Leave nature aloneWe should safeguard animal rights and curb rampant exploitation of earth
Rampant exploitation of the planet and destruction of the environment and the wildlife that inhabit it has backfired, affecting nearly 7.5 billion people. Mother Earth, revered as a source of holiness of Goddess Durga the female form of the Supreme Personality of Godhead who destroys evil and demonic forces, has not been fully understood. The modern anthropocentric belief is that human beings are central to the planet, but the divine Vedas of eternity present an eco-centric/nature-centred model of creation where there is a natural interrelationship between humans, animals, birds, insects, trees, rivers, mountains, oceans and all other elements of nature, creating a symbiotic interdependence in the ecosystem.
About half of the world’s tropical forests have been cleared resulting in a loss of habitat for millions of species. We cannot outsmart Mother Nature in the name of reason and geo-engineering, or she may strike back one day as global warming and climate change have shown. In the Bhagavad Gita, the Lord advises us not to change the environment, improve it or wrestle with it; if it seems hostile at times, tolerate it. ‘As your deed is, so is your destiny,’ says the Upanishad.
The materialist and naturalist philosopher Charles Darwin had no idea of the subtle body or soul, and hence failed to explain how the evolutionary process was going on. He maintained that more resilient animals survived and thrived, meaning survival of the fittest sanctioned materialist minds to justify violence and provided the freedom to exercise the prerogative to exploit nature. In contrast, the Upanishad scriptures assert the existence of nature as a projection or sankalpa (wish) of the Supreme Godhead and His expansions of unlimited energies where humans have a transient existence.
Christianity is the largest religion followed by Islam and Hinduism. Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860), renowned German philosopher and writer has said, “Christian morality contains the great and essential imperfection of taking into consideration only man, and leaving the entire animal world without rights.” Christianity made it possible to exploit nature, establishing a dualism of man and nature as the Bible says, “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you.” However, animal rights are as important as human rights, as both are God’s creations. Our folly resulting from arrogance, ignorance and superstition fails to understand the commonality of both the mortal transients—that they eat, sleep, play, love, dance, produce babies, fear, cry, connect with the deeper self in silence, become ill and die; except that humans also do ethical and philosophical discussions.
Worldwide, 300 million cows and trillions of other animals and innocent and helpless creatures are butchered annually for income and the transitory pleasure of cuisine even though divinity has provided humans an abundance of vegetarian foods including cow milk and milk products for survival, good health and longevity. In the US alone, an estimated 35 million cows suffer and die in the meat and dairy industries each year. Likewise, India produces more that 4 million tonnes of beef annually.
If abattoirs had glass walls
Our relationship with nature is more that of being than having. Religion is showing true compassion for all things having life. The five elements (Pancha Mahabhutas) in Hinduism—space, air, fire, water and earth—are the basis of all cosmic creation or the foundation of an interconnected web of life. Lord Krishna said in the Gita, “I am the Self seated in the heart of all creatures. I am the beginning, the middle and the very end of all beings. All beings have, therefore to be treated alike.” He Himself also served as a cowherd in Gokul during His transcendental pastimes. Buddha said, “Harm no other beings; they are just your brothers and sisters.” Pythagoras said, “As long as Man continues to be the ruthless destroyer of lower living beings, he will never know Health or Peace. Indeed, he who sows the seed of murder and pain cannot reap joy and love.” Ancient sages (rishis) always had great respect for nature, and therefore, they perceived that all material manifestations were a shadow of the ‘spiritual’.
We are what we eat! Spiritually, human beings eat to live (and not live to eat) to enable them towards performing dutiful action (dharma) in Supreme Godhead-consciousness and devotion. Mahatma Gandhi’s life illustrates an ecological and spiritual treatise of solemnity, asceticism, vegetarianism and nonviolence, which inspires humankind to follow him. Gandhi said, “Human nature will find itself only when it fully realises that to be human, it has to cease to be beastly or brutal.” Humans have flat teeth and flat nails, and therefore, anatomically and intellectually, they are vegans. Mother Earth is not a hostile element to be conquered, dominated or exploited. Therefore, the UN Earth Summit and the Paris Agreement should primarily tackle the root causes, namely safeguarding animal rights (for example, by installing glass walls and cameras in slaughterhouses) and curbing skyrocketing industrial and materialistic development to save Earth from global warming and climate change.
Dixit is an expert in integrated development issues