A Look at Vedic Environmentalism – By Sri Nandanandana dasa (Stephen Knapp)
The environment means nature, and whose nature is it? It is God’s nature. Did anyone else create it? Did anyone else put it all together so that it operates the way it does? In fact, humanity is still trying to figure out all the intricacies of its functionality.
In all the inventions or devices we produce, all the ingredients and resources that we use are all given by God. The elements we need to make big buildings, bridges, ships, cars, or the fuel to operate them, are all being given by God, and we need to show the proper respect. To think we are the proprietors of everything is the illusion. It is our pride that makes us think we are so intelligent when actually the very brain with which we think is not created by us but has again been given by God.
As everything is created from the Supreme Creator, then we should certainly have a high regard for everything as the expansion of God’s energies. This not only includes all of our fellow humans, but all creatures, as well as all aspects of the planet. Violence toward the planet in the form of not caring for the environment, misusing and polluting our natural resources, not managing the land and forests properly, are all forms of disrespect toward God and the blessings that have been given us. Why should we expect God or the planet to continue giving us the necessities of life, or the means to acquire them, if we are going to ruin them, or do not know how to care for them properly? So we must never pollute our resources or waste the food we have.
We should also see that even the Earth is a living being, full of life. The globe is a mother to us since she supplies all that we need. All of our food, water, and resources for sustaining our own lives, as well as supplies for shelter and clothing, all come from her. That is why she is called Mother Bhumi, according to the Vedic tradition. How she reciprocates with us in regard to what she provides depends on how we treat, honor and care for her. The imbalance in nature, such as the green house effect, the changing climate and weather patterns, are reflections of the imbalance in the consciousness of the humanity that pervades this planet. The planet only reflects the mass consciousness of the humanity that populates it. Once there is balance and harmony in society’s consciousness and the way we regard and treat the ecosystem, this will then be reflected in the balance in nature. Then many of the storms, natural upheavals and disasters will begin to end.
The environment and the material creation are supplied with all the potencies to produce all the necessities that we require, not only for humans but also for all species. Human society should not consider itself as the only enjoyer of all of God’s creation, and that no other creatures have a claim to it. Humanity is actually a minority species when we consider the many types of creatures that are sustained by the environment. If we manage the ecosystem properly, it will continue to produce everything we need. However, if people who have no genuine spiritual understanding start exploiting the Earth to take whatever they want in any way they want, then the supply of resources starts decreasing and the Earth, being a living organism, stops producing or responding to the needs of society as abundantly as it used to do. Then there will be shortages, droughts, and forest fires; subsequently the prices on commodities will increase. Gradually more people will become poor, and poverty and starvation will spread in parts of the world. Then we see fierce competition for whatever resources can be attained. When many people die while fighting over land and commodities, or temporary and ever-changing political stances, then all the bloodshed from the dead, dying or wounded is like offering Mother Earth blood sacrifices to drink. She is pained by this, as are so many other higher beings that watch the activities of humanity. Rather than respecting the Earth and cooperating to share her resources, when we fight over them it is most heartrending for Mother Earth. Thus, when the Earth and the Lord’s environment are not properly appreciated and maintained, or are exploited by ungodly people, then scarcities and excess pollution is the result. However, nature itself can go on nicely except for the interference of ungodly men.
As a society controlled by godless men gathers all the resources from the land as fast as possible for power and quick profits, it may appear to be a mighty economic gain at first, but in time it is never enough. As demand grows, scarcity raises its angry head. When the environment is not respected and cared for properly, there are also changes in the various species that have existed for thousands of years, even extinctions. These are all signs of further unknown changes in the future that will be revealing themselves to us when it will be too late.
There may be times when the Earth needs to cleanse herself of unwanted activities or from the pain she suffers from society’s wrong aims of life. She may move in various ways to adjust things so that humanity is not so out of balance and will be forced to reconfigure the value systems that are displayed by humanity and make them geared more toward the real goal of life. When Earth reacts in particular ways to relieve her from the weight of unwanted activities or segments of society, we should not miss the message. A society that is too spoiled often easily forgets the real reason why it is here.
The proper vision and Vedic understanding is that everything is the property of the Supreme Being. If we have any possessions or wealth, we should see that we are only borrowing them for a short time. We certainly cannot take them with us when we leave this body, thus someone else will take it all when we are gone. The ultimate owner of everything is the Supreme Creator. Thus, the proper way to use anything is in the service or consciousness of God. The same goes for taking care of the environment. Everything belongs to God so, ultimately, we should take care of it as if we were being watched by God and only taking care of His property while, by God’s good graces, it produces the resources we need to live. After all, as the Lord in our heart and as the Supersoul of every living being, He is observing everything we do.
All of one’s land, home, wealth, and possessions belong to the Supreme Being though we wrongly think, “I am this body and all that belongs to it is mine.” Thus, a person of wisdom should not see anything as separate from the Supreme Lord. In spiritual consciousness, such a person will see everything, whether it be fire, air, water, the earth, the sun and stars, all living beings, the trees and plants, the rivers and oceans, and in fact everything that exists as an expansion of the energies of the Supreme Lord. Even while actively engaged with so many objects and undertakings in this creation, a person who sees the whole world as the energy of the Supreme Being is indeed a great sage of wisdom.
Therefore, we should care for the environment as if it is not ours but God’s property, and in this way assure ourselves that it will continue to provide all of our necessities for many years to come, and into many future generations. This is part of the Vedic view.