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How Hinduism’s relationship with nature can help solve the ecological crisis

It didn’t take long for England’s missionaries to come to a conclusion about India upon completing their earliest visits to the region. It was, in their eyes, an uncivilized country, filled with the most barbarous habits of mythology, polytheism, and perhaps worst of all, idolatry.

To them, scenes of worshipers bowing down to ghastly statues of some strange god or goddess was enough to be considered a truly grotesque example of human degeneration. When they realized, however, such worship extended to that of animals, rivers, trees, and even objects like stones, they were certain the people of India were deluged in a frightful culture of ignorance, one that was, to be sure, immeasurably beneath their own Christian background.

It was thus with this attitude they invaded India, plundering the country for its abundance of gold, jewels, and other natural resources, eventually endeavoring to root out the culture of its primitive inhabitants, who were lucky to be bestowed with a new and infinitely more civilized one.

The world’s perception of India has evolved significantly since those days of British colonialism and the missionary fervor of the 19th century. Though many people now have recognized the immense value Hinduism’s traditions contain — most popularly yoga and most recently through Ayurveda — a lack of appreciation for many of its other practices, fueled by a lack of understanding, continue to persist. This, of course, is incredibly unfortunate, considering these practices have much to offer in terms of addressing some of the major issues plaguing our time.

When it comes, in particular, to the issue many consider to be the most pressing — the ongoing ecological crisis threatening us all — it just so happens the practice the British found most egregious, anthropomorphism, or the act of placing human traits on non-human aspects, imbibes the very mood we need more of to restore the health of the environment.

A lofty claim, to be sure, this mood, fogged to outsiders by a false perception of its primitiveness, can indeed save the planet, if we can only begin to understand the foundation from which it is built upon: a fundamental worldview that everything around us is sacred.

Perhaps a somewhat nebulous concept on the surface, sacredness, from a Hindu perspective, stems from the idea that all of creation originates from the same Divine source, and so everyone and everything, including animals, nature, and even inanimate objects, are permeated by its presence.

The more connected we become to this presence, the more connected we become to all that surrounds us, as natural feelings of this connectedness, like appreciation, gratitude, honor, and empathy, foster within us the desire to take care of the delicate balance that maintains all of existence.


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