According to the ancient scriptures, human beings have five sheaths: the environment, the physical body, the mind or the mental sheath, the intuitive sheath and the fifth sheath is purushartha, ie, the blissful state. Thus, environment is our first body.
Environment consciousness is inbuilt in the human system. Historically, nature (or prakriti) has always been adored in India; mountains, rivers, the sun, the moon, the trees have always been honoured. It’s only when we start moving away from nature that we start polluting nature. We need to revive the ancient practice of honouring and conserving nature.
The popular belief is that damage to ecology is an inevitable by-product of technological progress. But it is not necessarily so; in fact, a sustainable growth is assured only if the ecology is protected. Science and technology should not be regarded as anti-environment; rather, we need to find ways of maintaining harmony in environment while progressing in science and technology. This is the biggest challenge of this century.
Just observe nature; the five elements of nature are opposed to each other. Water destroys fire, fire destroys air… Then there are so many species in nature — the birds, reptiles, mammals; all these different species are hostile towards each other and yet nature balances them out.
We need to learn from nature; how nature digests waste material and produces something more beautiful. Similarly, it is not technology and science that pose a hazard, but the waste material generated by technological and scientific processes. We need to find methods to consume the waste. Eg, fly ash, an indestructible waste generated by thermal power stations, is today used for making bricks for construction purposes.
We also need to develop non-polluting processes, such as harnessing of solar energy. Man’s greed is the greatest pollutant. Man is so greedy, he wants to make quick profits and achieve quick results. Greed stops man from sharing with others. Greed also obstructs preservation of ecology. While being aware of methods to prevent pollution, he may not act upon them because they cost in some way.
This greed not only pollutes the gross, physical environment but also contaminates the subtle atmosphere, ie, it stimulates negative emotions in the subtle mind of man. These negative emotions impact the minds of all the people around; if one person is angry and agitated, the anger and agitation does not stay limited to that one person but rubs off onto all those who he comes in contact with. These negative vibrations, once compounded, give rise to unrest in society. Negative feelings of hatred, anger, jealousy are the root cause of all disasters and misery in the world, whether they are economical, political or social in nature.
Most of the wars are triggered off by such feelings; and war is always accompanied by waste and natural disasters which take ages to balance out. We need to attend to the human psyche which causes pollution, whether physical or emotional. If compassion and care are kindled within the self, they reflect in the environment; a sense of sacredness follows.
People should be encouraged to treat the planet as sacred, to treat trees and rivers as sacred, to treat people as sacred, and to see God in nature and in people. This will foster sensitivity; and a sensitive person can’t but care for nature. It is basically insensitivity that makes a person act callously towards environment. If a person is sensitive, he will nurture environment, thereby eradicating pollution.
In ancient times, if a person cut one tree, he planted five in return. The ancient people did not wash clothes in holy rivers; any pooja offered to a holy river was performed with water from the same river; only ashes of cremated bodies were to be submerged in the river so that everything gets digested back to nature. It is unfortunate that we don’t understand the depth of scriptures but just follow empty and meaningless practices blindly.
Today, we tie threads around the trees; pooja does not mean just lighting a lamp and revolving around the tree; worshipping cows does not mean garlanding them and lighting camphor (which anyway just annoys or scares the cow!). Real pooja is honouring the tree, honouring the animal, feeling a sense of responsibility and belongingness towards nature and creation. This, rather than performance of obsolete rituals, is truly honouring their sacredness; these things should be reviewed.
Tradition, technology, trade and truth need to be revived time and again. Unless they are revived, the whole meaning for which they were initiated will be lost; ancient and modern methods should be synergised. Eg, despite chemical reforms, the ancient Vedic technology of using cow urine and dung leaves continue to be one of the best ways to cultivate crops; several experiments have shown that natural farming (without fertilizers and pesticides) lead to enhanced yield.
Just because some product is new and the companies selling it are saying this is the latest technology, don’t assume it’s economically the most viable or that it’s the most efficient technology. We need to look into the merits; just because something is new, it need not be good and just because some thing is old, it need not be discarded.
We need to balance our views with a free mind, devoid of any inhibitions and prejudices. We need to work out ways and means of protecting our beautiful planet earth. For this to happen, human consciousness must rise above greed and exploitation. Exploitation has two phases: first, when you exploit others; second, when you exploit the earth. This exploitation needs to be checked and for that, man must develop a broad vision, a broad understanding of life and of himself in context with the cosmos.
Our life span is barely 80-90 years. Observe how much we exploit the earth during this time and how much we do to preserve it. We need to ask ourselves whether we only want to exploit and drain the planet or whether we want to contribute towards its preservation. Spirituality elevates ones consciousness and checks that greed which leads to environmental degradation. It promotes a sense of caring and commitment for the whole planet.
Processes and objects that are anti-nature and anti-environment are also anti-health. We simply don’t know this; nobody would want to do something knowing that it will invite suffering. We need to explore means of healthy lifestyles. Spirituality eliminates all the negative emotions; if you are devoid of spirituality or ignore it, you cannot become environment conscious, it’s almost impossible. Because somewhere deep within you, your cravings, your aversions and your anger will all, directly or indirectly, start affecting your environment.
Spirituality is what cleanses greed, feverishness and small-mindedness in a person; it leads him to honour nature, to honour his life and to introduce greater joy and celebration in his life and surroundings.