Saturday May 26, 2018

Understanding Nature through Vedas: How seers could realize the principle behind shifting weather phenomenon

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By Gaurav Sharma

The word Veda means knowledge. Knowledge not just of the self, but also of the surroundings and the relation of the self (atma) with the surrounding environment (paryavarana).

Nature forms an important connecting link with life. In fact, nature is life. The glory of sun-rise and sunset, the mellow of virgin nature, the beauty of landscapes, silent meditation in the forest, worship of mountains and rivers find pure poetic expression in the Vedic literature.

Still, the environment has been viewed differently by different civilizations.  While the modern age defines the environment as the relationship of and among the living creatures, earth, air and water (The Environment Protection Act, 1986), the Vedic worldview is far more comprehensive and insightful as it recognizes the Universe as consisting of five basic elements namely earth, fire, air, water and ether.

The scorching brightness of the sun, the inundation by the rain, the thunderous roar of lightning, the bulging red flame of fire, the immense whirling of the wind and the tremulous shaking of the earth are viewed as forces beyond man’s power and thus ascribed as Dhevi or divine.

Each fundamental element of nature assumes the character of a Devata or divinity. The Sun or Surya is regarded as the soul of everything moving and non-moving. The hymns in Atharva Veda assert water or Apah as it possesses healing powers which dissipate diseases. The reverence for water and other elements act as a deterrent against pollution.

The earth is also offered great prayers in the Vedas. It is called as Vishwambara–as the representative of the universe. Another name for earth is Prithvi, the power of which is invoked in various hymns of the Vedas for realizing the underlying truth of the Cosmos: ‘O Prithvi! thy centre, thy navel, all forces that have issued from thy body- Set us amid those forces; breathe upon us.’

The Vedic seers also understood the importance of Vayu or air for life.  Rig Veda mentions, ‘O Air! You are our father, the protector. Let wind blow in the form of medicine and bring me welfare and happiness.’ Therefore, pure and unpolluted air is considered to be essential for the well being of the individual and the society by the Vedas.

Warnings and admonition against pollution of Akasha or ether also find substantial mention in the Vedic scriptures. The Yajur Veda states, ‘Do not destroy anything of the sky and do not pollute the sky. Do not destroy anything of Antariksha.’

The Mantra: Om Shanti, Om Shanti, Om Shanti is not just about bringing peace within ourselves, because peace is understood to exist only in concordance with the well being of the Universe around the individual.

The so called ‘ideal’ aim of living up to a hundred years could be visualized not as a mere thought, but a lived experience only because the ancient Indians could recognize the importance of the environment, and, act on those lines.

In the Rig Veda, it is said that the universe is pervaded by a sense of Cosmic order or Rita.  Therefore, the ancient Rishis or seers could realize the principle behind the shifting and changing phenomenon of nature.

On the other hand, our current perception of environment is something of an ‘other individual’–distinct and separate from our existence. And hence, it is not a great surprise that the indiscriminate usage of nature goes in accordance with such a distorted and disfigured visualization.

It is time we take-off the mask of separateness and realize our oneness with nature.

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Ecological Harmony as Understood by India Sages

Incidentally, for information, the modern science has only begun to talk about the Environmental ecology and ecosophy, but it has badly missed evaluating the “mental ecology” and “spiritual ecology”.

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Frankly speaking, the understanding that most of us have about “environment” can be described largely as being paradoxical.
One would be amazed to know how each individual is responsible for polluting the environment by mere use of, say a plastic bag, or even “using bottled water” or by consuming items in pouches which are done purely for our personal convenience.

By Salil Gewali, Shillong

The initiative often taken by a bureaucrat, Deputy Commissioner of Garo Hills (Meghalaya) to prohibit the use of bottled water is an outcome of a great awakening indeed. A long journey of 1000 miles starts with one small step. Frankly speaking, the understanding that most of us have about “environment” can be described largely as being paradoxical. A proper understanding of the ecology that we are part of and the degradation that is happening to it, should make us “aware” of the contribution that we make towards its overall degeneration. If we dig deeper we can well realize that due to our own acts of commission we are being caught off balance!

Of course there are endless causes for environmental degradation, but the major causes is large scale deforestation, commercial mining (for our state I call it senseless-mining), rapid industrialization and urbanization. One would be amazed to know how each individual is responsible for polluting the environment by mere use of, say a plastic bag, or even “using bottled water” or by consuming items in pouches which are done purely for our personal convenience. So when we try to understand who is responsible for the environmental degradation, it would be a good thing to turn inwards and rectify things at our end as well.

Mostly we tend to argue, as “what a big deal about one plastic bag today” or “it is one plastic spoon, what harm would it cause?”.  At an individual level, it does not seem to make much difference but the challenge here is that there are too many people who think “it is just this one thing today”. For example, there could be instances wherein when stuck in a traffic jam, one might have felt out of sheer frustration “Why does everyone have to take out a vehicle? “. This is a thought process that most of us have, where the cause of the problem is largely shifted to others while completely failing to realize that we are also to blame for the problem. A little introspection, that could be a question to the self “why did I take out a vehicle?”

According to some sources, nearly 12 million tones of plastic are consumed every year in India. There are certain uses of plastic that are unavoidable, but something like a plastic bag has alternatives and we could do well by avoiding it. Equally harmful, sometimes more dangerous, are the pouched-items which decorate these days each individual grocery/pan/ shop. Countless fancy items, plastic toys, chips and cookies all are attractively packed in the plastic itself. Too regrettably, we easy-going-parents, instead of buying nutritious “grains/chanas/badam” and dry fruits for our kids, we rush to buy cheesy and fizzy chips, while we gorge ourselves with pouchy Rajnigandha, varieties of addictive gutka and zarda for our freshmen which were till recently wrapped in hard plastic paper. The ferociously intoxicating “zarda” is being sold as “Tulsi” which in fact is a name for a sacred herbal plant. This all shows how the government itself is blind and deaf to the thunder of obnoxious decadence!  Look at how we all, and the government system, are culpable for contaminating the Mother Earth and also the environment of our inner physical being.  One wonders when we shall resolve to change our lifestyle, our practice, our greed-guided consumerism which are only standing out as the formidable threat to the whole ecosystem!

India’s Literature: The Western Thinkers Spellbound by India’s Literary Wisdom

Incidentally, for information, the modern science has only begun to talk about the Environmental ecology and ecosophy, but it has badly missed evaluating the “mental ecology” and “spiritual ecology”. The latter two are far more significant, inherently with us, and subtly enduring which we “carry” along even after the death. Very interestingly, this vast discipline had been studied with one-pointed determination in India since past 7000 years back (even more).  Indeed, this knowledge has extensively been adopted by the Western knowledge seekers. The ‘Laws of KARMA’ give a partial insight into this “universally holistic study”. In order to comprehend better the Indian seers constructed the special “BOAT” – named Yoga/Meditation. They realized that each being, after having taken the birth on this planet, must endeavor to bring the physical, mental and spiritual dimensions in “complete HARMONY” and “sail through” the worldly sufferings. The first step is to control the MIND and turn it into a “slave”, not like with us now — being the “slave” of our mind which is normally chaotically littered with material desires, and as result, the vision remain unclear. It only forms the “opinion”, often considers as “true”, based on personal likes and dislikes which need not be flawlessly right.

Frankly speaking, the understanding that most of us have about “environment” can be described largely as being paradoxical.
In order to comprehend better the Indian seers constructed the special “BOAT” – named Yoga/Meditation.

Once the MIND is controlled it obviously helps open the doorway to see the ultimate TRUTH as it is and also helps feel the ultimate bliss. This discipline of the Vedanta alone can make one capable to realize that all individual objects in the universe are “non-separable”, they are intrinsically interconnected, ecologically interdependent and supremely divine. The material manifestation is only the physical projection of the ALL-KNOWING-ENERGY. 

Frankly speaking, the understanding that most of us have about “environment” can be described largely as being paradoxical.
The ferociously intoxicating “zarda” is being sold as “Tulsi” which in fact is a name for a sacred herbal plant.

This grand KNOWLEDGE of SUPREME ECOLOGY of INDIA intensely inspired Erwin Schrodinger, best known as the father of Quantum Mechanics, he proclaimed: “Vedanta teaches that consciousness is singular, all happenings are played out in one UNIVERSAL CONSCIOUSNESS and there is no MULTIPLICITY of selves.” This knowledge of Vedanta of the East helped the Nobel laureate Schrodinger in conceptualizing his “Schrodinger Wave Equation” based on the “Dynamic Unity of all Entities” in the universe.