Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Environmental Wisdom in Indian Philosophy & Culture

Rakshita Singh

          Today awareness about environmental issues is on a surge. In general 'Environment' is a term that refers to the world around us which includes the soil, water, air, flora and fauna. Due to rapidly growing population, consumerism, deforestation, loss of habitat of wildlife, pollution etc. Ecological or environmental balance had disturbed. As a result melting of glaciers, rise in sea level, problem in agriculture, climate change, increase in diseases, disturbance in weather pattern etc.  It raised a question of survival before the mankind. In this context it has become relevant to have a look at the Indian point of view regarding the problem.

            Traditional Indian view-point and culture accepts the values of non-violence, tolerance, equity and compassion for all objects. Indian thought and culture is by and large spiritualistic, and undoubtedly it is the devoid of spiritualism which consequently causes natural disturbances. The ecological basis of Indian thought and culture is its belief in the divinity of Nature. It never accepted nature as a resource to be exploited. But it accepts a common underlying bond of unity in different kinds of living being on earth. It is said in Gita that if a man sees everything of the world in his ourself and his own self into all objects of knowledge, he becomes an ideal man, a yogi.
       Vedic Environmental Wisdom– Vedic sages had a great concern for nature and natural resources. Many verses of Yajurveda have devotional as well as worshipping attitude towards trees, rivers, sky, air and space. अंतरिक्षं मा हिंसीः 1
            Mantra propounds that we must not harm or vanish the space. It means that it is our duty not to destroy or pollute elements like air and shabda which are the carrier of space. Vedic seers accept human being not as a consumer of flora and fauna but as their companion. He declares: मित्रस्य चक्षुषा सर्वाणि भूतानि समीक्षन्ताम्। मित्रस्याऽहं चक्षुषा सर्वाणि भूतानि समीक्षे मित्रस्य चक्षुषा समीक्षामहे।। 2
            It is a world view that highlights the importance of all the components of environment and accepts that all the aspects of cosmos are inter-related and interwoven. युवं वायो सविता भुवनानि रक्षयः3  Emphasizes the importance of air and sun, it state both of them, to be protectors of the world. Vedic Rishis accepted nature as mother of human being.  माता भूमिः पुत्रोऽहं पृथिव्या, अप्रसन्नो विनाशाय प्रसन्नः सर्वसिद्धये। 4 They prayed for the ecological balance and the elements of environment i.e. water (ap), fire (tejas), air (Marut), Earth (prthivi) and sky (vyoma). For example the famous mantra of yajurveda says. द्यौः शान्तिरन्तरिक्ष शान्तिः, पृथिवी शान्तिरापः, शान्तरोषधयः शान्तिः। वनस्पतयः शान्तिर्विश्वेदेवाः, शान्तिर्बह्म शान्तिः, सर्व शान्ति, शान्तिरेव शान्तिः, सा मा शान्तिरेधि।। शान्तिः शान्तिः, शान्तिः।। सर्वारिष्टसुशान्तिर्भवतु। 5
            It clearly can be concluded that man would be safe if he is in friendly relationship with nature. Man should be aware of the fact that nourishment and growth is not only his monopoly, the nature and natural resources are also to be nourished and grown. A healthy and balanced relationship between man and nature demands for the attitude of friendship, compassion and non-violence. The same path is shown to us in the following mantra of Yajurveda
सुमित्रिया आप ओषधयः सन्तु दुर्भित्रियास्तस्मै सन्तु योस्मान द्वेष्टि यं वयं द्विष्मः।। 6
Vedic Rishis pray for the conservation and purity of earth, water, air etc. as –
            पृथिवीं यच्छ पृथिवीं दृंह पृथिवीं मा हिंसीः। 7
             It is said that to is from all the evil, the earth contain pure water. It purifies all that is impure .It cleans everything that goes in it. Earth is a real purifier of all that is undesirable and unclear. Let us not hurt its vitals and its heart.Let us use it judiciously. There are so many mantras regarding the importance & conservation of trees. वृक्षाणां पतये नमः8 अरण्यानां पतये नमः9 नमो वृक्षेभ्यो हरिकेशभ्यो10 A richa of Rigveda say – वने अस्थाप्यध्वम्
            It means 'plant trees in the forests.' In the same line of thought, for the benefit of mankind Yajurveda propounds – अयं हि त्वा स्वधितिस्तेतिंजानः प्राणिणाय महते सौभाग्याय। अतस्त्वं देव वनस्पते शत वल्शो विरोह सहस्त्र वलसा विवलं रुहेम।।11
            'Yajna' which was the most important spiritual act of vedic life, performed to please various deities, also had scientific importance as its smoke forms cloud and bring rain; with this, Yajna also cleans and purify the environment by killing microbes.
            There are two aspects of Yajna : Swaha and Atma Samarpana (self sacrifice) by performing both acts cleanliness of mind as well as of environment can be attained.
            'Ayurveda' which is ancient Indian System of medicine, is focussed on the elements of environment. Plant materials were used in Ayurvedic pharmaceuticals. Here the various components of environment like Earth, Water, Fire, Wind, Sun are used for the treatments of ailments. There are discriptions regarding Surya chikitsa, Jala Chikitsa, Agnichikitsa and Vayu chikitsa in Rigveda and Athervaveda.
Environmental Consciousness in Puranas and Epic Literature– The importance of plantation is accepted in Puranas. It teaches us to plant trees for happiness and prosperity and also to get rid of suffering. It is stated in Varaha Purana that 'Vrikshdan is of more value than 'Bhumidan' or 'Godan'. भूमिदानेन ये लोका गोदानेन कीर्तिताः ते लोकाः प्राप्यन्ति पुंभि पादपानां प्ररोहणे।। 12 According to Matasya Puran- a single tree is equivalent to ten sons, दशपुत्रसमो द्रुमः
            There are so many references of planting trees, and making of ponds and pools in Mahabharata and Ramayana. It is said in Manusmriti that pools, ponds, well etc. should be constructed at the boundaries of the villages and trees like vat, peepal, neem, dhak, semal, sal etc should be planted. सीमावृक्षांश्च कुर्वीत न्यग्रोधाश्वत्थकिंशुकान्। शल्मलीन्सालतालांश्च क्षीरिणश्चैव पादपान्।।13 There are also examples of water management & conservation in Manusmriti दृ नाप्सु मूत्रं पुरीषं या स्तोवनं समुत्सृजेत। अमेध्यलिप्तमन्यद्वा लोहितं वा विषाणि वा।।14  Environmental Consciousness in Jainism & Buddhism– Jainism is an ethical religion which recognize the importance of environment and purity of nature. Jainism propounds a view of life that is based on the principle of non-violence. Jainism offers the world - a way of moral values and a viable framework for holistic environmental protection, peace and harmony. Jain theories like concept of Panchsthawara, Anarthdan - Virativrat, Aparigraha, believe in Vegitarianism and believe in peaceful co-existence of all living beings etc. are sufficient to prove this philosophy environment sensitive.
            The four noble truths of Buddhism show us the path to get rid of suffering. Buddhist ethics believes in values like non-violence and compassion for all living beings. We can find the answers to the questions related to environmental crisis in Buddhist moral principles.
            In Indian culture ample importance is given to forests and trees. Even today plants and trees like Tulsi, Madar, Palash, Gular, Shami, Peepal are worshipped and used during the various ceremonial occasions.
            Hence, Indian thought and culture is aware about the environmental equilibrium and is flooded with the profound knowledge of the elements of nature and the inter-relationship between being and non-living component. It indicates the various ways that can help us in preserving the nature.
1.     Yajurveda 5–43
2.     Yajurveda Madhyandin Samhita 36/18
3.     Athervaveda 4.25.3
4.     Athervaveda 12-1-26
5.     Shukla Yajurveda 36-16
6.     Shukla Yajurveda 6/22
7.     Shukla Yajurveda 13/18
8.     Shu. Yajurveda 16/19
9.     Shu. Yajurveda 16/20
10.  Shu. Yajurveda 16/40
11.  Shu. Yajurveda 16/19
12.  Varaha Purana 170/39
13.  Manusmriti 8/246
14.   Manusmriti 4/56
Dr. Rakshita Singh
B.H.U. Varanasi