Ancient scriptures state that we have five sheaths: physical environment, physical body, mind, intuitive sheath or subtle environment and the Self. Our connection with the environment is our first level of experience and one of the most important. If our environment is clean and positive, it positively impacts all the other layers of our existence. As a result, they come into balance and we experience a greater sense of peace and connection within ourselves and with others around us.
An intimate relationship with the environment is built into the human psyche. Historically, nature — mountains, rivers, trees, the sun, the moon — have always been honored in ancient cultures. It's only when we start moving away from our connection to Nature and our selves, that we begin polluting and destroying the environment.
It is a popular misconception that damage to ecology is an inevitable byproduct of technological progress. But the two need not be mutually exclusive. The purpose of technology is to harness Nature, to bring information and comfort to human beings. When spiritual and human values are ignored, technology brings pollution and destruction, instead of comfort. The role of spirituality is to help maintain harmony in the environment, while allowing technology and science to grow. This is the challenge of the present century.
We need to revive the ancient practice of honoring and conserving Nature. Looking at Nature, we can take our lessons in environment preservation. There are so many species in Nature - the birds, reptiles, mammals; all these different species are hostile towards each other and yet Nature balances them out. Nor will you find pollution in a forest despite so many animals living there together. It is amazing how Nature digests waste material and produces something more beautiful. Similarly, it is not technology and science that pose a hazard, but the waste material generated by technological and scientific processes. We need to find methods to minimize and recycle the waste.
The greatest pollutant is, of course, human greed. It comes in the way of preservation of ecology, as it gives higher priority to quick profit and quick results over eco-friendly manufacturing practices. Greed pollutes the subtle environment and mind of man with negative emotions and impressions. Pollution permeates both the physical and subtle environment. An angry person exudes anger which spreads to others around him. It is a chain reaction. At the root of all wars is a compounded negativity of emotions. Often we are not aware that something that is anti-environment is also anti-health.
We need to attend to the human psyche which causes pollution, whether physical or emotional. If compassion and care are kindled within the Self, they reflect in the environment and a sense of sacredness follows. People should be encouraged to treat the planet as sacred, to treat trees and rivers as sacred, to treat people as sacred and to see God in Nature and in people. This will foster sensitivity; and a sensitive person can't but care for Nature.
Spirituality checks greed. It elevates one's consciousness and brings a sense of caring and commitment for the whole planet. Spirituality elevates our consciousness. It opens our eyes to the beauty of Nature, encourages us to honor Nature and life and helps bring more joy and celebration into our lives. A spiritual outlook and sensitivity is essential to foster environment consciousness.
Nature nourishes us and it is important that we take care of it. A healthy future for our coming generations depends on how we care for our environment in the present.
By Sri Sri Ravi Shankar