Sustainability – Topical Interest in Vedic Conscience

The new buzz word doing rounds in political circles, advocacy groups, UN charters, strategy think-tanks, compliance and reporting standards and everywhere else is SUSTAINABILITY.

From times immemorial, Hindus have always believed in sustainability. It is a part of the social and cultural ethos of the Hindus to draw the very bare minimum from the Mother Nature (mahābhūta, the “great” or “gross” elements in Hinduism’s sacred literature; nature-worship including treating every element of nature as a God and religious ceremony precedes any extraction of resources from nature); followed by every effort to replenish and refurbish what has been drawn besides responsible consumption and recycling. Caring for an ecological balance is enabled by worshiping all kinds of celestial bodies, water-bodies, rivers, mountains, plants and animals. Defiling the nature or any non-sustainable behaviour is a social and religious taboo. (That the Hindus have forgotten their own ancient Vedic wisdom while the west is beginning to adopt some of it is another story).

Many Indians, born in the 60’s or earlier would recall, using the 5 Ser (later on 4 kg) empty tin cylindrical canisters of ‘Vanaspati’ ghee (particular brand of Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil sold by a multi-national – always in tins and never as loose) as storage bins for provisions in the kitchen. These empty canisters were also recycled and converted into floatation tanks (after small ‘kachcha’ welding to make it airtight) akin to life jackets for learning to swim. One could get the canisters converted or even buy the already converted from the shops.

Things changed as Indians began emulating the western culture of ‘use and throw.’ Prior to the 70’s, Indians would reuse, recycle and recover everything that they used or consumed. They would never discard anything unless they were sure there was no further use for them. Even while discarding, they would sell it to ‘raddiwalakabbadiwala’ (aggregators, who would in turn sell the trashed materials to recyclers) rather than dump it as urban waste.

‘Use and Throw’ is a very western and capitalistic concept which has been completely alien to the Hindu Ethos. It is the western greed for standards of living in disregard to and at the cost of quality of life which has resulted into non-sustainability of human activity. The same Western nations are now busy designing and advocating the 17 Sustainability Development Goals. A closer look at SDG reveals that they are not beyond the Hindu way of life.


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Mukul Gupta

*Educator, researcher, author and a friendly contrarian* Professor@MDIGurgaon

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