Steering our Sustainable Evolution I Rethinking Nature

A deeper and higher vision of Nature based on Indian spiritual perspectives.

Ecological awareness is an inherent and inbuilt instinct in the ancient mind. It is a religious instinct based on reverence and worship of the sustaining source of their life. In some of the more mentally and spiritually advanced cultures like India and China, this ecological instinct developed further into an aspiration to understand and live in conscious attunement with the laws and rhythms of universal Nature. Modern ecology is only a partial recovery of this ancient wisdom at the physical level. Partial because, in the ancient Indian and Chinese thought, Nature is not only physical, but also psychological and spiritual. Man is a part of Nature not only physically but also psychologically and spiritually. Nature is not only our material Mother from whom we draw all the physical energies needed for our material and economic development but also our eternal divine Mother of the world who is the source of all energies in Man and Universe, in all levels of existence – physical, psychological and spiritual. Each part or level of our human organism physical, vital, mental and spiritual derives its energy from the corresponding levels or planes of the Cosmic Nature and is governed by its own unique set of laws. Thus, there is a greater and a more integral ecology beyond the ecology of the physical Nature which remains yet to be explored. The aim of this integral ecology is to arrive at a holistic understanding of the laws of human and universal Nature in all the dimensions material, psychological and spiritual and explore their mutual interactions, similarities, differences and correspondences and their practical implications for human well-being and progress.

This cannot be done entirely by the scientific and rational mind. We must have the spiritual intuition of the seer, sage and the mystic. If we don’t have it, we have to draw upon the spiritual wisdom of the past and present and based on it, use our rational, scientific and pragmatic mind to arrive at a flexible framework of thought and practice, action and application.

So neither a superstitious reverence and worship nor an arrogant and heartless exploitation can be the right attitude to Nature. The divine Teacher in the Indian scripture Bhagavat Gita gives the highest value to the “Knowing Lover”. So in our attitude to Nature we have to combine knowledge and devotion, which means a synthesis of an aesthetic, emotional and spiritual devotion to the divinity and beauty in Nature and an understanding attunement and obedience to the laws and purpose of Nature. So the attitude of modern ecology, which is that of understanding and attunement, is part of the spiritual attitude to Nature. But this understanding has to be widened and deepened to embrace all the dimensions of Nature and it has to be synthesized with the attitude of the deeper heart of the artist, lover and devotee. One of the main causes of the present environment crisis facing our modern civilization is the loss or lack of the sense of reverence and sacredness of Nature: As the Brazilian environmentalist Josi A. Lutzenberger states:

“Most important and certainly most difficult of all is the necessary rethinking of our cosmology. The anthropocentric world-view westerners inherited from our remote Judeo-Christian past has allowed our technocrats and bureaucrats and most simple people, too, to look at Planet Earth as if it were no more than a free storehouse of unlimited resource to be used, consumed and wasted for even our most absurd or stupid whims. We have no respect for creation. Nothing in nature is, nothing except us, humans, has sufficient inherent value…. Mountains can be razed, rivers turned around, forest flooded or annihilated, unique life forms or whole living systems eliminated without qualms or patented for personal or institutional power.”

But mere thinking, understanding or “love” without corresponding actions is ineffective for sustainable development. One of the positive features of the modern environmental movement is that it not only insists on awareness and understanding of the laws of Nature but also emphasis that this awareness has to be translated into appropriate decisions and actions which help in preserving the purity of the environment or in other words, I must do whatever I can within my capacity to preserve the environment.

For example if I say I am a lover of Nature and travel in a car which causes the highest pollution, then my “love” for nature is only an ignorant sentiment. If I am a true lover of Nature, I will buy a car only when it becomes a real need. Before buying I will make an extensive research and enquiry to know which of the available car models or brands are the most environment-friendly in terms of petrol consumption and emission, and I will buy this model or brand even if it costs a little more than other models. I will use the car only for long-distance journey and for shorter sojourns I will either walk or use a cycle. Similarly, as far as possible, I will not use products which cause maximum damage to the environment and I will not buy goods or services of companies which are insensitive to their ecological responsibility. As the environmental activist Alan Sasha Lithman points out:

“What good is it, after all, to attend conferences or workshops on global warming, the control of CO2 emissions on renewable energy systems, grasping the conceptual level of the problem, if we drive to those meetings in gas-guzzling dinosaurs?”

M.S. Srinivasan

The author is a Research Associate at Sri Aurobindo Society and on the editorial board of Fourth Dimension Inc. His major areas of interest are Management and Indian Culture.

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