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Personal Reflections from an Imperfect Pen

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Location: New Mexico

Publications: Japji Sahib: The Song of the Soul by Guru Nanak translated by Ek Ong Kaar Kaur Khalsa. Anand Sahib: The Song of Bliss by Guru Amar Das translated by Ek Ong Kaar Kaur Khalsa. Available through www.sikhdharma.org.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Liberation Theology and The Example of the Sikh Gurus

Sat Naam and blessings.

Recently, I launched my website: www.ekongkaark.com. New articles are being posted to the site, instead of to the blog.

From now on, when I post a new article, I will share the first part here, and then link to the website page where the article is. Anyone who wants to leave comments about an article can do so on the blog or on my Facebook page: www.facebook.com/ekongkaarkhalsa. In time, I plan to have comments enabled on the website where the articles are being published.

Thanks to all of you have who been following my Random writing over the years! Many blessings to you.

Ek Ong Kaar Kaur

Liberation Theology and The Example of the Sikh Gurus

As the conclave to elect the new Catholic Pope begins, some of the more liberal-leaning media have shined a spotlight on “Liberation Theology.” The question they have raised is this: can someone be elected Pope who supports this theological approach to dealing with social injustice and poverty? Wikipedia describes Liberation Theology as, “an interpretation of Christian faith through the poor's suffering, their struggle and hope. [It is also] a critique of society, the Catholic faith and Christianity through the eyes of the poor.” Some proponents of Liberation Theology argue that God especially favors the poor. Liberation Theology also maintains that sin is the root of the social injustice that accompanies economic inequality.

Of course, strong advocates of the “free market,” arguably a mythological invention all on its own, have a decided dislike of Liberation Theology. There have been backroom power struggles within the Catholic Church around these issues, according to some of the media reports I have been reading.

This is the first time in my life that I have heard about Liberation Theology, even though it was developed in the 1950’s-60’s. I am not an expert on the subject. However, the conversation has provoked some questions in my own mind.

• Is there something similar to Liberation Theology in the teachings and example of the Sikh Gurus?
• Do the poor have special claim on the Guru’s grace?
• What is the Guru’s view of wealth?
• What is the root cause of the social injustice that comes from economic inequality?

These are questions that fascinate me. I was raised Catholic, and poverty was very clearly taught as a virtue, at least in terms of living a spiritual life. Yet, economic inequality creates a lot of needless pain and suffering for the poor. When I look at the life and teachings of the Sikh Gurus, I see some themes emerge. One is how the Gurus addressed the pain of poverty by giving people the confidence and skills to create a decent livelihood for themselves. Yet, at the same time, the Gurus recognized wealth as a trap or block to spiritual growth, when people become attached to it. This creates an interesting dynamic in the Sikh tradition when it comes to the questions of wealth, poverty and grace.

Let us look at the first aspect – giving people a chance to exit poverty. Guru Naanak, the first Sikh Master, lived over 500 years ago. He traveled through what is now India, Pakistan, Tibet, Southwest Asia – potentially even as far as Russia. After many many years of traveling on foot, teaching, inspiring and healing people, he settled into the life of a farmer. And as a farmer, he and his successors fed people. They just fed them.
As humans, our most basic needs are water, food and shelter. When our fundamental needs are in question, there is no way to self-actualize. To develop talents. To create. To look into the deeper meaning of life. When people do not know where their next meal is coming from, their energy gets absorbed in trying to find it. I always find it fascinating that after traveling for thousands of miles on foot, encountering so many villages, tribes and cultures, Guru Naank seems to have come to a simple conclusion. For the human race to be healed, the first step is to feed each other.

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