In India we have a living tradition of paying respect to mother earth as the first ritual of the day. This is a reflection of the so called glorious past of India, the wonder that was India kind of feeling where we consider every living being whether it is an ant, a rat or a plant as an extension of the same soul.
The sloka goes like this:
समुद्रवसने देवि पर्वतस्तनमण्डले ।
विष्णुपत्नि नमस्तुभ्यं पादस्पर्शं क्षमस्वमे ॥
Devi Parvata-Stana-Manndale |
Vishnu-Patnim Namas-Tubhyam Pada-Sparsham Kshamasva-Me ||
- O Devi (a salutation referring to earth as Goddess), who has ocean as garments, mountains as bosoms
- O Consort of Lord Vishnu, Please forgive my touch of the feet (on Earth)
The concept of Vasudaiva kudumbakam is not a pep talk on a corporate social responsibility eye wash campaign. It is derived from VI-72 in Maha Upanishad ,samaveda tradition of India.
The sloka reads:
अयं बन्धुरयंनेति गणना लघुचेतसाम्
उदारचरितानां तु वसुधैव कुटुम्बकम् ॥
Meaning: The distinction “This person is a relative, and this one is not is a mindset of the narrow-minded. For those of noble conduct, the whole world is one family”.
The whole world is a family is an indigenous concept .That’s why when we meet someone for the first time, we comment. ‘’You make me feel like family’, bro’.
Integrating people into the universal family hood is the wow factor or the wonder factor of this country where 5000 years old tradition is still prevalent. As a culture, India never looked at the world and called it a ‘market place’ . The country never used the word ‘exploitation’ when we refer nature. Nature, for us, is a living entity, an all season friend that is very much part of the day to day life ;an entity that gives meaning and depth to human existence.
The Vedic hymns are testimonials to such simple but profound universal messages, such as:
Plants are mothers and Goddesses. (Rig Veda Samhita x-97-4)
Trees are homes and mansions. (Rig Veda Samhita x-97-5)
Sacred grass has to be protected from man’s exploitation (Rig Veda Samhita vii-75-8)
Plants and waters are treasures for generations. (Rig Veda Samhita vii-70-4)
We invoke all supporting Earth on which trees, lords of forests, stand ever firm (Atharva Veda 12:1:27)
“Do not cut trees because they remove pollution.” (Rig Veda 6:48:17)
“One should not destroy the trees.” (Rig Veda Samhita vi-48-17)
(Reference: Viva Kermani ,What modern ecology can learn from ancient Hinduism)
The domination of Human Race over other species was a thought never expressed or entered in ancient Indian psychology. On the contrary, the protection of nature was considered as a key responsibility of every householder enforced through the code of conduct and laws .Bhuta Yajna(offering of food to all living creatures) is one among the five daily duties need to be performed by a householder as mentioned in Mahabharat Anusasana Parva.
This year, Earth day 2019 has the key theme ‘’Protect our species’’, an effort to save the millions of species on the planet that became extinct or face the threat of extinction from the most intelligent Homo sapiens.
Vasudaiva kudumbakam is relevant again. Protection of species is a way of life in India irrespective of religion when someone feed ants, pigeons, and offer milk to snakes .Here Hindu religion was just an extension of that magnificent way of life where nature was loved, adored and worshiped.
During the colonial days of India, when viewed from the cultural cataract eyes of the then narratives, India was portrayed to the western world as the land of snake charmers who pray to monkeys and Indians as paganistic superstitious primitives. Those narratives stayed for years even after Indian Independence as western world and even the English educated young Indians were caught in the slumber of misconception, not willing to revisit the pages of History or travel around the country to see the lifestyles in rural India,take part in festivals , rituals ,folklores and other artifacts of culture.
We depend on forest for our breathe (oxygen), food, shelter, medicines and rain. In ancient Indian, there was an astrological system based on Personality types .There are 27 star categories and each one of us fall within that and are supposed to nourish an animal and a tree mentioned under that category . At any circumstance ,one is not supposed to destroy that mentioned animal or tree .
To cut down a tree meant cutting down an eco-system and it became vital to ask for forgiveness of the tree spirit before cutting down any tree as mentioned in Varahamihira in Brahat Samhita.
In the Atharva Veda’s “Hymn to the Earth “(Bhumi Suktha), the earth is worshiped and cherished. There is an ancient Sanskrit text that deals with the sustainable management of plants and trees, Vrikshayurveda written by Acharya Surapala, around the 10th century.
The Indian folklore,myths,performing arts and tribal dances were heart-pouring declarations of the natives about a perennial theme called mother earth. Forests and water bodies are regarded as sacred sites in India. The age-old system of a temple, a tank and an accompanying sacred grove illuminates the country-wide network of protected places, where the intrinsic diversity of flora and fauna are preserved for current and future generations. The tradition of preserving nature starts from the Himalayas, known in different names in Indigenous practices such as “Ka Law Kyntang’’ in Meghalaya, “Than” in Assam, Kenkri” in Rajasthan, “Devrai” in Maharastra, “Sarana” in Central India, “Kovilkadu” in Tamil Nadu, “Devarkadu” in Karnataka, “Kavu” in Andhra Pradesh, and “Sarpakkavu” in Kerala.
A proverbial saying in sanskrit language goes like this:
परोपकाराय फलन्ति वृक्षाः परॊपकाराय वहन्ति नद्यः |
परॊपकाराय दुहन्ति गावः परॊपकारार्थम् इदं शरीरम् ||
Meaning : Trees give fruits for others to eat, Rivers flow for others to use, cows give milk for the sake of others and this body should be used as an instrument to help others.
Today the sacred groves of India joined a galaxy of extinct traditions unable to withstand the disintegration of joint families and modernization. Globalization forced local communities to shift its base to metros and money making has become the single most goal in life making all other pursuits of life meaningless.
We need to revisit that love for nature back in our live’s this earth day and make every day an earth day. Let’s not shun that homeless pigeon that looks for a safe delivery in our balcony .Let’s not throw that rotten tomato which can be given a fresh life just by throwing it in a mud pot.
Let’s give us and our future generations a chance to live without much climate change if we act today as nature is the only home we know and we can revive it just by loving it.