Can you talk a bit about your environmental activism with SikhNet?
SikhNet is largely about personal growth and finding sangat. Our experience is that when people begin to work on themselves and start walking a spiritual path, their sense of responsibility to the entire creation gets stronger and stronger as they wake up to their identity outside the roles we play. This is expressed on so many levels.
You take an organization like EcoSikh – planting trees on a large scale all over the world. SikhNet partnering with an organization like this spreads the word and encourages participation in these projects.
What do you consider the most important actions that we as global citizens should be taking to help the planet?
People’s ability to make an impact is individual. It is not about the big things, or the global stage, but that we can all do many small things each day. Nothing is anyone else’s responsibility, but each thing in my sphere of perception is there because it’s my sense of responsibility to act with that and be in relationship to it.
The simplest thing – you’re out walking and you see a piece of paper on the ground, or dog poop – often people’s first thought is “that wasn’t my dog” or “I didn’t drop that piece of trash. The idea is to shift to a consciousness of instead thinking, “Where I’m standing is as much mine as anywhere else on the planet. I’m standing here, in this moment I can apply leverage to create change for the better.” How much is being changed isn’t as important, but understanding in that moment that you can take action is powerful.
Stage one of spiritual awakening is to recognize that action needs to be taken. It’s the “waking up” stage. Then the question arises of , “What action does it fall to me to take?” This has to be individually determined. Once you know that you have the ability to take action and make changes, it infuses your perception, and you make behavioral changes that affect your understanding.
Things that seem small – using rags instead of paper towels, consciously reusing things and not discarding them. These are all small personal things, but they all add up. The question of whether I’m called to act on the world stage, or in small conscious increments at each moment in my own life, that depends on the individual.
Don’t think “Oh it’s not worth doing because it’s too small.” Be aware of the need of the moment – if everyone does this, big shifts can happen. We need to be aware of the implications for the collective.
How are you taking these actions in your life?
The problem comes when people think that small actions don’t matter. I don’t take straws in restaurants politely, I am conscious about how we use recyclables in our house. The small nagging voice that says it doesn’t matter needs to be overcome – there’s responsibility at every level. I wash and use rags, rather than reaching for paper towels. I use and wash cloth napkins, instead of paper. We have bidets installed in our toilets to avoid using toilet paper – these are all little things that add up. Even though it costs money to recycle, we take the time to sort our recyclables carefully and pay for this service.
What are the challenges that people might encounter when doing these actions to help the planet?
In each moment, part of your mind says, “Why bother? It doesn’t matter, it’s too small.” The challenge is dealing with the part of your brain that can’t see how big of a deal it is to recycle or toss the juice box. The first thing is to wake up and pay attention – it doesn’t matter whether the action is seen or not, it still does matter. Every action makes a difference.
How can we overcome these challenges and take action to save the planet?
We have to shift our heads out of a space of judgement, from our heads to our hearts. Every piece of rubbish picked up off the ground, every paper recycled, these are all ultimately acts of love – for ourselves, humanity, our fellow creatures, and God.
We switch out of our judgement mind to our heart, and say, “in this little moment I can do this little thing.”
This reminds me of the story of star fish on the beach. This guy lives near the beach – every time there’s a big storm, thousands and thousands of starfish are washed up on the beach. Every morning he’d go out there and toss them back in the ocean. H’ed reach down, pick up starfish, and toss them back in the ocean.
One day some guy is watching him, then says to him, “There’s millions of starfish on the beach. You throwing these ones back doesn’t make a difference.” He doesn’t say anything at first. Then he just reaches back in, throws another one back in, and says, “It made a difference to that one.”
Do teachings or stories from Sikh Dharma inspire your commitment to serving Mother Earth?
All of those things! When you work on yourself spiritually, you awaken to love. That love includes everything in creation, because it is love of God, and there isn’t anything in creation that isn’t God.
You wake up and become a human being paying attention in each moment. The sheer act of paying attention in each moment to what we want, what we wish would happen, and being present causes us to take responsibility for that moment.
If everything is one, we can’t be separate. This is the basic waking up as a human. Everything in Sikh Dharma teaches this – there isn’t anything in Sikh Dharma which doesn’t teach this – all the stories of the Sikh Gurus, Guru Nanak, Guru Har Rai, acting out ofliving in love in each moment, and acting from that place of sacredness in each moment. Ek Ong kar – we are all one.
Do you have any last words to share?
How’s your relationship with your mother? Do we really feel this feeling with earth as the relationship with mother and child? It requires some conscious tuning in to feel this relationship in our hearts.
Video: Sikhs and Environmental Consciousness
Guruka Singh Khalsa
Guruka Singh is a teacher, writer and inveterate punster. He was one of the first teachers trained by Yogi Bhajan and now teaches all over the world. One of the original founders of SikhNet, he is the co-founder of the computer consulting firm Sun & Son and he worked as Senior Producer at a major entertainment software company and previously served as the C.E.O. of SikhNet. He is well known worldwide through his many inspirational videos on SikhNet and YouTube. His love of yoga, technology, poetry and Gurbani have led him to translate Yogi Bhajan’s Gurmukhi poems in Furmaan Khalsa (1987) along with editing and publishing his English poetry in the volume The Game of Love (2004.) He has also translated Guru Nanak’s Japji Sahib along with other Gurbani. He lives under the blue skies of New Mexico with his beloved Khalsa family.
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