Hinduism and the Environment
– Shukla Yajur Veda, Ishavasya Upanishad – 1
Hinduism is an ancient and incredibly complex religion. Because it is practiced in so many varied ways by such a large population of people, it is hard to describe how all Hindus regard the environment. But scholars have identified several themes common to all Hindu faiths:
Belief in one God. The Vedas proclaim, “He is the God of forms infinite in whose glory all things are — smaller than the smallest atom, and yet the Creator of all, ever living in the mystery of His creation” (Krishna Yajur Veda, Shvetashvatara Upanishad 4.14-15).
Belief in karma. Karma literally means “deed” or “act” and more broadly names the universal principle of cause and effect, action and reaction, which governs all life. Karma is not fate, for Hindus believe that we all act with free will, creating our own destiny.
Adherence to dharma. Dharma is God’s divine law, the mode of conduct most conducive to spiritual advancement and the righteous path. It is piety and ethical practice, duty and obligation. Adharma is opposition to divine law.
Through these three themes we can piece together a simplistic understanding of the Hindu relationship to the environment.
God is in all things including the environment
In Mahabharata, it is noted that the universe and every object in it has been created as an abode of the Supreme God for the benefit of all. This means that God is in all things and that all individual species are part of a larger system. Hindus worship and accept the presence of God in nature and recognize that nature and the environment are not outside us. They are a part of our existence.
Karma is affected by our environmental actions
Moral behavior creates good karma. Immoral behavior creates bad karma. When we waste Earth’s resources and neglect nature, we create a bad environment for future generations. Engaging in moral behavior with regards to the environment, however, is the path towards salvation both for oneself and for future generations.
Dharma requires environmental awareness
In Hinduism, protecting the environment is an important expression of dharma. The practice of ahisma and compassion calls for Hindus to refrain from injuring anything and be kind to people, animals, plants, and the Earth itself. Austerity asks Hindus to live simply. Through the practice of dharma, Hindus believe that they have a moral duty to protect the environment.
Much study has been done to provide a more in-depth look at Hindu environmentalism. Please click here to learn more.
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