How KC is the solution to all problems 4 – Ecological problems
Transcription : Ambuj Gupta and Keshavgopal Prabhu
Continue our series on how Krishna consciousness solution to all problems. Till now we have discussed three aspects- political, cultural and psychological. Today we will discuss the ecological aspect. Ecology refers to the environment. And this is becoming an increasingly urgent global concern. This is generally named today as climate change. Some people call it global warning. But global warming is only one aspect of wide variety of phenomena which are leading to a change of the climate. And this change of climate is also one part of a huge level of ecological problems that are coming up. So I am not going into too much statistics over here to extend the gravity of the problem. I’ll just indicate the main outline of the problems. It is a quote from _______ institute, it’s a prominent ecological institute, it is saying that “environmental super disasters are no longer doomsday prophecy, they are an imminent reality”. Doomsday prophecy means, some people say like recently December 21st was suppose to be the time when the whole world was going to be destroyed according to some interpretations of a Mayan legend. This idea is called a doomsday prophecy, a prophecy that there is going to be doom. What ______ Institute is saying that these are no longer going to be doomsday prophecy, that some people believe that everything is going to be destroyed. No. Actually this is not some religious or cultural imagination, it is a scientific prediction now. This is imminent reality. Why they gave such a grave statement? There are many problems which are coming in the last two-three centuries. I will discuss ten of these problems here. I will not go into the details but just mention them.
Depletion of ground water
The first is the depletion of the ground water. Now today one out of every six rivers in the world doesn’t reach the ocean. Normally when rivers start from the mountains they throw downward-downward, they reach the ocean. But the rivers dry up. Why they dry up? For various reasons. One is that the rainfall is not adequate. Or for irrigation purpose, so much water is diverted that no longer adequate water is there. Or sometimes water get so polluted that because of that pollution after some time the rivers bed dries up. So if you know that the Yamuna that is there in Vrindavan it doesn’t contain one drop of water from the Yamuna, that is coming from the Himalayas. Actually in between along the path way there are several wells where the Yamuna get completely dry. And the water that comes, water that is apparently there in the river Yamuna, that is actually simply the sewage water from several of the cities there in along the path of the Yamuna. So if the river is going like this coming from the Himalayas down to Vrindavan then it comes till here by the time it come to here it has dried out. After that there is just a dry patch. Along the dry patch, several articles about it, I have also written and article on my website. It literally ply through that because there is no water over there. And afterwards when it comes to Delhi and other metropolitan cities then the sewage water from there comes into the Yamuna belt. What comes into Vrindavan it actually is simply the sewage water from various cities. It is not the Yamuna water at all. And pollution level is extremely high in that. So the depletion of the ground water and the depletion of the river water, there specifically talking about ground water, which basically refers to below the ground there is water, people can go through wells or bore wells and get it. That is also related with the amount of water that is present in the environment. Now where rivers are flowing. So rivers are depleting and ground water is also depleting. And because of this in the next century, just as oil is the cause of great economic tension, within fifty years water is going to be cause of great economic tension. Because drinking water is so short and not just drinking water, in general water itself, we are running into acute crises. Now if we see this is a paradox that which nature given free and in abundance that has become so short now and the vast accumulation of toxic wastes. These toxic wastes come from our mass production of industrial waste products. Industries give a main product which are marketed into the economy and is acquired by the consumer. But along with that every industry produces a huge amount of waste products. So those waste products are not just in terms of gases, that we will discuss in next point. But they are also in terms of water, the liquid effluent that comes, solid waste that comes.
I showed in an earlier class about how close to New York, New York is one of the world’s biggest, one of the progressive cities, but next to New York is the world’s greatest garbage dump. There are around seven-eight _____ just filled with garbage, just filled with garbage. So every day is something like seven thousand tons of garbage that’s dumped over there. And nobody can do anything about it. See the difference between the waste that comes from agriculture civilization and the waste that comes to the industrial civilization is that the agricultural waste is recyclable and biodegradable. Biodegradable means ok, even if there is wheat, thrash is there. Thrash can just be thrown that and it is eaten by the cattle or other wild animals then they recycle it as manure and that fertilizes the ground. So it’s recyclable. But what we get through the industries is not recyclable. Because it is not recyclable, much of it just gets accumulated and accumulated and accumulated. It becomes a huge dump in the long run.
And the most dangerous among all this is nuclear waste. Some of the waste becomes so dangerous that America has a multimillion dollar project. What happens to the nuclear waste is, if we burn it, it will pollute the environment. If we bury it, it will poison the ground water and the soil which we are eventually get grains from. If we throw it in the ocean then it will poison and kill the fish. And people want to eat the fish also. So what to do? Currently there is a multimillion dollar plan to take this most toxic of the waste put it in a satellite, put that in the rocket and throw it out in the space. They are not satisfied polluting here, pollute outside also. The toxic waste is huge. And there will not be many easy solutions because none of this is not only just I said it’s not biodegradable, it’s not recyclable and much of it is toxic. So you can’t keep it, we can’t destroy it, we can’t reuse it. What to do with it? It’s a huge problem all over the world.
Green House Effect
And the _____ is the green house effect. I just mention the point there are exhaustive studies with elaborate statistics. Those who are more interested in subject, there is a book written by ISKCON researchers “Divine Nature” by Mukunda Goswami and Michael Cremo. It gives much more details of the statistics. So the green house effect basically means that when certain plants require particular temperature for growing and that is not the environmental temperature than artificial covering is created in glass or any other material and within that is we have refrigeration to preserve. So green house effect is use to keep a higher temperature. Refrigeration we keep a lower or normal temperature for preservation. But preservation is one thing. Growth is another thing. So the growth of these plants a green house is created in which the temperature is maintained above the environmental level so that the plants can grow. So now this green house effect is a term, a metaphorical term used to explain how many of the gases that we are sending in the environment, they are sort of covering the atmosphere. And when the sunrays come from the sun to the earth, normally those rays get reflected back. But when there are too many gases or especially non natural gases in the atmosphere then the rays that come they reflected back and they are blocked. They get blocked that leads to severe environment consequences in terms of overall increase of the temperature of the planet. That is called as global warming. So green house effect is one primary atmospheric phenomena which is resulting in complications everywhere. Now what complications will result when the temperature of the plant increases?
There are lots of studies which demonstrate that the temperature is increasing. But the gravest consequence is that ice will start melting. And there are polar ice caps. On north pole or south pole there are huge land masses that are filled with ice. Not just filled with ice, sometimes they are just made of ice, in the sense, the huge glaciers and icebergs which are floating in the ocean. And when they melt, actually what is going to happen is they are huge, just as if I have a glass of water filled to brim and I have one ice cube in it and then I increase the temperature. Then what happens is? That ice cube melts and glass water over flows out. So like that when these polar icecaps melt at that time that is going to cause the level of the water and the ocean to rise. And if that rises, several coastal cities will become inundated. That is going to cause catastrophic devastation. Most of the world’s most important cities are coastal. In India we have Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, New York. Most of the cities in the world they are coastal cities. And when the ocean water rises nobody can stop it. A tsunami was a one time event which caused so much devastation. ______ institutes they are saying that actually tsunami like waves will become a regular phenomenon because the water will rise to those levels. That will be a very serious problem.
Then there is a radical _____ the entire planetary eco system. So what does this mean, actually the environment is a symbiotic whole. Symbiosis is a phenomena in which two distinct organism or two distinct systems they both contribute to each other’s well-being. A simple example would be like say there are some fleas, some insects which will be present in the back of animals. So those fleas eat away the germs at the back of the animals. The animals get clean and those fleas also get their food. Simple example of symbiosis. So the nature is filled with many-many symbiotic phenomena. For example, we have human beings taking the oxygen in, and giving out carbon dioxide, and plants take in carbon dioxide, give out oxygen. We disturb the system by say radical deforestation. Then the carbon-dioxide doesn’t get depleted. And overall carbon-dioxide is a toxic gas. So it is going to lead to serious problems. This is just one sample that eco system is getting disrupted. This is called as the human foot print.
Now there is a very moving documentary made by an American, by a Western producer is called “Our Home”. This producer he took a helicopter and went around the planet, with the camera. And simply what he has shown is that just like some person he has got smooth skin but he has got wounded some where there are ugly scars. In the smooth skin there are ugly scars, they look very bad. What he has shown literally with the camera that on the earth wherever humans have crowded and lived those places are scarred. So the earth wherever there is greenery, there are forests, the earth looks very beautiful. And there are scars otherwise. So these scars are not just visible in terms of what we can see in atmosphere but they are also indicative of deep rooted wounds. Some people may have scars, just surface scars. They don’t have any indicative systemic problems. But it is not like that in this case. The accelerating depletion of irreplaceable natural resources. Natural resources is one example I have already given _____.
Before the industrial civilization started two hundred fifty years ago, the fuel that was used was all renewable, for example wood was used. Wood is the primary source of fuel and other fuel will be say animal dung. And these keep getting depleted regularly. But when we shift to wood, wood is if we grow trees we will keep getting it back. Animals, we will keep getting their dung. But then we shifted to coal. And then eventually to fossil fuels, to petrol. And these are limited. Because these are limited, they are going to get exhausted. And when they get exhausted, imagine if we are driving a vehicle and suddenly the fuel get exhausted, just can’t do anything. We have to go the nearest petrol pump. But imagine that all the petrol pumps in the world become empty. Practically the whole civilization will come to a stop. This is called as the “peak oil point”. Peak oil point means that when the oil production that we can get from the earth, it reaches it’s maximum. So we access the resources on the earth we get more and more. After that the oil production go down, go down, go down. But the way civilization is going the requirement for oil is not going to go down. And what to do in such situation.
There are researchers who are working at a fast pace to find out the alternatives. And one of the alternative that is being increasingly used in America and other places is that they use certain grains, they use irrigable land to produce certain grains, some kind of plant which is burnt and made into fuel. Then what is happening in this? The land that could use for food grains is diverted away for producing fuel. Fuel is important for the economy but food is even more important for survival. We might have to choose between the two, it’s very difficult choice to make. Although, this solution is increasingly being implemented but it is not a sustainable solution. So the way, the natural resources which are getting depleted, and we are just are talking about one of them here. That is oil. So the ISKCON devotee scholar Dr. Sahadeva Das, he has written a whole book on this oil crises.
Nature has given us something for nourishment and we are putting poisonous thing in it.
There are several other problems like this, I do not want to make a long catalogue. But essentially these problems are broadly falling in two categories. One category is that, what is natural and valuable we are decreasing. And second is what is unnatural and dangerous we are producing and increasing. Do you understand these two categories broadly? For example if I have a plate of food and in that there is chapatti, there is rice, there is daal, all that is, it is natural valuable, it going to nourish me and that food is there. But as I am sitting and I am thinking that I will take the food, somebody comes and slowly starts simply replacing. He takes away all the nutritious food from there and then starts putting lumps of poison over there. Different types of poison. So firstly the food that we nourish is getting less and less and what is going to harm me is getting more and more. So that is essentially what is happening, in our ecology today. And most of it in the history of the world, whether we look at the history from the modern scientific perspective or the Vedic perspective, there has always been natural disasters, whether it’s earth quake, or tsunami or anything of that sort. But it is the first time in recorded human history that humans have intervened in nature to such a great extent in the mechanisms of nature and the results of this are going to be extremely grave.
Environmentalists are exploring various alternatives. What can be done? Many of these initiatives were started with a lot of great hope, that these will herald progress and these will bring about a positive result in our environment, in our living conditions, in our comfort level. Now one example is say dams. Now dams have to be very carefully constructed taking into account the surroundings. Otherwise, suppose, what is the idea of the dam, river water is flowing back then it just flows into the ocean. But around the river area there are other places which are dry. So we build a huge structure which blocks the water from flowing. It selectively allows to flow water through holes or gates. And then the water level stored, we divert it. So then we take it to various villages, things like that. In theory this seems good. But in practice to build a dam often requires disruption of several hundreds of villages. Because first of all water has to be accumulated over there. Then the people who are living in that vicinity, has to vacate since water has to divert and they need a path for that. It leads to disruption of sometimes hundreds and hundreds of villages. Some body may say many more people are going to get water. That’s worthwhile. It has to be carefully thought. Problem is that whenever rivers flow down from the mountains through the ____ to the plains they carry top soil with them. This is called erosion. And as the top soil comes through, what happens over a period of time is the top soil accumulates. If I have a dam over here, the dam size is say five hundred feet. But continuously as the river water is coming, I am blocking it but as fresh water is coming it is bringing top soil with it. And that top soil gets accumulated. And eventually I have the dam and as the top soil gets accumulated in front of the dam, the level of the top soil increases and the level of water in the dam decreases. And there are several places in the world where there are just the dams and top soil, there is no water in it.
So huge amount of money was spend to built the dams. Huge amount of people were displaced and some people got water for a few decades, but after that, disaster! It’s all a waste. These are extremely serious problems and serious consequences. And the real problem underlying all this is the idea that we can temper the nature and we can improve nature, that assumption is something which is very counterproductive. It’s very short sighted, very presumptuous. Normally we are discussing this in four levels. We are discussing the problem, magnitude of the problem, then we discuss the solutions that have been proposed at the material level, then we discuss the solutions at a spiritual level and understanding the solution at the spiritual level, and then we discuss the last part how practical we as aspiring spiritualists can contribute to the solution. Till now I have discussed the first part, the magnitude of the problem.
Reduce, reuse and recycle
Now let us look at the solutions that environmentalists are talking about at a material level. They generally talk about 3R formula, 3R formula to counter climate change. They say reduce, reuse, recycle.
Reduce, that means don’t consume so much, don’t produce so much. Try to shift to natural alternatives. If we do that, if we reduce our consumption then we keep the example of the plate in mind. That means we don’t bring in so much poison. Let the plate remain as it is and we reduce the consumption of non-biodegradable products. But unfortunately this is very difficult to implement. Because you see now a days cell phones, most electrifying products are very difficult to degrade biologically. Now cell phones, when a cell phone becomes out dated, it becomes out dated very soon now a days, within a few months. Now what happens to the old hand sets. I will no longer use it. But everything that is produced has to go somewhere. It has to go somewhere. Isn’t it? There are laptops, the laptops models keep changing. Specially the electronic products, there is so much obsolescence that happens, things becomes obsolete so fast, we have so many older things with us. What do we do with them? So because of the glamour associated with the latest products, the reduction is not possible. See there is a fundamental economic problem. We’ll discuss this to more in detail when we talk about economic problems. We are not discussing financial or other problems now. But the fundamental difference between the industrial economy and the agricultural economy, agrarian economy is that the agrarian economy is catering to the necessities, for example we need grains, so every day I need grains and when I get the grains for today I am going to take grains tomorrow again. And that way the agrarian ecomony because of the natural requirement of needs it continues on where as in the industrial economy, it produces things which are not going to be needed every day. For example say there is a car production company and it produces one million cars. And let say one billion car, all the car production company in the world. And the number of people who can purchase cars, who have the financial capacity to purchase cars is one million. So once all the people who can purchase cars have cars. What are the cars production companies going to do. Obviously we are not going to give charity to other people to get money to purchase our cars. Isn’t it? So what do we do? Bring a new brand so that those who have cars already they think that this is old now and take a new car. So that is the way they will keep____. And it’s not that they are necessary malicious in doing this. It’s not that they want harm. They want to harm anyone. But that ‘s the only way such a industrial set up can run. Such an economic set up where, similarly this up to cell phones. Yes, we can make cell phones cheaper by which more people can purchase it. But beyond that a particular level if say in the future all the people have the cell phones. What will the cell phones companies do after that. Isn’t it? Will they stop producing cell phones? If we use them carefully they will ask for sometimes, they will ask for two, three, four years. What will they do? So they have to create new brands. And they have to create a sense of primitiveness about the old brands which makes brands, which makes people they want the new brands. So what happens this reduction is, it makes ecological sense. But it doesn’t make any economic sense. It doesn’t make any economic sense. If the economy has to run on, reduction is very harmful. So it creates a very terrible trap. How can we solve this trap?
Then some people say reuse things. Reuse means that if anything we have instead of using a use and throw version of that using the more lasting version of that. If you are going to use batteries instead of using, use-and-throw batteries, use rechargeable batteries. There is a simple example. Because every time you use use-and-throw battery that whatever you throw it has to go somewhere. It will add to the pollution of the planet. So reuse is one thing. Now there are too many problems with reusing. One is that, as I told earlier, people get a sense of kick, sense of pleasure in purchasing new things. And when somehow there is a sense of control that, yes, I can purchase such things. You keep the reason same thing again-again that sense doesn’t come. And because of that there is no glamour associated using the same thing again and again. If suppose you are in a friend circle and you take away his cell, tumhara cell phone bahut purana hai. So what happens is, this is related to the earlier point. But this ‘reduce’ is, I am talking is, in terms of the producers perspective. And ‘reuse’ I am talking about the consumers . They don’t feel like reusing. And there are many products which cannot be reused. So one of the things is plastic. So in Mumbai we had, Bhaktivedanta hospital has made a campaign for decreasing the use of plastic. And it got a very good response. They called it as plasticasur. Just like Varishtasur, Bakasur, these demons, plasticasur. So how is plasticasur is devouring practically the planet’s ecology. So actually speaking many of these plastic bags that we use especially those which are very-very thin. They are not all reuseable. But every single plastic bag it has to go somewhere. And plastic is very toxic from the ecological point of view. So it’s best if we use paper bags or cloth bags. Those are reusable.
Then ‘recycle’. ‘Recycle’ means that actually in many places that are environmentally sensitive, dustbins are of two types. We have one dustbin for recycling our material and another dustbin for non recyclable material. One dustbin is green colour, one of green colour and one of red colour. So idea is, for example paper, paper is recyclable many-many times. If it is handled carefully and not damaged too much then paper can recycled. So the paper that is used in the text paper and text book paper can be used as newspaper paper. There are shopkeepers who will give their products in news paper. That’s one simple level of recycle that is happened. But we are talking recycling in terms of reproducing in again a useable format. So this is something which can be done. But people have to be sensitive. And not everything is recycled. Some things are recyclable but not everything is recyclable. So these three measures are being talked about and they need to be implemented. Reduce, reuse, recycle. But still those measures are not going to be enough. Why? because as I have said. People don’t feel inspired. They don’t have the will power to implement these measures because the temptation for instant sense gratification appear irresistible. Why? if I reduce the consumption then I am not getting enjoyment. So I don’t get the pleasure out of it. And people feel that ok, even I reduce my consumption, what difference I am a small person going to make. There is so much consumption happening all over the planet. Ok. Just go on, whatever is happening. So that’s why ecological problem is just becoming worse and worse and worse. And at one level it requires political will. Governments have to make and implement measures. But actually speaking many times the government has hold conventions and international summit was there where they made some resolution (Rio de janeiro, Brazil) they made some conventions. But many times at the critical moment the governments just backs out of it, because whenever any measures are required which are going to affect the economy, always government is concerned with their election votes. And they back out. So, actually not much is happening tangibly in terms of deal with these problems.
Raise the consciousness
So to make the 3Rs realizable we need another R. That is ”Raise”. So not to just “reduce”, “recycle” but “raise”. What is these “raise”? Raise our consciousness from the material to the spiritual level. How is going to make a difference? Actually the whole environmental crises originated with a lowering of human consciousness. What do we mean by lowering of human consciousness? We don’t have graph where something moves up and down where you can see higher and lower. But the idea is, the higher the consciousness the more a person is aware.
For example if there is a small baby. The baby is concerned only about itself. I am hungry. I want attention. I want food. I started crying whenever I want. So the baby is thinking that the whole world around itself should devote itself to taking caring of it. I started crying, my mother, my father whoever is there, just leave everything, come and take care of me. Babies completely unaware that others have needs, others have problems and that they need to take care of those things. But as a person grows, the person thinks that I cannot expect others to solve my problems rather I should help others. As we grow then we understand, yes my parents are working so hard, they may also have problems, I should not just bother them about my concerns, I should try to help them.
So basically raising our consciousness means becoming less self-centered, becoming less selfish, becoming more aware of what is happening around us. If we look at the world whether Western civilization or Indian civilization, till five hundred years ago the general understanding was that nature is sacred. That nature is filled with powers and balances that are far beyond my comprehension. Nature was seen in some way as connected with God. And that’s why tempering with nature was not at all encouraged. Right from the times of Greek thinkers like ____, they have opposed for example mining. They said “nature has given to humanity what is right service. If we dig into nature and take from there that is not humanity’s quota. And we should not do that.” Similarly when people go to forest, in the past people go to hunt and they would take from trees. But the villages they would have their own conventions, their own agreements. Ok this is a kind of food you can take, this you cannot take. The idea was that we can’t just recklessly intrude into nature and take from whatever it want. There are many complex things. So this was the vision of nature as sacred, sacred means involving the higher power than us, a power that is connected with God.
Krishna is the seed giving father, Nature is like a mother and we are the children in that
So with the Bhagvad Gita this is understanding that nature is like a mother. Krishna says in 14.4 in the Bhagvad Gita that
mūrtayaḥ sambhavanti yāḥ
tāsāṁ brahma mahad yonir
ahaṁ bīja-pradaḥ pitā
so Krishna’s says ahaṁ bīja-pradaḥ pitā, I am the seed giving father and whom I give the seed to, to material nature. Krishna saying that nature is like a mother, Krishna is the father and we are the children in that. So the mother, she will provide the child the food and the other items according to what is necessary for the child. But this vision was supplanted, was replaced by radically different vision from our _____.
For example, Francis Bacon was a famous thinker and he has written several books. His idea was, actually nature is not like a mother. Nature is like a wicked prostitute. And humanity has to bring nature under control. And technology is the means by which we bring nature under control and extract from her the gifts that she not ready to give us. So this was quite a perverse vision. Some people reverted, nature is like a mother. He said if at all you want to consider nature is like a mother, should know that she is not a mother, she is evil step mother. So that was his idea. That is very unfortunate. From that time onwards the vision of humanity’s attitude towards nature is shifted from co-operation to conquest.
That is not that we are going to live in co-operation with nature but our survival and our progress will depend on conquering nature. And much of technological progress was motivated by this idea of bending nature to human will. So this attempt was shortsighted and dangerous, almost suicidal. Why? Because certainly this world may not be a very comfortable place. Why it is not a comfortable place? Because it is transitional place. We are not going to make a home over here. This world is like a hospital. So in a hospital we do not get a five star hotel menus feast. We get some simple food. In a hospital primary focus is take treatment and get cured. So it is true that this world is not a very comfortable place. But that is for a purpose. But when we disrupt, so suppose somebody thinks that aah! this hospital doesn’t give good food. So the canteen, the mess in the hospital is one part, you say ok. There is no need for operating theatre. There is no need for diagnosis theatre. Make it all into a mess. And then what happens is? We have a canteen where you getting lot of varieties of food, but then people are suffering from diseases, there is no place for treating them.
Similarly, this is a simple example I am using to illustrate the point that nature has its own purposes for the way things are in nature. When we shortsightedly try to change things, then although we succeed in creating little bit comforts, but we also end up creating a lot of complications. And that is what has happened over the next two hundred, three hundred years. So since 16-17th century when this vision of humanity using technology as a means to conquer nature started captivating human imagination, from that time we started indiscriminately exploiting and abusing nature and natural resources. And that is slowly revealed more and more consequences. And nature is not cruel, but ultimately there are balances in nature, and if we disturb the balances there will be results, there will be consequences of that.
This idea that we are controllers of nature or we can be controllers of nature means that we are trying to become God and technology is modern humanity’s tool to become God. In the past, demons like Hiranyakashyipu wanted to become immortal, and for that time they do certain kinds of austerities and gain powers by which they think I will become immortal. Why do they want to become immortal? By which I can become the controller, I can become the enjoyer. So in modern times, technology has become the tool that people are using to become controllers. Look at it from broad perspective if we want to become the controller of nature that basically to try to become God. So technology in itself is not necessarily bad. Technology can be used, even in Krishna’s service as we are using it right now, but I am talking about historical perspective here. Many of the thinkers who developed technologies their motive was that technology would be the means by which we will conquer nature. And if this is the vision, then the idea is technology is a means to become God. And that is wrong. That is actually a demoniac mentality. That is in all falling of consciousness, lowering of the consciousness. What we need is a raising of consciousness.
Putting it very succinctly what does raising of consciousness mean? We again have to see that we live in co-operation with nature, and not by trying to conquer nature. The idea of conquering nature means lowering of consciousness. The idea of understanding co-operating with nature is a raising of consciousness. And there are positive signs which is happening also in some cases. This is just a statement I mention about how ____. Reductionist worldview may see nature as an object which lead to all these consequences. So this is _____. What does he say? “In fragile biosphere, the ultimate fate of humanity, biosphere refers to the environment in which we are living, fragile means that we can easily destroyed, the ultimate fate of humanity will depend on whether we can cultivate a deeper sense of self restraint. Self restraint means you reduce consumption. Whether we can cultivate a deeper sense of self restraint. How can we cultivate it? Founded on a widespread ethic of limiting consumption, and finding non material enrichment.” Non material enrichment is just another way of saying spiritual happiness.
So here those environmentalists who are recommending that for the survival of ecology people need to find non material enrichment, people need to find spiritual happiness. So what happens when people get spiritual happiness? They don’t need to dominate nature and get happiness by that. So as devotees the root cause of problem we understand in philosophical perspective is that we are trying to become God and control nature. But individually what can we do? Individually the more we find non-material enrichment, the more we find fulfillment in our heart by our relationship with Krishna then less we will need to consume material things. And every one of us can give a contribution to the solution. And off course Srila Prabhupada also among the visionaries in terms of anticipating the consequences of the way modern society was held in terms of ecology. He said that we should develop farm communities where people can live in harmony with nature, in harmony with God. So that’s what we now have farms and the other places also where we have developed farms. These are models of how people can live naturally and harmoniously. And even if somebody feels that oh, everybody cannot live like this. We cannot turn the clock backwards. That may be true. But still we can ensure that if there are examples of people who can live completely without technology, then at least we can live with less cost on our ecology.
If we leave harmony in nature, nature will also respond by creating harmonious conditions for us.
The point is not that we have to become primitive. The point is that we become sensitive. Primitive means we reject, we don’t want any facilities, avoid the technology. That is not possible for most people who are going to function social cultural relation. But if we become sensitive then every single gadget that I use, every single activity that I do I become sensitive that is either harming or helping the ecology. So, all of us can make this difference. Then we understand Krishna consciousness, philosophy of Krishna consciousness, by applying has multiple ripple effects. What is the ripple effect? When we throw stone in the water then circles are created. The more we become Krishna conscious there are positive ripple effects in various aspects of life. Even ecologically, if a devotee actually become Krishna conscious, ecologically there will be positive ripple effects. And by that actually will people naturally consume less to become more aware of what is the nature of products we are using, this called as the human foot print of ecology. When a person walks around that foot prints are created if a soil is soft. So like that the way humanity uses that planet that creates metaphorically speaking, foot print on the ecology. So we can become more aware of what kind of consequence our life is having and can alter accordingly. So scientists are talking about, this called as Gaia hypothesis. Gaia the earth Goddess in Greek literature. So this is something similar to ____. What the hypothesis is?
That there are researches who are saying that the earth is not just a thing. It’s a organism. And as a organism it responds. For example if an organism sees threatening stimuli, it will respond in a defensive way. So like that what we have done by disrupting the ecological balances is threatening the earth. And that’s why what we are getting as a ____. The problem that we are seeing in ecology are defensive response on the earth. So earth is not ____ but the earth is organism. The earth has to also protect itself. So a child starts harming the mother, the mother may have to do something to protect itself. But the mother basically also must take care of the child. But the child has to behave himself. So similarly if we stop or decrease at least the harmful stimuli that we giving to the mother, to the earth, let the earth will not have defensive response to itself. So we may feel that individually we can’t contribute much. But we understand there is a broader system where if we live in harmony with nature, nature will also respond by creating harmonious conditions for us. Then we understand that we are not just alone. We can be a part of a larger solution.
The earth has a mother’s heart. The earth like all organisms has a healing mechanism which will promote recovery one’s the hostile stimuli are removed. So let us do our part in cleansing ecological hostile germs of Godless materialism from our consciousness, nature will do her part. So basically Godless materialism is the problem. Srila Prabhupada would say the sufferings of humanity are due to polluted aim of life. The pollution that we see in the environment is a reflection of a pollution in the heart. Inner pollution leads to outer pollution. So what is the inner pollution? That is the Vidushit aashayam. If we keep hearing Krishna katha, vidushit aashayam, vidushit means polluted, aashayam means our conception of life, our goals of life become polluted by the enjoying mentality. But by hearing the philosophy of Krishna consciousness _____, ______ becomes purified. The more we hear Krishna consciousness philosophy and understand the principles of living our polluted aim becomes purified. The more polluted aims become purified, the more we can live in harmony with nature and with Krishna.
To summarize we started by talking about the climate change. We discussed several of serious ecological problems, the depletion of river water and ground water, disruption of eco-system at large, the green house effect, decrease of the non renewable resources, and basically the idea we are giving is that the nature has given us something for nourishment like a plate, we are taking out the good nourishing things and putting poisonous thing over there. And environmental super disasters are on their way. And what is the solution for that? We discuss the three Rs, reduce, reuse and recycle. And then we discussed what are problems with that. Basically the materialism, at the glamorization of materialism that is there, that makes difficult for people to apply this formula. So we discussed the fourth R, that is “raise”. Raise the consciousness. So raising the consciousness means don’t see nature as a dead object to be conquered. But see nature as a loving mother, with whom we have to co-operate. And when they raise our consciousness in this way we understand ourselves as spiritual entities and seek spiritual happiness, then naturally as a mother, nature will do her part. And we can contribute to creating a better environmental situation for our future generations.
I’ll conclude with this example. Normally, that when parents they beget children and the children grow up, the parents give some legacy to the children. Ok, now you are going to grow up, I have this house for you, I have this business and property in your name and with this you can live. So Chanakya pandit says that if the parents when they give to the children a huge debt then what happens is, he says a father who gives a huge debt to son, he is almost like enemy of the son. Sometimes there are unavoidable circumstances. But if the father drinks and drinks and drinks and takes huge loans and then the son has to pay the loans. Such a father is considered to be an enemy to the son. The present generation should create a good legacy for next generation, not a harmful legacy. The parents should give wealth not a debt to their children. So Unfortunately with respect to nature, our modern civilization, we are creating our present not by inheriting from the past, but by borrowing from the future. What does that mean? The way we are living, actually we are creating a situation when our future generations will have to suffer. Now off course the thinkers were there for seven generations, but they didn’t take care. Now the problem is so big that not only future generation suffer we ourselves will suffer, and we ourselves are suffering. And actually the kind of hurricanes and tornados and environmental problem that are coming up they are quite serious, the last few years the way things are happening. But we as responsible individual on earth, we need to know that we have our quota for our generation, we can take that. But we can’t intrude on or make this earth into a waste land that future generations cannot live. How we can live harmoniously that’s what Krishna consciousness guides us towards.
Q. You mentioned if we are internally satisfied in connection with God, our consumerism reduces. What can we do as a student? (How can we be internally satisfied as a student?)
Ans. Firstly internal satisfaction should not mean passivity. It doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t have any ambitions in life. We all have our ambitions. We have certain talent which are given by God. We should use these talents for our own development and for contributing to the world. So internal satisfaction definitely doesn’t mean passivity. What it means is that we don’t have a constant possessing, grabbing, exploiting mentality by which we think that my success means that I have to be better than everyone else. I have to possess more than everyone else. I have to enjoy more than everyone else. No. Actually I have to use some talent. If I use those talents well then develop those talent, that’s my success.
Inner satisfaction means that we don’t let external factors define our happiness. We don’t let external factors define our happiness. What does that mean external factor define our happiness? Today whole advertising media is there. There was once an advertisement of a bollywood star. He just came and there were several women, oh….they called out their friend and embraced him, starting kissing him. And there was one other not so good looking man, he was looking with envy at this person. There is a shampoo or a perfume or something, I don’t remember what it is. They said give me this. And you just and you just use this, and then all women will be attracted to you. Fairy tale it is, but it is not a good fairy tale, it is a stupid fairy tale. Because first of all it’s an insult both to female intelligence and the male intelligence. It an insult to a female intelligence that somebody puts a perfume women will get attracted to that person. And it is also insult to male intelligence that somebody will believe in such an idea. But the idea is people see things like this, when we get this product I become attractive.
What happens is that society, our culture creates the false definition of happiness for us. You get this, get this, get this, then you become happy. So we don’t let society create our definition of happiness. We focus on our spiritual life. We have our devotional practices when we do them seriously we will get a inner sense of peace and pleasure from that. Along with that in our material life we create our own standard, our own decision. What we want to do and strive to do that. So becoming self satisfied means practicing spiritual life whole heartedly and pursuing our material life according to our own standards and our talents. Not letting the world define success for us. Because if we let the world define success or define happiness then that definition is like a mirage. Success means you have to get this car, I mentioned this earlier. The advertisement of the car says, “drive this car and enjoy the envy in your neighbor eyes”. Actually what is the joy in it first of all. Isn’t it? That’s the kind of advertisement that is made. But then if this is my definition of happiness I enjoy the envy in my neighbor’s eyes, tomorrow my neighbor gets the better car than me then he enjoys envy in my eyes. And where is the end of that. So therefore we don’t let the materialistic culture define what is happiness for us. We understand that if I practice spiritual life seriously I’ll get inner happiness and if I use my talents properly I will achieve certain level of material success. So I will set my targets and I’ll achieve those targets.
Q. Prabhuji, Yamuna is flowing from the Himalayas, and before reaching Vrindavan it is diverted somewhere else. So as you said that, in Vrindavan what Yamuna we see is just a sewage of water. So how from devotional point of view we can see the water that is present there? And how devotee will be benefitted? (How we see the pollution of the Yamuna from a spiritual perspective? )
Ans. There are, from the spiritual Yamuna Devi is a Goddess. And we cannot harm her anyway. But at the same time whenever there are certain problems which seem to occur with some manifestation of the divine in this world, then we see those problems as opportunities for rendering service. For example the deity is Krishna and Krishna is all powerful and Krishna can protect us. But when there was rule of Muslim fnatics in India, Aurangzeb, another iconoclasts were there, so they tried to destroy the deities. So then many of the devotees what they do is, if you go to Vrindawan many of the original deities of those say Radha Govind is not in the Vrindavan, it was in Jaipur. Because Rajasthan was the place of rajput kings whom protected dharma at that time. So then the devotees, the worked very vigilantly to very carefully and expertly take the deities from Vrindavan to Jaipur. So now we can understand that nobody can harm Krishna. Even if somebody at material level seems to harm the deities, Krishna will just un manifest from the deities. But the danger to the deity, a devotees sees as an opportunity for service. Similarly, the danger with the Yamuna we see as an opportunity for our service. Yamuna at a spiritual level is completely pure, it can’t be affected. But at a material level when it is affected we see Yamuna Devi as offering as an opportunity for service. And from the normal perspective if we go to Yamuna, we have to be aware of the material principles. We can take the sacred dip in the Yamuna but we can’t drink it’s water indiscriminately. It will have certain effect on biologically, physiologically. So we have to be cautious about that. So it is an opportunity for service primarily that we see it.
From an individual point of view how can we serve Yamuna Devi?
There are various things. Political will is what is primarily required, because that sewer, basically water is blocking the water of Yamuna. There are two things which are causing this, one is depletion and other is ingestion. Depletion means the original water that is started from Yamuna that is getting diverted to various places. And there is this artificial water, polluted water is coming in. If there is political will. In Kolkata also the Hoogly river was getting polluted like that. So the government implemented a scheme by which that sewage water was sent towards the forest. If it was treated a little bit, then it can nourish, it can provide water for taking care of the forest, if the effluents are removed from it. And the Hoogly was protected like that. So there are models of things that have been done, but similarly here also the effluent water coming from Delhi and other places, if that is treated and it is directed towards the forest. And the original water of Yamuna that is there, the quantity of water that can be taken by people from along the way that is ____. When at different stage different cities are told you can take you cannot open that. The standard policy that is used. So that can be changed. So now this requires political will. And in a democracy every individual has his political will.
So there are online petitions that are there for this. As devotees we can contribute to online petitions. Offer our signature and we can spread awareness of it. At an individual level within democratic setup, ultimately politicians are attracted by our votes. And if they see that people are concerned about a particular issue in a mass way then they take cognizance of it. So if somebody has a special interest, some devotees already have affection for Yamuna or environmental activism, then they can take this mode as an active mission. We can create a awareness about it, write articles about it, tell people about it, inspire people to sign petitions. And there are some devotees who are active missionaries in this. They have taken it as their service. And in Vrindavan in that area it’s become a fulcrum or union of various forces, the environmental forces, there are religious organizations, there is ISKCON. There are many institutes which are coming together. In that sense we can do our part by spreading awareness and signing petitions and basically influencing the political body.
Q. Number of engineers are increasing and they are often producing technologies that cause problems in the ecology? What can we do?
Ans. Problems that come at material level also can be solved at a material level. The solution at the material level may be partial and incomplete. But still they also contribute to the solution. So it’s not that entirely everything that technology produces has to be necessarily bad. As I give the example of Hoogly, it is a material problem but by materially redirecting water elsewhere, the pollution was decreased. So even engineers if they are creative enough, they can find out ways by which the extent of ecological damage can be decreased. It requires some endeavor. But it’s possible. And more and more companies are becoming eco sensitive in many ways. Many companies are becoming eco sensitive. For example in Vada, a place near Mumbai, there is a farm community. They decided that the whole construction, everything, all the guest houses, all the rooms that will be constructed in eco friendly way. There are construction building companies which have got certifications that we will construct only in eco friendly way. Even the labors, the contractors, the architects, everybody knows what is the environment cost of construction. They cost a little more. But they are eco friendly constructions. They are in huge demand. So actually speaking the green movement as it is called eco friendly movement, it is having significant impact. And people are for example people who are environmentally aware they are ready to pay for organic food much more than non organic food, for chemical contaminated food. If there is a market, there is a market, so they are providers in the market people will take it up. So that way it is not necessary that engineers or engineering colleges themselves had to be a part of problem, they can be a part of solution also. And as awareness of the problem increases people will want solutions.
It’s not, we shouldn’t think that all technologies are bad. Even in the Vedic time there was technology. But technology of different kind but still technology was there. See the idea is that we don’t try to control nature by our own whims and schemes and try to become God. But God Himself can give some intelligence of how we can live in harmony with nature and decrease the discomfort that are there. Idea is not that all of us has to live in perpetual discomfort only. But it has to be done in an ecological, non harmful way. It’s not necessary that engineering colleges are increasing, its necessarily bad. We can be a part of solution that is made. And as an individual we may not have much say, in terms of say what the industries policies are, if we are working for a company, then what company’s policies are. But as an individual if somebody is an engineer, somebody is a doctor, these two professions today are influencing our society to some extent. So if engineers are spiritualists, doctors are spiritualists, the devotee that have a ripple effect. People see that we are not only devotees also eco conscious devotee and it is a much more significant effect, because in general people will look not directly at spirituality, they will look at the material results of spirituality. So if we show by our example and actions that even materially spirituality has made us better. Not better in terms of living more glamorous life styles, but better in terms of more harmonious, more sensitive, more responsible, that is going ____. That way we can contribute. In fact, if the environment consciousness, you see, specially I conclude this point, fundamental difference in the approach to the world in Abrahmic religions and the Vedic religions, in Christianity, Islam and Judaism, it is considered more or less that this world is evil. There is a radical dichotomy between the God and the world. This world is evil and God is good. And reject the world and go to God. And they say actually the whole world is profane, profane is the opposite of the sacred. Sacred is holy, profane is unholy. So their idea is that whole world is profane. And because of this idea they can’t really contribute much to the idea that nature is sacred and nature should be cherished. But the Vedic vision is not that nature is evil. Certainly we have to go beyond nature towards God. But nature itself can help us to go towards God also. This understanding of nature is sacred which the Vedic culture can offer to the world, can also contribute significantly to raise the consciousness. That way also when we see that ok, the engineers who understand that nature is sacred and they cordially try to _____. That is a very positive contribution. Thank you very much. Srila Prabhupada ki jai. Gaura Bhakta Vrinda ki jay, Nitai Gaura premanande! Hare Krishna!