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Conservationism and Hinduism

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Well in the last lecture we have discussed Christian religion as to how it is sort of blame and then seem to be responsible for the kind of ecological crisis which we are facing now strongly argued by history and Lean White and also we have discussed how the Buddhist principle of conservation of animals and plants were strongly seen in the script or the holy book of Buddhism. Now today we like to we will be looking at how Hindu religion in away tries to look at the kind of conservation of not just nature but also how it and could have certain kind of principles which are being enshrined in the holy book of Hinduism.
And we will move on to the Christian religion in away how they tries to relook and perhaps tries to sort of reposition themselves in the context of the environmental crisis and we will be citing a few examples like the Bishnoi community and also the Chipko movement which was perhaps the first environmental movement in India. Now moving on the how do we situate religion and how is religion able to sort of create some kind of awareness.
In humans which is sort of different from the scientific or technological reasoning normally we have over and over again discussed in the lectures in my previous lectures that how science and technology the combination of these two is seem to be pretty much lethal and then which in a way has posed a serious threat to the perceptions or in terms of exploitation of Natural Resources. Now this for quite some time this science and technology is seem to be liberating enough and this which are based on scientific reasons is in a way not adequate enough for us to resolve the kind of problems which we have now.
Therefore as the theme of this particular series of lecture since the last lecture we have been trying to look at how one position or one position oneself in the context of religion and how the belief in a way has changed the kind of mindset and their attitudes towards the resources and then in this we are trying to look at how religion also help tries to in making human beings sort of the kind of attitude or the control over the animate and inanimate world and our action in a way is also like for instance the arrogance and the kind of dominant power or dominating power over nature.
In a way can have certain kind of reaction or a back fire so in a simple sense the kind of actions and behaviors which we tends to show towards the animate and inanimate world will eventually backfire and perhaps that is the stage which we are in a way witnessing.
 
And for instance the carbon emissions so and so forth which is pretty much highlighted when we discussed about climate change is also to be contextualize and understand by bringing in the humans every day or way of life. Now why how can religion in a way provide sort of in coping or in understanding this problems better. Religion in away can provide at least three fundamental mainstays to help human beings copes with the in a technological society and the first and foremost is it tries to defend the individuals existence against the depersonalizing effects of the techno industrial process.
Now when we talk about depersonalizing we are again trying to in a way sort of distance ourselves from the surroundings which we have as a process of this techno industrial or the with the help of Technology and industry. Now the second is it forces the individuals to recognize human fallibility and to combine realism with idealism. Now humans in a way which perhaps is presumed to be equipped with so much of knowledge which are guided by reasoning and empirical facts or empirical reality in a way should be combined with idealism or sort of not only the ideas but also the beliefs what an individual has.
So therefore only in that sense we will be able to realize that human in a way is fallibled and also the kind of problems which we created in a way is enormous and it can in a way fire back. Now thirdly while technology in a way gives the individual the physical to create or to destroy the world religion in on the other hand gives a moral strength to grow in virtue by nurturing restraint, humility and liberation from self-centeredness.
So this idea of a feeling of self-centeredness which is embedded with selfishness, greediness and the desire for accumulation of wealth all this in a way is again not really denounced but religion in a way can subside by creating sort of inculcating rather the moral ethics and values in an individual. Now over a period time if you look at since the post-industrial period and then with the rise of capitalism and so and so forth humans have become more or less mechanise and we have in a way become a sub servant of the machine which we all initially have created.
Now we tend to be you know guided by the dictates of this machines and the question sometimea rises does human make machines or machines makes human rather. So that sort of ideas are in a way governing the everyday life now if you have time you can perhaps browse in the YouTube on the short movie by Charlie Chaplin called the modern times so over there you will tend to witness how humans have sort of become enslaved by machines and the kind of routine people follow in terms of sort of manufacturing and producing certain kinds of products has eventually taken away the self of an individual.
And in this context we can also recall about Marx the understanding of the materialistic production where in he strongly talks about alienations how a labor in a way constrains from the final product what he produces. Now moving on. We seldom tends to equations or tends to look at the inner desire and inner meanings of human life because we are so much focus with the external and the material aspects of life therefore religion is a sort of an alternative way or it could be perhaps a solution to the problem which we are encountering Now if you look at this the idea of this Divine Being as the one which has in a way an underlying power of unity is perhaps beautifully espoused in the book of this what wecall Yajurveda.
Now in this I quote it says that the loving sage behold that being hidden in mystery, wherein the universe comes to have one home; therein unite and therefrom emanates the whole; the omnipresent one pervades souls and matter like wrap and woof in created beings. Now this in a way source the kind of wholesomeness and holistic of how an individual has become part of whole now if we can recall Herbert Spencer who is well known for his organismic theory of society.
In a way see or emphasize that an individual is compared to the organs of body and these organs put together becomes single body so in a way we as an individual or are put together and which in a way tends to struggle and work for the whole so therefore the idea of this unity rather than being divided or being scattered is pretty much strongly emphasized in this book of this Yajurveda and then this eventually has also strongly propagated about this sanctity of life.
Now nextly in the book of this Atharvaveda the art is not created for human beings alone but for other creature else well so again we some time tends to be guided by this anthropocentric ideas that we humans are as if we are given in a lineal able rights to control and dominate the species which are around us and we human beings are the rightful honor or who have that authority to in a way control or things which are around in this universe. Now Atharvaveda has in a way a different opinion in this context and which talks about how now where I quote Born of Thee, on Thee move mortal creatures; But thou bearest them which means talks about whether it about the creator that it created and biped and quadruped; Thine O earth are the five races of men for whom the Surya is the sun as he arises spreads with his rays the light that is immortal.
Now if you take it this way if we feel that we human beings alone in a way can survive that could perhaps be the stupidest and blunder we are going to create and then we should sometimes rake on and then tries to read respect or rather engage in self-introspect and think about things around us. For example the sun the planetary system and so and so forth how without this it is impossible for us to even exist. Now therefore it is important to sort of realize the importance of not only this creatures also but the particularly the Creator who in a way has so much of with so much of effort tends to create all this and then in away has make a life in a much more harmonious way. Now if you look at some of the early texts of these Sanskrit that is the Veda, Upanishads they strongly talks about the non-dualism of the supreme power that existed before the creation. Now when we talk about dualism we tends to sort of negate and create the differences between human and nature.
Now therefore even in the early text of the Sanskrit they talks about the nondualism of the supreme power that existed before the creation. So as we have discussed it strongly tries to propagate or espouse the wholesomeness, the unity wherein every creature occupies a very important place and every creature in that sense has the rightful to existence. Now god in a way as the efficient cause and nature that is the Prakriti as the material cause of the universe are unconditionally accepted as their harmonious relationship. Now the question is how do we establish harmonious relationship can we afford to maintain a harmonious relationship or cordial relationship with our surroundings by sort of utilizing our scientific and technological reasoning or should there be other ways or alternative ways. Therefore in this context it is important to realize how and who has actually created the nature and then who is in a way responsible for creating the material aspects in this universe. And which in a way has sort of unconditionally accepted this harmonious relations.
New again in the book of Gita if you look at a lord Krishna in a way says to Arjuna that of all that is material and all that is spiritual in this world, know for such certain that I am both it is origin and dissolution. Now this in a way has rightly pointed out who owns and then who is responsible for this creation of this the material course in the universe. Now since it is clearly depicted in this book that as the Hindu religion believes that Lord Krishna in a way has overriding power over the material as well as the spiritual world and he has that power of creating at the same time as the power to dissolve or the dissolution which means he can destroy and create at his own wished and your father says again that the whole cosmic order is under me by my will is manifested again and again and by my will it is annihilated at the end.
Now to put it in a very simple way if you look at the journey of the right the passage of a human life how we were created in the womb and from the cradle to the journey from the cradle to the tomb.
You can see the enormous amount of struggles we humans have actually witness and encounter and we ourself keep pretty much busy with like educating ourselves at the same time searching for certain kinds of answer, reasoning and we tend to be guided by certain kind of rational behavior but ultimately when we die we techno think because everything is where it is so in one sense no matter how we try to like through the use of certain kind of authority and power we tends to dominate and control.
But ultimately we submit in a very humble manner and then leave everything to the one who actually have created. Now in some way we can link up with the kind of the human life cycle how we were being created and then how we are being in a way destroyed and ultimately end up. So therefore we were created and then we go back to the one who has in a way created us. Now does if you look at the ancient text of the Hindus both god and prakriti that is the nature was to be one and the same.
So if we are to equate or try to look at how our nature that is Prakriti and God is to be seen as the same could we be able to exploit and then harm the nature then, harming the nature in a way is also to be equated with harming the Creator that is the God, now that’s one moral questions which are to be in away situate and then to look at.
Now if you look at the some of the doctrine of ahimsa that is non-violence and when they talk about ahimsa I am pretty sure that you are pretty much familiar with it because the father of the nation that mahatma Gandhi has used it as a strong weapon during the freedom struggle against the Britishers.
Now this particular doctrine of ahimsa that or non-violence is in a way borrowed from some of the religious texts of non-violence in a way is not to be located only in terms of a human extending from harming others but also in terms of our treatment and how the nature is in a way appropriate now why is it important to engage in this principles of this ahimsa. Now according to the Hindu religion they sort of strongly belief in this idea of the cycle of birth and rebirth now what happens in this context that is the birth and rebirth.
Now where a person is believed to sometimes to come back as an animal or a bird gives the species not only respect but also reverence. Now the I do not know much about Hindu mythology as such but as far as my understanding goes if a human is with his goodness and then if he is a good person perhaps the chances are they that he might come back as animal which is of high character or which is of superior in nature or maybe if somebody is not doing good enough.
And engaged in being a very well cruel cruelty and then being wicked the chances are there that they might comeback as animals of a very low stage and the memory for example you can set an example about a donkey. Now therefore it is important in this context to situate the animals and birds which perhaps is not to be seen as a non human but rather it can transform or may be a human spirit or a soul might have been in that particular context or in that particular animal or birds.
So therefore one needs to give that kind of respect and kind treatment and reverence. Now therefore in certain communities certain animals are seen to be sacred and may be in India atleast or may be among the Hindu community a cow is seen to be a sacred animal and depending on that it differs from society to society and sometimes these animals and plants are considered to be a totem which in a way represent and which symbolizes certain kind of representation to a particular community.
So therefore certain plants and animals or maybe birds are sort of given a lot of respect and reverence this in a way this practices in a way provides some kind of foundations for this doctrine of ahimsa that is non-violence against animals and human beings alight. So therefore I said that I argue that it is not be limited and confined to the human fellows alone but also to animals and plants. Now therefore the Hindu scriptures in a way are strongly emphasized on the notion that god’s grace can be received by not killing the creatures or harming his creations.
Now in other words if you are harming the creatures you are also in away harming the creator so therefore the creatures or the creation or the created has to be seen in this holistic manner in and one should not in a way draw a boundary nor to be certain dualism should not be created in this therefore as we had discussed that non dualism has to be practiced. Now as I had mentioned that how ahimsa was used as a political tool by mahatma Gandhi and till today there is many says that this idea of ahimsa or non-violence is irrelevant.
And you can see a lot of moblinching or sort of judgment which is being carried out instantly so this kind of temperament which is pretty much around us again is because we are not in a way trying or seeking certain kinds of the religious texts if not we do not have time for all those. Now therefore it is important to always rethink and relook at the sort of the relevance of ahimsa on non-violence when we specifically talk about how God and the Prakriti that is the nature are one body or it is unified and therefore the creation and the creature in a way as to be contextualized in this.
Now the Hindu religious text also talks about the respect for these plants now if you look at the Rigveda text there is a common practice of this tree worship and which was seem to be pretty much popular and universal and why does one engage in these practices of like worshipping of tree or plants rather. The Rigveda in a way are regarded plants as having embedded a divine powers with one entire hymn devoted to their praise, chiefly with reference to their healing properties.
So the medicinal values of the herbs and shrubs in a way is because of a belief that it has certain kind of divine power of healing, now if you look around it is still very much practice of how the plants and shrubs are still being used in treating certain kind of diseases and some plants are believed to be having medicinal purposes, so this was something which was practiced long before that is from the time of the earliest time of this the Rigveda and therefore human at times tends to personify the existence of certain spirits and divine powers in a particular objects maybe plants in this context.
And the trees were in a way considered as being animate and this the feeling of this happiness or maybe times of brief it is believed that every tree is supposed to have a Vriksa-devata that is a tree deity right. Now perhaps this is something which is pretty much common even among the people who practices animistic beliefs and as a result of which this tree is worship with prayers and offerings of water, flowers, sweet and encircled by sacred threads.
Now in some way it is increasingly realized that this idea of respect or worshipping of tree in a way is seem to be instrumental in biodiversity conservation of forests particularly. Now by many environmentalist and scientific policy making and planners that these particular practices in a way seems irrational and illogical at times but then if you find an alternative ways of how human if you look at try to reveal the closeness of human to nature such practices are in a way instrumental in trying to locate or situate of all this.
Now we will be dealing with in larger details of the sacred groves of how a particular community give reverence and respect to a particular forest which is considered to be the spirits of their ancestors dwelling it. So all these practices which is pretty much practices in states like Sikkim and then Meghalaya among the khasi community and then some bit of that resemblance among Meitei community in Manipur.
Now at a certain point of time like many of the native societies were practicing all this but with the coming of the colonists and the Christian missionaries or maybe the conversion to Christianity many of these practices sort of worshiping of nature or worshipping the trees or maybe any objects of creatures for that matter is seem to be anti-Christian and this perhaps is strongly again argued by what when we discussed about Lynn White how he consider this a Christian religion as responsible for the ecological crises.
So therefore it is to be understood in this manner that with the change of our belief and which the Christian religion basically is being guided by the western scientific reasoning and therefore injecting that ideas they were able to in a way reposition and change the whole socio cultural and religious belief of many communities and societies across the world and especially among the native societies. Therefore it is important that how religion in a way is instrumental in not only changing but also how religion is to be sort of which can deliver us from this present mess and dilemma which we are into.
Now the Hindu religious texts like the Rigveda and then Yajurveda in a way strongly propagated how the trees or the creatures are to be you know give certain kind of reverence therefore this the cutting of trees and destruction of flora were considered a sinful act which means you are doing something against the commandment or the doctrine of any the Hindu religious teaching. Now the Hindu worship of trees and plants has been in a way based partly on utility but mostly on religious duty and mythology.
Now what is this religious duty what is the guiding principle of how one tends to be religious in that sense so the first basic idea would be not to harm the creatures. Now Hindu ancestors again consider it their duty to save trees and in order to do that they attach to every tree certain kind of a religious sanctity. Now nature is seen to be sanctified and if it is seen to be something related with the Creator there in lies the ultimate idea of how we can in a way conserve nation.
Now if you look at maybe I am just citing this Kautilya’s Arthasastra which in a way has prescribed ertain kinds of code of conduct and stringent rules were also created if somebody engage in trying to harms and destroy the trees and plants. Now I quote for cutting off the tender sprouts of fruit trees or shady trees in the parks near a city, a fine of six panas shall be imposed, the panas were sort of a currency medium of actions which were being used during that point of time.
Now and for cutting of the minor branches of the same trees 12 panas and for cutting of the big branches 24 panas where shall we levied and the cutting of the trunk of the tree shall be punished
with the first amercement and feelings shall be punished with the middle most immurement. This is depicted in Kautilya’s Arthasastra. Now if you look at this sort of I should say that the forest policies were pretty much strong and then the rightly constrain the rule of book added point of time.
Now if you look at many of the so-called the Forest Department they are in a way connivance with those Lumberjacks and abroad daylight kind of corruption is being reported every now and then and they themselves are in a way responsible for the kind of felling of trees and ultimately deforestation. now perhaps sometimes it is not this religion but the kind of administration's and governance are simply not seen to be adequate and they are not strong enough to sort of maintain the basic harmony between human and nature.
Now this is not something which I am going to look at an end share but just trying to look at Kautilya’s Arthasastra remember 100 and 100 years before they have this kind of guiding principle where an individual has to abide or if not this sort of amercement is being sort of being exercised. Now again on this water pollution if you look at water is considered by the Hindus as a powerful media of purification and also as a source of energy. For instance this by sprinkling pure water in religious ceremonies it is believed purity is achieved.
Now I am sure this sort of practices are a part of our everyday life and you might have personally come across and then experienced. Now again in the Rigveda prayer is offered to the deity of water may be for instance why is the river Ganga so much sacred to the Hindus. So you have that sort of how water is seen to be the purest or where the sanity can be achieved through it. Now water in the world whose source is the ocean may all these sacred waters protect me. This is something which again is find in the Rigveda therefore this the healing property and this medicinal value of this water has been universally accepted provided it is pure and free from all pollution. Now the question is thus the water bodies which we have the water which flows in the rivers are they pure enough to be used in these kind of rituals and ceremonies because the government the successive government has time and again come up the cleaning the Ganga project cleaning up and so on so forth.