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Hindu

Hindu

Hinduism is based on the Sanskrit name for the Indus River. The Hindu tradition understands that people are not separate from nature, that we are linked by spiritual, psychological and physical bonds with the elements around us. Knowing that the Divine is present everywhere and in all things, Hindus strive to do no harm. They hold a deep reverence for life and an awareness that the great forces of nature—the earth, the water, the fire, the air and space—as well as all the various orders of life, including plants and trees, forests and animals, are bound to each other within life’s cosmic web.

Hindu Leaders Celebrate Global Release of Hindu Declaration on Climate Change, 2015.
Image © Hindu American Foundation.

Respect for all

In acknowledging mankind’s role in the current environmental crisis, the Hindu Declaration on Climate Change (December 2009) declared that: “Our beloved Earth, so touchingly looked upon as the Universal Mother, has nurtured mankind through millions of years of growth and evolution. Now centuries of rapacious exploitation of the planet have caught up with us, and a radical change in our relationship with nature is no longer an option. It is a matter of survival. We cannot continue to destroy nature without also destroying ourselves.”

Key principles

Five fundamental concepts underlie a Hindu’s relationship with the environment.

Pancha Mahabhutas (The five great elements) space, air, fire, water, and earth – are the foundation of an interconnected web of life that is shown in the structure and interconnectedness of the cosmos and the human body.
Ishavasyam – Divinity is omnipresent and takes infinite forms. Hindu texts contain many references to the omnipresence of the Supreme divinity – including its presence throughout and within nature. In the Mahabharata, it alludes to individual species should enjoy their role within a larger system, in relationship with other species.
Protecting the environment is part of Dharma. Dharma, one of the most important Hindu concepts, has been translated into English as duty, virtue, cosmic order, and religion.  “Duty” – can be reinterpreted to include our responsibility to care for the earth. In Hinduism, protecting the environment is an important expression of dharma.
Our environmental actions affect our Karma. Karma – a central Hindu teaching – holds that each of our actions creates consequences – good and bad – which constitute our karma and determine our future fate.
Ahimsa (Nonviolence) – Non-violence is the greatest Dharma. Ahimsa to the earth also improves one’s karma. For observant Hindus, hurting or harming another being damages one’s karma and obstructs advancement toward moksha (liberation)

Hindu ancestors considered it their duty to save trees: and in order to do that they attached to every tree a religious sanctity.  Water is also considered by Hindus as a powerful medium of purification and also as a source of energy, and is used in sacred practices. In the Hindu prayer for peace, the ‘Shanti Mantra’, it says that not only regions, waters, plants trees, natural energies but all creatures should live in harmony and peace. Peace should remain everywhere. The mantra takes about the concord with the universe peace of sky, peace of mid-region, peace of earth, peace of waters, peace of plants, peace of trees, the peace of all”.

Ether, air, fire, water, earth, planets, all creatures, directions, trees and plants, rivers and seas. Remembering this, a devotee respects all species.

Srimad Bhagavata Mahapurana, 2.2.41

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