Need for a changed approach towards environment
Dr Bajrang Lal Gupta
THE world today is worried over the rapidly depleting environment and increasing pollution. Various ways and means are being thought over to tide over this crisis at different levels. It would be in place if the thinkers of the world include the Hindu vision, Hindu philosophy, Hindu life-style and Hindu behaviour in the quest to find out a lasting solution to this problem of protecting the environment from pollution. The joint effort of modern knowledge, science and Hindu thinking can be able to understand in its totality the present problem of environmental degradation and find out a lasting solution to it.
The Indian thinkers have contemplated two aspects of environment viz. outer environment and inner environment. The outer environment covers the land, water, air, flora and fauna, while the inner environment is related to the soul and its environment. Both these environments are made by the Creator and therefore there happens to be a similar rhythm in them. Hindu thinkers stressed on understanding and maintaining this rhythm properly and in its entirety.
The term ‘pollution’ refers to degradation of environment or imbalance in the environment. The Hindu thinkers used the word ‘degeneration’ (Vikrati) and ‘disharmony (Vishamsthiti). Pollution has two aspects viz. outer pollution and inner pollution. Outer pollution is caused due to excessive presence of physical, chemical or biological elements in the environment endangering land, water, air, forest cover and life. Our thinkers have defined inner pollution as a result of ‘intellectual and psychological corruption’. They were of the view that the inner pollution causes outer pollution. First, greed and selfishness breeds within the human mind and later it finds its expression in outer pollution and imbalance.
According to Maharshi Charak, this imbalance is caused because of perversion in kaal (time), arth and karma. Kaal refers to seasons like rainy, winter or summer; Arth refers to organs of sense. Three types of karma are described which are related to body, mind and speech (kaya, manasa and vacha). He said that pollution is caused because of excess, deficiency, or wrong use of kaal, arth and karma. Maharshi Charak has mentioned that disorder or corruption in mind, intellect and memory causes internal pollution. Therefore, he said that only considering the factors and causes of outer pollution would not suffice to find out a lasting solution. We have to think of a balanced view of outer and inner causes of pollution and devise a strategy to rectify them in their totality.
Hindu view, vision behaviour in relation to environment
Hindu world view believes in integral-holistic worldview. According to this view there is a total balance in the entire universe. There is indivisible, interdependent relation between the universe, nature and environment. This entire universe is live and indivisible entity and cannot be divided into various units and treated as lifeless entity. The philosophy, which believes and experiences the Supreme Being in all the limbs of the nature, cannot think of destroying the life in any form on this earth.
Hindu philosophers have given the doctrine of ‘nature cycle’ by various names such as Shrishti Chakra or Yagya Chakra. They believe that the entire universe is live and divine. The different facets of nature viz. land, water, air, life and vegetation together form a biological family, which provides a life support system. There exists an indivisible relation between them. Creatures and vegetation cannot survive for want of land, water and air. Similarly, the existence of land, water and air is due to life and vegetation. Thus there is a network of internal relationship, which is known as unified life support system in modern parlance.
Preservation of environment or containing pollution is another name of maintaining this nature cycle free of all such dangers. To do so it is imperative that we should also give back to nature instead of just taking from it all the time. The Gods of Nature are pleased only when they get something in return. The sun takes water in the form of vapour while the Rain God gives it back in the form of raindrops. This sequence of give and take should continue unabated to keep the nature cycle intact.
Man has disrupted this natural cycle because of his greed. This has created environmental imbalance. If we give thought to bio-diversity and different species, we shall find that they too depend on one another. Every species creates certain bio-chemicals, which are useful for other species. Elimination of a species means disruption of the natural cycle. Therefore, we must protect bio-diversity. Every creature in this world fulfills a purpose. We must recognise this purpose and seek to restore coordination among different parts. This earth must remain capable of bearing all bio-diversity. This is the dharma or environmental harmony and balance. It is on this account that dharma has been defined as Dharnaat Dharmityahu.
The most prominent peculiarity of Hindu thought is its approach towards nature. The Hindu looks upon nature as Mother or a deity. The Hindu view accepts co-existence, harmony and cordiality with nature. If we succeed in re-establishing this viewpoint, the whole system alongwith all postulates and our conduct would change. The materialistic thinkers of the West have failed to comprehend this view point and have instead made fun of it. When a Hindu worships Dharti Mata, Gau Mata, Tulasi Mata, Ganga mata, Nag Devata, Moon God and Sun God, they simply ignore it by labelling the Hindus as obscurantist, backward etc. However, now even the western people have started to realise the importance of nature.
In our viewpoint there is no conflict or competition with nature. Neither have we strived for victory over nature. Therefore, we believe in milking of nature and not in exploitation. In Indian culture nature is visualised as manifestation of the Supreme Being. When development is associated with nature and culture it becomes sustainable (dharanksham) and culturised. (Sanskarksham)
Let us think of the Gods that are worshipped in Hindu scriptures. The Vedas have mentioned Sun, Varun Agni (fire) and Indra as Gods. The Rigveda is full of prayers for Agni, while the Yajurveda contains verses in praise of Vayu (wind god). The 63 verses in Prithvi Sukta of Atharvaveda are full of praise for the Land. This Sukta explains the Hindu view in respect of environment and land. This is the best guiding principle of environmental values. The rishi envisioned both metaphysical and spiritual forms of the Land and described it as “Gandhvati, Rasavati, Avani, Vishnurupa, Pariposhak, Palak, Vasundhara, Kamadugdha, Payaswati, Surabhi, Dhenu, Vishambhara, Hiranyavaksha. Dhara (i.e. land) and Dharma (i.e. law) have their origin in dhri dhatu and imbalance in any of them causes the danger of pollution of the environment. Samveda worships water mainly which is an important element to sustain life. India has always been the land of rivers. Culture and civilisation have also prospered along the bank of rivers. The idea behind various fasts and festivals also lends weight to the concept of environmental protection.
How should we look at nature and how it should look at us—this is the subject of a beautiful hymn in Yajurveda. The rishi speaks, “Mitrasys chakshusha sarvaani bhutaani sameekshantaam. Mitrasyaham Chakshusha Sarvaani Sameekshe. Mitrasya Chakshusha Sameek-shantaam. (Yajurveda. 36-18). There are three points coverted in it. First, all living beings should look kindly at me. (On the basis of this concept, a Hindu prays, “prakritih panchbhutaani griha loka swarastatha, dishah kaalashcha sarvesham sada kurvantu manglam”. This is a prayer to all elements in nature to do good to us, to be kind to us and to be friendly towards us.) Secondly, the worshipper prays that he should look at nature in a friendly manner. This is the foundation of love of nature, techniques, technologies and conduct. Nature is our friend and not an enemy. The third point covered in the aforesaid prayer is that both of us, i.e., nature and man, should look at each other in a friendly way. So, environmental consciousness is the name of an intimate and meaningful understanding between the world and the living beings (jeeve-jagat).
A fresh thinking has started in the world about the inter-relations between ecology, environment, energy, employment, equity and ethics. A global project called Agenda-21 was accepted in June 1992 at the Earth Conference in Rio de Janeiro but the permanent solution to the problem of pollution lies in adopting Hindu outlook, which is the extension of the sentiment of affection only. We insist not on the external but internal moral control. The preservation of nature should be part of our nature and we should learn to strike harmony with it. The extension of the feeling of ‘aatmavt sarvabhuteshu’ is essential. We shall have to construct such a holistic, mangal (welfare-oriented) developmental path that does not allow exploitation of one segment by the other. Also we shall have to build such a socio-economic-technological structure that can pull along harmoniously with nature rather than degenerate it. We shall have to make everyone aware of the importance of the following prayer that gives the message of the Hindu’ harmony with the universe and nature: ‘Om dyau shantih antriksham shantih, prithvi shantirapah shantih, shantiroshadhayah shantih. Vanaspatyah shantirvish-vedevah shantirbramha shantih, sarva shantih, shantireva shantih, sa ma shantiredehi. om shantih shantih shantih. (Yajurveda 36-17) (May there be peace on the earth, in the space and in the abode of gods. Let all elements governed by different gods be in peace. May all our herbs and vegetation promote peace. Let there be peace everywhere and always. May this peace continue to swell!) It is, therefore, high time that all countrymen and particularly our youth should understand this balanced and integral approach towards environment and should behave accordingly.
Different types of environment pollution and their reasons
MODERN thinkers normally consider environmental degradation and pollution related to global warming, increase in earth temperature, depletion of ozone layer, acid rain, indiscriminate felling of forest cover, and oceanic pollution. In simple terms it can be said that we are facing the threats of land pollution, water pollution, air pollution, and sound pollution. This problem has become more serious in the last century, that too in the past 50 years. The main reasons for this are as follows:-
1. The basic reason for this problem is fragmented mechanistic world view. This school of thought assumes that this universe and nature are just like a machine made of various parts. The machine does not feel pain even if any of the parts is removed, repaired or beaten. As we replace any part of a machine by a screw driver, so is the case with the nature. This thought is responsible for generating insensitiveness towards nature.
2. English scientist Francis Bacon used to say that this nature is inert and made for maximum use for the happiness of mankind. This thought generated a feeling that nature can be exploited to the maximum as it is the handmaiden of man. With this view various ways and means of exploiting nature were devised and they finally became instruments in the creation of the problem of pollution.
3. We accepted a wrong notion of development based on maximum production and maximum consumption. This further heightened greed in the human mind, which also caused pollution of the natural environment.
4. The next reason is adopting wrong production techniques and technology. Present day production technique and technology are based on maximum exploitation of natural resources, use of maximum power, and industries based on heavy machineries. E.g. the so-called new techniques of agriculture have reduced the production capacity of land, drying up of ground water sources, and use of harmful chemicals in farm products.
5. The last reason is faulty lifestyle and consumption style. Excessive use of air conditioners, refrigerators, foam mattresses, etc. has increased the levels of CFCs (chloro fluoro carbons) in the environment. Consumption of cosmetics has killed many a species while transport, fashion, publicity and packaging have become the major sources of pollution.
(The writer is renowned economist and Uttar Kshetra Sanghachalak of RSS)