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Updated on January 16, 2011

Krishna & Kaliya

Recently thousands of fish have been dying in the Yamuna River in India near Mathura. Mathura is the city where Krishna first appeared on the Earth plane in a jail cell. His earthly father, Vasudeva, carried him across the river to Vrindavan with the help of Vasuki, the serpent, to the abode of Nanda and Yashoda, the parents who raised him. Krishna's first appearance shows how deeply he is connected to nature and the Yamuna.

Local people and priests now are demanding governmental action on a pollution problem which has been festering for years in India. Pollution comes from factories in the state of Uttar Pradesh. Air pollution is another big problem in Mathura because of the existence of an oil refinery in the area. The sewage system is not working properly. Treated waste gets mixed in with untreated sewage and gets thrown back into the river. Traditional practices of disposal of human excrement is much more environmental than modern sewage practices. Human excrement is used as a manure in the farm fields in rural areas of India. Water and human excrement are not supposed to be mixed for spiritual and ecological reasons. However, even if the traditional practices were used again there, you would still have pollution from the factories and oil refinery. Drainage systems are also in need of repair. According to Rakish Babul Tiara, a ghat priest, "The chemical effluent from factories printing saris and processing silver is discharged toward the Yamuna River and animals are dying." He is advocating governmental action in solving the pollution problems in the Yamuna River. Good to see these ghat priests are speaking up for the environment.

Shrivasta Goswani, a Hindu environmentalist, says that Krishna is the "paradigm of reverence for nature." Vasuki, the serpent, was instrumental in helping Vasudeva carry Krishna across the Yamuna when he first entered the Earth plane. The great miracle where Krishna defeated Kaliya, the demonic serpent, who poisoned the Yamuna River, shows his dedication to ecological principles. Krishna restored the river to its prior state. We need to be like Krishna restoring our rivers back to health. We see that Krishna worshipped twice and each time he worshipped nature. He worshipped Govardhna Hill and became the Hill. He also worshipped the sun when he used the heat of the sun to heal his son's leprosy. Krishna expounded on a great discourse on the beauty of trees in the Puranas. His description of the trees' importance in the Earth's ecology shows an ancient knowledge, reverence and understanding of the Hindus of ecological wisdom. Shrivasta says, "Krishna cleaned the river. He defeated the serpent Kaliya and purified the Yamuna River. He swallowed the forest fire to protect the forest. He looked after the cows. He spoke to the birds in their own language (like St. Francis). Krishna was always protecting nature." Krishna was truly an advocate for the reverence of nature. Shrivasta says, "The best way to teach environmental concern is through Krishna's life. Krishna is the savior of the environment--that is the sum total of his life and teachings."

This is a pledge for our times, which was first uttered in 1991 as part of the Vrindavan Forest Revival Project: " The forest of Vrindavan is the sacred playground of Radha and Krishna. However, we the people of this region, have cut its trees, polluted its Yamuna River, and spoilt its sacred dust with our rubbish and sewage. I pledge from now on I will do all within my power to protect Vrindavan from further destruction and to restore it to its original beauty."

You can take this pledge and modify it to your own region or country. If we all did what we could in this regard, we would not have pollution problems on the Earth. Look at our own city and community and take action to restore the rivers, lakes and oceans and remove the demon of pollution from the world. Often teachers and priests do not speak about ecological concerns despite the ancient ecological principlies found in the Vedas and in the life of Krishna. Real life problems are often not a topic of concern at many mandirs. This is unfortunate. Being ethical is about how you are in the world. Some people are more worried about doing rituals correctly than about doing good in the world. Good in the world is much more important. Some admire Krishna very much, but they do not look at his life and words as a model as how to be in the world. They do not see him as a great environmentalist. Money and greed have blinded many from doing what is right to protect the environment.  First start with your own mandir and make it more ecological, branching out into the local community and then the world. A number of faith communities have joined together to work on ecological concerns. Every day life is where principles matter. Thinking outside the box makes you open to all kinds of great change in the world. Sharing our knowledge is so very powerful. The rivers, lakes, trees, birds, fish, plants and animals are the beauty of the world. It is through love of the Earth we will experience the beauty of nature and of the Divine.





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