By Md Ejazul Haque
It is a fact that the various religions help, motivate and support ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION. All the faiths and religions acknowledge the need for environmental awareness and protection. Their preachers and spiritual leaders quote messages from their religious books about protection of environment and nature. They are emerging to make environmental protection a serious moral requirement.
All religions agree that nature is an act of divinity and should be treated as such. Almost all religions address the issue of the creation of the universe, in different forms and with varying degrees of clarity or detail. It is enlightening to learn different sayings on environmental protection by religious leaders. They all always preach to co-exist with nature and every living being. They envisaged a world where human beings, animals, birds and plants are living in complete harmony.
Religious reformers are critical to the success of the global solidarity for an ethical, moral and spiritual commitment to protect the environment. When we collect the data of schools on our earth, we find that more than 50 per cent of our educational institutions are run by religious leaders and theocrats; therefore, they play a vital role in propagation of knowledge in the society about the damage we are doing to our environment and how we can change the thinking of the people.
In the present scenario these religious preachers can become observers, make public commitments, share the story of their commitments and the challenges and joys of keeping them, and invite others to join them. In addition, they can display their sustainable behaviours, serving as role models for their followers and the public. The following is a reflection on how religions have addressed religious commitments towards the protection of environment.
Hinduism: Hinduism is a religion deeply rooted in nature. The sacred texts have many references of divinity related to nature, such as rivers, mountains, trees, animals, and the earth. To protect them, Hinduism encourages environmental protection and there are organisations that promote sustainable development and support the protection of the environment through awareness campaigns and actions (Green Faith, 2010).
“I shall now explain the knowable, knowing which you will taste the eternal. Brahman, the spirit, beginningless and subordinate to Me, lies beyond the cause and effect of this material world.” (Bhagavad Gita, 13.13) “According to the different modes of material nature – the mode of goodness, the mode of passion and the mode of darkness – there are different living creatures, who are known as demigods, human beings and hellish living entities. O King, even a particular mode of nature, being mixed with the other two, is divided into three, and thus each kind of living creature is influenced by the other modes and acquires its habits also.” (Bhagavata Purana, 2.10.41)
There is an inseparable bond between man and nature. For man, there cannot be an existence removed from nature. Hinduism teaches that the five great elements (space, air, fire, water and earth) that constitute the environment are all derived from prakriti, the primal energy. Each of these elements has its own life and form; together the elements are interconnected and interdependent. The Upanishads explains the interdependence of these elements in relation to Brahma, the supreme reality, from which they arise: “From Brahma arises space, from space arises air, from air arises fire, from fire arises water, and from water arises earth.”
Islam: In Islam the protection of environmental balance is part of the religious faith. A man who reads the Qur’ān can easily understand how sacred the universe around him is. Islam teaches not only about the relationship between man and God but also between man and man and man and the environment. A true Muslim can never embark on any act which causes imbalances in nature. Prophet Muhammad ﷺ loved nature more than any human being. He gave the humanity the most valuable teachings on how to protect and preserve nature. He said, “If any one of you is holding a seedling in his hand intending to plant it and then the doomsday starts, let him plan it.”
Buddhism: The notion of karma alone, being an important part of Buddha’s lessons, conveys the values of conservation and responsibility for the future. It is said that the morality of our actions in the present will shape our character for the future, an idea close of sustainable development.
“As a bee – without harming the blossom, its colour, its fragrance – takes its nectar and flies away: so should the sage go through a village.” (Dhammapada IV, Pupphavagga: Blossoms, 49) Christianity: There are approximately one hundred verses in the Bible that talk about protection of environment. Christians therefore have environmental responsibility and encourage behavioural change for the good of the future. “When they all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” (John, 6:12)
“We must treat nature with the same awe and wonder that we reserve for human beings. And we do not need this insight in order to believe in God or to prove his existence. We need it to breathe; we need it for us simply to be.” (Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, 2010)
“The urgent challenge to protect our common home includes a concern to bring the whole human family together to seek a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change. The Creator does not abandon us; he never forsakes his loving plan or repents of having created us. Humanity still has the ability to work together in building our common home.” (Pope Francis, 2015)
Jainism: Originated from India, the main teaching from Jainism is Ahimsa, the non-violence, in all walks of life. Verbally, physically and mentally, Jainism doctrines focus on a peaceful and disciplined life. Kindness to animals, vegetarianism and self-restraint with the avoidance of waste are parts of Jains’ life. In addition, “Do not injure, abuse, oppress, enslave, insult, torment, torture, or kill any creature or living being.” (Mahavira)
Judaism: In tradition, the land and environment are properties of God, and it is the duty of humankind to take care of it. The book of genesis, as an example, proposes that the garden in Eden was initially the chosen territory chosen by God for human to live.
“And God said: ‘Behold, I have given you every herb yielding seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed – to you it shall be for food .”
So religious organisations can play a significant role at local, regional, national and global level in addressing climate change, pollution, biodiversity loss and deforestation. Many of the world’s religions consider nature sacred and religious leaders have increasingly come out in favour of protecting it – including by acting to curb climate change. As religions connect with people’s emotions and personal lives, they could help mobilise people in the fight against climate change where facts and politics have failed. Religious organisations also control trillions of dollars in assets, which could support that fight against environmental pollution.
[The writer is a teacher at MS Diwankhana, Chatra, Jharkhand; and member Textbook Development Committee JCERT Ranchi, Jharkhand]