Fire is contained in all firewood, and butter is contained in all milk. God’s Light is contained in the high and the low; the Lord is in the hearts of all beings. ||1||- Guru Arjun Dev ji P:617, SGGS
On June 5th, Sikhs will commemorate the martyrdom day of the fifth Guru of the Sikhs, Guru Arjun Dev Ji, who carried the fragrance of Divine Understanding from this world to the next. To remember our Gurus’ love for all of humanity and his commitment to the well being of all, Sikhs can carry forth Guru Arjun Dev Ji’s vision by holding green nagar kirtans based on the Sikh principle of sarbat da bhaala or the wellbeing of all.
Sikhs have demonstrated their potential for leadership in this area after celebrating Sikh Environment Day on the Gurgaddhi Diwas of Guru Har Rai Ji on March 14th this year. The tree plantings, recycling programs, the use of steel plates, and humble acts of sewa for the environment organized on this day have shown the strength that the Sikh community has when we come together and act on the principles of our Gurus.
Though the modern lifestyle has brought many conveniences, we seem to have lost a connection with environment that nurtures us, provides us with food, water, and the very breath of life. It is important to remind each other, in out Gurdwaras, schools, and religious celebrations that human beings are gifted with the tremendous ability to nurture and care for the planet, and that Gurbani’s rational and scientific approach and practice can make living in harmony with our environment possible from an individual to a community level. The Sikh Gurus’ were concerned about protecting and nurturing the planet and Creation in all possible ways, through their deep understanding of Ik Onkar. This can be a gift to us, and a vision to inspire a new type of leadership for the future.
As we approach the shaheedi-purab (Martyrdom day) of Guru Arjun Dev ji and the high level distribution of langar and chhabeels in the streets, especially during Nagar Kirtans or meditation marches, it presents an opportunity for us to either act in a way inspired by a deeper truth, or to continue the behaviour that does not recognize that the Waheguru resides in all of life. Our nagar kirtans are more than cultural expressions and celebrations; the concept was initiated to share words that inspire truth, love, and a commitment to live a Divinely inspired life with all. Sharing food has always been a part of bringing the gifts. Unfortunately, today with the emphasis on disposable goods, the Sikh tradition the nagar kirtan has contributed to a heavy load of plastic containers, styrofoam and plastic bags in the surrounding environment. Not only it is the responsibility of all Sikhs to offer and accept langar in a way that does not harm the environment, but being sewadars use eco-friendly materials for distribution and bring awareness to the masses. The reasons are simple, the practice is constructive, but the choice is ours.
Reasons: The reason for our concern for the environment is our Sikh spirit of Sarbat da bhalaa. By changing the way we do nagar kirtans, we can contribute to save billions of tonnes of plastics from being used during these summer months and all our religious festivals throughout the year. Plastics contribute to the production of greenhouse gas emissions and contaminate our surrounding environment. This is evident in the slum areas where the heaps of garbage are accumulating due to the excess waste disposed without concern for others. Perhaps, with sensible living and greater awareness we can reduce our contribution to a great extent.
Choice: the leaf plates and leaf bowls called Pattals are the ready available solution. Before these pattals were introduced langar during the nagar kirtans was distributed in paper bowls and paper bags (lifafas) but the plastics plates and containers affected their use during all such festivals.
Support to choice: the leaf plates or pattals are bio-degradable and emit carbon upon decomposition process, which is true with all the leaves and trees. However they are a much better choice than Styrofoam. So why not utilize them before they decompose. Let Sikhs from the youngest to the eldest realize their potential to serve the mother earth, and ultimately live with the same love that motivated Guru Arjan Dev ji. Guru Arjun vitooh kurbanee…
Tips for Green Nagar Kirtan:
- Distribution of Kachhi Lassi/Chhabeel or sweetened milk in steel or re-usable glasses.
- Distribution of street side langar food in pattals or leaf plates.
- Install waste bins in strategic locations through the entire length of the nagar kirtan procession and create awareness for using bins.
- Collection of used leaf plates near the food counter.
- Youth groups or sewa team to clean up litter before Punj Pyaras.
- Distribution of reusable jute bags or other ecofriendly bags for awareness.
- Distribution of seasonal plants for devotees to carry home and plant where they live.
- Carry environment friendly banners or quotes from gurbani that reminds others to care for the earth
- Serve organic langar or fresh ingredients on this special day.
- Respect the langar and do not waste food.
- Celebrate our Sikh occasions in a way that encourages all to protect and care for the world around us.