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Monday, December 5, 2011

Environment -A Spiritual Response to the Environment

MY TURN: A Spiritual Response to the Environment
By Jagmohan
Hinduism Today
November, 1994

In 1972, international leaders met at Stockholm and expressed grave
concern over the deteriorationg environment. Since then, thousands of
conferences, seminars and symposia have been held all over the world,
and millions of dollars spent. Hosts of "expert" bodies have cropped
up. Non-governmental organisations have sprouted like mushrooms. But
what has been the net income of all this? During the twenty-year
period between Stockholm and Rio de Janeiro (1992), the world's
environment has deteriorated further and ecological imbalance

This is happening because awareness of environmental problems is only
skin-deep. Unfortunately, our thinking and actions are still being
shaped by a mechanical view of nature. Unless concern for the
environment acquires a spiritual base and becomes a part of
contemporary man's psyche, declarations will not get converted into
commitments and no real change in existing practices and no real
improvement in existing conditions will take place. Could religious
and cultural traditions help bring the desired change? Could ancient
values be regenerated to evolve a new ethos which would enable the
present-day man to perceive life as an organic entity and understand
that sea, soil, forests, clouds, mountains and teeming millions
spread over the earth are inseparable parts of the cosmic web? My
answer to both questions is in the affirmative.

No religion, perhaps, lays as much emphasis on environmental ethics
as Hinduism. The Mahabharat, Ramayan, Vedas, Upanishads, Bhagavad
Gita, Puran and Smriti contain the earliest messages for preservation
of environment and ecological balance. Nature, or Earth, has never
been considered a hostile element to be conquered or dominated. In
fact, man is forbidden from exploiting nature. He is taught to live
in harmony with nature and recognize that divinity prevails in all
elements, including plants and animals. The Mahabharat hints that the
basic elements of nature constitute the Cosmic Being -- the mountains
His bones, the earth His flesh, the sea His blood, the sky His
abdomen, the air His breath and agni (fire) His energy. The whole
emphasis of the ancient Hindu scriptures is that human beings cannot
separate themselves from natural surroundings and Earth has the same
relationship with man as the mother with her child.

Planting and preservation of trees are made sacred in religious
functions. The Varah Purana says, "One who plants one peepal, one
neem, one bar, ten flowering plants or creepers, two pomegranates,
two oranges and five mangos, does not go to hell." In the Charak
Sanhita, destruction of forests is taken as destruction of the state,
and reforestation an act of rebuilding the state and advancing its
welfare. Protection of animals is considered a sacred duty. Our
scriptures warn, "Oh wicked persons! If you roast a bird, then your
bathing in sacred rivers, pilgrimage, worship and yagnas are
useless." In our ancient mythology, birds and animals have always
been identified with gods and goddesses.

The current deplorable condition demands a spiritual response. A
fundamental reorientation of human consciousness, accompanied by
action that is born out of inner commitment, is very much needed. One
of the measures that could help a great deal to fulfill this need is
to regenerate and rejuvenate basic values of Hindu culture and
propagate them.

Jagmohan, member of Indian Parliament in the Rajya Sabha, is the
former Governor of Jammu & Kashmir, India, and Lieutenant Governor of

Hinduism Today
November, 1994

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Hinduism Today

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