Kids Corner


Guru Nanak & His Blueprint for Change:
Letters from Espanola





People live together in society. But in our modern world, decision making on behalf of a community resides in the hands of a relatively small group of people.

The ability to make decisions and move resources in a way that affects a large population is something that we call "power." Human history is filled with stories that illustrate the paradox of power.

Leaders, ideally, use their power for the good of the community that they oversee. But more often than not, when leaders use their power selfishly, history
does not remember them kindly.

Because of this, those who hold power have developed a kind of stagecraft where, regardless of the actual motivation behind a decision, they spin a story to maintain the appearance of being the good guys. This dance of power and PR masks a lot of hidden agendas. Some decisions may be adamantly touted as serving the "public good," when, in fact, the main "good" revolves around generating a tidy profit for an invisible inner circle.

This game of power and PR paralyzes genuine leadership in difficult situations. On the world stage these days we can watch events unfold where this lack of true leadership is potentially damaging the fabric of life itself.

Two stories have caught my attention lately. Both are woefully under-reported in the news. Both have consequences far beyond their immediate environment. Both involve the dynamic conflict between the forces of nature and society's dependency on electricity. And both situations illustrate that we have created complexity in human systems which are completely out of alignment with the complexity of the natural world.

The first story has to do with the nuclear reactor in Fukushima, Japan.

As many may recall, in March of 2011 a major earthquake released a Tsunami wave that swept over the cement barriers of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan. The sea waters caused the plant to malfunction.

Two and a half years later, the dangers have become more critical. Unknown leaks in the power plant are releasing thousands of tons of contaminated water with poisonous isotopes into the Pacific Ocean. These permanent poisons will move as far as the ocean currents take them.

What is worse, there is a real danger that within the next two months, spent fuel rods stored at the damaged facility may create a nuclear reaction that will release radiation into the atmosphere and affect the global community.

In the last two years, leadership on this issue has taken the familiar road of underplaying the actual danger. Making everything look "just fine."  While on the inside, political protectionism has prevented either the government or the company that owns the nuclear power plant from admitting the depth of the dilemma.

There is saying among recovering addicts. If you want help, first you have to admit you have a problem. So, too, with those addicted to holding power. You cannot solve a problem until you are willing to admit it exists. Too often, leaders are loathe to admit they have a problem and ask for help, because it reflects badly on the job they are doing. It threatens their hold on power.

The second story is unfolding right now in the state of Colorado, USA. In the last few weeks, an unprecedented amount of rain has fallen in Colorado and the surrounding states in the US. The sudden rains follow years of drought that have depleted the top soil and made flooding particularly bad.

In Colorado, the issue is not just flooding, mud slides, damaged homes and lost lives. Another, more sinister, environmental threat exists.

It is possible that thousands of oil and natural gas drilling wells have been damaged by the floods. Flooded wells mean the release of toxic chemicals used in fracking and other industry practices. The potential for these toxic chemicals to contaminate drinking water and the land is very real.

How honest will the reporting be on this aspect of the disaster?

How much will PR campaigns make it seem like there are no real problems?

The question here, like in Fukushima, remains the same. What leadership actually exists capable of tackling such complexity?

Two hundred years ago, a group of people could lay claim to a particular territory and do what they chose with that land. Most people did not travel very far. The human population was not that big to begin with. The natural world held the human race within its boundaries. People could create the illusion of having separate territories that did not affect one another. They could build and defend their own domains.

And Mother Nature continued her cycles in relative peace.

But in the last century, human consciousness has expanded. Today, we have the capacity to manipulate the forces of nature. Yet, we have not fully understood the complexity of the natural world, and how everything has an impact across time and space.

Consequently, we have not evolved a new style of leadership that holds power with a different consciousness. What we need is leadership that understands the interdependence and interconnectivity of life.

Basically, leaders still think in terms of territory that can be held and defended. But the way we use technology today demands that we find a new way to see the world.

The Sixteenth Paurri of Japji Sahib begins, "panch parvaan panch pardhaan / panchay paaveh dargeh maan ..."

A poetic interpretation of these lines:

"Those who,

In the Purity of their own Spirits,

Have recognized their essential union with God -

They become the Living Lights

On the earth

To whom all Creation bows.

Holding the Truth of the Divine

Within their very auras,

They become True Leaders

On the earth.

In the Royal Court

Of the Divine

Those who have recognized

Their own purity

Receive the greatest honors

The word ‘panch’ gets translated in a lot of different ways. It is one of those words that cannot be easily explained, because there is a whole world in it. But ‘panch’ indicates someone who has become worthy of leadership because they have understood the Cosmic Law. That Spirit creates and dwells within the Creation. That actions have consequences. That One Divine Eye watches and guides the whole play. And that when we develop ourselves consciously, through simran and discipline, we become in tune with that Divine Complexity.

Right now, the consciousness of Mother Earth is playing her game. The delusion of ego, of "myness," of separateness, has always been the subject of mystical study.

But Mother Earth is showing us just how much sickness ego can create. There is no "Japan" in the natural world. The malfunction of the nuclear reactor can and will affect people across the earth, because the earth is one system.

There are no oil companies with legal rights in the natural world. The toxic chemicals rising to the surface through flooding can and will contaminate groundwater and the land.

Separateness does not exist. It is a limiting illusion within the human psyche because we need a sense of territory to feel secure. But if we are going to dance with the forces of creation, then we have an obligation to understand the Consciousness behind Creation.

We have an obligation to understand ‘panch’ and lead from that vision.

Sitting here on my couch, writing these words, I know that I am dreaming about a world that does not exist. Leadership today is so deeply and hopelessly territorial, it seems impossible that the culture of power could ever change.

Yet, two months from now, because of the events unfolding in Japan, the human race may face its most critical nuclear crisis ever.

Two years from now, because of the events unfolding in Colorado, groundwater for an entire population may be unusable for generations.

When will the pressure become severe enough for a shift to happen?

When I read Japji Sahib, at least I know Guru Nanak left a blueprint for what change could look like, if people ever decide to embrace it.


September 26, 2013

Conversation about this article

1: G Singh (United Kingdom), September 26, 2013, 1:26 PM.

Absolutely stunning eye opener!

2: Harpreet Singh (Delhi, India), September 26, 2013, 8:28 PM.

Nice article. I appreciate the concern shown by the author. And a very good interpretation of Japji Sahib. I recommend books by the late Bhagat Puran Singh ji of Pingalwara, Amritsar on such issues.

3: Baldev Singh (Bradford, United Kingdom), September 27, 2013, 8:46 AM.

Oil and fossil fuels and nuclear power are the easy way out answers for 'greedy' humans who have chosen to light, power and heat homes and offices, though warned at the outset that this would be a disaster for the planet!

Comment on "Guru Nanak & His Blueprint for Change:
Letters from Espanola"

To help us distinguish between comments submitted by individuals and those automatically entered by software robots, please complete the following.

Please note: your email address will not be shown on the site, this is for contact and follow-up purposes only. All information will be handled in accordance with our Privacy Policy. Sikhchic reserves the right to edit or remove content at any time.