Mata Bhumihi, putroham prithivyah
(Earth is my mother, I am her son) Atharv Veda 12-1-12
Recently, a Tamil Nadu-based Christian priest was arrested for making derogatory statements against Hindus, Bharat Mata, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah. He also made a veiled threat to the local Hindus. One of the most appalling statements he made was: “we wear shoes because impurities of your Bharat Mata should not contaminate us.” Many patriotic people were upset by his remarks.
Bharat Mata is much more to us than a piece of earth – it is our mother, our emotion and symbol of our national selfhood and vision. This emotion had inspired several freedom fighters to take a plunge into revolutionary movements, and continues to inspire our brave jawans to lay down their lives. We, millions of swayamsevaks across the country, daily seek her forgiveness, in the pratasmarana, for placing their feet on her body.
Only a rabid communal person can make such derogatory statements. However, when we subject his statements to close scrutiny, we realize that part of the blame should go to his religious education. His strong faith in Biblical concepts has inspired him to make such irresponsible remarks. The Biblical concepts have wreaked havoc on the environment. One can say with certainty that the Climate Change disaster is the result of the Biblical view on nature and the environment.
In the very first chapter of the Bible, God instructs Adam and Eve, to ‘fill the earth and subdue it’. Judaism, which first produced monotheism, the core philosophy of all Abrahamic religions, was opposed to the Pagan religion which personified forces of nature and deified them – in many ways much similar to the Hindu Dharma. In Abrahamic religions, god was someone detached from the earth, sitting high up in the sky, and beyond the forces of nature.
This separation of god from nature has been leading to several far-reaching consequences. Abrahamic religionists imagined that men occupied an exalted position in the natural order than the nature-based pagans. The Hebrew Bible says God made humanity a little lower than him, ‘with dominion over god’s creation’. The god has put ‘all things under their feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas’. In the Epistle to the Romans in the New Testament, Paul, the Apostle, says:
Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed forever. …For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature (Romans 1:25& 26).
According to the Biblical concept, the separation between the abode of supernatural god and the human-ruled earth is absolute, and that to venerate nature meant idolatry. Being idolatrous in that sense, Hindus and Pagans became target groups to be converted or killed. The Christians and later Muslims considered it their divine duty to exterminate ‘idolatrous pagans’ and destroy their temples and places of worship.
According to environmental historian Clarence J. Glacken, one of the key ideas in the religious and philosophical thought of Western civilization, which is derived from Christianity, is that humans, sinful though they are, nevertheless occupy ‘a position on earth comparable to that of god in the universe’.
In the wake of the looming environmental crisis and the allegation that the problem stemmed from ‘Christian arrogance and anthropocentrism’, there have been efforts by some Christian denominations to get around this by proposing new concepts like ‘stewardship’ theory. But this is not a major departure from the original Biblical idea. Moreover, there aren’t many takers for it among conservative Christians in the West. They continue to propagate the theory that the whole debate about the environmental issue is a ‘scam’ and ‘hoax’.
The only lasting solution to the issue is to respect the forces of nature. The Hindu philosophy considers nature to be mother and that is the best way forward.
With the advent of Marxism, this gap between nature and human beings widened further. If Semitic religions put it overtly, Marx defined his political ideology on the very basis of this division. He explicitly argued that humankind has evolved after the persistent confrontation with nature.
Marxism, fundamentally a ‘productivist’ ideology, not an inclusive one, has obviously little to say, and little concern, about the fate of the environment. History, therefore, is nothing but human beings’ efforts to subjugate nature. Upon this very premature and pessimistic premise, Communists have erected their ideology and the contemporary development models.
The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, in 2019, launched a unique initiative of environment conservation. When it was launched, many sceptics had wondered, why on earth, should RSS launch such an initiative? Principles of environmentalism are ingrained in the religion and worldview of a Hindu.