n2

Environs

Issue I 2013

Rural Olympics of the Punjab

The Kila Raipur Sports Festival, which is virtually Rural Olympics of the Punjab, is held annually at Kila Raipur near Ludhiana. The competition encompasses most major Punjabi rural sports, including a cart-race, tug-of-war and so much else !

In February each year, Ludhiana becomes destination for thousands of sports enthusiasts, including an increasing number from abroad. They come to Kila Raipur to also see the special breed of bullocks, camels, dogs, mules and other animals competing in competitive events, which is verily a ‘Rural Olympics’. During the year of the Olympics (2008), Hakam and Naib Singh Dhaliwal from village Kalsian, Punjab took the 1st prize. They also were first in gujjaral and phalewal, and have become legendry in the Punjab as the men with the greatest passion for sport.

Rural sports with cultural and social importance

In early villages, which were the first habitation of civilised man, rural sports grew out of sheer necessity. The need for cultivating individual strength for labour in the fields, interdependence within the community and need for joint defence against onslaughts of a common foe – as also dangerous animals– were impetus sports like wrestling, long distance running, jumping, weightlifting and such performing arts as measuring strength by holding of wrists, twisting of hands. Kabaddi, which is a manifestation of the same spirit, has become the “mother of all games” in the Punjab.

In order to toughen the bodies and steel the minds of his followers, Guru Hargobind Sahib began the tradition of holding wrestling bouts within the precincts of Akal Takht Sahib in Amritsar and it is mostly because of the lead that he took, and the seal of ethics that he put on them, that sports become a proud facet of life in the Punjab. On the common grounds of villages, at fairs, during many festivals, at the hermitages of pirs and graves of preceptors, wrestling soon became a part of high recreation. Villages adopted and fed wrestlers and gave prizes to them as a matter of honour. This tradition continues in the Punjab of today.

During the Hola Mohalla celebrations at Anandpur Sahib, tent pegging, archery, fencing and horse riding competitions, gymnastics and acrobatic displays (which the Nihangs excel in) and the tournaments held at Diwali, have a hoary history. To the Punjabis goes the distinction of transforming rural games into competitive tournaments.

The Grewals

Some sixty years back, when the Grewal Sports Association began to hold competitions in rural sports at Village Kila Raipur, few would have imagined that this tournament would become a virtual movement in Punjab. Today in almost 7000 villages of the Punjab, rural sports competitions are held in one form or the other. Rural folk organise these and extend generous hospitality to all competitors. These village sports have actually opened the floodgates for village development.

As a matter of fact, before Independence (partition) in 1947, major importance was given to kabaddi and wrestling, but later, the spectrum of rural sports got wider. The rustic ‘khido khoondi’ (literally played with a ball made out of cloth cuttings and a stick twisted at the end like a flat hockey blade) was replaced by proper hockey equipment and players from villages having no facilities beyond uneven grounds to play on, began to dominate the game. Twelve of India’s greatest hockey players have come from a single village, Sansarpur in Jalandhar District.

Not only have revival of sports fairs taken place in the Punjab but their number has also increased tremendously. Few decades back, these were limited to

m Babehali-di-Chhinj

m Bhaggowal-di-Chhinj

m Shikar-Macchian di-Parewi

m Jaura-Chhatra-di-Parewi

m Bhomey-Wadaley-di-Chhinj

m Shanker-di-Chhinj

m Munun-honey-di-Chhinj and

m Kila Raipur’s sports

Today, sporting meets are held in almost every significant village of the Punjab.

Rivalling the Kila Raipur Rural Sports meet is the Kalgidhar Tournament of Kamalpur which has also completed half-a-century. Dhudike’s Lala Lajpat Rai Memorial Sports Fair has completed three decades while those at Gujarwal, Mullanpur, Sahnewal, Ghungali, Rajputtana, Hambla, Dhamto are flourishing. The ‘mini sports meets’ of Lalto Kalan, Dhurkot, Rauni, Dyalpur, Rurka Kalan, Bhinder Kalan, Duareana are gaining stature all the time.

Three main types of competition are held during rural meets, including purely ‘rural games’ like kabaddi, wrestling, weight-lifting etc. Gradually, modern sports have been introduced, such as athletics, hockey, football, volleyball, cycling, handball etc. Thereafter have come ‘performing sports’ like acrobatics, circus-like acts including bending of steel rods, having tractors driven over chests, etc. Now yet another exotic add-on to sports fairs is the advent of folk singing at sunset. After the day’s sport competitions, the notes of music begin to emanate and singing continues, sometimes late into the night. The music contest held between Karamjit Dhuri and Jagmohan Kaur at Kila Raipur is vividly remembered. At the Gujarwal meet, the singing of Parminder Sandhu, Hans Raj Hans and Surinder Chhinda and at fairs in the Majha region, the Toombi (one-stringed instrument) of Amarjit remain firmly etched in collective memory.

Rural Sports are certainly personification of the Virility of the Punjab.

Villagers are not just fond of human competitions, they also like to assess the skill and power of their animals including bulls, horses, dogs, on the sports ground. Bullock cart racing has become a passion in the Punjab. Because of a ban on hunting, hound-races are held in Punjab by dangling a bait of fake hare before the dogs. At some places, cock-fights are held and pigeon fights contested. In some parts of Punjab, people indulge in the dangerous game of wrestling with a bull.

One of the most popular organised forms of village pastime, as also entertainment for young girls, is Tirinjen where the girls even spin as they sing. Tirinjen is a kind of social club which can be organised at any home where there is place for spinning of wheels and where the girls spend long and happy hours. The girls sing and dance, express their sorrow and happiness, pangs of separation and joy on re-meeting of friends. The spinning wheel plays a significant role in the lives of women, as a “companion, counselor in distress, friend and guide”. Here is an example of a song sung by a married girl during Tirinjen:

Charkha mera rangla, vich sone dian mekhan,
Ni mai tenu yaad karan, jad charkhe wal dekhan.
“My spinning wheel is multi coloured, inlaid with nails of gold, I think of you whenever I see my spinning wheel”.
Har charkhe de ger yad awen toon mitra
“Each circle of the wheel, brings your sweet memories to my mind”.

Teej or Teeans, which is celebrated in the month of Sawan (July) is also a time of entertainment for the ladies. The Teej festival starts on the third day of Sawan and continues for about thirteen days, a period when the rainy season is at its peak, having overwhelmed the scorching heat, with people now out to enjoy the rains. It is also the time for sowing. The atmosphere is relaxed and people heave sighs of relief. The girls celebrate this, literally swinging away! One sees girls on swings all over the villages during this season, they wear new clothes, eat special food and sing special songs at the time. This festival has also made inroads into urban society, with songs sung pertaining to various aspects of social life.

Ral auo sahio ni, Sabh tian khedan jaiye Hun aya sawan ni Pinghan piplin ja ke paiye Pai ku ku kardi ni, Sahio koel Hanju dolhe Papiha wekho ni, Bherha pee-pee kar ke bole. Paye pailan pande ni, Bagi moran shor machaya. Arhio khil khil phaulan ne, Sanu mahia yad kariya.

“Come on friends! Let’s go and play ‘teean’, Sawan heartens us, let us hang swings on the peepal. Swinging ku-ku o’ friends! The cuckoo sheds its tears And behold this papiha which goes on singing pia-pia. The peacock dances gleefully, filling the garden with its crowing ; these wretched blossoming flowers remind us of our Ranjan”.

Kikli

Kikli kleer di, Pagg mere vir de, Daupatta mere bhai da, Phitte mun jawai da

This is another game, basically for ladies. Two girls clasp their hands and go around in circles, played by two or four girls, in multiples of two.

Gheeta Pathar

Pebbles, stones or broken earthenware are further broken into smaller pieces and used for playing a game which does not involve running or jumping but is played while sitting on the floor.

Khidu

The girls sing along with bouncing a khidu (ball) ; in fact such rhymes and games are suitable for children: a first round, then the second and third till the finale, reached by counting till ten and singing of the tenth song.

Kokla chhapaki

This game is popular even today amongst village children who sit in circles while one, with cloth in hand, goes around the circle singing, a kind of ‘warning’ for children sitting not to look back. The cloth is then dropped randomly behind a child. If discovered before the running child completes the round, the other would run behind to touch him unless he has sat down at the vacated place.

Ghaggar phissi

This is a game for the boys. One kneels and the others in turn leap on top of him ; if he bears the weight, he wins but if not, he loses. Simple!

Kabbadi

This games’ popularity is increasing and has, in fact, become officially included in the Asian Games, now popular all over South Asia. A line is drawn on ground between the opposing teams and each sends a player across the line, who, if able to touch a rival player and came back without being caught, a point is added. The key factor : this crossing of the line and back has to be performed muttering ‘kabadi-kabadi’ without releasing one’s breath. Phew!

Rasa kashi (tug of war)

A line is drawn between the two teams, each holding one end of the rope in their hands. The team which is able to drag the other team over on to its side, wins !

Akharas

These have been traditionally popular : played near a well in the village or sometimes near the temple, these were places where boys learnt the masculine sport of wrestling from a Guru or Pehlwan (wrestler).

Martial arts

This was also part of teaching at Akharas but where the use of weapons was learnt. Nihangs have kept up these martial arts – and so the tradition.

Kite flying (patang bazi)

This has gradually become an urban game but also remains popular with rural folks. More so, it has assumed an international character (virtually a cult in parts of Pakistani Punjab).

Apart from the games mentioned, Chaupat, Shatranj (Chess), camel and bullock-cart races, cock fights in addition to kabutar bazi, chakore bazi and bater bazi are popular.

Gilli-danda or guli danda is an universal sport, played by rural youth across the Indian subcontinent. It is called chinni-dandu in Kannada, kuttiyum-kolum in Malayalam, viti-dandu in Marathi, kitti-pullu in Tamil, gooti-billa in Telugu, and lappa duggi in Pashto.

There is no record of the game’s origin in the South Asian subcontinent or of its existence before the arrival of Europeans. However a similar game known as Lippa has a history of being played in Italy and southern Europe.

Gilli-danda is played with a ‘gilli’ or ‘guli’ and a danda, both being wooden sticks. The danda is longer and swung by the player to hit the gilli which is tapered on both sides. The gilli is analogous to a cricket ball and the danda to a cricket bat. There is no standard length defined for the danda or the gilli.

There are many regional variations to the manner of scoring. The gilli is airborne after being struck and should a fielder from the opposing team catch the gilli, the striker is out. If the gilli lands on the ground, the fielder closest to the gilli has one chance to hit the danda with a throw (similar to a run out in cricket). If the fielder is successful, the striker is out; if not, the striker gets one score and gets another opportunity to strike. The team (or individual) with the most points wins the game. If the striker fails to hit gilli in three tries, the striker is out (similar to a strikeout in baseball). There is no official limit to the number of players or teams. Gilli-danda can be played where each individual plays for themselves – or between two teams.

An early form, but nevertheless this has some kinship to cricket, arguably national sport of the Indian sub continent !

 

  Nishaan final Issue III-13

Issue III 2013

Global Citizenship:  Sustainable Development

God created the universe and the world for reasons best known to Him. And being the results of God’s actions, all parts of the universe are holy. God is an all-pervasive being manifest through various elements of creation.

Having created this universe and the world, God directs everything. All actions take place within God’s hukam. God alone knows how and why. God, however, not only directs this vast and massive theatre, but also watches over with care and kindness—the eternally benign and supportive parent!

Guru Nanak speaks of innumerable galaxies, of a limitless universe, the boundaries of which are beyond human ability to comprehend. God alone knows the extent of His creation.

”Men, trees, pilgrimage places, banks of sacred streams, clouds, fields. Islands, spheres, universes, continents, solar systems.

The sources of creation, egg-born, womb-born, earth-born, sweat-born, oceans, mountains and sentient beings.

He, the Lord, knows their condition, O’ Nanak. Nanak, having created beings, the Lord takes care of them all.

The Creator who created the world, He takes thought of it as well”. (SGGS, p.466)

In her essay, Dr Surjeet Kaur, Professor & Head, Department of Philosophy, University of Pune, writes that we see unlimited progress around us. The only limits to progress are human creativity and policy. The whole and sole aim of our actions today is development. By development and progress we merely mean material development. Traditionally human beings have taken the view that nature is created simply for man, which was the philosophy of Bacon and Charter of the Industrial Revolution. Bacon had said “Let the human race recover that right over nature, which belongs to it by Divine Bequest.” It was such an attitude towards nature which has led to the present situation which results in massive degradation of the environment. The West has always been interested in external material progress.

In contrast to this, the Sikh Gurus looked down upon mere material progress, and instead stressed upon both material as well as internal progress. Internal progress was considered as having more value. Stressed was the need to search within rather than the material world. Nature was not regarded as having merely instrumental value. God dwells in nature. Therefore nature is not created solely for mankind, but has a right of its own. Global ecological crises have arisen because we think we have a right to use nature as we wish to. We are unconcerned about the effects of our actions on nature. We are using more than what the earth can replace. Till now, we have been closing our eyes towards the ecological threat, thinking like a rabbit. We think that if we close our eyes the danger automatically goes away. We cannot do that anymore.

Ecological threats stare at us at three levels:

There is a serious danger to the environment triggered by factories, industries, and automobiles. But in spite of the fact that air is getting unbreatheable, we consider rise in consumption as “progress.”

Global environmental pollution caused by the emission of greenhouse gases especially carbon dioxide. Global warming is also caused by cutting down of forests. The ecological threat to nature by human ‘culture’ is rising alarmingly.

The third level at which the ecological threat is rising is at the personal level. We think that something has to be done at the governmental level or by science or by someone else. We do not realise each one of us has a major role to play. Each one of us needs to limit our consumption in every way, be it consumption of petrol, diesel, water or food. It is high time that we realise the need to tread lightly on the earth. We should realise that ecological ethics is centre stage for this millennium. We need to examine our lifestyles. We need to examine the meaning of economic growth and development. Economic growth has lowered, rather than raised, our standard of living, which includes time spent with family and friends, enjoyment of a rich human and natural environment. Consumption provides an entity into a complex set of problems. Proliferation of gadgets and malls adds to the rat race. We are so optimistic about technology that we feel technology is the answer to all our problems. We need to change our consciousness and also need to support this change with the creation of appropriate institutions and structures that hold a genuine promise of a better life. Further economic growth and consumption are not the solution. One finds greater depression in precisely those countries that have experienced or are currently experiencing rapid economic growth. Friendship and other social supports are antidotes to depression. The Guru Granth Sahib states that religiosity, a turning inwards, meditation, altruism will lead to lowering of jealousy, lesser feelings of domination and will reduce depression.

We are releasing toxic gases into the atmosphere through our automobiles and gadgets. These gases are as deadly and toxic as were gas chambers of the Nazis. But do we ever stop and think? Do we ever consider ourselves immoral? Are we not responsible for the increasing ecological threat to the planet? Are we not responsible for the increasing ecological threat to the planet? Can we merely blame others? It is high time we change our concept of morality. Today we require not merely traditional ethics but ecological ethics.

Sikhism believes in living with minimum requirements and hoarding is looked down upon. Under the impact of Western worldly, desires are no more considered unworthy. On the contrary, a person’s status is measured from his material possessions. The insatiable desire is continuously being fuelled by science and technology. We are no longer searching from within, which is a value prescribed by our Gurus (Bande Khoj Dil Har Raj). The aim is not to conquer ourselves but rather to conquer others. We try to conquer others by dominating over them. We dominate over others by our material possessions. These possessions are possible only by exploiting nature. We are thereby continuously exploiting nature without paying heed to its consequences.

In earlier times too, there used to be those who exploited the common man, primarily, the affluent classes, enjoying the fruits of human labour. Therefore, the pace of exploitation of nature was slow. Today, science and technology is feeding desires at such a terrific pace that the exploitation of nature is taking place very rapidly indeed! The demand being placed on Earth is more than what the earth can give. We are feeding our egoistic tendencies, our urge to dominate over others. But as stated by Erazim Kohak, limitless egoism elevated to a civilisation strategy is not sustainable. We need to search within ourselves and discover the desirable traits which will help us to live in harmony with the planet earth.

Paul Santmire has said, “The earth is in danger of destruction”. A time has come today when we all are feeling the pinch of the environmental crisis. This environmental crisis is engulfing us at such a rapid speed that we can no longer neglect it saying that it is an affair of the environmentalists. We all need to address ourselves to this and try to reduce-if not reverse or stop-the environmental deterioration.

Sikhism is not against development. It does not preach asceticism. It encourages progress and development. However, to be remembered is that if we look at Sikh theology, it does not prescribe anthropocentric development or egocentric development. It preaches altruism, which will in its turn lead to sustainable development. It prescribes co-operation in place of domination. Co-operation leads to humility. According to Sikh metaphysics, ‘I’ is related to the entire universe. It therefore prescribes development in which the environment is not exploited or subdued. How can I be justified in exploiting that to which I am closely related?

Sikhism prescribes sustainable development. Sustainability is the capacity to keep going indefinitely. Development could be defined as bringing out what is latent, bringing out potentialities. But while doing so, the present and the future all have to be taken into account. The World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) in its 1987 report, ‘Our Common Future’ defined Sustainable Development as ‘development that meets needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’. While discussing sustainability, focus is on two issues : meeting the needs of the present generation and not undermining the ability of future generations, of people to achieve acceptable standards of living themselves. There are four factors that threaten the well being of the present and future generations to meet their own needs” while discussing sustainability the focus is on two issues : meeting the needs of the present generation and not undermining the ability of future generations, of people to achieve acceptable standards of living themselves. There are four factors that threaten the well being of the present and future generations : population, pollution, resource-use and consumption. Increase in any one or all these factors causes imbalance and furthers the ecological crisis causing devastation. When a Sikh prays daily, he asks for the welfare of all : Sarbat da Bhala. This welfare of all includes welfare of all-present as well as the future. A development which does not consider welfare of the future is proscribed.

Sustainable development raises various ethical issues. These have two main thrusts : social justice and the concern for future generations. Sustainable development implies that we should not proceed with our development, researches and progressive plans without taking into account the needy around us and the well being of future generations. We have a positive duty to help those in need. In this connection there are different views. Those who propound the ‘Lifeboat ethics’ hold the view that if you help people who are starving, there will be more suffering a century later.

Garret Hardin holds the view that we should not attempt to equalise. If we feed people who cannot look after themselves they will produce more of their kind. “Let them fend for themselves or else perish.” On the contrary, Peter Singer holds the view that those of us with surplus wealth should share it with the unfortunate and needy. Singer believes in helping starving babies rather than buying a new car or suit. Hardin’s plan is to control human population by the policy of ‘survival of the fittest.’

Our Gurus have stressed on contentment, on inner progress and on consideration of the welfare of others. They emphasised “Pichhon bachia aap khaavanda”. i.e. a true Sikh eats only whatever remains after feeding others, So, if this is our attitude, we would automatically be helping the poor and the needy. Emphasis is on helping those in need (Gau garib di Raksha). Only that development or progress is acceptable which is sustainable. Not just the needy ones at present have to be given justice but the future generations too must be taken care of.

The US population is very low as compared to third world countries but its consumption is largest in the world and this has increased tenfold since 1960 as pointed by Erazim Kohak in The Green Halo. This clearly indicates that reducing population levels are not a magic solution to all our environmental problems. It requires deeper thinking and a change of our attitude. Thus Hardin’s way of thinking (which is opposite to that of the Sikh Gurus) does not really help in sustainable development. We need to work for a ‘sustainable society’. Population control will definitely reduce pollution and thereby consumption but we require a change of attitude, rather than a mechanical reduction of population.

With the use of modern gadgetry, technological innovations, we so ruin the environment. We deplete the resources of the environment. In this regard, our Gurus stressed Sanjam, i.e. control and moderation. Anyone who believes in moderation can not waste the resources of nature. In the name of development, we devastate nature.

In this context Guru Nanak Devji says that man is just a speck of dust in this universe. The universe is made by God and man is just a very tiny part of it like any other part. No doubt he is ‘higher’ because he alone has the capacity for self-realisation; however, this does not give him licence to degrade nature as he desires. Nature is independent of man, and exists in its own right. Man can use it wherever necessary but must at the same time realise the intrinsic worth of nature. The universe is a complex web as well as one with the ecosphere. Once we have knowledge of the complex web of relations, our attitudes towards nature will see God immanent in it and therefore realise its intrinsic worth.

Once we see God immanent in His creation, we will identify ourselves with the creation and the result would be respect, concern for nature as we realise that we are part of nature and if we try to bring any changes in its homeostatic balance, these will be serious repercussions. Whatever is in the macrocosm exists simultaneously in the microcosm. Thus, in order to understand the universe and its complex web of relations we have to look within ourselves, realise our potential and realise ourselves. The knowledge of the universe will automatically follow. Our development will be sustainable and not selfish, egoistic, short lived. Once we have knowledge of the complex web of relations, our attitudes towards nature will automatically change. We will no longer want to exploit but will rather make friends will see God immanent in it and therefore understand its intrinsic worth.

Sikhism preaches unity in diversity. A self-realised individual sees this unity and no longer exploits nature, rather respects it as a ‘House of the Lord’. Such a person will always be for sustainable development, for he cannot but think of the well being of the present, future generations as well as the entire ecosystem. Sustainable development understood in this way would entail a positive obligation to assist present generations and obligation not to hinder future generations.

We could hinder the development of future generations in a variety of ways: by depleting resources, by storing radioactive waste unsafely, by diminishing biodiversity, by bringing about climatic change and by causing other kinds of pollution. We all can play a role in providing a safe liveable environment for future generations. For example, if I use public transport, or walk wherever I can instead of using my car, avoid usage of the air-conditioner or at least switch it off whenever not needed, I reduce pollution. Every air conditioner releases CFCs causing holes in the ozone layer which protects us from the sun’s ultraviolet radiation. By the holes in this layer we are exposing humans to ultra violet radiation which causes skin cancer. Similarly we can use scarce resources such as water, electricity, food, judiciously. We need not go back to the Stone Age and live in the dark but we can certainly find sustainable manners of living.

Many oppose sustainable development on the pretext that science and technology will find alternative ways, alternative resources. Is it really so? The alternative to electricity may be nuclear energy but not without its accompanying danger? The problem of nuclear waste disposal, the possibility of nuclear accidents, all these make us query such development as it puts future generations at a considerable risk.

Similarly, the developments in genetic engineering are questionable. Gene therapy promises very bright future for medicine. Many incurable diseases will be curable. However, is this development sustainable or does it raise ethical and religious issues? Genetic engineering would make it possible to create clones, to engineer animals genetically so that we could use them for organ transplantation. By genetically engineering animals for xenotransplantation, are we not treating them as ends in themselves but as a means to human ends?

By creating new species we are trying to become co-creators with God. Sikhism questions such development. Sikh Gurus state “Poorai ka kia sabh kichh poora, ghat wadh kichh nahi”. (SGGS p.1412). God has made this world complete. The imperfections that are there in the world as we perceive them are all as per the Will of God. He does not need man’s help to perfect the world. In fact, if we go around genetically modifying organisms this could result in creation of new organisms which would be too dangerous to contemplate, may lead to disaster and would not be sustainable. It is better if we live with what is the time tested genetic diversity rather than tamper with it and perhaps even reduce the genetic diversity. Genetic engineering treats the entire plant and animal as a means rather than as an end. As regards human genetic engineering for the purpose of cure, most scientists accept the fact that the process of human genetic engineering is risky and the process itself could generate new mutations which will be passed on to future generations. There is need for looking back to the past and learning from past experience. However, we must remember that human creativity depends upon human brain. Any alteration that would injure the brain and hence his very creativity would indeed be a disastrous mutilation, especially if this were to be transmitted genetically, thus further polluting the gene pool with defects which might be hidden yet – incalculable.

Thus, scientific advances should not be made just for the sake of mere progress or research. Sikhism prevents us from trying to be co-creators with God. If we start playing with genes, we are ‘playing God.’ We are very finite beings aware of only our present and past, the future too is unpredictable and it is not possible for us to know the long term consequences of our actions. When we genetically engineer organism, we are trying to create new organisms, a new type of world. We think we have the power to create but do we really have this power? We must be humble. We are like a speck of dust!

Guru Nanak says that we finite beings cannot know the limit of God. If we cannot know God, how can we ‘play God’? How can we bring about creation? If we do so, our actions would lead to disastrous results and we would not know how to reverse our actions, especially in case of genetically engineered organisms. Man must adjust himself to the environment, let nature take its course and not interfere either by ‘miracles’ or by science. This is called Hukam in Sikhism or accepting the Will of God or the Law of Nature. Heidegger states “in technology we make objects according to some blueprint that we determine. We design things to satisfy our purpose rather than allow our purposes to be affected by, and find creative expression through, the qualities of the objects themselves.”

We are restless, not satisfied with mere tools designed to serve our purposes. We are now aiming at nature, animals and humans designed to serve new purposes. How arrogant and selfish! Genetic engineering is questionable because it goes against the very basic principle of Sikhism: the world as it is created. God knows what is right and wrong. He has created the laws of nature, birth, and dissolution. Man has no right to interfere with any genetic changes.

The main question is “what is the root cause of our ecological crisis”? Is it human greed or a flawed technology which is unsustainable?

There are two extremes: on the one hand we have the deprived, dying of hunger and starvation. On the other hand, in western countries and even ours, we have the ‘haves’ who are ‘good’s rich and time poor’, but suffering from stress and over consumption. These people are ready to consume the Earth itself! They consume because others consume, a rat race of consumption!

As Paul Wachetel claims, nothing is ‘as naively utopian as continuing on our present course …. and hoping for a deus ex machina by the name of ‘technology’ to bail us out at the last minute.’

According to Sikhism, the environment exists for itself, has its own intrinsic worth. Just as God created humans whenever He so desired under His Will, similarly, the entire universe is His Creation, created under His Will. He is immanent in it. We have a duty to look after another human being who is in need and also have a duty to take care not to harm the future generations, we also have a duty not to harm the environment. We have a positive duty to work for sustainability of the environment. In fact, to help others we need to realise that they are part of the complex web of relations found in the ecosystem. Thus we cannot help others in need without taking care of the environment or by destroying it.

To sum up, any discussion on sustainable development centres around issues of social justice and the future generations. The main issues are population, consumption, resource use and pollution. In the context of all these, Sikhism clearly prescribes moderation. Once moderation is exercised in intimate interpersonal relations, population would automatically be controlled. As regards consumption, Sikhism prescribes an attitude of contentment, non domination over others, humility, vand chhakna and sarabat da bhala.

With such an attitude, the spirit of competition will be replaced with spirit of co-operation, helping others whether presently existent or to come future generations. As regards resource use, moderation and a spirit of non-domination brings about lesser wastage of resources of nature. Concern for others and recognition of the intrinsic value of ecosystem makes us utilise the ecosystem with care so that benefits we and future generations will draw from it will be ‘sustainable’. According to the Sikh understanding of sustainable development, human autonomy and the common good are certainly not in conflict.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


The Sikh Magazine