The climate crisis will take a heavy toll on the human race if not urgently addressed. It is abundantly clear that a sustainable future is the only way out. While this is a relatively recent idea, it was a concept thriving in India for ages. Environmentalism has been a dominant theme across traditions, festivals, and even philosophy.
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ENVIRONMENTALISM IN THOUGHT
Balancing Material Wants
An important tenet in Hinduism is Purushartha, which means ‘object of human pursuit.’ It refers to the four main goals in life- Dharma, Artha, Kama, and Moksha. While Artha means prosperity and wealth, Kama means pleasure and Dharma refers to virtue, righteousness, moral duty, and responsibility. The above three are called ‘trivarga’ or three categories. Moksha, of all four, is considered the ultimate goal. It means spiritual liberation.
Artha and Kama are treated as destructive. If fed onto too much, they can pave the way for ultimate ruin, which alludes to over-indulgence, obsession with material well-being, and concentration of wealth. Therefore, these two elements are not as important as Dharma or Moksha.
It is the predatory consumerism of human beings that is leading to wastage and over-exploitation of resources. Therefore, one is advised to strike a balance between the four tenets of Purushartha. Material pursuits should never outweigh spiritual ones. Observe how the concept teaches us to curb our wants and desires. Do you see the lesson here? Consume in such a fashion that you leave enough for your progenies i.e. practice sustainability.
Recognition of Natural Elements as ‘Sacred’
Hindu thought is intertwined with nature, and references to the same are found in the scriptures too. Atharvaveda (12, 1, 8, and 10) and its famous Bhoomi Sukta (verse dedicated to Earth) state that the earth is called mother and imparts “strength and brilliance of energy” to the State. Trees are held sacred in the Padma Purana (Srishti Khanda 58).
Also see | Gautam Buddha Teachings