THE VEDAS & ECOLOGY
The World's Most Ancient Sacred Texts
I grew up in the 1960's and 1970's, a time of great social change. The civil rights, women's and ecological movements were part of my legacy. One of my favorite singers of the era, John Denver, was known for his ecological songs and activism. One of my favorite songs was written in 1988, The Flower Which Shattered the Stone. A couple of his friends, Joe Henry and John Jarvis, composed the song. These words are so very true: "The earth is our mother, just turning around, with her trees in the forest and roots underground."
The Vedas are a collection of the world's most ancient sacred texts and two of the themes of the Vedas are love of ecology and love of Mother Earth. In the Atharva Veda, this ecological theme is so very clear: "Mother Bhumi (Mother Earth), may whatever I dig from you grow back again quickly, and may we not injure you by our labor." There are hymns to Mother Earth--Bhumi Sukuta: "Earth, in which the seas, the rivers and many waters lie, from which arise foods and fields of grain, abode to all that breathes and moves, may She confer on us Her finest yield." (Atharva Veda XII 1:3)
Respect for Mother Earth is deep within our consciousness. We can't deny our love of plants, flowers, gardens, trees and wildlife. Even in cities we want those aspects and beings of nature around us. A recent report on climate change and what has been accomplished to mitigate and improve our actions on this concern shows very little progress. We need to address why we are so in love with nature and yet have not given our Mother what She deserves in our care for Creation.
The Vedas are thousands of years old. German scholar, Max Muller, said they were written around 3000 B.C., but they could be even more ancient. Consider how far-sighted the Vedic sages--rishis and rishikas (female sages)--were in their activism towards Mother Earth (Bhumi Devi). Their words read like modern ecological textbooks and newspapers. 1. "Do not cut trees because they remove pollution." (Rig Veda 6:48:17) 2. "Do not disturb the sky and do not pollute the atmosphere. (Yajur Veda 5:43) 3. "Don't destroy forests with tigers and don't make forests devoid of tigers. Forests can't be saved without tigers and tigers can't live without forests because forests protect tigers and tigers protect forests." (Virat Parrva 5:45-46). 4. "One should protect the habitation." (Rig Veda Samhita VI:71:3)
Rituals were developed to honor and protect Mother Earth. Parts of pujas honored earth items (air, earth, ether, water and fire). Certain plants and trees were sacred and groves of trees were preserved. In the Bhumi puja the priest asked permission from Bhumi to build in a certain place at an auspicious time. This was necessary to accomplish any endeavor towards Mother Earth in this particular location.
The highest good was connected with the cosmic and natural order. This is found in various passages of the Vedas. There is a unity in creation where we all are connected and interdependent.
Ayurvedic Medicine is an ancient and modern healing system which shows the connectedness of all creation. The philosophy behind this kind of medicine is found in the Vedas. Many search out western medicine, not always realizing this ancient system is often superior in healing chronic conditions. Eating right and using natural herbs and plants prevent many diseases and promote good health.
A modern spirituality is developing among all spiritual traditions which honors Mother Earth and promotes the ecology of the planet. Interfaith groups are working on ecological issues in Minneapolis and all over the world. Look in your mandirs, churches, temples and mosques and see what unecological practices are occurring. Are you recycling? It is time to replace those chemicals in the bathrooms with natural and/or Ayurvedic alternatives. Look in the kitchens, dining areas and other storage areas to see what can be done to replace chemical products. Go to the coops, Hindu groceries and other natural food stores and purchase these items and donate them to your congregation. A new consciousness will happen because you made it happen by your concern for Mother Earth.
My spiritual teacher, Pandit Munelal Maharaj, is known by many as the ecological pandit because he has a deep respect for Mother Earth. What a beautiful country Trinidad is. It looks like heaven on Earth. On his Jeevan Yaatra CD, my favorite bhajan is Pinjare Ke Panchhee Re because of all the beautiful bird songs in the beginning and ending of this beautiful bhajan.
Minnesota is also a very beautiful place with over 10,000 lakes and many trees. Minneapolis has one of the best park systems in the United States with many parks located on lakes. It even has two waterfalls within the city limits. At one time an electric company wanted to dam Minnehaha Falls, but the citizens organized and said this beautiful waterfall is our wealth. Today it is a great eco-tourist site that we proudly promote to travellers.
The philosophy of love of Mother Earth is ancient and yet so modern. It is about time we really love our Mother Earth.
JAI SHRI VEDAS! JAI SHRI MOTHER EARTH!