“Conserve ecology or perish” - This is the message of the Bhagavad Gita
Hindu Faith Statement
(Taken from http://www.arcworld.org/faiths.asp?pageID=77)
"Let there be peace in the heavens, the Earth, the atmosphere, the water, the herbs, the vegetation, among the divine beings and in Brahman, the absolute reality. Let everything be at peace and in peace. Only then will we find peace."
This statement consists of three distinct sections reflecting the major strands within Vedic (Hindu) thought and is based on papers and comments by: Dr. Sheshagiri Rao, Chief Editor of The Encyclopaedia of Hinduism; Swami Chidananda Sarasvati, Founder of the India Heritage Research Foundation, Spiritual Head of Parmarth Niketan Ashram; Shrivatsa Goswami, Vaishnava Acharya of Shri Radharaman Temple, Vrindavan Chairman of the Vrindavan Conservation Project; Swami Vibudhesha Teertha, Acharya of Madhvacarya Vaishnavas, Udupi, Central Advisory Committee Member of the Visva Hindu Parishad.
SUSTAINING THE BALANCE
This section is from Swami Vibudhesha Teertha
These days it looks as if human beings have forgotten that a particular natural condition on Earth enabled life to come into existence and evolve to the human level. Humanity is disturbing this natural condition on which his existence, along with the existence of all other forms of life, depends. This is like the action of a woodcutter cutting a tree at the trunk, on the branch on which he is sitting. According to Hindu religion, “dharanath dharma ucyate”—that which sustains all species of life and helps to maintain harmonious relationship among them is dharma. That which disturbs such ecology is adharma.
Hindu religion wants its followers to live a simple life. It does not allow people to go on increasing their material wants. People are meant to learn to enjoy spiritual happiness, so that to derive a sense of satisfaction and fulfilment, they need not run after material pleasures and disturb nature’s checks and balances. They have to milk a cow and enjoy, not cut at the udder of the cow with greed to enjoy what is not available in the natural course. Do not use anything belonging to nature, such as oil, coal, or forest, at a greater rate than you can replenish it. For example, do not destroy birds, fish, earthworms, and even bacteria which play vital ecological roles; once they are annihilated you cannot recreate them. Thus only can you avoid becoming bankrupt, and the life cycle can continue for a long, long time.
Living bodies subsist on food grains, which are produced from rains. Rains are produced from performance of yajna [sacrifice], and yajna is born of prescribed duties. Regulated activities are prescribed in the Vedas, and the Vedas are directly manifested from the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Consequently the all-pervading Transcendence is eternally situated in acts of sacrifice. My dear Arjuna, one who does not follow in human life the cycle of sacrifice thus established by the Vedas certainly lives a life full of sin. Living only for the satisfaction of the senses, such a person lives in vain. Bhagavad Gita 3:14-16
“Conserve ecology or perish”
This is the message of the Bhagavad Gita, a dialogue between Sri Krishna and Arjuna that is a clear and precise Life Science. It is narrated in the third chapter of this great work that a life without contribution toward the preservation of ecology is a life of sin and a life without specific purpose or use.
Life is sustained by different kinds of food; rainfall produces food; timely movement of clouds brings rains; to get the clouds moving on time yajna, religious sacrifice, helps; yajna is performed through rituals; those actions that produce rituals belong only to God; God is revealed by the Vedas; the Vedas are preserved by the human mind; and the human mind is nourished by food. This is the cycle that helps the existence of all forms of life on this globe.
One who does not contribute to the maintenance of this cycle is considered as a destroyer of all life here. When the Lord desired to create life, He created the Sun, Moon, and Earth, and through them a congenial atmosphere for life to come into being. Therefore the Sun, Moon, Earth, Stars and all objects in the universe jointly, not individually, create the atmosphere for the creation, sustenance, or destruction of everything in the universe. The Earth is the only daughter of the Sun to produce children. The Moon is essential for the creation of the right atmosphere for those children to exist and evolve. This we say because of the influence of the Moon on high and low tides in our rivers and oceans. This is narrated also in the Bhagavad Gita:
I become the moon and thereby supply the juice of life to all vegetables.
We cannot refute this influence of the Moon on life. It is proved by the movement of all liquid on this globe depending on the movement of the Moon. Therefore ecology in totality must be preserved: just a part of it would not suffice.
Hinduism and Nature
Hinduism is a religion that is very near to nature. It asks its followers to see God in every object in the Universe. Worship of God in air, water, fire, Sun, Moon, Stars, and Earth is specially recommended. Earth is worshipped as the spouse of God, hence very dear and near to God. All lives on Earth are considered as children of God and Earth.
Sri Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita says:
I pervade the Universe. All objects in the Universe rest on me as pearls on the thread of a garland.
The Upanishads narrate that after creating the Universe, the Creator entered into each and every object to help them maintain their interrelationship. The Upanishad says “tat sristva ta devanu pravisat”: (“after creating the universe He entered into every object created”). Therefore to contribute toward the maintenance of this interrelationship becomes worship of God. Hindus believe that there is soul in all plants and animals. One has to do penance even for killing plants and animals for food. This daily penance is called visva deva. Visva deva is nothing but an offering of prepared food to the Creator, asking His pardon.
The Hindu religion gives great importance to protecting cattle. At every Hindu house there is a cow and it is worshipped. The cow is a great friend of humans. It nourishes us through its milk and provides manure to grow our food. This it does without any extra demand—it lives on the fodder got while growing our food. Advanced countries have started to realize the harmful effects of consuming food grown with chemical manure. When we use chemical manure, the topsoil loses its fertility. This generation has no right to use up all the fertility of the soil and leave behind an unproductive land for future generations.
There is no life that is inferior. All lives enjoy the same importance in the Universe and all play their fixed roles. They are to function together and no link in the chain is to be lost. If some link is lost, the whole ecological balance would be disturbed. All kinds of life—insects, birds, and animals—contribute toward the maintenance of ecological balance, but what is humanity’s contribution toward this? Humans are intelligent animals, therefore our contribution should be the biggest. But it is not. We are nullifying the benefits of the contributions made by other species of life. We are disturbing the balance because of our greed for material enjoyment and our craze for power. We do not allow earthworms and bacteria to maintain the fertility of the soil by using chemical manures and insecticides that kill them. We destroy plants and forests indiscriminately and come in the way of plants providing oxygen essential for the very existence of life.
By destroying plants and forests we become agents for increasing the deadly carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. We pollute the air by burning oil for all sorts of machines. We produce unhealthy sounds through our various machineries and instruments which cause sound pollution. By building towns and cities in the banks of rivers we pollutes the water. The Hindu religion holds all rivers as holy; polluting them is a big sin. Hinduism encourages the planting of trees like Tulasi, Neem, Peepal which are rich in medicinal properties.
Rishis gave the navel to Brahma, the creator, and to the sustainer Vishnu they gave the heart as His abode. The destroyer, Shiva, was given control of the brain. By doing this they wanted us to know that the language of the heart only can sustain us—when we start speaking through the language of the mind our destruction becomes inevitable. Therefore, a thinking animal has to be very careful while it uses its mental abilities: these are to be applied only with spiritual background. Mind is to act as our friend and not as our enemy. It is to function under our control; we should not succumb to its control. “Mana eva manusyanam karanam bandha moksayoh”: for human beings, mind is the cause of bondage and mind is the cause of liberation (Amrita Bindhu Upanishad 2).
Why was humanity created?
There should be a purpose for the creation of humanity. What it might be! We could be the sustainer of interrelationship among numerous life species on Earth. We are ones who can see God, and all objects, as the controller and sustainer of ecological balance. All other animals play their roles without knowing what they are doing, but humans do everything with full consciousness. God created the human mind to see His own reflection as in a mirror. The human mind can meditate on God and know him more and more.
When humanity develops consciousness of the presence of God and His continuous showering of blessings on the universe, it develops deep love for Him. To enjoy this nectar of love, God created people. Only people have a time-space conception. Therefore, only humanity can see God, pervading time-space, conserving the ecological balance which is the greatest boon bestowed on the universe by God. Though humans cannot contribute toward the conservation in the same way as other animals do, they can help all lives and other objects in the universe to play their roles effectively by persuading God through prayers of love to grant them the required energy and directions. “Yavat bhumandalam datte samrigavana karnanam, tavat tisthati medhinyam santatih putra pautriki”: “so long as the Earth preserves her forests and wildlife, man’s progeny will continue to exist.” This is the Hindu approach toward the conservation of ecology.
SACRIFICE AND PROTECTION
This section is from Dr. Sheshagiri Rao
The Creator, in the beginning, created humans together with sacrifice, and said, “By this you shall multiply. Let this be your cow of plenty and give you the milk of your desires. With sacrifice you will nourish the gods, and the gods will nourish you. Thus you will obtain the Highest Good.” (Bhagavad Gita 3:10–11)
Sacrifice does not just mean ritual worship—it means an act that protects life. Personal health depends on eyes, ears, and other sense organs working together in harmony; human prosperity and happiness depend on a well-ordered society and nature; the universe is sustained by the cosmic powers such as the sun and moon working together in unison. Sacrifice reinvigorates the powers that sustain the world by securing cosmic stability and social order. It activates the positive forces of the universe, and protects the Earth from degeneration.
God’s creation is sacred. Humanity does not have the right to destroy what it cannot create. Humans have to realize the interconnectedness of living entities and emphasize the idea of moral responsibility to oneself, one’s society, and the world as a whole. In our cosmic journey, we are involved in countless cycles of births and deaths. Life progresses into higher forms or regresses into lower forms of life based upon our good or bad karma. Kinship exists between all forms of life. Reincarnation warns us against treating lower forms of life with cruelty.
Man has evolved from lower forms of life. We are, therefore, related to the whole creation. The principle of cow protection symbolizes human responsibility to the subhuman world. It also indicates reverence for all forms of life. The cow serves humans throughout its life, and even after death. The milk of the cow runs in our blood. Its contributions to the welfare of the family and the community are countless. Hindus pray daily for the welfare of cows. When the cows are cared for, the world at all levels will find happiness and peace.
Earth as mother
Hindus revere the Earth as mother. She feeds, shelters, and clothes us. Without her we cannot survive. If we as children do not take care of her we diminish her ability to take care of us. Unfortunately the Earth herself is now being undermined by our scientific and industrial achievements.
BREAKING THE FAMILY
This section is from Shrivatsa Goswami
Let there be peace in the heavens, the Earth, the atmosphere, the water, the herbs, the vegetation, among the divine beings and in Brahman, the absolute reality. Let everything be at peace and in peace. Only then will we find peace.
The goal of human life
According to Hindu philosophy, the goal of human life is the realization of the state of peace. Dharma, loosely translated as religion, is the source by which peace can be fully realized. This peace is not the stillness of death; it is a dynamic harmony among all the diverse facets of life. Humanity, as part of the natural world, can contribute through dharma to this natural harmony.
The natural harmony that should exist in the play of energies between humanity and the natural world is now disrupted by the weakest player in the game: humanity. Although it is the totality of this game that provides our nourishment, through ignorance of our own natural limits we destroy this source of nourishment.
This awareness of ecological play or playful ecology is inseparable from awareness of the need for friendship and play as the real basis for human relationship. The family within which these relationships are nourished is not limited to its human members. Just as the human child has to be nourished by Mother Nature, and the human spirit has to be embraced and loved by beautiful nature, so the human being who has grown old or sick has to be supported by caring nature. If humans distress the mother, rape the beauty, and beat the caring nurse, what happens? The relationship collapses, and the family is broken.
The environment as our home
The Sanskrit for family is parivara, and environment is paryavarana. If we think of the environment as our home and all of its members as our family it is clear that the key to conserving nature is devotion, love—giving and serving. Nature, prakriti, as the feminine can give and serve. But the role of humanity, purusha, is then to protect. Nowadays purusha, humanity, is interested not in protecting but in exploiting, so prakriti, nature, has to defend herself. This is why we see nature in her furious manifestation—in drought, floods, or hurricanes. If we rape the mother’s womb she has convulsions, and we blame her for devastating earthquakes. If we denude her of her lush hair and beautiful skin, she punishes us by withholding food and water.
As it is through ignorance that we destroy our relationships in the family and within the environment, that ignorance becomes the root cause of our suffering. The best way to get rid of this ignorance is to unlearn what is wrong. This unlearning is shaped not only in the school but in the family and community, and it has to begin with the very young.
Traditional Hindu education covers all facets of life—economic, political, cultural, and above all religious. Whether we speak of Krishna, of Chaitanya, or of Gandhi, we see that they drew no clear division between the economic or political and the religious or cultural facets of life. The body and mind are in the service of the heart. In the same way politics and economics are rooted in and guided by religion and culture, and ultimately by spiritual experience.
This statement, compiled and edited by Ranchor Prime, was printed along with statements from ten other faiths in Faith in Conservation by Martin Palmer with Victoria Finlay, published by the World Bank in 2003.