animal that has been 'BUTCHERED' and then 'INTENTIONALLY' eaten." The reason is NOT because of Ahimsa (respect for life), but instead “DAYA” (compassion). If one's heart doesn't melt at seeing the SHRIEKS and ANGUISH of animals, why would it matter when a human does the same? If one cannot have love for God's creation and create a spiritual and kind atmosphere and environment within themselves and around them, then how can one expects to experience or connect with God?
ਜੀਅ ਬਧਹੁ ਸੁ ਧਰਮੁ ਕਰਿ ਥਾਪਹੁ ਅਧਰਮੁ ਕਹਹੁ ਕਤ ਭਾਈ ॥
ਆਪਸ ਕਉ ਮੁਨਿਵਰ ਕਰਿ ਥਾਪਹੁ ਕਾ ਕਉ ਕਹਹੁ ਕਸਾਈ ॥੨॥
"You kill living beings, and call it a righteous action. Tell me, brother, what would you call an unrighteous action? If you religious people are doing "religious" killing for meat, then what is atheism? If you are a religious person then whom will we call a butcher? ||2||"

(Ang 1103)

All life is INTERCONNECTED. Just as the human body consists of many parts dependent upon each other, so all the constituents of this universe and this earth are DEPENDENT upon each other. CHOICES in one place have measurable CONSEQUENCES for the rest of the world. It is part of the same system. A human being needs to derive sustenance from the earth and not deplete, exhaust, pollute, burn, or destroy it. Sikhs believe in the “environmental ethic” dedicated to the awareness of the SACRED RELATIONSHIP between HUMANS and the ENVIRONMENT, which is necessary for the health of our planet, and for our survival.

Afterwards the Jewish Rabbi spoke about the Jewish perspective on Ecology and the Environment. The questions and answers were particularly interesting. Gurmat's perspective definitely gave food for thought for everyone and provoked a good discussion!

To be continued...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...