The world is celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of Earth Day today, an annual ritual to demonstrate support for environmental protection and to highlight the importance of respecting and preserving nature.
Indic culture and tradition venerates the earth as one’s own mother. Firstly, acknowledging the earth as a person indicates that we are not indifferent to it but understand its needs and concerns, and according to it the highest respect and honour, just as the mother is respected universally in all the cultures and traditions. As a mother nourishes the child, the earth nourishes all living beings by providing them various necessities and shelter, without discrimination and timelines.
The five elements – earth, air, water, ether and fire all are acknowledged as personalities in Indic culture, also mentioned in the Vedas and Puranas. Traditionally, various rules had been laid out for dealing with each of them in order to uphold respect for them. For example, one should not pollute, that is, defecate in a running river. Today, these principles seem to be forgotten and there is wide-scale exploitation of natural resources.
Instead of caring about the long term wellbeing of the world, the environment is brazenly being destroyed and serious implications of it are visible in the way weather patterns are changing; species and habitats are getting depleted, and more.
Personally, if we deal properly with our consciousness, then we can realistically deal with the problems of this world. The cause of all physical pollution is polluted consciousness, because our minds are polluted with toxic greed which can never be satisfied. We are trying to satiate our greed through exploiting nature. The Vedic solution is to learn how to be content and satisfied with simple things — simple living and high thinking -- to change our consciousness from being little Ravanas to become little Hanumans… from exploiting the earth for our own purposes to protecting and honouring the earth for divine purposes.?????
There is no other permanent solution. All other solutions from environmental organisations may be good, necessary and vital, but we must understand that unless there is a change in consciousness, those solutions are not sustainable.
Years ago, I met the environmental minister of India. She questioned me, what good the mantras of sadhus were doing for the environment. I replied that these mantras clean the heart. If you clean the rivers but not hearts, then people will just pollute the rivers again, even you clean them hundreds of times. We have to clean the rivers and also, we have to educate people about how to find satisfaction in the simple, divine gifts that God has given us and how to respect those divine gifts.
Mother Earth has a body that is very much like our bodies. When there is a? problem, she heals herself. But like our bodies, if her body is exploited again and again and filled with more and more toxins and is never given the time to replenish itself, then it can’t heal itself and the result is serious diseases. When Mother Earth gets a disease, it results in disasters.
It is necessary, therefore, to clean the ecology of our consciousness, and the simplest and most powerful agent to remove the pollution of our minds and hearts as per age-old tradition is the chanting of Krishna’s holy names. It can restore the love, compassion and inner satisfaction that we are all longing for, it will simplify our lives and it will also help restore the health of this planet.
The author is a guru at the International Society for Krishna Consciousness.