Puffins on Inner Farne Island
We recently went to the Farne Islands on a boat trip. I had been before but not during the nesting season. The islands were absolutely covered with nesting birds; Puffins, Terns, Gannets, and more. The terns vigorously defended their nests, swooping and diving at us when we approached. The whole islands were teaming with life. It is very easy to see the gillemots, they stay on their nests even when people approach close up. The terns swoop at people trying to drive them away from their eggs and young. It is easy to see these birds as inspirational examples of parenthood and devotion to the young. For them the people approaching are seen as real risks, standing up to a ‘predator’ is a matter of life and death.
Gillemot Remains on Nest
We should not forget that the huge nesting population of these islands is fed by the fish in the surrounding ocean. Some birds will eat other’s eggs and young given half a chance. The beauty of these islands is sustained by “nature red in tooth and claw”, the circle of life. How do we as Hindus reconcile the beauty of nature with the death and suffering necessary to sustain it? Why do Hindus practice ahimsa, non-harm, towards all creatures when nature itself involves violence?
A while a go I wrote about Hinduism’s attitude to the environment, suggesting that protection of the environment is a duty. I am pleased to say that other Hindus seem to think the same way. A declaration was posted at the Parliament of World Religions, in Melbourne, Australia which supported environmental protection. The declaration begins:
The Hindu tradition understands that man is 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. We 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.
The Swastika Stone on Ilkley Moor
India has many holy places. In addition to man made temples, rivers such as the Ganges and mountains such as Mount Kailash are considered holy. Like the temples, these are considered as places where the physical world is closer to the domain of the Devas and of God. For Hindus outside India visiting such places might be a once in a lifetime pilgrimage. I hope that I will one day be able to visit these sacred sites, but I have not been in a position to do so yet.
However there may be holy places nearer to home. Some of these places may have been recognised as holy in ancient times. Originally the message of the Vedas was known through the world. Symbols such as the Swastika stone on Ilkley Moor show that these places were revered by our ancestors. The atmosphere of sacredness and the closeness to the spiritual world is still present today.
I saw a television program a while back that was looking at attitudes towards environmentalism and conservation The program asked a leader of a Hindu ashram, who said that their attitude was one of detachment. I was disappointed with this answer and I aim to show that Hindus should be concerned with the environment.
I will do this by showing that protection of the environment is seen as a duty of leaders in Hinduism. I will also show that Hinduism has an innate respect and reverence for nature and the environment. Finally I will show that what is seen as the duty of leaders is in these days a duty for us all.