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Updated on April 9, 2017

All Rivers Are Sacred

When I was a child, my maternal grandfather would take us to the lake located near my grandparents' organic farm. He owned some property on this lake in Pillager, Minnesota and we would often walk through the woods to travel to this lake. It seemed like Heaven on Earth on those beautiful summer days when we visited the farmstead. This began my fascination with water as a source of life for the animals, plants, trees and herbs of creation. We also lived not too far from Lake Bemidji and two beautiful parks--Cameron Beach and Diamond Point Park. I would spend hours at these two parks in the my childhood, teen and young adult years until I moved to larger cities. Lake Bemidji was connected to the Mississippi River, our Ganga. Now I live in Minneapolis and we have many lakes which are also connected to the Mississippi River.

In the Vedas ecology and respect for water as source of life are encouraged and promoted for the Hindu devotee. The five elements of creation in Hinduism are: space (ether), air, fire, water and earth. These are also elements of creation for the Native American tribes of the Americas. Rivers and other sources of water are goddesses in Hinduism to be honored and respected. Respecting the environment is connected to Dharma (right action) and one's karma. In Hinduism we believe in the "interconnectedness" of all life. Gandhi promoted the simple life and lived in an ecological manner. His philosophy was summed up in this phrase: "Take only what you need to live." The Vedas were a collection of texts on ecology and rituals, which were the blue print of the ecological lifestyle of Gandhi and other social and ecological activists besides all devotees.

All rivers are sacred and are a source of life for humanity, animals, plants, trees and herbs. The Ganges (Ganga), Yamuna, Godavari, Sarasvati, Narmada, Sindu (Indus) and Kaveri are considered the most sacred rivers in India. Pujas, rituals and cremations happen near rivers in India.

The Great Flood Story found in the Old Testament (Torah) and in Hindu scriptures is the same basic story. King Manu was warned by Vishnu, in the form of a fish, of the coming big flood. He built a boat which was towed by Matsya, the fish form of Vishnu, and contained his family, animals, plants, herbs, vegetables and fruits to a safe location on the top of Mount Malaya. This is where he stayed until the waters receded. Humanity started over and built civilization again. In the Old Testament Noah built the ark to carry his family, creatures, plants, herbs, vegetation and fruits as God instructed him to do because of the coming flood. Noah and his family end up on Mount Ararat until the waters receded.

The Hopis are Native Americans who live in the Southwest region of the United States. The Japanese scientist, Masuru Emoto, came to their reservation to make a presentation on his research on water. He demonstrated that even your words affect the quality of the water. The Hopis have a high respect for water as a source of life. According to Hopi Elder Vernon Masyesva, "The aquifers breathe in rain and snow and breathe it out. The springs are the breathing holes. Humankind is a participant in water and life. Our thoughts influence whether the rain and snow comes." They are experts of prayer and dance whenever there is a drought. Settlers would come to them and ask the Hopis to help produce rain for their crops and animals during droughts.

In 2006 they went to Mexico to speak at the Water Forum, but they were not allowed to speak. Mexican Mayan elders met them in full ceremonial dress to honor them. They knew these Hopis were fulfilling a Mayan prophecy. The prophecy is this: "When the Eagle returns from the north and dances at the Pyramid of the Sun, the world will be ready for the medicine of healing that we have kept alive for centuries." It was after they actually danced at this Pyramid of the Sun that more people became to be open to the wisdom of these elders. The Mayans are the keepers of the Ancient Flame, the Lords of Time. The Celts also have the Lords of Time called the Vanir. The Hindus have the Lord of Time: Lord Shiva who says that, "I am Time."

On March 22, 2016 people all over the world blessed water on World Water Day. So the Hopis are right that people are now open to their medicine and respect for water. People will be marching all over the world on April 22, 2017 for science and Mother Earth. Science and spirit have joined together to make a stand for Mother Earth.

The Ganga (Ganges) is the most revered river in Hinduism. She descended to Mother Earth through the strands of Lord Shiva's hair. This great river is, unfortunately, being polluted by chemical factories and even devotees who place pollutants in the river. There is an alliance of civil groups and interfaith groups called Ganga Action Parivar founded by Swami Chidanand Saraswati, who leads the Parmarth Niketan Ashram in Rishikesh, India. This groups helps with floods and other related ecological disasters. They educate and build more eco-friendly toilets in schools and provide access to these toilets for travelers and householders.

Dr. Vandana Shiva also advocated for the Ganga through education and actions to save the river from sources of chemical pollution. According to B.D. Tripathi of the Benares Hindu University, there are three major sources of pollution in the Ganges: domestic waste, untreated effluent including toxic and heavy metals from factories and other sources and organic pollutants from cremation grounds. So individuals and businesses both have a responsibility to keep the Ganga free of chemical and organic pollution. There are places of the Ganga where the quality is so bad you can't drink the water anymore. Individual action is very important because governments do not always do what is in the best interests of their citizens. Citizens do have an obligation not to tolerate government actions which are not helpful for Mother Earth.

Agriculture is a problem when pesticides end up in the river. Dr. Shiva is promoting organic planting and using organic seeds along with several of the female gurus and saints. Amachi Ma, the hugging saint of India, is one of these leaders who promotes planting organics and using organic seeds. The ghat priests and pandits also recognize the problem of pollutants in the river. They encourage people to follow environmental protocols. Consult your local priest, swami or pandit for proper protocols to protect the river when you do rituals.

Taking care of our lakes, rivers, springs, ponds, seas, oceans is good karma and is respecting them as goddesses. The best worship of the water is using it wisely. Sprituality is within a devotee's heart. Jumping into the Ganga will not create devotion. Your heart has to be in the right place before you go to the river. The best way to create this devotion is to respect water as a source of life and ecology. Jumping into the Ganga will not change your life and remove your imperfections and sins. You have to make the effort involved to change your life. It has to start right within your own heart. You can't keep polluting the river and the Earth without it affecting humanity, animals, plants, herbs, vegetation, trees and all creation. This is why we have global warming. We do not respect Mother Earth like we should respect Her. With Earth Day coming up soon, start one new ecological action in your own life. Go to the river, ocean, lake or sea and worship Mother Earth in the greatest way possible by respecting Her. As the Vedas says, "Do not pollute!"



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    • radhapriestess profile imageAUTHOR


      17 months ago from Minneapolis, MN

      Well, I do think people do have to think outside the box. After all Gandhi went against the big British Empire. That is why the individual approach may be more powerful than the government approach. I did cite in the blog individual actions accomplished by Hindu teachers, swamis and teachers who do not subscribe to the traditional approach. They are great examples of why individual action can be very important. That can happen in India, too, because there are swamis, teachers and gurus who do care and are being proactive. It does take a collective to change some things, yes, but it has been done. Indians can have their own march for science and Mother Earth like every other country who will be doing this on Earth Day.

    • AshutoshJoshi06 profile image

      Ashutosh Joshi 

      17 months ago from New Delhi, India

      Well I would say the Indian problem is a very complex scenario. Let alone the reasons cited above, the religious association with the ganges, the othrodox thought process topped by an indifferent approcach of local and state authorities makes it worst. As for corruption, hate to say but that too is a way of life. The norms in US are much different and so is the approach of people and the impact it creates. Here that scenario may work in a metropolitan city that too being a rare case but elsewhere almost an impossible scenario.

    • radhapriestess profile imageAUTHOR


      17 months ago from Minneapolis, MN

      Thanks for reading. That is why individual effort towards ecological action is very important. That does not depend upon what the government does. In the USA there was a river which caught on fire and a popular singer/songwriter got people's attention on the water pollution problems. All of a sudden people really cared to do something about it. They really put pressure on the governments to do the right thing. This is where a march might get their attention, which will be going on in many countries not just the United States. Our court has stopped Trump recently on his executive order to allow more pollution out there. I wonder if corruption exists because people simply tolerate it.

    • AshutoshJoshi06 profile image

      Ashutosh Joshi 

      17 months ago from New Delhi, India

      I guess there is no sense of consideration among the common mass - the devotees or religious folks that flock in million each day around the banks of Ganges. People must have self realization and a sense of karma especially when that's the sole purpose of their being there in the first place. Industries as you pointed are other major contributors.

      Millions are allocated each year by the govt for cleaning of the ganga but they just vanish into thin air. despite so much awareness, protest, hype and hoopla - the status quo just doesn't change!!


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