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Posted on: Sept 11, 2014
Natural Calamities: Who's Responsible?
- A Panel Discussion
Despite our technological and scientific breakthroughs, why does humanity appear so helpless in face of the punitive damages that Nature's fury is hitting us with? What did Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba say about natural disasters and man's responsibility towards the environment? Has this issue been tackled adequately in the ancient scriptures of India and if so, is that perspective still relevant to our times? And how is Adam Smith responsible for our rage to ravage our planet so ruthlessly?
Two academicians from the Sai University, Prof. Gangadhara Sastry (GS) of the Department of Political Science and Dr. Deepak Anand (DA) of the Department of Management Studies take up the hot buttons issues that few dare to touch.
Here are edited excerpts of their detailed discussion moderated by Radio Sai's Karuna Munshi (KM) on the topic of Natural Disasters. This was first aired on Radio Sai in its Thursday Live segment - Morning Glory of 25 July 2013.
We All Are Connected
KSM: This topic of natural disasters goes back to our understanding of nature itself. Let's go back to ancient times. Prof. Gangadhara Sastry, what is the importance of nature as revealed through our scriptures and our epics?
GS: Sairam to everybody! From the very beginning of civilization, since times immemorial, Bharat or India has given the knowledge of nature to the entire world. Nature is worshipped as ‘Vishwa Swaroopa’, which is actually the entire universe. We don't talk about one planet or one continent here. ‘Vishwa’ is something about which Bhagawan Baba spoke on a number of occasions. Swami said that scientists are learning nowadays to realize that this is not the only galaxy; there are millions of galaxies like this outside and it is not possible for any of us to visualise all these galaxies in our mind.
That is what is called as ‘Vishwa Swaroopa’. This ‘Vishwa’ is totally interconnected because the soul of the entire universe is related to every individual soul.
KSM: That's deep! This is a vast universe. Are you telling me that all the galaxies and everything is interconnected and so am I to them?
GS: Totally. That is the reason why in ancient times the sages and saints in India who were sitting in one place were able to connect themselves to the entire universe and describe the mysteries of the universe in their writings. Talking about the Vedas - we do not know the origin of Vedas even till today - the Apaurusheyas emanated just like that; where from and how all this wisdom emerged we don't know.
In the same way when we talk about nature, there is a wonderful balance maintained and created by whosoever we call as the ‘Vishwa Virata Swaroopa’ - He is the one responsible for creating this balance between the various species. Sometimes we think that there are some species which are dangerous to us, but scientific investigations in modern times reveal that they help us in maintaining balance in the ecosystem. You may be scared of some wild creatures but there are many people in this world who live with wild creatures and consider them as members of their family. Just because we are not able to do it, we shouldn't think that it does not exist.
KSM: A fantastic example that comes to mind is the monastery in Thailand, where Buddhist monks have wild cats, I think tigers, roaming around like pets. And because of that love energy, they are so peaceful and nonviolent.
GS: Not only that, if we are familiar with our scriptures and the lives of our seers and sages like Vishwamitra, Vasishtha, Kashyapa and others who maintained ashrams in the ancient times, all creatures lived in peace and harmony with each other.
And as recently as in the ashram of Ramana Maharshi, creatures which are naturally not poised to live together, considered to be enemies, maintained friendly postures towards each other. Adi Shankaracharya is believed to have started an ashram where a snake was holding its hood to a frog to protect it from the sunshine.
All these things happen. In the ashram of Valmiki or Vasishtha, all the animals were living together. It is said that when Vishwamitra was about to leave his ashram and was walking towards the Himalayas for penance, the animals followed him to a long distance. Vishwamitra turned back and spoke to them and told them that he was not going to come back soon and it was good for them to go back and live in the ashram. So all the animals retreated to the ashram and lived there.
Questions are asked in modern times as to what language Vishwamitra spoke. Bhagawan Baba always said there is a language called the language of the heart. Just because we don't understand the language of the heart, we should not say that it is not there. We can speak when we have our hearts in place. We should really capture this most important message from nature.
Tend to Nature as You Would Your Own Mother
KSM: So what I am hearing is that nature is extremely intelligent and sensitive and this fact was recognized in the most ancient scriptures such as the Vedas. Now if India is hyped to be such a spiritually advanced civilization, what's going on now? Dr. Deepak Anand, your thoughts?
DA: Thank you very much sister Karuna. I will first of all take it one step further from what Gangadhara Sastry Garu has just told us, about the morals that live in our hearts and what drew all these animals, which we say are a lower species, towards a great sage and made them follow him in obedience. These morals and values which live in our heart are most powerful and they connect with every being in the world - animate or inanimate.
That is why I firmly believe, as Sastry Garu also said, that the Vedas are not only the primary source of moral enhancement for the economic man but also reveal the past for misguided ecology to achieve true sustainability. If we have to sustain ourselves in the long run, we have to trust our Vedas. When they say that it is our ‘Nadi Mata (Mother River)’ or ‘Bhu Mata (Mother Earth)’ or ‘Go Mata (Mother Cow)’, there is meaning. The Vedas tell us that ‘Mateva Putraan Rakshaswa’. The Rig Veda says that we should protect Mother Nature as our own mother itself; it is one of our mothers.
KSM: One of the five mothers.
DA: Yes, the five mothers that we have. How do we treat our mother? With great reverence and respect and love.
And protect her in times of her need. When she is not well, we sacrifice even our lives to save her, but today we are violating her.
In fact in Kautilya's ‘Arthashastra’ and in other scriptures, we always talk about the concept of ‘Mangalya’. What does a mother give you? She gives you her blessings - that you have ‘Mangalya’ or auspiciousness in your life. Let me list the five mothers. Veda Mata is the Vedas, the Upanishads or the ancient scriptures who are like our mother and guide us towards the right direction of our life, telling us the purpose of our life. Then we have Bhu Mata, Mother earth which sustains all of us. Then we have Desha Mata, our country which gives us sustenance and brings us up with protection. We also have Deha Mata, our actual mother.
All these mothers give us protection and sustenance and our duty as sons and daughters is to give them protection in return. What I feel is that the external crisis we are today witnessing in the environment is a crisis of the internal lack of unity with our own mothers – with our own roots and our own culture.
Bharath - The Spiritual Mentor
KSM: So it is just an external manifestation of a much deeper problem at a deep spiritual level. We are analysing this problem from a deep spiritual perspective. Prof. Sastry, what would you say if someone argued that India as the spiritual engine of the world is overly hyped when you see the current situation here?
GS: There is no question of overhyping - India is the spiritual mother of the world because the Vedas, the Upanishads and other scriptures are still very much vibrant in India.
We go on performing lot of yagnas and yagas to propitiate the goodwill and blessings of sacred souls or angels - the supernatural powers which conduct the entire universe.
In our country, we have the knowledge of everything that is happening in the entire universe in minute detail. Whatever is happening is described precisely to benefit humans. If you want to live in peace, what are you supposed to do? It is clearly given to us by the Vedas and Upanishads. It is very simple, as is repeatedly told by Bhagawan Baba - See Good, Do good, Think Good. Always think of the welfare of others before your own welfare. Today the problem is that everybody is becoming self-centred and wants to gain everything for himself, even at the cost of his own family. Selfishness is the root cause of all problems in the world.
The second problem as pointed out by Swami is jealousy. Swami described jealousy as worse than cancer. Your bad thoughts are going to destroy nature. As I understand it - because it is revealed through Ramayana - the process of committing an evil begins with the emanation of the thought itself in your mind. If you get a bad thought, it is going to disturb nature because it pollutes the entire environment. That is the reason in Prasanthi Nilayam we start the morning with Omkaram, Suprabhatam, Vedam chanting and bhajans. From morning till evening, all the time we are involved in some spiritual activity or the other.
Even a small thing like a Sevadal serving meal in the canteen saying ‘Sairam’, ‘Sairam’ is going to lend wonderful vibrations to the air. Do you know why you've got this body? Can you answer the question of why you got this body and who you are?
KSM: Theoretically speaking, I guess I am God having a human experience through this body.
GS: Yeah, but how many people think like that?
KSM: And internalize it too. I am just saying it theoretically but to remember it at all times is definitely a challenge.
GS: But where is the time for people to think of God in modern times?
Bhagawan Baba went to the extent of saying that nobody wants to do namaskar to the other person, bringing both his palms together. He thinks it is below his dignity. Nobody understands that when you are doing namaskar to somebody, you are doing namaskar to yourself because you see God in the other person.
The whole perception of life has to change. We have to go back to our ancient times when life was visualized as a part of the entire natural scheme wherein you are given an opportunity to spend the time allotted to you to work for the welfare of the entire universe without disturbing anything in it. This means you have a pure mind and a pure heart and you enjoy living. That is why the Vedas say ‘Sahana Vavatu, Sahanau Bhunaktu, Sahaviryam Karavavahai, Tejasvinavadhee Tamastu Maa Vidvishavahai’ (May God Protect us, May God Nourish us, May we Work Together with Energy and Vigour, May our Study be Enlightening and not give rise to Hostility.)
KSM: You do it for the greater good of the largest number - mutual benefit - not only exclusively for yourself.
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