Staying true to our environmental roots

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Mata Bhumih Putroham Prithivyah meaning Earth is my mother, I am her son (Veda, 12-1-12). When the westernised world sees nature as merely “resources” for human consumption, in Hindu Dharma nature-human relation is seen as mother-child relation. On World Environment day UN set a theme “Connecting People to Nature”. Even though we had practised this theme as integral part of life in past, how did we not inhere it in practise at present?

Taittiriya Upanisad has a statement which says ‘From this very self (atma) did space come into being; from space, air; from air, fire; from fire, the waters, from the waters, the earth; from the earth, plants; from plants, food; and from food, man...’ This statement illustrates the concept of Pancha Mahabhut. Panch Mahabhut are the five great elements—space (aether), air, fire, water and Earth. According to Hindu Dharma, these are the basis of any life either ant or blue whale, or non-living things for that matter. Further taking the word of Chandogya Upanishad 6.8.7 Tat Tvam Asi meaning I am you and you are me; If I hurt anything in this cosmos  or disturb natural rhythm  of anything, my natural rhythm will be disturbed and will also hurt me. It is sometimes even referred to as the law of Karma by Shastras (scripture). So, hurt no one if you don’t want to be hurt.

Although we had so important practise why did we miss to internalize it? AGIL paradigm is the best way which helps us understand why we failed. The AGIL paradigm is a sociological scheme created by American sociologist Talcott Parsons in the 1950s. It is a systematic depiction of certain societal functions, which every society must meet to be able to maintain stable social life. The AGIL paradigm is part of Parsons's larger action theory, outlined in his notable book The Structure of Social Action, in The Social System and in later works, which aims to construct a unified map of all action systems, and ultimately "living systems."

“A” of AGIL stands for adaptation or the capacity of society to interact with the environment. What would happen if you put negative blood group in a person with positive blood group, the answer is simple he/she will die. The same happened in East with colonization and later globalization. The adaptation function got affected with intervention of alien and a new system of adaptation with aliens. A new alien blood (system) was introduced but the problem was neither we died (left the old system) nor we lived (accepted the new system) .The struggle brought confusion and we got confused what were we and what we had. The struggle didn’t let us completely adopt one part. In times the differentiating line between our and their (aliens) became so thin, it led to a lot of confusion and slowly into identity crisis.

Further the confusion of the first generation who encountered the change at first phase and couldn’t adapt completely affected other parts of paradigm too as they are interlinked. In the beginning we were guided by the principles like the one stated in Isha Upanishad “Everything in the universe belongs to the Supreme God. Therefore, take only what you need, that is set aside for you. Do not take anything else, for you know to whom it belongs”

The people were confused and had to adapt with challenges that aliens had brought hence during the process of adaptation, they started to  view nature as merely “resources” for human consumption. The change in adoption from take only what is required to take as much as you can changed their G (goal attainment) paradigm. No one cared about Mukti which was the ultimate goal, now the goal of the society was changed and  the new goal after confusion in adaptation was to be powerful and monopolize all the resources, make yourself strong leave others aside. The change in goal attainment perspective affected another important paradigm, I (integration process). The society carrying “we” based emotion changed into “I” based emotion and the social institutions started breaking down. After all these, the L (latency, or latent pattern maintenance) also couldn’t survive.

Family and school maintained institutions failed to mediate belief systems and values between an older generation and its successor as the pure belief that existed before aliens attack was deadlocked with confusion. This deadlock in the long run turned into dead words of Shastras (scriptures). The Shastras says the only way to understand real Shastra is by experiencing the cosmic rhythm .The confusion killed the science to experience divinity or cosmic law and pattern; lack of experience made Shastras seem irrational, illogical and dead in times as the writers of Shastra’s  had written their natural experience in metaphor as no word could explain real experienced truth.

Today the Shastras have become a dead irrational book.  “Connecting people to Nature” the theme for world environment day 2017, doesn’t only implore eastern world, like the western world, to get outdoors and into nature, appreciate its beauty and its importance, and take forward the call to protect the Earth that we share intellectually or rationally but also to again maintain the AGIL Function, that was destroyed by the intervention of aliens through colonization and globalization, experientially.

The theme is an opportunity for renaissance of scriptures in practise. Once this renaissance is successful and we understand principles like Mata Bhumih Putroham Prithivyah  and Tat Tvam Asi, we can understand how humans should act toward one another and all other forms of life. Thus, we arrive at Sarva bhuta hita, "enhancing the common good of all beings."

When we know that all is sacred, all is God, and we are all children of Mother Earth, our behavior and even our desires change accordingly, there will be no need to say protect environment because we can never harm what is ours.

Sanjay Adhikari is a student of Kathmandu School of law.