SIKHISM AND THE ENVIRONMENT 10
Sikhismand the Environment
Sikhismand the Environment
Sikhismis a religion that was founded in Punjab region of India in the 15thcentury. Founded by Guru Nanak, the religion was naked Sikhism fromthe word Sikhs which means students or disciples. As the fifthlargest religion in the world, Sikhism has a significant following,which affirms the definition of the religion as the fellowship of theSikh. The word gave rise to the modern term of Sikhism thatidentifies the followers and the entire religion. The religion has aspecial relationship with the environment as they value nature as thesource of the world heritage. The discussion in this paper willexplore how Sikhism views the environment and how the significance ofthe environment according to the religion. To understand this aspect,the discussion will explore the aspects of faith of Sikhism and howthe religion relates to sociology.
Onemajor aspect of Sikhism is that it is a monotheistic religion. Asmonotheists, the Sikhs believe that there is only one god, referredto as Sat Guru. The name of their god, Sat Guru means the true god,and that there is no other god to be worshiped but the Sat Guru(Mandair,2013).Therefore, any other god apart from Sat Guru is an idol that cannotbe recognized, since they can only be statues. Another element ofbelieving in God that Sikhism has is that God did not at any one timetake the form of a human being. Unlike Christians who believe thatGod took the form of human being in Jesus Christ, Sikhs believe thatSat Guru exists as one true god.
Sikhismappreciates the aspect of equality among all men living in the world.The religion believes that respect and honoring of other human beingsis key in the maintenance of peace and the equality in the world(Kalsi, 2007). Therefore,Sikhism respects other religions, but keeps their beliefs at bay. Inrelation to other religions, Sikhism teaches tolerance to the viewsand perspective of other religious beliefs. Despite the tolerance,Sikhism does not allow followers to adhere to, or practice thebeliefs of other religions (Nesbitt,2005).Sikhism also rejects the common practices of other religious believelike fasting, sacrifices and going for pilgrimage. Instead, Sikhismrequires its followers to adhere to the Sikhism code and lives toseek God more and achieve peace on earth.
Afterliving on earth, Sikhism believes that there is life after death. Thereligion believes that when a person dies, he or she joins god, SatGuru in death. They believe that when someone dies, he or she returnsto where he or she came from, which is from the god(Kalsi, 2007). Therefore,Sikhism believes that when a person dies, he only disappears from theearth, but lives another life with god, where all life starts fromand ends too. Therefore, they believe that the life of a personshould be lived in a manner that pleases God, because it will returnto God in death.
Todevelop the life of a religious person in Sikhism, a person mustundergo different stages, from the first to the fourth stage as thefinal. The first stage is Manmukh, which represents people who do notknow God, and believe in the world more than in god (Teece,2004).However, after knowing god and dedicate one’s life to serve him, aperson becomes a Sikh, which marks the second stage. As a Sikh, aperson adheres to the official code of conduct of Sikhism called theRehtMaryada, and religious scriptures Guru Granth Sahib(Sukhbir,2005). Thethird stage is Khalsa, which is characterized by a person’sdedication to Sikhism in full mind, body and soul, and is seen in theactions a person does. The final stage is Gurmukh, where a Sikh hasachieved salvation called Mukhti, and lives a life that isgod-centered.
Sikhismvalues the environment as portrayed by the lives of the people whofollow the religion. The religious beliefs that human beings shouldinteract with other people and nature in a manner that pleases Godand portray clean spirit (Stubbs,1999).This is because the religion, values spirit as an important aspect ofthe faith of which should be developed. As a person develops alongthe four stages, he portrays the belief in the spirit, and thedevelopment of the spirit to live a good life with people and nature.
Sikhismand the Environment
Sikhismbelief that human beings should live in harmony and peace with theenvironment. The declaration by the Sikh scriptures, the GuruGranth Sahibscripture is that the purpose of a person is to achieve harmony withall God’s creation on earth, and the earth itself (Mandair,2013).The scriptures take the ideal that human beings should live toachieve a blissful state of being in relation to the relationshipwith the environment. Sikhism believes that taking care of theenvironment and god’s creations in the world is a role that makes ahuman being not only religious but a peaceful being (Kalsi,2007).Therefore, all the Sikhs are expected to live in a manner thatprotects the environment and guards it from destruction.
Interms of understanding the environment, Sikhism believes human beingsshould acquire wisdom about the universe. This belief is representedby the term eco-sophism, meaning the wisdom of the universe. Theybelieve that eco-sophism is needed for human beings to live in apeaceful and sustainable economy(Kalsi, 2007). Thisis in line with the rationality for environmentalists who seek topromote a better environment through understanding. According toStubbs(1999),the understanding of the environment promotes the awareness of thechallenges that the environment is facing and how to align humanactivities towards conservation. The Sikhs believe that the awarenessof the environment is part of the sacred relationship between a humanbeing and the environment that is created by God.
Tomaintain the peaceful and sustainable ecology, human beings arefurther encouraged by Sikhism to recognize and promote the dignity ofall creations. The promotion of dignity of all creations entailspromoting the dignity of life, both for human beings and thecreations in the world. Sikhism believes that the health of theplanet earth is dependent on the conduct of human beings inrespecting the dignity of the environment (Teece,2004).Therefore, Sikhism has teachings that seek to guide man to respectand conserve the environment rather than destroy it. Sikhism teachesthat nature is part of the divine interaction between the humanbeings and god because it represents what people see and ear(Nesbitt,2005).According to the religion, nature involves the skies, the earth, allthe creations in the earth, and all the components in the world.
Sikhismbelieves that the environment should be considered sacred because itcontains fire, air and water, which are elements of life that areused in worship. They also respect the soil of the earth as thesource of the livelihood of human beings and all the creatures in theearth, animals and plants alike(Kalsi, 2007). Thisrespect is shown by the Shabad, religious hymn that praises theenvironment and nature. The song starts with a string powerful linethat defines the relationship between man and nature it states, “Airis the Guru, Water is the Father, and Earth is the Great Mother ofall” (Hughes,2011 p27).Theirbelief is that nature contains what people need to live, and shouldbe protected as a part of the protection of life.
Therespect and conservative attitude of the Sikhs for the environment isrepresented by the stories of the gurus. The stories tell of theirlove for the environment and how they conserved the environment. Agood example is that of Guru Har Rai, the seventh Sikh Guru, who isknown for his love for the environment and nature (EcoSikh, 2015).Guru Har established a town of gardens and parks called the KiratpurSahib(Kalsi, 2007). Thegardens and the parks contained flowers and seed-bearing plants allover the townarea. He created a good landscape that attracted birds to KiratpurSahibtown and turned it into a serene place to live in.
Theconcern of Sikhism about the environment is asserted by the greatrelationship that the religion seeks to have with the environment andnature. Sikhism has set the day of celebration of Guru Har Rai on the14thof March every year as the Sikh Environment Day (EcoSikh, 2015). Thisday is set to mark the respect for the environment and the importanceof the relationship between human beings and the environment. On thisday, all the Sikhs is the world are encouraged to plant trees,gardens and clearing of rubbish as part of celebrating the naturalworld.
Anotherstrong aspect of the relationship between Sikhism and the environmentis the belief that god created the world for all creations. Referringto him as Waeguru, Sikhs believe that god created the world as a homefor the people to prove that they are righteous enough to reachreincarnation called the Mukti (Kalsi,2007).Taking care of the environment is a sacred mission and a centralpurpose of human beings on earth. Therefore, there is no differencebetween nature and its characteristics and the world of human beings,all interact for the same purpose. Waeguru created the two aspects ofthe universe in a manner that interacts to create a balance (Stubbs,1999).According to Sikhism, the environment can only be preserved if allpeople working towards the maintenance of this balance.
Thelives of the Sikhs are guided to uphold the dignity of theenvironment by being barred from destructing the environment for noreason. People are encouraged to follow the works of the gurus whohave shown great care for the environment and love for nature(Sukhbir,2005). Notonly are the Sikhs encouraged to preserve the environment, they arealso discouraged from destroying nature. For instance, Sikhs areprohibited from killing animals for the sake of killing, or eating inexcess. This is part of the wider principle of Sikhism to protect theenvironment by preventing excessive and destructive human dominanceover other creations of God.
TheSikhism scriptures, GuruGranth Sahibteach that human domination should be rejected to maintain harmonywith all the creations and the environment (Sukhbir,2005). Thehuman domination is rejected because it is believed that human beingstend to go astray from the godly teachings of the religion. Themovement out of the principles of religion by human beings does thisthrough their actions that seek selfish gains from the environment,rather than conserving it. This is seen in the present crisis ofglobal warming that is caused by human activity like deforestationand destructive combustion. The Sikhs recognize discrimination,cultural invasion and caste system as the ways through which humansseparate themselves and dominate the world.
Theteachings of Sikhism that human beings need to maintain harmony withgod’s creations involves all aspects of relationships, whichimprove human life in different dimensions. The relationship betweenhuman beings and the environment creates harmony between humans andnature, which gives livelihood (Nesbitt,2005).However, the relationship between human beings and Waeguru, creates aspiritual harmony, which gives eternity and peace with God (Teece,2004).On the other hand, the relationship between a person and anothercreates social peace on earth and gives society. The interactionamongst people relates to the belief of Sikhism and the sociologicalaspect of the society, and opens man to traditions.
Oneof the strongest Sikh belief and tradition is the equality of allpeople, men and women. The belief is behind the strong opposition ofSikhism to social stratification and the establishment of socialclasses. Particularly, Sikhism is strongly opposed to the castesystem that is practiced by the Hindu (Stubbs,1999).The main concept of the equality is drawn from the belief that godcreated all people as equals and none should dominate over the other.At the same time, none should dominate over the environment at theexpense of the benefit of others.
Thesocial setup of the Sikhs is that the environment should benefit allpeople because nature was created by God to interact with theenvironment equally. Sikhism is opposed to social stratificationbecause the upper classes tend to benefit more from the environmentthan others (Stubbs,1999).At the same time, the lower class and to take care of the environmentmore than the upper classes because they engage in agriculture. Byopposing social stratification, Sikhism embraces ecologicalequilibrium and preaches against any form of exploitation or socialdominance.
Sikhismis a religion that has strong reverence to the environment andrespect for nature. Considering the environment as part of life onearth, Sikhism beliefs that eco-sophism is the key towards a betterrelationship amongst people and the environment. The awarenesscreated about the universe helps human beings to understand thebalance that was created by god. The maintenance of this balance isthe main sense of conserving the environment and creating ecologicalequilibrium that reflects on human relationships. The relationshipamong human beings is based on the balance that is anchored in socialequality. By believing that god created all equal, Sikhism drives itsreligious practices of conserving the environment from god himself.
EcoSikh,2015. Sikh Environment Day. Retrieved From,<http://www.ecosikh.org/programmes/sikh-environment-day> June15, 2015
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