Kids Corner


Have We Benefited From Our Gift of Prosperity?
Letters From Espanola





The older I get, the more my mind rearranges what we initially perceive as reality.

It is hard to explain. It comes from meditating a lot. You look deeply into things, into the connections that shape life. And you begin to see that those deep patterns that we unconsciously build life upon actually could change if people simply became aware of them.

Driving in traffic, for instance.

We all do it. No big deal. But sometimes, I begin to count the cars. Weigh their value. Imagine how much debt people have acquired in order to pay for their cars.

Sure, one person might borrow a few thousand for a used car. Another might borrow tens of thousands for a new one. One at a time, each person might struggle a bit, but everyone handles the burden.

But then you start adding it up. Adding car after car after car after car. $100,000, maybe, for ten cars. A million for a hundred. How many millions for the thousands on the roads? How many billions over the course of a generation?

All that money. All that debt. Collectively, it looks insane. Why not just have a super efficient, super convenient mass transit system that would ultimately cost less? Why do we organize ourselves for that much individual burden?

Is it because we do not know how to survive together? Is it because the banks and the car companies and the oil companies that make these profits from this process will fight to protect their wealth?

And with that wealth, what do we do? Strip mining for more metal. Environmental pollution from the pumping and refining of oil. Profits from oil in the Middle East funding sectarian violence.

A universe of connections between the environment, money, and people.

Looking at the cars on the road, a whole world reveals itself. But if we created different connections, that would create a different reality.

I have been blessed to live in prosperous times. Maybe I do not buy new cars or wear silk clothes, but I have never gone hungry. I have always had comfortable environments. A good education. Kind people around me. It has been a privileged life. And many of us, despite our personal struggles, can say the same. Food, company, opportunity, and stability. All of that has come as a gift.

Yet when I look at the United States, and the tremendous prosperity we have enjoyed for a couple of generations now, I ask myself, what have we really done with it, this time of prosperity? What do we have to show for it?

People gather around the television at night, watching fantasies for entertainment. The extreme pressure on each person to make it on his or her own fatigues us each day. Who really has the time or energy to look at the crisis in the world, and contribute any personal time to solving the problems?

We have become so weary of the mess that we have made, that no one even reports about the nuclear disaster at Fukushima, Japan anymore. Three years of an endless stream of deadly radiation into the ocean, and no one talks about it. No one discusses the impact or tries to prepare for the consequences.

Instead, we tune it out. Go to a movie. Everything is fine right here and right now. Someone else will figure it out.

When I think about how much we have received, and what we have done with it, it seems a little imbalanced. The advertising industry bombards us with endless messages about how much we do not have. Stimulating each person to earn and buy and earn and buy and earn and buy ... until what?

Until we become too tired to do it anymore?

I remember this fascinating experience in a small boutique shopping area in Houston, Texas, known as "The Village" years ago. My friend and I met for breakfast one Sunday morning and then wandered through the streets, window shopping. We came across an outdoor estate sale from what seemed to be a very wealthy estate.

I cannot describe all the exquisite furnishings on sale, the artwork, the gold and silver. It was like a royal court on display. This must have been one very rich person. I turned to my friend and said, "This guy must have busted his butt his
entire life to be able to buy all of this. And now look what has happened to it."

The man running the estate sale overheard our conversation and burst out laughing. It struck a chord for him.

How much effort to accumulate so many things which would only end up as part of a sidewalk sale, sold at a fraction of the cost to strangers, once death comes along.

I think this is why Guru Nanak, in Japji Sahib, reminds us to wear the remembrance of death like a coat. Every morning, dress yourself in the thought of death. It will come inevitably and unpredictably.

The funny thing is, if you keep the thought of death in mind, it actually makes you very aware of life. Of the preciousness of it. Of how fragile and temporary it is.

Remembering death helps people do something in life that is positive for the soul. After all, each soul is just taking a trip to earth as a temporary guest, anyway.

I do not think Guru Nanak ever started a mere religion. I believe he shared a method for people to get into themselves and rewire themselves so they could create a new reality.

It was needed in his time. It is needed today. I think some Sikhs miss the point when they try to fit into the current society. The Gurus came to heal the reality. Not to go along with it.

There are all these unconscious connections that form the base of reality. Changing those connections will not happen through politics, economics, society or even religion. Change will happen when we dig deep into our own subconscious mind and allow the fundamental way we connect with the world to transform. To value life differently. To honor our time and each other differently. To chose to build our wisdom and moral strength, and to make that pursuit the crown jewel of our existence.

Often, I seek out and read some of the most difficult news on the Internet. What strikes me is that a change in human consciousness is not just a nice idea. It is a practical, evolutionary necessity. Cultivating higher consciousness, intuitive knowing, mutuality in communication, and grace in relationships is the only way that the human race is going to survive.

So when an age comes like this, an age of prosperity where struggling for survival is not the highest priority for so many of us, it becomes important to reflect on what are we doing with it. What connections are we perpetuating? What reality are we passing onto our children?

For me, the Gurus had it right. Let life be an opportunity to change the consciousness of people, and to give the future a chance as a purer, more gracious way of life.

September 29, 2014

Conversation about this article

1: Sangat Singh (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), September 29, 2014, 5:38 AM.

What a profound expose and the central message and key to it was "Do we remember death at all times?" Only a person who always remembers death, knows how valuable and precious is the wealth of counted breaths, granted during a lifetime. It was once in the darbar of Guru Gobind Singh that a raja happened to visit and pay homage. The raja, after some deep thoughts and musings, put across a straight question to the extremely handsome warrior Guru regarding the presence of beautiful women in the congregation and their likely effect and impact on a man's lust. Guru Sahib patiently heard his query and then told the raja that he had only seven days of life left and that he should better go and finish all his worldly tasks and enjoy whatever he wanted to, so that he could die peacefully. The raja went away to his palace but with the imminent death predicted by the Guru now hanging over his head. Even the distractions of Kaam, Krodh, Lobh, Moh, Ahankar disappeared. There was no question of enjoying any of the worldly pleasures. He realized too late that the thought of death was the key to life eternal. Guru Gobind Singh had not in jest predicted as everybody dies in seven days only.

2: Nav Kaur (Australia), September 29, 2014, 8:04 PM.

I love reading articles that you write, Ek Ong Kaar Kaur. There is a depth in your writings which strips away the complexities of religion. I always find it uplifting. I'm sometimes left feeling confused from the fixed patterns that we create around religion. Your writings capture the essence of 'religion'. I didn't get a chance to respond to your earlier post on the current ISIS crisis. The beauty with which you addressed the issue of sectarian violence blew me away! It struck a deep chord. I think you should share that piece with more people, there is a lot of wisdom to be gained from it.

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Letters From Espanola"

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