Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Gurbani's perspective on the environment....

Gurbani and the Environment

Author: Bhai Atma Singh (UK)
ਪਵਣੁ ਗੁਰੂ ਪਾਣੀ ਪਿਤਾ ਮਾਤਾ ਧਰਤਿ ਮਹਤੁ || 
pavan guroo, paanee pitaa, maataa dharat mahat.
"The breath/air/atmosphere is The Enlightener, water is the father, earth the great mother."

This Panktee (sentence) that begins the very first Salok (short self-contained verse) that appears within ਗੁਰਬਾਣੀ (Teachings of The True Enlightener) can be interpreted to be referring to the human body.

In this sense our Pavan/breath is ਸਤਿਗੁਰੂ ਸਾਹਿਬ ਜੀ (The True Enlightener) as it leads & modulates the experience of ਨਾਮੁ (Vibration of, emanation of & means of absorption into The Oneness).

Our body is mostly composed of Paanee/water & it comes into being partly via the liquid sperm of our father.

It is earth via everything our human mother eats & absorbs that gives rise to & then forms our physical body.

As the Salok continues it also details how this planet is a Dharamshaal (place of righteousness/spirituality/the true Gurdwara), how our actions determine our spiritual state & then it ends by telling us how to become Gurmukhs (students of The Enlightener) & reach Chauthaa padd (the 4th place) i.e. True Spiritual Equipoise & fulfilment.

It may be worth mentioning 4th place is beyond the 3 major qualities/attributes that ultimately prevent yet are mistaken for spiritual perfection & human fulfilment i.e. rajo/accumulation of wealth, tamo/desire for pleasure, power & control despite innumerable negative consequences & sato/religious-inspired rituals, practice, charitable actions.

In this way the paradigm of human life is detailed, as well as the means by which to realise the vast & ultimate potential of it.

Let us consider another interpretation. ਗੁਰਬਾਣੀ is infinite after all.

Pavan - The atmosphere/air/gases which continuously contribute towards creation/evolution as per Hukam/Command/Ordained Laws/Cosmic Will are ਵਾਹਿਗੁਰੂ (The Wondrous Enlightener).

Without Pavan's existence there is no chance of life & Pavan is mostly 'invisible' yet we totally depend upon it for our existence. Likewise, without ਵਾਹਿਗੁਰੂ there is no existence, no spiritual life & therefore no true spiritual sustenance & fulfilment.

Paanee - Water, the 'magical ingredient', the father of creation, which scientists firmly believe is crucial for gross material life to exist - to the extent that when looking for life elsewhere on other planets a major indicator they look for is the presence of water. Interestingly it is believed by some scientists that water gradually arrived upon this planet via icy asteroids & comets hitting earth & literally impregnating it.

Maata Dharat Mahath - Earth the great mother that gives birth, sustains & then destroys all things. When we die our mortal frames fully return to her in the form of decomposing flesh or ash & bones. She continuously recycles this gross material into new life forms.

Incidentally in this sense even in terms of gross matter there is no 'coming or going'. Everything simply changes form, with matter never lessening or increasing in mass. The same goes for energy too, which matter is of course simply a gross manifestation of. Now this is until the universe returns to singularity i.e. From current Sargunn ਵਾਹਿਗੁਰੂ (infinite attribute form of The Wondrous Enlightener i.e. Post-creation) to reabsorption/retraction into Nirgunn ਵਾਹਿਗੁਰੂ (zero attribute form of The Wondrous Enlightener i.e. Pre-creation). Chaupai Sahib & Sukhmanee Sahib (ਗੁਰਬਾਣੀ compositions) provide much detail regards the subject of creation & cosmology as per Gurmat (Teachings of The Enlightener).

But why is there such a focus within ਗੁਰਬਾਣੀ upon nature, natural phenomena & often cosmology?

One reason for this is because ਵਾਹਿਗੁਰੂ can only be known through attributes & nature provides us prodigious insight into these attributes.

Creation is the purest example of ਵਾਹਿਗੁਰੂ's Sargunn form...ਵਾਹਿਗੁਰੂ's self-expressed nature. Nature is after all everblossoming, self-sustaining, onward, evolutionary perfection, balance & harmony. Whilst this material universe exists, & of course this beautiful planet exists, we will receive infinite inspiration & spiritual teachings.

Therefore it should come as no surprise that ਸਤਿਗੁਰੂ ਸਾਹਿਬ ਜੀ constantly & directly refers to a vast range of plants, birds, & animals, as well as a multitude of natural phenomena within ਗੁਰਬਾਣੀ. Vastly more so than any of the world's religious scriptures & traditions in fact.

To name but a few instances, we hear about migrating flamingoes leaving their young behind to be sustained despite their parents' absence, of deer hungering after hypnotic musk totally oblivious to it's location within their own bodies, of spiritual impostors in the white yet carnivorous garb of cranes, of pure white swan-souls floating silently atop crystalline, still lakes, of weeping peacocks reflecting the sombre ambience of a weeping forest in spring, which itself is a mirror for the separated soul suffering intense pangs of spiritual separation, even as it wanders unknowingly into the 'season of rejuvenation' & unknowingly reaches achingly close to ultimate spiritual consummation.

Bhai Gurdaas Jee also constantly refers to flora, fauna & natural phenomena when delineating Gurmat principles & practices in his Vaars/verses e.g. Like a fruit tree hit by stones, the Gurmukhs often return positivity even in the face of outright hostility.

Yet we are in a position where rampant unregulated capitalism which by default is the creation of dualistic, psychopathic, Hau(n)mai (ego-driven human desire), is rapidly murdering our creator, sustainer & destroyer i.e polluting & destroying Pavan, Panee & Dharat.

Our sense of separateness from our ਵਾਹਿਗੁਰੂ, from earth & all her other beings is the very precursor to the situation we find ourselves within. Should we therefore be surprised that we remain un-compassionate?

Notably the meat & dairy industries, which are in fact one & the same, are major culprits regarding the rape, torture, pillaging & destruction of our mother & her beings. Simply put - in the modern climate a lacto-vegetarian diet can be called anything but compassionate.

As Gursikhs & as citizens of mother earth this presents a major Yudh (battle) for us.

What to do in the face of almighty ignorance, one of this dark age's greatest warriors?

The weapon of Dayaa (compassion) is the most crucial & powerful weapon:

ਧੌਲੁ ਧਰਮੁ ਦਇਆ ਕਾ ਪੂਤੁ || ਸੰਤੋਖੁ ਥਾਪਿ ਰਖਿਆ ਜਿਨਿ ਸੂਤਿ ||
dhaoul dharam, dayaa ka poot. santokh thaap raakhiaa, jin soot.
"The mythical bull is righteousness/spirituality, the child of compassion.
[It is this] Contentment that holds the earth in it's place."

To be honest this Dupanktee (couplet) found within JapJee Sahib (1st composition within ਗੁਰਬਾਣੀ) is absolutely mind-blowing, as are the lines that follow. It totally defies singular translation & interpretation, but let us take one particular inference from it:

Spirituality/righteousness is THE CHILD of compassion.

Ponder upon that intensely & you will realise the potential of your dietary & consumer choices to inform & impact upon your spiritual Jeevan (life) & practice. Without compassion there is simply NO spirituality.

Let us not pretend that by only Japping (chanting/meditating/harmonising with) ਨਾਮੁ, whilst remaining blind to the horror of what we are currently & explicitly being shown during our earthly sojourn, is some sort of amazingly spiritual, compassionate & ethical choice.

Remember that ਸਤਿਗੁਰੂ ਸਾਹਿਬ ਜੀ in the earthly form of a young child went & told the Siddhs (spiritual adepts), who were sat atop their inner & outer mountain of detachment, that all around and beneath them the world was 'in spiritual flames' at their very feet, begging for mercy; whilst they simply sat there, like stones, consumed only within themselves.

Some amongst us will say that Siddh Gosht (conversation with the Siddhs) is primarily a ਗੁਰਬਾਣੀ composition regards inner spiritual import, however Gursikhs take all import to be of use - Peeree & Meeree (spiritual & temporal).

Simply put the times have changed. Humans are now threatening earth with physical annihilation - literal & figurative flames of ignorance & destruction abound. Now that is or certainly should be of major concern to Gursikhs as well as every other human.

The question is: Do YOU really want to help save the planet & all it's beings?

The single biggest thing you can do besides harmonising with ਨਾਮੁ is to adopt a vegan lifestyle, as this is the only dietary & consumer lifestyle that our mother earth will now accept as truly compassionate. This can be proved in a multitude of ways & frankly it should be patently obvious to you.

We must also begin to use the weapons of our tongues, pens, keyboards & cameras to ensure that we as Gursikhs do not abandon the battlefield of environmental campaigning, action & awareness. In fact it is us who should be at the very vanguard.

I totally believe that the presence of The House of Guroo Nanak upon this battlefield has great potential in terms of Parchaar (altruistically spreading Truth) - the best kind of Parchaar in fact: by our very presence & example & beyond mere words.

Sadly at the moment we are almost nowhere to be seen. Yet make no mistake; this is the biggest battle that this planet & it's beings have ever faced. Sargunn ਵਾਹਿਗੁਰੂ is counting upon us to wield the sword of Meeree. May ਸਤਿਗੁਰੂ ਸਾਹਿਬ ਜੀ bless many humans & the Gursikhs in particular with this Sevaa (altruistic service), which will come only if we are deemed truly fit.

In this spirit let us ponder upon the lifestyle espoused by ਗੁਰਬਾਣੀ:

ਸਚਹੁ ਓਰੈ ਸਭੁ ਕੋ ਉਪਰਿ ਸਚੁ ਆਚਾਰੁ ||੫||
Truth is the highest virtue;
Yet higher still is truthful living."

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