Environmental pollution is a spiritual problem

THE CLAIM is that all our environmental problems can be solved by listening to the compelling call of our own timeless culture. What message - buried within the Indian culture - is so simple yet so profound that it can "fix" the unfixable? In its very first mantra, Isha Upanisad, a frequently read Vedic text, reminds us that everything animate and inanimate within this universe is controlled and owned by the Lord. Therefore, one should only accept those things which are set aside as one's quota, and not accept other things. Pollution, as stated in the scriptures, is a direct result of "over-consumption", which in turn is a product of greed, and greed is generated by materialism combined with secularism. There is something deep within each of us that seems to baffle our hopes for a more liveable world. At the root of the problem is a relentless, almost unconscious drive to have and enjoy more than we really need. Environmental pollution is a spiritual problem, and it demands a spiritual solution. The greatest barrier to an ecologically balanced environment is a materialistic world-view that defines the individual as a biochemical machine operating in a godless, soul-less universe. Unfortunately, this widespread theory forms the basis of most modern scientific thought. It is known as "reductionism". Reductionism has given rise to a civilisation driven to exploit the earth's resources and creatures without restriction. Indian culture teaches that we live in a world designed by God. Individuals who are aware of God, don't want to possess, control, or enjoy more than they actually require. Vedic wisdom instructs that God is the ultimate proprietor of everything, and that each living being on earth, according to its needs, has inherent rights to his or her share of this planet's God-given resources. These principles are part of nature's system of inviolable higher order laws, including the law of karma. A practical outline for an ecologically sound way of life may be found in the Hare Krishna movement's books of Vedic knowledge, which recommend the chanting of the Hare Krishna mantra for transforming consciousness from material to the spiritual. With the right formula, we can transform our environment. If awareness of our position in the world and the message of Bhagavad Gita and Isha Upanisad are rightly understood, the consciousness of our world can change, and when consciousness changes, everything else changes for the better. The writer is emeritus member of the ISKCON Governing Body Commission