Six Hindu Leaders Who Are Fighting for the Environment

Hinduism is a deeply environmental religion. 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.

Here are six Hindu leaders who are taking this belief and turning it into positive actions for the environment.

Swami Chidanand Saraswati

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Photo available on Ganga Action Network

Swami Chidanand Saraswati is the president and spiritual head of the Parmarth Niketan Ashram in Rishikesh, one of India’s largest and most renowned spiritual institutions. He is also the founder or co-founder of several humanitarian and environmental organizations, including the Global Interfaith WASH Alliance to provide access to safe-drinking water, improved sanitation, and proper hygiene; Ganga Action Parivar to clean up the Ganges River and allow it to flow freely; and Project Hope to provide relief, green rehabilitation, and sustainable reconstruction for disaster victims. His motto in life is, “In the Service of God and humanity.”

Speaking at a Global Interfaith WASH Alliance event, Swami Chidanand said:

“Spiritual people have a lot of power to inspire people. Information is all over, but people need inspiration …. To me, water is very important because I grew on the banks of the water. Water is life, water is sacred.”

Dr. Vandana Shiva

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Photo of Vandana Shiva by VOCES on Flickr

Most famous for her strong stance against GMOs, Vandana Shiva, an Indian environmental activist, gave up her career as a physicist to bring attention to negative environmental impacts of globalization and modern agriculture in India. Shiva sees food as an example of the interconnectedness of a healthy environment and a healthy people — a vision that stems from her Hindu beliefs. When asked by Bill Moyers, “What drives you really?” Shiva replied:

“There is a very simple lesson that Krsna gives [in the Bhagavad Gita], You do not measure the fruit of your action; you have to measure your obligation for action. You have to find out the right thing to do. That is your duty.”

Swami Vibudhesha Teertha

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Photo “MundkurPejawar” by Quantumquark (talk). Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikipedia

Swami Vibudhesha Teertha is head of the Sri Admar Mutt. He is a lifelong celibate monk and one of the twelve spiritual leaders of one of the four great Vaishnava orders. The leaders are so important to the spiritual and physical well-being of India that until the 1990s none of them were permitted to travel outside of India. Swami Vibudhesha is the only one so far to do so and he has been very vocal on environmental issues. He said:

“Do not use anything belonging to nature such as oil, coal or forest, at a greater rate than you can replenish it. For example do not destroy birds, fish, earthworms and even bacteria which play vital ecological roles – once they are annihilated you cannot recreate them.”

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Dr. Kusum Vyas is the Hindu Climate Change Ambassador for the Green Yatra Action Network and founder of The Living Planet Foundation, which convened the first global “green” Hindu event in 2010. The Foundation works to protect human health, endangered animals that are sacred to the Hindu faith, and our sacred places. Vyas also does green pilgrimages all over the world. In an article published in The Guardian, she wrote:

“In Hinduism, every living thing has an ‘atman’, a soul and at its core, the Hindu faith obliges us to defend our environment. Hinduism recognises that nature and the ecosystems holding the fabric of the planet together create a climate ideal for human life. There is nothing in the Hindu scriptures or the Hindu tradition that suggests biodiversity can be traded as an economic commodity.”

Mata Amritanandamayi

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Photo by amritavani available on Flickr

A girl from a simple Southern Indian Village, Mata Amritanandamayi is now known as “Amma, the Mother of All.” She is an influential humanitarian who “appears to do what politicians cannot.” Not only does she readily and quickly help those in need such as disaster victims, the hungry, the poor, and orphanages, she has also traveled around the world to promote her Hindu philosophy, which espouses love, introspection, and selflessness. In an April 15, 2015 message on the environment, Amma said:

“In the past, Nature was like Kamadhenu — a wish-fulfilling cow. Today, that cow has become sick and old and is stumbling towards death. We alone are responsible for this. Our indiscriminate exploitation of Nature can be likened to sawing off a tree branch on which we are seated.”

 Shrivatsa Goswami

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Photo of Francis Tiso, Shrivatsa Goswami by wiki.editor on Flickr

Shrivatsa Goswami is head of the Sri Caitanya Prema Samsthana and a leading figure in the Vaishnava tradition which is based around worship of Krishna. He is also chief adviser to the Vrindavan Conservation Project, a project dedicated to cleaning up the holy Indian city on the sacred Yamuna River, and a trustee of Friends of Vrindavan. Writing about the importance of nature, Goswami said:

“If we think of the environment as our home and all of its members as our family it is clear that the key to conserving nature is devotion, love—giving and serving. Nature, prakriti, as the feminine can give and serve. But the role of humanity, purusha, is then to protect.” 

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About the Author

I’m an organic-eating, energy-saving naturalist who composts and tree hugs in her spare time. I have a background in environmental law, lobbying, and field work. I believe in God; however, I do not call myself a Christian or a Jew or a member of any religion. I am merely someone who finds a spiritual connection to all humans and the environment. You can find me on Twitter, Facebook, and .