Sai devotees and Global Warming
We are here to discuss one of the growing problems in the world, which relates to every human being, every place on earth, and which has a solution that we can incorporate in our life serving dual purpose—for the benefit of the humanity, and for our own spiritual benefit. We will discuss the problem and the solutions in detail from worldly and spiritual angles.
In the famous part of the epic Mahābhārata, Vidura Neeti, the famous Mahātamā Vidura makes a point to the king Dhritrāshtra, when he was beseeched by the king for his wise counsel:
यस्य कृत्यं न विघ्नन्ति शीतमुष्णं भयं रतिः ।
समृद्धिरसमृद्धिर्वा स वै पण्डित उच्यते ।। (Chapter 1, Canto 24)
The canto means that: whose works or actions are not hindered by winter, summer, fear and praise, by prosperity and adversity; he is called a “Pandit—a learned one”.
However, at present, it seems, the works and actions of all the learned ones are hindering the climate change and they have affected the cycles of winters and summers. All over the globe, the dire consequences of global warming are hovering like dark clouds that are ready to pour down their stores on unsheltered and unprepared souls—no wonder that the deluge will wreak havoc on humanity. Nature is feeling suffocated in wake of global warming—in the Alps, butterflies have totally vanished. Flying foxes are dying in thousands of numbers. Polar bears are facing extinction due to rising temperatures and melting ice. Monkeys are changing their habitat. However, at the same time, humanity is also facing severe shortage of food, epidemic and pandemic threats of diseases, floods, draughts, earth-quakes, and other natural calamities.
Let us have some information about the problems that the whole humanity is facing:
- Due to excessive and thoughtless usage of water, the world is facing severe water shortage, which intensifies in some areas of the world. This leaves many people bereft of potable water and also water that could be used for any domestic activity.
- Due to excessive and continued growth of automobiles, cars, planes, and different types of vehicles, the carbon emission has increased to a level from where it is expected that the humanity can’t come back. Carbon emission caused by these vehicles is the main contribution in global warming along with the coal power plants.
- Due to excessive and selfishly geared marketing of electric goods and electronic consumer items, the power consumption has increased, which again contributes hugely to global warming. Electricity production and consumption both have carbon emission effects.
- Excessive, selfish, and purposeless cutting of trees, and failure to grow equivalent number of trees to offset carbon and provide some method to carbon offsetting has heightened the threat of global warming.
- Excessive use of paper, unawareness about the use of recycled paper, and failure in reducing wastage of paper has helped to aggravate the demand of trees that are cut for paper formation.
These five major issues are the principal concepts that the world is trying to solve. There are whole lots of efforts being put in by almost all the countries of the world. The developed countries are putting more effort, for, they come under the Kyoto plan; however, developing countries and under-developed countries are not dormant in this effort. But one of the major points that all the researchers and scientists are looking to drive home is the contribution of individuals. This is where we, as Sāi Devotees, could play a vital role in presenting a role model to the world. We would discuss this point in details later.
Let’s have a peep on some of the efforts put in by the world to curb global warming or to reduce its increase:
- UN, EU, and governments of developed countries are funding projects in developing and under-developed countries that are geared towards using renewable energy resources. These bodies are also providing funds to offset carbon emission.
- IATA banned paper airline tickets, and from June 1, 2008, only e-tickets will be issued. This would save an estimated 50,000 mature trees in one year that are used to produce the amount of paper used in paper air-tickets. 3. Vatican City has decided to grow a jungle on one of the islands of Hungry to offset its carbon.
- Honda and other automobile giants are going to manufacture hydrogen-based cars, which will help reducing the carbon emission of internal combustion engines.
- Computer companies like Dell, Toshiba, Google ,Yahoo, and HP are funding carbon offsetting projects to offset the carbon emission produced by their products.
- London 2012 Olympic Games have banned the usage of private cars for spectators. Beijing 2008 Olympic Games are making every effort to turn their games eco-friendly.
- Schools in England are encouraging students and their parents to use public transport instead of private vehicles. Similar efforts are being executed in other countries also.
- Tourism industry has switched to new trends—sustainable tourism, responsible tourism, green tourism, poor tourism, and eco-tourism.
- Research centres, awareness centres, and working groups have been formed in many places so that fight against global warming can be ignited more.
- Virgin Atlantic, Qatar Airways, Ryanair, Lufthansa, and many other airlines are looking to adopt bio-fuels to propel their aircrafts.
There are many worldwide activities that are going around the globe. I hope that by now, it has become clear that we need to put some efforts in this regard. However, till now, we have not discussed the matter from other angle—spirituality. Now we take into account the spiritual aspect of global warming and our obligations to nature.
What Swāmi has to say about the natural elements and our obligations towards their use?
In the vast cosmos, man is like a speck. Essentially, there is no conflict between man and creation. Just as a child is entitled to enjoy milk from its mother and the bee is entitled to enjoy honey from flowers, there can be no objection to man enjoying the resources of Nature.
But, as a result of uncontrollable desires and reckless exploitation of natural resources, Nature is exhibiting frightening disorders. Natural calamities like earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, droughts and floods are the result of disturbances in the balance of Nature caused by reckless exploitation of natural resources.
Mankind today appears like a foolish man who is wielding an axe at the branch of the tree on which he is sitting. (13th January 1997)
These golden words of Swāmi were also published in the famous daily Times of India. It is clear that Swāmi allows us to enjoy the nature and its varieties, but not with excessive exploitation and causing imbalance. The body is made up of the natural materials and it is directly related to their proportion in nature. If we are disturbing the natural elements, our health and well-being is also disturbed. Recent reports and scientific research are showing many diseases and health problems that are springing up due to global warming. No wonder that globalization, consumerism, and extreme marketing principles have contributed more to this cause, but surely, ceiling on desires and sense control are the potent weapons that would assist us in our fight against global warming.
In many Upnishads, Purānas and ancient texts, natural elements are said to emerge from the divine itself. In Suryo-upnishad, the lines come:
आदित्याद्वायुर्जायते । आदित्याद्भूमिर्जायते । आदित्यादापोजायन्ते । आदित्याज्जयोतिर्जायते।
In Nārayana Upnishad, it is said:
नारायणात्प्राणो जायते । मनः सर्वेन्द्रियाणि च । खं वायुर्ज्योतिरापः पृथिवी विश्वस्य धारिणी ।
Natural elements are verily God and they come from God only. This is main reason why during ancient times, people used to worship these elements to show their gratefulness towards nature, who was christened as the ‘Mother Nature’. Man, at that time, was not more concerned about gratifying its needs; rather, to put more efforts in the pursuit of eternal goal, which is laid down for humanity—verily reaching God: from animality to humanity and from humanity to divinity.
Man should not make himself a slave of nature. It has to rise above its desires and control the senses, which are always running towards their respective elemental enjoyment, so as to get closer to God. Discriminative power needs to be in play and detachment needs to be developed so that we can follow the Vedic principle of “Nèti-Nèti”—not this, not this. Though all the things of the universe emanate from God itself, but Māyā—the universal delusion—also emerges from Him. We have to uncover the veil of Māyā and recognize the divinity.
In Bhāgvad-Gitā, Lord Krishna declares very clearly:
ध्यायतो विषयान् पुंसः सङगस्तेषूपजायते ।
सङगात्सञजायते कामः कामात्क्रोधोअभिजायते ।।
(A person who concentrates on sense-objects gets rooted in them. This rooting produce wants to possess them. From these wants, anger is produced when they are not fulfilled)
क्रोधाद्भवति सम्मोहः सम्मोहात्स्मृतिविभ्रमः ।
स्मृतिभ्रंशाद् बुद्धिनाशो बुद्धिनाशात्प्रणश्यति ।।
(From anger arises delusion. From delusion, the power of remembrance gets deluded. From deluded remembrance, wisdom is lost, and from lost wisdom, the man faces downfall.)
रागद्वेषवियुक्तैस्तु विषयानिन्द्रियैश्चरन् ।
आत्मवश्यैर्विधेयात्मा प्रसादमधिगच्छति ।।
(The person who masters the instincts of attachment and anger and controls the senses from objects, he gets happiness from his own self.)
प्रसादे सर्वदुःखानां हानिरस्योपजायते ।
प्रसन्नचेतसो ह्याशु बुद्धिः पर्यवतिष्ठते ।। (Chapter 2, Canto 60-63)
(Feeling happy about his own self, all the grief is lost. And the wisdom of this happy person gets fixed in God)
The essence of these lines lie in the fundamental statement that Lord Krishna wanted to convey that the man concerned about the elements gets caught in the world. It experiences greed, anger, attachment, and delusion, which annihilate the wisdom, and thus the man faces downfall. However, the person who rises above these and concentrates on the Ātmā-principle and has mastered the mind-sense complex, he is always happy and gets fixed in God.
No wonder that in the present times, we are moving exactly opposite to this principle. We are fully engrossed in the unbridled exploitations of our sense and hankering thoroughly to satisfy them, which are often at the cost of imbalance and damage to the nature. There is no one to stop us other than our own self, which is embodied by Swāmi, who is here to guide us. Swāmi had already envisioned this thing and he launched a master plan to counter this: EHV and ceiling on desire programmes are what we need at the present time. When children are developed in the system where they learn to respect elders, natural elements, and understand their goal in life, they are not exploiters but preservers. When elders and children together practice desire-control, they help to maintain equilibrium and balance in natural elements and feel happiness.
Global warming, climate change, and worsening weather conditions of the world do not have only materialistic or worldly obligations but also spiritual obligations, which we, as Sāi Devotees, should surely undertake. Let’s now venture to have a look on some activities that are of our concern and that can help us do some bit and contribute to the larger cause.
Making Puttāparthi green—eco-friendly
Puttāparthi is fast becoming the biggest tourist place in the world, though the motive of the tourists is different than other usual destinations. It becomes almost a duty of people who follow Bhagwān Shri Sathya Sāi Bābā and would like to participate in an activity that has its global impact for good, to try to make Puttāparthi green—green in terms of reducing its carbon footprints, using renewable energy resources, and also to conserve energy wherever possible. Growing more and more trees wherever it is possible would be the crown mark of all the decoration that we would discuss here!
Of course, I myself love this place when we visit Puttāparthi and love to buy some books that I can read. With the new building and growing popularity of Sāi literature, there are thousands of copies of books in different languages that are published and printed. Of course, new paper is used in many of them, and I guess only a few books would be using recycled paper. It is clear that this is the biggest area where we can preserve the trees. There are two remedies for this—the trust people should ask the printers to use recycled paper for all the books that have text matter only. Photographs or graphics can use better paper for the quality of the matter. It would surely save a lot of trees that are used for new paper books. I would cite the example of aviation industry, which has asked many countries to discontinue paper tickets for flights and switch to online-tickets.
The second measure can be taken by devotees themselves—everyone should plant one tree in his/her country. People who like to read books and buy many of them have more responsibility to contribute in this cause—they should grow corresponding number of trees to the number of books they buy from SSSBPT. This would ensure that we are offsetting the carbon if not reducing the consumption of trees. Though this could sound a bit impractical, but if you read news or stories about carbon offsetting and climate change, you would regularly come up face-to-face with such suggestions.
Using solar power and fluorescent lighting in the Āsharam
Using solar power and using energy efficient CFL lamps would be another step that can be taken. This idea can virtually be implemented in almost all of Puttāparthi, and it would result in a lot of saving of the power bills and also for the environment. We can take the example of Shirdi and Tirupati Bālāji. Both these spiritual places are using solar cookers to cook food for large number of devotees. Using the CFL lamps in college, schools, museums, and also inside the Ashram would help energy saving, better illumination, and also being environment-friendly.
Yes, this place has its own carbon footprints, for, it uses a lot of energy. At the same time, it has made us to use electricity when we hear their programmes, on radio or through internet. However, it is good thing, as we are not tuned to film-songs, new-channels, and other time-passing stuff, which is not good for our spiritual growth. However, in practical terms, a lot of carbon emission is generated through the usage of SGH. What listeners can do to offset is to plant trees and cut their other electrical consumption.
In fact, we have started an experiment here for this. I go to a Sāi school in my district to train children in computers. I told them that because we are using computers and it has carbon emission due to electricity consumption, we should cut our carbon emission from other sides. I have engaged them in a competition sort of thing where a student who would not watch TV for the whole month would get a prize. Similar efforts can be put in our daily lives where we can reduce our consumption of watching TV, listening music, or any other activity to compensate with SGH. Yes, planting trees is always a good idea.
Now we come to a very crucial part of all this long discussion—individual efforts. In the start of this article, I had mentioned that individual efforts are very much necessary, and so now, we will discuss them. Well, we would delineate some ways to reduce our carbon emission or to offset it; for, we can’t avoid coming to Puttāparthi and stopping to have the Darșhan of our beloved Lord. Okay, here are some of the suggestions:
- Reduce consumption of electricity in your homes. Try to train your body in facing some hardships of weather: reduce the usage of heating and cooling systems. It will help you cut your costs and bills, and at the same time the carbon emissions also.
- Reduce consumption of petroleum. Try to go to market on bikes and not on motorbikes or even on feet. This helps you to have a walk and reduce carbon emission.
- Use public transport as your means of commuting to your business or offices. In fact, in many developed countries, government offices are making it necessary for office-bearers to use public transport rather than private vehicles.
- Buy products that are manufactured locally. Transportation of items generates a lot of carbon emission.
- Use fluorescent lighting systems in your home. Also try to use solar power for generating electricity.
- Use recycled paper for your business. Try to recycle the waste-paper that is produced in your business.
- When you are going to holidays, choose some places that offer eco-holiday opportunities. Ecotourism and green tourism practices should be encouraged so as to avoid damage to nature.
- Avoid wastage of water.
- Plant as many as trees as you can. Local trees are best to grow, as they find the local weather more suitable for their growth. However, some foreign trees are also planted, which have quick growth-capacity. Do not fell trees for something which is not utterly necessary.
- Educate others about these methods and encourage others to adopt desire control and lesser exploitations of natural elements.
All these individual efforts are co-related to the principles of self-control and ceiling on desires. It takes a great and conscious effort to control the mind and senses; for, the market is full of sense-pulling objects for their gratification. We have to concentrate on the words of Swāmi and pray to him for his grace so that we can convert ourselves into preservers of ‘Mother Nature’ and good children of our ‘Father’.
Jai Sāi Rām!