By Pankaj Jain, Ph.D., Huffpost
Hinduism contains numerous references to the worship of the divine in nature in its Vedas,
Upanishads, Puranas, Sutras and its other sacred texts. Millions of Hindus recite Sanskrit mantras daily to revere their rivers, mountains, trees, animals and the earth. Although the Chipko (tree-hugging) Movement is the most widely known example of Hindu environmental leadership, there are examples of Hindu action for the environment that are centuries old.
Hinduism is a remarkably diverse religious and cultural phenomenon, with many local and
regional manifestations. Within this universe of beliefs, several important themes emerge. The diverse theologies of Hinduism suggest that:
• The earth can be seen as a manifestation of the goddess, and must be treated with respect.
• The five elements — space, air, fire, water and earth — are the foundation of an interconnected web of life.
• Dharma — often translated as “duty” — can be reinterpreted to include our responsibility to care for the earth.
• Simple living is a model for the development of sustainable economies.
• Our treatment of nature directly affects our karma. Continue reading
By Irena Akbar, Indian Express
As if overwhelmed by the sea of humanity and media frenzy that engulfed it during the week-long Anna Hazare-led anti-corruption agitation, Jantar Mantar, Delhi’s protest street, looks unusually calm on a Thursday. There are three protest stalls, all by Hazare wannabes clamouring for a corruption-free India, except that this time neither the media nor the public has bothered to stop by to listen. Or perhaps, it’s just that the harsh sun has got the better of protesters and their supporters.
Around noon, the silence at Jantar Mantar is disturbed by a cavalcade of 20 vehicles that includes SUVs, vans, a water tank, and a generator, all with posters that read, “Yamuna Bachao Padyatra”. Some 100-odd men and women dressed in dhotis and lehengas are part of this procession, the women dancing and singing bhajans in praise of Radha and Krishna. Kusum Sharma is part of this procession, singing into the mike and dancing, her lehenga obliging with neat twirls. The cavalcade comes to a halt. There is no podium, no stall, but this pavement abutting the Jantar Mantar has no marked out spaces, at least not on this unhurried sultry afternoon, so Sharma and the other protesters take out mats and bed sheets and spread themselves across the pavement. Continue reading
As well as the 30 plus long-term plans formally launched at Windsor by nine of the world’s major faiths – Baha’ism, Buddhism, Christianity, Daoism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Shintoism and Sikhism – dozens of further proposals or partnerships were developed during the event.
The new plans included announcements from the Russian Orthodox Church, Mongolian Buddhists (through Gandan monastery), Cambodian Buddhists, CAFOD, Lebanese Maronite Church and EcoCongregation Scotland, on behalf of the Church of Scotland, that they would be working to create their own long term plan. Other proposals and pledges included:
• The British Council – through David Viner, head of its Climate Change programme, pledging the British Council’s support in working with religious programmes on the environment and climate change, throughout its 165+ offices in more than 100 countries worldwide;
• Dr Azza Karam, of the United Nations Family Planning Association, pledged to expand further the work the UNFPA is undertaking with faith-based NGOs throughout its 120 country offices and five regional offices. Continue reading
From Windsor 2009
Speaking at Windsor Castle before HRH The Prince Philip and some 200 faith and community leaders at the Celebration of Faiths and the Environment, organised by the Alliance of Religions and Conservation and the United Nations Development Programme, Mr Ban Ki-moon said religions had a vital role to play in inspiring world leaders to “act more courageously” at next month’s critical Copenhagen climate summit.
In a heartfelt speech, that frequently deviated from his prepared text, Mr Ban said: “Science has made it quite clear – plainly clear – that this climate change is happening and accelerating much, much faster than one realises…We have knowhow, we have resources but the only vacuum is political will. You can inspire, you can provoke, you can challenge your leaders, through your wisdom, through your followers.
“Together let us walk a more sustainable path, one that respects our planet and provides for a safer, healthier, more equitable future for all.” Continue reading
Filed under: Religion
c) The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust International, Inc
When Krishna played his flute to call the cows, the river stopped flowing, her waters stunned with ecstasy. Instead of swimming or flying, the cranes, swans, ducks and other birds closed their eyes and entered a trance. The cows and deer stopped chewing, their ears raised. They became motionless like painted animals.
–Srimad Bhagavatam 10. 35
From Friends of Vrindavan website
Srivatsa Goswami, a Vaishnava scholar and devotee who has established his own study institute in the pilgrimage town of Vrindavan, India, has a fascinating explanation of the role of Krishna, the forest deity of Vrindavan, whose life Srivatsa considers to be “the greatest chapter in environmental history”.
Unlike Vishnu, who is God in the city of opulence, adored and served with reverence and awe by thousands of servants, Krishna dances with the peacocks, splashes in the river, plays the bamboo flute and spends his time with his friends in the forest herding cows.
At the very beginning of his life on earth, Krishna left the city of Mathura in order to live in the forest with the cowherds. Krishna is God living in simplicity in the forest. There are no stories of Krishna creating. In order to create, Krishna becomes Vishnu. They are both the same God, but Krishna does not personally involve himself in controlling the affairs of the universe – he prefers to stay in the forest as a cowherd boy. For this reason Srivatsa maintains that one who is devoted to Krishna could never be callous towards the environment, because Krishna himself loves nature. What Krishna loves his devotee also loves.
By Ali Krishna devi dasi
On Thursday, October 29th, I represented ISKCON and participated in a panel, organized by graduate students in the University of Florida (UF) Religion Department, discussing religious values and the environment. The other panelists included a representative of Islam, Professor Sarra Tlili from the UF Department of Asian & African Languages, a local Jewish rabbi, and another student from Campus Crusade for Christ.
Having an undergraduate degree in environmental science and as an environmental activist for the past 15 years, my personal conclusion is that Krishna consciousness is the climax and saving grace of any environmentalist’s career. I emphasized in my introductory statement why vegetarianism and simple living are two of ISKCON’s most relevant values when it comes to ecological awareness. As we strive to see all living entities with equal vision, embracing vegetarianism is an immediate symptom of higher consciousness. Naturally, vegetarianism is also a symptom of ecological awareness. As the industrialized agricultural industry and meat consumption continues to expand, the environmental impact has been detrimental. I explained that by the end of our discussion, over 1.5 million animals will have been slaughtered in the U.S. alone. What this translates into is over 55 billion animals slaughtered annually. Thus, an unprecedented demand for petroleum-based fertilizers and pesticides is needed in order to grow enough feed crops, which means more land to grow these crops, which demands one-third of the world’s arable land and another 25% of the world’s ice-free land to “graze” them. I further explained that 5000 gallons of water are used to produce one pound of beef versus 25 gallons of water to produce one pound of wheat or lettuce, and that last year, the UN made a statement that 18% of global greenhouse gas emissions were attributed to the livestock industry, whereas all modes of transportation, including cars, trucks, trains, planes, and ships combined, account for a lesser 13%. I quoted manta one from the Sri Isopanisad, “isavasyam idam sarvam…” and concluded by saying that ISKCON sees the root of all sin as the deliberate disobedience of the laws of nature through disregarding the proprietorship of the Lord.
In summary, I felt the other panelists had much to say philosophically but few examples of “lived religion” or organized efforts of environmentalism in practice. An interesting point I observed was that every panelist commented on the environment as being under humanity’s stewardship yet also existing for our enjoyment. After all the panelists presented their opening statement, the forum was opened up to questions from the audience. Approximately 50 students and community members were in attendance. The lively discussion that followed centered on vegetarianism, global warming, death rites, and war.
This panel is the first of a series of three. My professor, Dr. Whitney Sanford, who has a Ph.D. in Religious Studies with a specialization in north Indian devotional traditions, is very favorable towards ISKCON and recently attended the Vaishnavi Retreat at New Vrindavan. The following day, Professor Tlili approached a devotee on campus and asked for a copy of the Bhagavad-gita. In my opinion, ISKCON has an invaluable voice that must be strengthened and refined in order to be heard and understood by modern society and academia in regards to environmentalism. Yet, embracing or even discussing vegetarianism as a solution seems to be a truth even too inconvenient for Al Gore.
by Robin Winter, Archaeology Online
The world over, the term “sacred cow” has come to mean any stubborn loyalty to a long-standing institution which impedes natural progress. The term originates in India, where the cow is said to be literally worshiped, while thousands of humans suffer from undernourishment. The common, popular view of India in the West is that of an underdeveloped nation steeped in superstition. Overpopulated, overcrowded, undereducated, and bereft of most modern amenities, India is seen to be a backward nation in many respects by “progressive” Western civilization. “If only India would abandon her religious superstitions and kill and eat the cow!” Over several decades many attempts have been made by the “compassionate” West to alleviate unfortunate India’s burden of poor logic, and to replace her superstitions with rational thinking.
Much of the religious West finds common ground with the rationalists, with whom they otherwise are usually at odds, on the issue of India’s “sacred cow.” Indeed, worshiping God is one thing, but to worship the cow while at the same time dying of starvation is a theological outlook much in need of reevaluation. Man is said to have dominion over the animals, but it would appear that the Indians have it backwards.
Popular opinion is not always the most informed opinion; in fact, this is usually the case. The many attempts to wean India from the nipple of her outdated pastoral culture have all failed. After 200 years of foreign occupation by the British, and after many subsequent but less overt imperialistic attempts, we find that although India has changed, the sacred cow remains as sacred as ever. In all but two Indian states, cow slaughter is strictly prohibited. If legislation were passed today to change that ruling, there would be rioting all over India. In spite of considerable exposure to Western ideas, one late Indian statesman said, when asked what he thought of Western civilization, “I think it is a good idea. When will they begin?”
An unbiased look at perhaps the longest-standing culture of the world, its roots and philosophy, may help us to see things a little more as they are — even about our own way of life. Sometimes we have to stand back to get the full picture. It is a natural tendency to consider one’s own way the best, but such bull-headedness may cause us to miss seeing our own shortcomings. An honest look at the headlines of our home town newspaper may inspire us to question exactly what it is we are so eager to propound. Continue reading