Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Reverence for Nature Only Way to Save It

Reverence for Nature Only Way to Save It

by H.H. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

Speaking Tree - Times of India

 Ancient scriptures say we have five sheaths: physical environment, physical body, mind, intuitive sheath or subtle environment, and the Self.

Indian tradition believes in the sanctity of nature. Our rishis perceived the mountains, rivers, Sun, Moon and trees to be sacred. That which is sacred is honoured. Environmental consciousness has been built into our way of life, to become our second nature. But when we start moving away from our nature we begin polluting the environment. Unfortunately, we pollute our rivers and mountains in the name of sacred rituals.

We also suffer from the misconception that ecological degradation is an inevitable by-product of techno-logy and development. But the two need not be mutually exclusive. The purpose of technology is to harness nature, to bring information and comfort to human beings. When spiritual and human values are ignored, technology brings pollution and destruction, instead of comfort. The role of spirituality is to help maintain harmony in the environment even while allowing technology and science to grow. This is the challenge of the present century.

We can take our lessons in environment preservation from nature. Nature digests waste material and produces something beautiful every time. Despite all the extreme characteristics one finds in nature, somehow, a balance is struck. It is not the science or the technology that is harmful; it is the waste material produced that is toxic. This waste needs to be minimised and recycled.

The greatest pollutant is, of course, human greed. It comes in the way of preservation of ecology, as it gives higher priority to quick profit and quick results over eco-friendly manufacturing practices. Greed pollutes the subtle environment and mind of man with negative emotions and impressions. Pollution permeates both the physical and subtle environment. An angry person exudes anger which spreads to others around him. It is a chain reaction. At the root of all wars is compounded negativity of emotions. Often we are not aware that something that is anti-environment is also anti-health.

 By reviving traditional reverence for nature, we could restore a degree of purity to our surroundings. We can see God in nature — this would make us more sensitive to the way we treat nature. Then you can't but be environmentally conscious. Both ancient and modern methods need to be adopted.

Vedic farming was done with cow urine, cow dung and neem leaves, and these have now been proved to be excellent for crop production. Recent experiments in India have shown that the yield has tripled just by natural farming done without fertili-sers and pesticides. Just because something is new, it need not be good and just because something is old it need not be discarded. A good mix of the two can help us balance our lives with that of the environment and in this manner, we can prevent further degradation of Planet Earth. This can only happen when human consciousness rises above greed, selfish motives, and exploitation. We need to ask ourselves: How much do we want to exploit Earth? Or how much do we want to preserve it?

Spirituality checks greed. It raises awareness and brings a sense of caring and commitment for the whole planet. Spirituality elevates our consciousness. It opens our eyes to the beauty of nature, and encourages us to honour nature and life — and helps bring more joy and celebration into our lives. A spiritual out- look and sensitivity is essential to foster environment consciousness

Thursday, 16 October 2008

We are in denial :- Sri Sri Ravishankar
Negating identity causes inaction, sloth and lethargy


If you come across a Communist, with a Hindu name, and ask him about his identity, he will deny being a Hindu. Yet, a Muslim Communist often claims his identity without hesitation. One wonders what causes this difference in attitude.

It is interesting to probe into the psyche of identity, which often is a source of security, insecurity, conflict and comfort. Perhaps the following reasons would answer the identity crises of the Hindus. The broadmindedness of Hinduism, its inherent inclusiveness and secularism, makes Hindus feel guilty about claiming their identity, as it is embedded in their philosophy that it is wrong to exclude others. Claiming a religious identity makes them feel they are excluding others and so they shy away from doing so.

Hindus have been traditionally groomed by the Vedanta to drop all identities. This has deeply influenced the Hindu psyche. Hindu philosophy is woven around egolessness. Let alone their religion, some sadhus don’t even say their name; they would say, “What’s in a name?” Sanyasis are even shy to talk about their parentage. A renowned ascetic in Rishikesh would meet with everybody, but not his own mother and family. When asked, he would say, “I am Vedanti; once I have taken sanyasa, I have dropped all my identities.”

This is an erroneous understanding of Vedanta. Why do we fear the identity so much? Seeing identity as stumbling blocks for one’s growth is ignorance. Sanyasa is transcending identity; it is being in that centredness from where you have equal love and compassion for all. It is the unshakable light and richness that one has found in one’s Being which is universal. Transcending identity is different from denying identity. When religious leaders themselves denounce their identity, the community follows suit. This is akin to the thought that secularism is anti-religion.

Caste identity is in some places much stronger than religious identity. The normal tendency is to go for one single identity than for a dual one. So, between caste and religion, many Hindus seem to go for caste. Hindus feel ashamed of the ills of Hinduism — its superstition, untouchability, and practices like sati are usually highlighted in the media, rather than its unparalleled philosophy and scientific temperament. Thus, for several centuries Hindu bashing has been a fashion.

The media seems to have given the prerogative of Hindu identity to the RSS and VHP and secular-minded Hindus would not like to associate with these two organisations. As a result they shy away from their own identity.

Within India itself, we witness a great deal of ignorance about the Hindu religion and its scriptures. Although Hindus form 80 per cent population of India, there is still only one university which teaches Hinduism — whereas there are five which teach Islam, five which teach Christianity, two which teach Sikhism and one that teaches Jainism. You would find every Muslim would know a couple of verses from the Quran; you can hardly find a Christian who has not read the Bible.

But Hindus who know Sanskrit or a few shlokas are rare. Most educated Hindus know the Bible; they know Christmas carols. When they know nothing about their religion, how can they take pride in it?

There are 1.25 billion Hindus in the world, a little over one-sixth of the world’s population, but you hardly find a single Hindu lobby at international forums. You will find a Christian lobby, a Muslim lobby or a Jewish lobby, but you can’t find a Hindu lobby. Just 12 million Jews in the world are such a powerful voice. Buddhists also have a voice and make their presence felt at world forums.

In countries of south and central America and in Europe, although they are secular democracies, they are not shy to proclaim their allegiance to Christianity. You will find the religious symbol of the Cross placed in their parliaments; chaplains offer prayer before every official dinner. While associations like YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Association) have gained wide acceptance. Why then is it that Hindu associations are viewed with scepticism?

A strong community is an asset to any nation. A weak community will always be in fear and because of insecurity will become aggressive. It is the pride in one’s identity which strengthens the community. Identity is in no way contradictory to universality.

People often ask, “Will not the concept of global family, Vasudhaiva Kutambakam, contradict patriotism? Similarly, will your religious identity not conflict with your universality?’’ The answer is “No”. Your duty as a family man is not a hindrance for your realisation that you are Brahman. You don’t need to run away to the forest to realise “All this is Brahman”. Your being spiritual in no way contradicts your being a socially responsible citizen. In fact, it enhances your ability to care and share.

The conflict in the world is because people are either stuck in their identity, and die for it, or shy away from their identity and lose their roots. One has to opt for a middle path. The ideal situation will be when every religion transcends its identity. Until that time, it is unwise for the Hindus to let go of their identity. We cannot, and should not, eliminate differences on this planet. We need to celebrate the differences. And this is the uniqueness of Bharat — from the atheism of Charvaka to Bhakthi Panth and Sufism, it’s one beautiful bouquet.

An identity is related to an action. Denial of identity will dump you in inaction, sloth and lethargy and hence Krishna reminds Arjuna of his Kshatriya identity even while giving “Brahma gyan” to remind him of his duties and responsibilities. Otherwise while giving this High knowledge of the Self, why would Krishna remind him again and again of his limited identity. The limited identity in no way contradicts the universal one. A policeman cannot perform his duties — steer the traffic — if he fails to acknowledge his identity. Similarly, if a businessman shies away from his identity, he cannot function. The same is the story of Hindu identity. India cannot make a distinct mark on the world if it ignores its religious and spiritual heritage.