Warmer hearts can cool warming planet
“We have borrowed the future from our children instead of inheriting it from our ancestors.” This African proverb vividly describes the contemporary use of natural resources. In the not-so-distant future the spectre of global warming threatens to cause the melting of the polar icecaps and submerge many flourishing coastal cities under tsunami-like waves. And this is just one among many apocalyptic predictions – coming from, not religion, but science. A World Watch Institute report put it poignantly, “Environmental super-disasters are no longer a doomsday prophecy; they are an imminent reality.”
Is there anything we can do to avoid these calamities? Some ecologists have proposed a 3 R formula: reduce, reuse and recycle. If we reduce our consumption, especially of non-biodegradable products, reuse the commodities we have instead of repeatedly purchasing newer ones and recycle the items we discard, we can avert the impending disaster or at least decrease its magnitude. Unfortunately most people are unable to muster the will to implement these measures because they find the temptations for instant gratification irresistible. Moreover, many people presume that as lone individuals they are too small to make any substantial difference in a global crisis; so they numb themselves to the imminent danger by losing themselves in diversions such as spectator sports, television and social media.
To make the 3 R’s (Reduce, Reuse, Recyle) realizable, we need another R (Raise).
But we can all make a difference. To make the 3 R’s realizable, we need another R. That R is for raise; we need to raise our consciousness from the material arena to the spiritual realm. Those who see the whole socio-historical picture know that the current crisis originated from a lowering of human consciousness several centuries ago. For millennia before the Renaissance, most people worldwide saw nature as a sacred Mother acting in tandem with the Divine Father to provide us our earthly home and bodily necessities. Indeed this worldview is stated explicitly in the Bhagavad-gita (14.4) and echoed in many other wisdom-traditions. Consequently people in the past reverentially took their necessities from nature and scrupulously avoided tampering with her balances, knowing those to be of an intricacy and delicacy beyond human comprehension.
However a mistaken extrapolation of science beyond its realm led to an indiscriminate reductionism that depersonalized nature. People began to see it as an inanimate, even inimical, object to be harnessed for human profit, and started plundering natural resources indiscriminately. Thus began an unfortunate history of what has been euphemistically called “unintended consequences” – the boomeranging of myopic attempts to exploit nature that have precipitated the present crisis. Getting to the root of the problem, Srila Prabhupada, the founder of ISKCON, stated, “The sufferings of humanity are due to a polluted aim of life.” The polluted aim, of course, is the aim of dominating nature instead of harmonizing with it.
Thankfully, this pollution can be countered. By raising our consciousness from the material level to the spiritual level, we can regain our holistic vision of ourselves as spiritual beings, beloved children in the lap of our divine parents, nature and God. We will experience the non-material enrichment that comes by harmonizing with our deepest nature. The concomitant warming of the heart with divine love will nourish our willpower and enable us to eschew the indulgences that are ecologically harmful. Fortunately for us, the will to raise our consciousness is an individual and renewable resource. Through time-tested spiritual practices like meditation, prayer, yoga and chanting of holy names, every one of us can raise our consciousness and thus make a small but significant difference. Will that be enough to save our planet? Why not?
The Gaia hypothesis, an emerging paradigm within modern science, posits that the earth is a conscious organism. In that light, the current ecological problems can be seen as her defensive responses to our excesses and abuses of her resources. Nonetheless she has a mother’s heart; when she sees us reforming, she can save us in ways that we may not yet foresee. The earth, like all organisms, has a healing mechanism, which will promote recovery once the hostile stimuli are removed. So let us do our part by cleansing the ecologically hostile germs of godless materialism from our consciousness and nature will do her part.