ECOLOGY, THE VEDAS & GREEN ROOFS
Earth Day Projects
"Mother Bhumi, may whatever I dig from you grow back again quickly, and may we not injure you by our labour." (Atharava Veda)
Ecology and environmental science were first explained comprehensively in the Vedas. The Vedic Rishis & Rishikas (female sages) understood the complexity of the eco-system. The Vedas are full of ecological descriptions which are ancient. In the Atharva Veda the Sanskrit word chandasi is explained: "The wise utilize three elements variously which are varied, visible and full of qualities. These are water, air and plants or herbs. They existed in the world from the very beginning. They are called chandasi meaning 'coverings available everywhere.' "
The sages intimately studied the effects of nature from sandstorms, from lightening, from monsoons and floods, and from heat and fire. They understood nature as being divine. The hymns in the Vedas name the five elements as air, water, earth, sun and ether (atmosphere/sky).
There is cosmic order to nature which is called Rita. Rita provides harmony, symmetry and balance in the Universe. Varuna is the law giver of Rita, besides being the ruler of waters and oceans. This order consists of Prithivi (Earth), Antariksha (regions between heaven and earth) and Dyau (heaven or sky).
The seers always prayed for the welfare of the ecology of the planet. This is important and a practice I incorporate daily in my prayers. It makes you think about what you personally can do to promote the welfare of the ecology of the planet. In the Rig-Veda these ideas are expressed in this verse: "Heaven (Dayu) is my father, brother atmosphere is my navel, and great earth is my mother (Prithivi)." Mother Earth holds Agni (fire/heat). This is our geothermal field. She also holds Indra (our geomagnetic field).
In the Rig-Veda water has five forms: rain water, natural spring, wells and canals, lakes and rivers. It is the source for all beings on the planet. It purifies and destroys diseases.
Vayu (air) is the string of the Universe which holds it together. It moves everywhere. We only hear it as sound as in wind or rain storms. It is the source of health and happiness, like water.
Ether is the atmosphere or sky. The Yajur Veda instructs us to: "Do not destroy anything of the sky and do not pollute the sky."
Animals are described in the Rig-Veda as birds, forest animals and animals inhabiting with humans. The cow is the symbol of prosperity as She is the incarnation of Mother Lakshmee.
Forests are important to the eco-system. They should not be destroyed. The Avtharva Veda states, "The earth is the keeper of creation, container of forests, trees and herbs."
The purpose of yajna is to keep the natural order going and has been eternally in existence. It decreases pollution, increases food yields, protects plants from diseases and helps the environment. Individuals are also part of the process of yajna. We are to keep yagna going by living ecologically.
Green roofs are a great illustration of the Vedic eco-system. A green roof is a roof which has been converted in various ways, so that plants can grow. Run off from pollution decreases because the rain falls on to the plants rather than going into the drains. Heat is reduced, cutting down on green house gases. Oxygen is added by the plants, reducing C02. It helps urban areas reduce effects of global warming. Houses and businesses can also reduce their storm water bills and receive a credit in cities like Minneapolis. Green roofs last much longer than conventional roofs, but they are more expensive to install. They do reduce energy costs over time.
The five elements are used in green roofs: water, air, ether, earth and sun. They are a perfect example of ecology as described in the Vedas.
A project promoted this year in Minneapolis by some environmental groups could be implemented by green roof gardeners and back yard gardeners. They are asking people to plant an extra row of vegetables and bring the excess into food shelves. Those growing fruit trees could do the same. Call 211 to get phone numbers of the food shelves in Minneapolis/St. Paul, so that you can donate the produce to the food shelves in your area. This idea could be implemented in any place in the world where people share their excess with their neighbors. All you need is a collection place or festival. Yagna would be a good example of this possibility.
Living ecological principles can be as easy as planting more trees and food, so that others can live more comfortably. Mother Earth needs our constant care and yagna. The ancient practices and traditions take effort and sacrifice, but Mother Earth needs a helping hand in these days of global warming. Make a pledge to get rid of chemicals in your kitchens, bathrooms and mandirs. Replace them with less toxic, green alternatives. Talk to your grandparents about older green products: baking soda, lemon juice, vinegar, essential oils, borax, bon ami and other natural alternatives. Don't just talk, please do! Recycle, reduce and reuse should be your motto at home and at the mandir. Using natural, traditional materials for Holi and other festivals is promoting yagna and promoting the health of your own children. Thousands of children and adults are chemically injured every year at Holi. This is preventable by merely buying spices at Indian groceries. Very simple and easy. Even a lazy person can do it! This year I want to wish you a Happy Earth Day on April 22nd and every day of the year!
JAI SHRI VEDAS! JAI SHRI GREEN ROOFS! JAI SHRI ECOLOGY!