HomeVolume 7April 2022The planet was there before us and will be there after us

The planet was there before us and will be there after us

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The planet was there before us and will be there after us

DAAJI explains how caring for Mother Earth begins with eliminating thought pollution from the mind and nurturing the attitudes of love and reverence. When love and reverence are there, will we intentionally hurt anyone or anything, especially our Mother Earth?


Here is a sobering fact: Homo sapiens (modern-day human beings) appeared on Earth around 130,000 years ago, whereas our planet is around 4.5 billion years old. This means we’ve been here for about 0.000028% of the Earth’s existence.

Yet, in this remarkably short period, we’ve contributed to global warming that has heated the oceans by the equivalent of dropping one atomic bomb into the ocean every second for the past 150 years.1 Each second, one Hiroshima bomb dropped in the oceans.

How long will nature tolerate our transgressions?

Cataclysms like tsunamis, wildfires, and hurricanes, don’t judge individuals and selectively punish. They are blunt and brutal. Reversing climate change is not an act of altruism towards the planet. It’s our only option for survival.

You may have heard of the example of a frog in a bowl of heating water. The frog enjoys the warmth but doesn’t realize the water is getting warmer. Eventually, the water gets hot enough to kill the frog.

But it’s not entirely true. In real life, when the water becomes too hot, the frog realizes the danger and jumps out of the bowl. The frog is wise enough and knows when to jump. We may not have the time to jump, and we have nowhere to jump.

The story of Easter Island, famous for its monolithic stone sculptures, is a cautionary tale. Most ethnologists believe that Easter Island was once rich in vegetation and resources, but the tribes on the island plundered them. They cut down all the trees and fought over resources. The soil eroded into the seas, the birds left the island, and the fish moved to new waters. People kept fighting and most of them died of starvation. Easter Island is still there, but the human societies disappeared.

If my tone sounds alarmist, it is an alarming time.



Not too long ago, I was reading an industry report that said that there are 100 companies (including state-owned enterprises) that contribute to 70% of all the emissions globally. The simple solution, one would say, is to shut them down. But a simplistic solution to a complicated problem is usually wrong or idealistic.

The economy, jobs, national security, and human rights are a web of knots woven into the climate challenge. You pull at one and others get squeezed too. So, we need comprehensive policymaking, cleaner technologies, reduced consumption, equitable allocation of resources, and a unified effort amongst nations. But all these steps take time. So, in the meanwhile, what can we do to help?

As individuals, families, and communities, we play an important role in caring for Mother Earth. Society changes not because of policies or bills. Change happens because people change, behaviors change. When I say, enough, I will do something, then change begins.

Start with the Self: the Principles of Yama and Mother Earth

The problems of the environment underscore a much deeper problem facing humanity – that of thought pollution. When conflicting thoughts and emotions muddle our thinking, our minds become imbalanced, and confusion sets in. An unbalanced mind finds it hard to make wise decisions. For example, a doctor without balance may misdiagnose; an industrialist without balance may put short-term profit over the highest good. When our inner climate is polluted, we destroy the source that nourishes us.

I grew up in a village near Surat in Gujarat, India. I have seen how the chemical industries in the region spewed effluents to a point where the groundwater became brown and fizzy like Soda. The smog from the factories was so persistent that wearing masks was the norm for most workers. Can you imagine a mindful, conscious industrialist allowing toxic effluents to be released into the water?

Yoga offers us some solutions to fixing thought pollution. Maharishi Patanjali’s eightfold yoga system is a path to human perfection. On this path, we develop attitudes that ennoble us and benefit those around us, especially the planet.

The beginning step of Yoga is Yama. The practice of Yama blesses us with four key attitudes. These are honesty, truthfulness, moderation, and non-possessiveness. Let’s look at these attitudes in pairs, starting with “honesty and truthfulness.”




Society changes not
because of policies or bills.
Change happens because
people change, behaviors change.
When I say, enough,
I will do something,
then change begins.





When we are honest and truthful, will our conscience allow us to act irresponsibly? A company with honest and truthful leadership will not take shortcuts like fudging environmental tests or cutting corners with effluent treatment. The purity inside will not allow the hypocrisy of saying something and doing something else.

Now, let’s look at the second pair of values, “moderation and non-possessiveness.”

Moderation means balance of all senses and faculties; nothing more or less than needed for the purpose. Today, moderation is generally disturbed, and rampant over-consumption is the result. In a consumption-driven economy, the consumer decides what, how much, and when. Cultivating moderation will rein in over-consumption, conserve the planet’s resources, and help families save more money.




Moderation means balance of
all senses and faculties;
nothing more or less than
needed for the purpose.




Lack of moderation also leads to hoarding, for example, when the wealthiest countries in the world hoard stockpiles of food and vaccines while entire continents go without. Individuals, communities, nations hoarding resources and monopolizing the gifts of Mother Earth will reduce only when non-possessiveness develops in hearts.

A regular practice of meditation reins in thought pollution and creates an inner environment conducive to following Yama. We realize that the trees, the birds, and the fishes all have the same life force flowing through them, all droplets of the same ocean of life. The interconnectedness of existence helps us to develop love and reverence toward all creation. How can we hurt something we love? How can we disrespect something we revere? As a result, we imbibe non-violence, which is the fifth attitude of Yama. But the non-violence is of a higher order because now it’s not just about not hurting creation. Its about caring and nurturing it. 





We realize that the trees,
the birds, and the fishes
all have the same life force
flowing through them,
all droplets of the same ocean of life.
The interconnectedness of existence
helps us of develop
love and reverence toward all creation.




Our circle of conscience grows, and we care more and more. We mold our lifestyle to walk the Earth with a loving kindness. We consume less; the packaging waste from online orders pricks us; drinking from plastic water bottles pinches us. When such hearts assume leadership roles in companies, governments, and civic agencies, their decisions will reflect how much they care for the planet.

Green shoots of change

It takes only a generation to witness such a shift. Some of you may think this to be a pipedream, the optimistic musings of an old man. But consider what we have achieved in Kanha Shanti Vanam in a handful of years. We took an arid landscape chiseled out of the granite of the Deccan Plateau and transformed it into a lush ecological paradise. At Kanha, we preserve indigenous plants, offer workshops to upskill farmers, and operate cottage industries of oils, honey, and seeds. Our goal is to build a sustainable economy, offer jobs, and create a community that lives in harmony with nature.

The project started with meditative minds coming together. When there was nothing on these lands, we first built a temporary structure so people could meditate. And from this inner activism came environmental change. Today, nestled in the leafy foliage of Kanha, is the world’s largest meditation hall. So, if the example of Easter Island scares you, let the example of Kanha inspire you.



Similar to Kanha, across the world conscious communities are bringing together Indigenous knowledge, grass roots action, and the latest technologies to transform how we care for the Earth. Take the case of the Yugal Mangi Forest rangers in Outback Australia. For millennia, the Indigenous tribes have practiced patch burning, traditional “control burning” that creates greener pastures, diverse wildlife, and prevents large-scale wildfires. The rangers teamed up with Indigenous elders to develop a fire calendar that includes the latest maps, weather data, and traditional knowledge of the seasons. Similar initiatives are underway in the US, where the Indigenous tribes are training firefighters in the art of preventive fires.

Where to begin?

As you think of your role in taking care of Mother Earth, begin from the heart. Let the goodness you create within become dynamic in your actions outside. Don’t underestimate the impact of your actions because big change comes from small steps.




As you think of your role
in taking care of Mother Earth,
begin from the heart.
Let the goodness you create
within become dynamic
in your actions outside.
Don’t underestimate
the impact of your actions because
big change comes from small steps.





I remember a few years ago in India, the monsoons arrived much later than expected. That summer was brutal, and we had thousands of small trees all over Kanha precariously hanging in the balance. There wasn’t enough water to go around, and it was only a matter of weeks before the saplings would die. So, visitors who came to meditate brought cans and bottles of water with them in their vehicles. They would drive to the farthest corners and water the saplings. Hundreds of visitors each day started bringing water with them. You may wonder, what can a few bottles of water do? Each small effort gave the plants the extra week or two they needed before the rains arrived.

Keep taking small steps to become a better child of Mother Earth. She takes care of us, and we can do our bit in caring for her.

Small Changes You Can Make

  1. Reduce, reuse, recycle, rethink, recover – the 5 Rs.
    For example,
    • Avoid impulse online buying. Keep adding items to your cart and order once or twice a month. You will save on packaging materials and emissions from the delivery.
    • When you travel, invest in a good water bottle to carry with you. Try to reduce buying bottled water.
    • Stick to short showers and turn off the lights when not needed.
  2. Teach children the idea of Yama early in life.
  3. Meditate to free your mind of thought pollution.


1 The Guardian, Damian Carrington Environment Editor: “Global warming of oceans equivalent to an atomic bomb per second.” https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/jan/07/global-warming-of-oceans-equivalent-to-an-atomic-bomb-per-second.


Daaji

Daaji

Kamlesh Patel is known to many as Daaji. He is the Heartfulness Guide in a tradition of Yoga meditation that is over 100 years old, overseeing 14,000 certified Heartfulness trainers and many volunteers in over 130 countries. He is an innovator and researcher, equally at home in the fields of spirituality and science, blending the... Read more

12 COMMENTS

  1. Thanks Daaji for enlightening us how Kanha transformed, and how we can focus through Yama.

  2. Very inspiring. The spiritual aspect of this presentation to encourage care of Mother Earth speaks deeply to my heart and soul.

  3. Wonderful. Such a beautiful, caring, and loving article. You guide us in simple and authentic steps to change ourselves and the environment, to wake up and take responsibility as humans on a wonderful giving planet. To love Mother Earth and revere her how we revered our own mothers.

  4. Amazing article. I will share these thoughts with my students and also do my bit to save mother Earth.

  5. Our goals are to build a sustainable economy, offer jobs, and create a community that lives in harmony with nature. We will see them coming true with flying colors as we keep following with gratitude whatever is shared here.

  6. Definitely small steps to help mother Earth makes a big difference. Thank you for an enlightening article.

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