ECOFEMINISM, SHAKTI & TANTRA
In the 1970's the Women's Movement and the Ecological Movement became two great movements, which brought about great social change. The Women's Movement had consciousness-raising groups in which women's issues and their identities were discussed. Many countries had these groups, but the women of the United States were the orginators of the movement. The Ecological Movement started when Rachel Carson wrote Silent Spring about the dangers of the pesticide DDT. Unfortunately, she died of cancer. She brought a consciousness of a woman combined with the ability of an environmental scientist and changed the world forever.
The ecofeminists were concerned with both communities--women and Mother Earth. The term ecofeminism was first used by French feminist Francoise d' Earbonne in 1974. The ecofeminists argue that it's the patriarchal system which promotes the exploitation of both females and nature. Ecofeminists promoted a new consciousness, which honored both women and nature. Keep in mind patriarchy is a system, not a gender. Some women are for patriarchy and some men are for matriarchy. It's a philosophical system and belief system like ecofeminism is a philosophical system.
There are secular ecofeminists and there are also spiritual ecofeminists. Some women and men work in both communities. Many Hindus have been heavily involved with the spiritual ecofeminists. The spiritual ecofeminists have developed a more woman-centered spirituality, which honors nature,while the secular ones are usually not connected with the spiritual side in their activism. Lately I have been mostly involved with the spiritual ecofeminists, but I have done some activism with the secular ecofeminists in the past.
Dr. Vandana Shiva is considered the most well-known Hindu ecofeminist. She has co-authored a book called Ecofeminism with Maria Miles. In this book they have concluded, "In analyzing the causes which have led to the destructive tendencies that threaten life on earth we became aware--quite independently--of what we call the capitalist patriarchal world system." You can look at Kerala, India as a contrasting comparison in that this Hindu city is a matriarchy. Matriarchy is very much based on Vedic principles. You will observe in this city that there is 100% literaracy among adults and many of the social problems of other communities are virtually non-existent. Very little domestic violence exists there. Women own property and work out side the home. The poverty rate is much lower than in other parts of India and the third world. You do not see the exploitation of the earth there. Ecofeminists know that life on earth is more like a web, not a hierarchy. This is what the matriarchy is about: a shared leadership without hierarchy.
Dr. Shiva is a physicist and ecofeminist who was born in Debra Dun, India in 1952. She grew up near the Himalayan forests and is a daughter of a forester. She was educated in India and Canada. When she did her graduate study in Canada, she discovered that the World Bank had provided big subsidies for the development of timber industries, which were not sustainable, who destroyed farmland and forests to accomplish their economic goals. She was part of the Chipko Movement, who hugged trees in order to stop the destruction of the forests. Her ethic comes out of Hindu spirituality, which honors Mother Earth and Shakti principles. She was very much a shakti, or power, in developing a movement which promoted native seeds called Navdanya (nine seeds). They promote biodiversity conservation, farmers' rights and studying water scarcity. She speaks out against Monsanto, who she believes exploits poor farmers. The GMO seeds don't germinate on harvest, so the farmers must buy new seeds every year. People are buying Coca - Cola because water is scarce. This is very sad!
The Vedas refer to nature and ecology and the Vedic philosophy is based on the idea of respect for Mother Earth. In the Puranas Lord Krishna extolls the greatness and beauty of trees. His discourse reads like a modern textbook on ecology. Mother Earth is called Prithivi or Bhumi Devi, who is the mother of Sita Devi. According to Klostermaier, "Vedic Hinduism was very environmentally conscious: pollution of land and water was forbidden and care was taken to preserve the natural fertility of the environment."
The Shakti or Shakta tradition honors the female principle in the world. When doing kathas on the goddesses, you really have to understand the story as centering on the goddess as the main character and actress in the story. The goddess is not submissive. She is the one through which all the action happens. The female is worshipped as a goddess on Earth, or Divine Shakti. Women are considered to be ideal gurus. Mother is the first guru in the family. In the Tantric philosophy there is no hierarchy or distinctions. Caste and gender are no barriers in the tantric rituals. The tantric philosophy rises above all dualities and sees the divinity in all beings. The Shaktas forbid sati (widow burning), child marriage and other similar abuses of women and children. The tantric texts encourage female education and respect of womankind. The tantric philosophy sees the whole aspects of woman, including creativity, power, transformation, in addition to maternal aspects. Tantrics do not renounce every day life and are often householders. The body is considered a temple of the spirit, so you take care of it and worship it.
As I prepared for my job interview, I used the Shakti principles of worshipping the Mother on Friday, the day dedicated to Her. My spiritual teacher, Pandit Munelal Maharaj, explained Her connection with Friday. I remembered Mother Earth as I walked on Her all the way to my interview. I was interviewed by a woman, too. In my activism for Mother Earth in my blogs, through the signing of environmental petitions, living ecologically, promoting better health in line with Ayurvedic Medicine and also promoting laws for the environment, I try to live the Shakta - Tantric - Ecofeminism principles. Not that I am perfect, but I am working on doing a better job of living the Shakta principles daily. This is our great heritage: ecological, pro-woman and progressive.
JAI SHRI SHAKTAS! JAI SHRI ECOFEMNISTS!
More by this Author
Last week I was waiting for the bus when two young men on bikes pedalled towards me and stopped to talk to me. They were Mormon missionaries trying to convert me to their religion. If you know anything about the Mormon...