Divine Cares for all Creation
In the Sikh faith, all of the earth’s biodiversity, including wild animals, birds, and plants are considered to be a creative play of the Divine. The unseen cosmic force both creates all life, all species, all beings, all forms, both on land and on water and sustains and nurtures them:
There are beings and creatures in the water and on the land, in the worlds and universes, form upon form
Whatever they say, You know; You care for them all (SGGS 466)
In Sikhism, among all creatures, humans are endowed with the unique capacity to merge their consciousness with the Creator’s. Still, the Gurus also recognize all species are in constant remembrance of the Divine which allows them to act in accordance with their inner nature:
Mortals, forests, blades of grass, animals and birds all meditate on the Divine (SGGS 455)
Wild Animals and Birds in the Guru Granth Sahib
The Guru Granth Sahib, in addition to being the sacred writings of the Sikh Gurus, is also a rich document of wildlife and biodiversity. Throughout the scriptures, birds especially are used to describe the metaphoric relationship between a disciple and the Divine. Traditional birds like peacock, flamingo, hawk, cuckoo, nightingale, crane, swan, owl, and the koel of the historic Panjab are used in the Gurus’ metaphors:
The chakvi bird in love with the sun and the sun, and thinks of it constantly. Her greatest longing is to behold the dawn.
The chatrik bird is in love with the mango tree, and sings so sweetly. O my mind, love the Divine in this way (SGGS 445)
The writings of the Gurus also refer to a number of other animals, such as the bat, the jackal, eagle, the hare, the tortoise to describe the Divine’s presence through the land, water and the sky.
Guru Gobind Singh and the ‘Baaj’
One of the first major wildlife conservation efforts by Sikhs is the protection of the ‘Baaj,’ a bird of prey known for its valor and strength associated with Guru Gobind Singh. The tenth Guru admired the bird so much that was also referred to as ‘Chittay Baaja Wale,’ the keeper of the Baaj, today the bird is often invoked for the transformative power of becoming Khalsa.
While species of the historic Baaj remains unconfirmed, the decline of the Eastern Goshawk in Panjab due to habitat destruction and poaching has raised concern. As of 2010, the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, wildlife experts, and Sikh historians are studying the relationship between the historical Baaj and Guru Gobind Singh and its survival in Panjab.
In honor of the Sikh Gurus’ concern for all Creation, we stand with the world’s faiths in their mission to protect the world’s remaining biodiversity.