Wednesday, June 22, 2011


IN CHIPKO, BHUMI PROJECT - The most recognizable environmentalists in India, those in the Chipko Movement are commonly referred to as "tree-huggers."  "Chipko" means literally “to embrace,” and these activists, a group made up mostly of village women, practice Gandhi’s method of non-violent resistance, satyagraha, by standing between trees and loggers, often literally embracing the trees.  Chipko began in northern India’s Uttar Pradesh region on March 26, 1974, as a spontaneous protest.  Members have since been integral in protecting forests against clear-cutting and in lobbying for a more conservative use of natural resources.  Chipko Movement traces its pious, tree-preserving roots to 1730, when 363 Bishnoi Samaj people in the Jodhpur district were killed by loggers attempting to protect a forest of Khejri trees.

Cases like these prompted scholar Pankaj Jain, Ph.D., to insist that environmentalism is an integral part of the Hindu belief system, and he handily summarizes several Hindu environmental teachings to prove this point.  Dr. Jain elaborates on the ideas of dharma, meaning duty, and karma, meaning action.  In this line of thought, it is the duty of all people to protect the earth and its life forms.  The “environment” is not an issue separate from everyday life and its tasks. Furthermore, one’s karma (action) has clear consequences, and harming the earth, which is poor karma, creates unsavory results. To create positivity in one's life, both dharma and karma must be guided by ahimsa or non-harming.

By treating the earth, its ecosystems, plants and animals with respect and compassion, a person is both doing her dharma and practicing good karma.  Besides, according to Hindu's idea of reincarnation stands that after death, one may be reborn depending on one’s karma.  It is possible for a human in this life to be reincarnated as a tree or a dolphin in the next life.  For this reason, a person must think of all creatures as having once been her own mother or father. Over several thousands of years and many rebirths, one has already had a personal relationship with virtually every living thing.  
Hinduism contains numerous references to the worship of the divine in nature in its Vedas, Upanishads, Puranas, Sutras and its other sacred texts.  Millions of Hindus recite Sanskrit mantras daily to revere their rivers, mountains, trees, animals and the earth.  Hinduism is a remarkably diverse religious and cultural phenomenon, with many local and regional manifestations. Within this universe of beliefs, several important themes emerge:  • The earth can be seen as a manifestation of the goddess, and must be treated with respect.  • The five elements - space, air, fire, water and earth - are the foundation of an interconnected web of life.  • Dharma - often translated as “duty” - can be reinterpreted to include our responsibility to care for the earth.  • Simple living is a model for the development of sustainable economies.  • Our treatment of nature directly affects our karma.

Pankaj Jain, Ph.D. :
‘Sustenance and Sustainability -
Dharma and Ecology of Hindu Communities’

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