Sikhism emphasizes environmental protection through two important principles: seva and the protection of the weak. 

The Guru Granth Sahib, the sacred scripture of Sikhism, states that the purpose of human life is threefold: to achieve a state of bliss, to live in harmony with the Earth, and ultimately to unite with the Divine. However, our actions have caused negative changes to Matha Dharth (Mother Earth). Human activities have harmed renewable resources, the atmosphere, oceans, ecosystems, water sources, and plant and animal life. If we don't address these issues, the damage will worsen. The survival of many plant and animal species, and possibly even humans, is at risk.

For Sikhs, caring for nature is an integral part of their holistic worldview. They cannot ignore environmental degradation and exploitation. Sikhs believe that all creation shares the same origin and destination. Therefore, humans must understand their place within creation and how they relate to all other living things. To become one with Waheguru (the Divine Life Force, sometimes called "God"), people must live in harmony with all of creation.

Everything Is God

"You, Yourself created the Universe, and You are pleased…You, Yourself the bumblebee, flower, fruit and the tree. You, Yourself the water, desert, ocean and the pond. You, Yourself are the big fish, tortoise and the Cause of causes" (Guru Granth Sahib, 1020).

The Sikh holy text, the Guru Granth Sahib, teaches that Waheguru (the Divine) created everything in the universe and exists within all creation. This concept equates Waheguru with nature itself. Sikh teachings emphasize respect for nature, as exemplified by Guru Nanak Sahib, the first Sikh Prophet, who wrote: "Air is our teacher, water our father and the great sacred earth is our mother" (Guru Granth Sahib, 8).

Sikhism views the universe as a manifestation of Waheguru's will and actions. Consequently, every part of the universe is considered holy. This belief is further explained in the teaching that God is an all-pervasive being manifest through various elements of creation. Every creature in this world, every plant, every form is a manifestation of the Creator and each is part of God and God is within each element of creation.

Given this understanding, the destruction of nature is seen as a departure from divine inspiration and a disrespect to the Divine. It represents a failure to recognize the sacredness inherent in nature. The Sikh Gurus (prophets) both lived and taught a life of awareness and respect for the dignity of all life, whether human or not. This respect for life and for Waheguru can be cultivated by first recognizing the Divine light present in all creation.

The Consequences of Consumerism on Nature

Human exploitation of nature can be partly attributed to a society driven by ego, where selfishness and attachment lead people to feel entitled to over consume, dominate, and live unsustainably. The ego believes it needs and deserves more, seeking to fulfil its desires by any means necessary. 

This selfishness results in self-destructive behaviour, turning our once life-sustaining Mother Earth into a wounded entity caught in a downward spiral of negative environmental feedback loops. The Sikh Gurus caution against an inflated sense of self, stating in the Guru Granth Sahib that the world is consumed by ego and selfishness; see this, lest you lose your own self as well.

The Gurus further explain how attachment (moh) to worldly goods, materialism, and endless consumerism inevitably leads to environmental degradation. Guru Nanak Sahib writes in the Guru Granth Sahib that the drug of emotional attachment has destroyed me, as it has destroyed the whole world. The highest level of spirituality involves achieving harmony with the Divine by bringing the ego under control. By aligning ourselves with nature and the universe, we can transform the world into what EcoSikh describes as "a spiritual plane of existence."

Become Creators and Protectors

Sikhism emphasizes environmental protection through two important principles: seva and the protection of the weak. Seva, meaning selfless service, is a core tenet of Sikhism that has motivated Sikhs to drive positive change for centuries. In the context of environmental stewardship, seva can take various forms, such as reducing one's carbon footprint, recycling, supporting renewable energy, and practising mindful consumption. This connection to nature is seen as spiritually significant, with EcoSikh stating, "When in harmony with nature...we can become more spiritually connected to Waheguru, the creator of all."

The concept of protecting the vulnerable, including nature, was reinforced in 1699 when Guru Gobind Singh Ji, the tenth Sikh prophet, established the Khalsa (an order of initiated Sikhs). He instructed them to challenge forces that harm others, creating the idea of "saintly-warriors." This responsibility extends to environmental protection, as EcoSikh notes that the Earth is vulnerable because of climate change and because people have not protected their environments. Sikhs are called to follow their Gurus' teachings by safeguarding the environment, which is now considered vulnerable and in need of protection.

The Final Word 

The Sikh Gurus strived to establish a society founded on spiritual consciousness and moral principles. To realize Guru Nanak's vision of a world that recognizes the divine essence in all things, we must cultivate a deep respect for nature. Achieving union with the Divine requires us to regard creation as sacred and to perceive the interconnectedness of all life.


*Based on an article by Lakhpreet Kaur, published in on 30th April 2015


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