Hinduism & Sustainable Living

Hinduism is rooted in an ancient philosophy that believes in living in close commune with the nature. It originated in the Vedic era when man worshiped nature as the most powerful and potent giver. Centuries of witnessing the ravages wrought by elements of nature, also cemented this belief of an all-pervasive power, that instilled fear and respect in the minds of people. Thus began the belief that nature is the ultimate provider of mankind, so ought to be accorded due respects and conserved as well.

Hinduism in its form of Sanatan Dharma lays great emphasis on Prakriti (Nature) and Vasundhara (Mother Earth). The very name implies that earth and nature is regarded as the provider and protector of the hearth. So it is natural that the very foundations of Hinduism be based on a sustainable way of life that conserves nature.

The early Gods in the Vedic period thus emerged as Puranic gods who were identified with nature, and worshiped. So we find people worshiping various gods according to their individual requirements, seeking the blessings of the Gods who pervade in their stream of life. Thus farmers worshiped the Nag or cobra snake during Naag Panchami, so that no cobra may bite villagers or cause other harm. They worshiped the river, for the river was the provider of water, for farming and other needs. The practice of worshiping the elements of nature means the devotee takes utmost care to protect and preserve the elements of nature. For Hindu philosophy puts the power of nature and natural elements above the self. No matter how much man progresses, he is ultimately directly and indirectly controlled by nature, as is evident today in times of scientific advancement when we are mere bystanders during a tsunami or riverine flooding. Hinduism believes that destructive ravages of nature are triggered by nature’s fury, when man does not heed and abuses nature. This is indeed being proven today by the  climate change theories which explain the extreme forces of nature as causes by man-made factors.

Thus Hinduism always promoted a sustainable way of living, where man looks to nature for its basic needs of food, shelter and clothing. Though Hinduism and its culture has been affected by centuries of foreign invasions, inherently Hinduism has always believed in vegetarianism. The cow being revered as a mother, a provider is but just example. Most important animals that provide man with food and articles for survival are revered, on the simple rationale that respect will never lead to its abuse, so these God-given faces of nature will always remains and provide.

Looking to nature for its food and fuel, wood-cutting was not considered ideal, as Van or forest is for refuge and education. So cow dung has been used as fuel since ancient times, and additionally as a binding agent for huts. For when cow dung dries, it becomes hard and free of bacteria. The power of cow poop as a source of energy is only being recognised today.

For clothing needs, Hinduism has always looked upon nature and frowned at anything artificial or synthetic. Is it any wonder that Hindus have always been free of skin and other diseases that are so common in the Western world?  The very use of earthen ware and steel utensils for everyday life, is again based on the Hindu philosophy of sustainable living. Not only is earthenware healthy, it is also bio-degradable. Steel on the other hands can be cleansed well and re-used, thus conserving resources.

Even the tradition of fasting is founded on the belief that it not only cleanses the body or soul, but also helps one appreciate nature and its offerings. The Hindu way of life offers a sustainable living, wherein those items that are bio-degradable are preferred for every day use. It does not matter how rich a Hindu is, he still prefers to use bio-degradable stuff for his everyday needs, even opting to have his clothes hand-washed rather than machine washed, to conserve energy and increase the life-period of the clothes. This is so much a way of life, as in every nuance of Hinduism, that it is more than often misinterpreted as lack of modernisation or economic backwardness.  Yet, for a Hindu this is the only way of life he has always known, the sustainable lifestyle that looks to nature for sustenance, before the influences of the western world crept in.

~ by Sangeeta Deogawanka

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