RELIGIOUS APPROACH TO ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION
All religions have something to offer to conservation and protection of the environment. From each religion, various injunctions and exhortations can be brought forth to outline a code for environmentally sustainable development.
Many scholars have conceptualized religion as a system of meaning that can give answers to questions about behaviors, social order, and human motivation. As such, religion can be perceived as operating on various scales: individual and aggregate, local, regional and transnational. Throughout history, religion has shaped human conduct, their behaviour, survival, and adaptation and is considered pervasive and powerful in the lives of the majority of the world’s population, and is well positioned to mobilize millions of people regarding the issue of climate change.
Numerous religions have observed the degradation of the environment and natural habitat as a moral failing and empathically link ecological awareness with the thought of stewardship i.e. a sacred duty to preserve the earth.
VARIOUS RELIGIONS AND THE ENVIRONMENT
Hinduism is a religion profoundly rooted in nature. The sacred texts such as Vedas, Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita and Epics have numerous references of divinity and encourages environmental protection and sustainable development.
Vedic literature clearly talks about a vital balance between Man, Nature and God. Natural forces are viewed to be expressions of God Himself and envisage a beautiful natural environment on Earth and order Man to keep Earth free from all impurities.
In the Rig Veda, it is referenced that universe comprises five essential components, namely Earth, Water, Air, Fire and Space; these elements provide basis for life in all things and man is appointed to conserve them. Whereas, the Atharva Veda believes Earth to be the Mother and requests people not to degrade the resources of Mother Earth.
In addition to the Vedas, the Gita also considers Nature as the essence of human culture and Man without Nature is considered a body without a soul.
In Islam, the Holy Quran and the divine words of Prophet Mohammed form the foundation of the rules for the conservation of nature. The message delivered is one of unity, harmony, balance and order. It focuses that nature’s laws must be observed and the defined limits should not be surpassed. The basic responsibility of humanity is to secure and guarantee the unity (Tawheed) of the God’s creation.
Besides, in verses 7:31, 6:141, 17:26-27, 40:34, the Quran restricts the excessive utilization of resources the planet provides to mankind and specifies wasteful consumption (Isrāf) as the thirty-second greatest sin.
Buddhism is a religion full of affection, understanding and compassion based on the ideals of non-violence. The essential precepts of Buddhism are simplicity and ahimsa.
The religion believes that karma alone; conveys the values of preservation and responsibility for the future. It is believed that the morality of our actions in the present will shape our character for the future. This implies an idea close to sustainable development.
Dhammapada IV, Pupphavagga: Blossoms, 49, states- “As a bee – without harming the blossom, its colour, its fragrance – takes its nectar and flies away: in the same way, the sage should go through a village.”
Additionally, the Dalai Lama in 1990 said, “Our ancestors viewed the earth as rich and bountiful, which it is. Many people in the past, likewise, considered nature as inexhaustibly sustainable, which we now know is the case, only if we care for it.”
The founder of Sikh religion, Guru Nanak, assigned divine attributes to nature. According to this religion, people should respect the creations of the God.
The Guru Granth Sahib proclaims the glory of God in the environment. Sikhs believe that the universe was made by the God and a balance between all the components of nature is essential for the continuation of the universe. Any disturbance in balance brings pain and disaster. History contains many stories of love and special relationship between the natural environment with animals, birds, vegetation, rivers, and the mountains. Hence, Sikhism teaches, that the natural environment and endurance of all living things are closely linked in the rhythm of nature.
Additionally, Christianity says that a relationship exists between the divine and humankind, the inability to maintain the harmony may alienate humanity from its creator and furthermore from Nature.
Verse 35:33, the Bible states, “Do not pollute the land where you are. Bloodshed pollutes the land, and atonement cannot be made for the land on which blood has been shed, except by the blood of the one who shed it.”
Moreover, in 2015, Pope Francis said- “The earnest challenge to ensure our home incorporates a concern to bring the entire human family together to look for a sustainable development, for we realize that things can change. The Creator does not desert us; he never spurns his loving plan.”
Jainism places great emphasis on the principle that an individual should avoid acts that are harmful to oneself or others. Ahimsa i.e. non-violence is the fundamental principle of life, a term which is unmistakably aligned with realism, presence of mind, individual worth and responsibility.
The Jain Declaration on Nature in 1990 stated, “As a highly evolved form of life, human beings have a great moral responsibility in their mutual dealings and in their relationship with the rest of the universe. It is this conception of life and its interminable coherence, where people have a certain ethical duty, that made the Jain tradition a support for the belief of environmental protection and harmony.”
The cultural heritage of India shows a profound concern for the conservation and preservation of the environment. Indian tradition considers the Earth as ‘Mother’; people have enunciated the need to sustain and promote the ecological balances of nature through sacred incarnations and systematized rituals for the sustenance of life on the earth. Since all most, all the world religions are represented in the Indian soil; the religions thus should realize the closeness of mankind and nature. The Indian culture shows an ecological evolution to peace and harmony.
A 5th Year B.A. LL.B. Student from Dr. Ram Manohar Lohiya National Law University, Lucknow.