“Why do I care?” – Statement made by Dr. Nanditha Krishna at the Summit of Conscience for the Climate (Sommet des Consciences pour le Climat), Paris, July 21, 2015.
The Hindu tradition regards nature and all her aspects as divine: forests, mountains, trees, rivers and water-bodies, animals and seeds are all regarded as sacred. The earth is the Divine Mother who must be treated with respect. The five elements (pancha bhūta) – Earth, Air, Water, Fire (Energy) and Space – are the foundation of the interconnected web of life. Every prayer begins and ends with a prayer for peace in nature. Our environmental actions affect our karma, binding all creation in an eternal cycle of birth, death and rebirth. Dharma – righteousness or duty – includes our responsibility to care for the earth and her resources.
As a child, I spent a lot of time around forests where tigers, leopards, elephants and other wildlife crossed my path. Gradually, the forests were cut down, and the wildlife disappeared. Meanwhile, my lovely city Chennai, better known for its temples and temple bells, classical music and dance, became a hotbed of air and water pollution, and garbage. All over the world, the animals and birds I love are now kept in cages and treated as production machines, and exported to live in horrible conditions. Is it ethical? Is it environmentally sustainable? An insatiable greed for wealth and consumption has gripped all people, at the cost of the environment. This has led to the crisis of global warming and climate change.
I have spent over three decades writing about sacred groves, plants and animals. When we restored the sacred groves (forests), 52 of them, and water-bodies, I saw the birds and wildlife return. They too want to live well. Ahimsa or non-violence is the greatest Dharma, and it starts with simple and sustainable lifestyles.
Each one of us must make an individual commitment to live sustainably and change one’s own lifestyle. Mahatma Gandhi said “Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need but not every man’s greed,” and “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” These are two excellent dicta that can save the world.
Finally, I would like to end with a Vedic prayer for peace which is always recited before and after every ritual and event:
“O Supreme Lord, May there be peace in the sky and in space. May there be peace on land and in the waters. May herbs and vegetation bring us peace. May all personifications of God bring us peace. May the Lord bring us peace. May there be peace throughout the world. May peace be peaceful. May the Lord give me such peace also. Om shanti shanti shanti.”
Top photo: French President Francois Hollande, Dr. Nanditha Krishna, at the Summit of Conscience, Paris, July 21, 2015.
Second photo: Mr. Selvapandian, CPREEC officer, Dr. Nanditha Krishna, Director of the C.P.R. Centre for Environmental Education, at one of the 52 sacred groves, Nenmeli, restored by CPREEC.
Third photo: Dr. Nanditha Krishna, outside the C.P. Ramaswami Aiyar Foundation and CPREEC.