World Environment Day: Ancient Spiritual Values for Environmental Sustainability As Everyday Practice in Modern Times

By Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar┃Posted: June 04, 2018

Every year as the World Environment Day (5th June) approaches, a clamor for stricter green laws and regulations is heard across the globe. While laws are important, they are not enough to ensure environmental sustainability. We need to make care for the environment a part of our value system.

Sustainable traditions care for the environment

All the ancient cultures around the world have honored Nature – plants, rivers, and mountains have always been revered. In India, it was a part of the tradition to plant five trees for every tree that was cut. Water was an integral part of all important rituals and ceremonies. Rivers were worshipped as mothers and the Earth was regarded as a goddess. This attitude of treating Nature as sacred needs to be revived in modern times. People also need to be educated in innovative ways to save water and use natural and chemical-free ways of farming.

Mechanisms need be created for participation of civil society, especially for the youth, in revival of water bodies, planting saplings, and a lifestyle geared towards zero waste. The 27 river rejuvenation projects in India being spearheaded by Art of Living have been made possible with participation from civil society and other stakeholders.

In reality, human greed and callousness are the root cause of pollution. The greed for quick and large profits severely disrupts the ecological balance, and not only pollutes the physical environment, but also stimulates negative emotions on a subtle level. We need to attend to the human psyche, which is the root cause of pollution.

Balancing technology and development with spiritual values

Ecological degradation need not be an inevitable by-product of technology and development. 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 consume the waste and develop non-polluting processes, such as the harnessing of solar energy and natural farming.

The purpose of technology is to bring information and comfort to human beings. When spiritual and human values are ignored, technology brings pollution and destruction instead of comfort. Kindling compassion and care within ourselves also enhances deeper connections to and care for the environment. That is why I consider spiritual awakening as a vital part of any environmental care campaign.

Ancient spiritual wisdom considers our connection with the environment as the first level of human experience. The belief is that if our environment is clean and positive, it will have a positive impact on all the other layers of our existence. Historically, an intimate relationship with the environment was built into the human psyche. It’s only when we start moving away from our connection to nature and ourselves that we begin polluting and destroying the environment.

Let’s revive traditional practices

We need to revive these attitudes and traditional practices that foster our connection with nature. People should be encouraged to have reverence for the planet, to revere trees and rivers as sacred, to treat people as sacred, and to see God in Nature. This will foster sensitivity; a sensitive person can only care for nature and nurture the environment.

Above all, we need to be able to experience our world with an open mind that is free from stress, and from that place we need to create the means of protecting our beautiful planet Earth. For this to happen, human consciousness must rise above greed and exploitation. Spirituality, the experience of one’s own nature deep within, provides the key to this vital relationship with oneself, with others and with our environment. Spirituality elevates one’s consciousness and checks that greed which leads to environmental degradation. It promotes a sense of caring and commitment for the whole planet.

The challenge of the present century is to maintain harmony in the environment even while allowing technology and science to grow. Spiritual values alone can help strike that balance.

Click here to know more about Art of Living’s Mission Green Earth initiative in collaboration with the UN. Join us and help us to keep our environment safe and green.

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