Rather than create conflict with nature, our lifestyle should be based on oneness with mother nature. This helps propagate all-round well-being of everyone
Bharat has a life line of being one with nature. We believe in the oneness of Man and Nature. Right from the Vedic period till date the Indian life line has never deviated from this main line of thought. Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyaya is one of the greatest exponents of this Bharatiya life line based on the oneness of Man and Nature, which he addressed as Ekatma Darshan or Philosophy of Integral Humanism.
The phenomenal world, which is a manifestation of the Ultimate Almighty (Paramatma), is within the Maya power, and people experience this with reference to Space, Time and Causation (Maya). “Maya at this stage is also called Prakriti (Matrix), the primordial substance of all phenomena-the Divine Mother.”
In the Hindu view, nature has ‘ myriads of expressions through varieties of living beings and entities…….Unity in Diversity is the plan of Hinduism, even as it is of Nature, It recognises the Oneness of all beings (yatra visvam bhavati eka neetam) and that the whole world is one family. (Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam). It could be said that at the cosmic level, it is the all pervading inner Oneness that is revealed, and at the individual (micro/body) level (Atman), it is the outer/external diversity that is exposed. At this level, space and time limitations occur due to Maya, and this is reflected through many names, and many lifeforms. The Prakriti or Nature which is the Macrocosm, is the grossest external manifestation of Brahman, limited by the space- time- causation-is made up of the Panchabhootas. They are the primary components of the Universe (Prapancham), of which this Prakriti (Nature) is a part. Here, Prapancham is taken as the cosmic whole and Prakriti is taken as the environment and ecology that is necessary for our survival.
This holistic, integrated and interrelated approach inherent in Bharatiya Philosophy is the central theme of modern sustainable development. The primary purpose of life in ancient Bharat was to realise this spiritual wisdom. Simple living and high thinking were the features of this life. Hence it was part of traditional wisdom in Bharat to part with over exploitation and follow simple production and simple consumption, which were the pre conditions of modern sustainable development.
In ancient Bharat, the word Prapancha means Universe. Nature and environment are expressions of five elements (Akash, Vayu, Agni, Jalam and Bhumi) and their qualities. Pancha means five and Pra denotes special, natural or primordial. Thus from this very word Prapancha, it is evident that the universe is made up of 5 primordial elements. The 5 basic/ primordial elements, the Panchabhuta of this Universe are: Akash – Space/Ether; Vayu – Air; Tejas – Fire; Jalam – Water; Prithvi – Earth
There is a sequential order of these five elements according to their decreasing subtlety.The Universe is an interplay between the 5 elements. It is by the interaction of the 5 elements that the Universe in all its size, space and matter (bhootas) manifests. After the process of Pancheekaranam, the state of the 5 panchabhootas becomes Bhautika. Thus the origin of the Universe is the result of a Tripple 5 process consisting of the 5 primordial elements, the five activities (pancheekaranam) and the formation of the Prapancha .
First came Akash or space or Ether. We can hear only the sound in the space. We cannot touch, see ,taste or smell the space. The second element that evolved is Air (Vayu). We can hear the wind blowing and feel it when the air touches our body. But we cannot see it, smell it or taste it. But in the next stage, when Tejas/ Agni/ Fire is evolved, we can hear it, touch it and see it. After this when water/(Jal) is evolved , we can hear its flow, touch it, see it and taste it. Lastly, the evolution of the Earth (prithvi)—comes from the word Pratu which means expansive and heavy-takes place and here we can hear the sound, touch the soil, see the soil, taste it and also smell it. All the five senses and sense organs are fully developed and utilised by the time the earth is evolved. It is the expansion of the Akash that is responsible for the formation of the Universe.
The purity and balance of these five elements externally determine the life on this planet. Our body also is made up of these five elements. Here also the purity of the five elements is a determinant of the balance and health of the body. Our planet earth which forms a part of this universe provides the right environment or nature (Prakriti) for the emergence, existence and sustenance and the timely disappearance through the interactions and interconnections of all the biotic and abiotic things on this planet.
The ‘Pancha Matha’ Concept
Dehamatha (biological mother), Govmatha (cow mother), Desa matha (Motherland), Bhoo Matha (Mother Earth) and Prapancha Matha (Supreme Mother) are the five concepts in motherhood at different levels that promote love and respect to nature. It keeps away individuals from over exploiting Mother nature and thus promotes a sustainable life style.
The main objective of the life of a Hindu is to attain Dharma and Moksha. ‘Dharma’can be considered as the corresponding word for sustainability. That which upholds and sustains is Dharma. Dharma is the code of conduct to be observed by the individuals to keep the physical balance of man and nature along with keeping the cultural and spiritual integration of individuals. The very saying that if you protect Dharma, Dharma will protect you, shows the inherent interrelationship between man and nature. Thus Dharma demands a simple and austere life which helps a sustainable life style and sustainable development.
Wealth can be desired and acquired and it could be used to satisfy human wants only according to ‘Dharma’. After a period of hectic activity, there should be retirement for liberation—Moksha—again a stage of very simple and austere life. All these principles and practices provide a sustainable life style.
Dr TV Muralivallabhan (the writer is the Academic Co ordinator of Sri Ramakrishna Math, Pala, Kerala)