Krishna Consciousness & Ecological Awareness

Deep Ecology
June 30, 2008, 6:53 pm
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Among those who see the need for fundamental change in human consciousness are the deep ecologists.  “Deep ecology is a process of ever-deeper questioning of ourselves, the assumptions of the dominant worldview of our culture, and the meaning and truth of our reality,” say two prominent theorists of this movement, Bill Devall and George Sessions.

We agree with the deep sociologists that modern civilization raises obstacles to this process of inquiry.  “In technocratic industrial societies there is overwhelming propaganda and advertising which encourages false needs and destructive desires designed to foster increased production and consumption of goods,” say Devall and Sessions.  “Most of this actually diverts us from facing reality in an objective way and from beginning the ‘real work’ of spiritual growth and maturity.”

Deep ecologists would like to see much of the world returned to wilderness.  They also speak of the “biocentic equality” of all living things.  By this they mean that “all things in the biosphere have an equal right to live and blossom and to reach their own individual forms of unfolding and self-realization within the larger self-realization.”

Members of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, while sympathetic to some of the goals of the deep ecologists, differ with them about the ultimate sense in which all creatures “reach their own individual forms of unfolding and self-realization within the larger Self-realization.”  For the deep ecologists, this process takes place solely within nature.  The “larger Self-realization” is simply that of nature unfolding according to its own laws.  As far as humanity’s self-realization is concerned, this would amount to humans as a species taking a more humble position relative to nature and other living things.  But this holistic vision, although an improvement over humanity’s present exploitive behavior toward nature and other living beings, falls short of a genuine spirituality.  It fails to take in account the eternal identities of all living things beyond their situation in material nature.  These eternal identities become revealed not simply in relation to nature and other living things but in relation to God, who is present both in nature and beyond nature and who is the source of both nature and the living things in nature.

An equality of vision more satisfactory than that of the deep ecologists was possessed by the ancient sages of India, whose teachings the members of the modern Krsna consciousness movement follow.

“The humble sages, by virtue of true knowledge, see with equal vision a learned and gentle brahmana, a cow, an elephant, a dog, and a dog-eater [outcaste],” says the Bhagavad Gita (5.19).

A Krsna conscious person does not make any distinction between species or castes,” comments Srila Prabhupada on this text in his Bhagavad Gita As It Is.  “The brahmana and the outcaste may be different from the social point of view, or a dog, a cow, and an elephant may be different from a species point of view, but these differences are meaningless to the learned transcendentalist.  This is due to their relationship with the Supreme.”

Each living thing is not simply a material form that finds its proper place within material nature.  Each living thing is also possessed of a soul, which has an eternal relationship with God , who exists beyond material nature.  Of course, nature is the energy of God, and God is present in His energy as well as beyond it.  So it is possible for those who properly align their souls with God and with the souls of other living things to also properly align their material bodies with God’s material nature and the material bodies of other living things.  This is a more complete self-realization than that of deep ecology.

Applying a vision of the theocentric equality of all living things, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness addresses the deep philosophical and spiritual issues that touch on the self and nature, while it simultaneously introduces a way of life that situates the self harmoniously within nature.

-excerpt from Divine Nature by Micheal A. Cremo and Mukunda Goswami

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