For Sustainability, Look to India and Quotes and Quips

(The Blog  is reverently for all the seekers of truth, lovers of wisdom and   to share the Hindu Dharma with others on the spiritual path and also this is purely  a non-commercial blog)

For Sustainability, Look to India

Wealthy nations can learn from her frugal, vegetarian-friendly lifestyle


WHEN I FIRST ARRIVED AT NEW YORK’S JFK airport in 1996, I was immediately struck by the hundreds of cars plying the airport’s many encircling highways. I was born in the small town of Pali in Rajasthan and had lived most of my life in India. I had prepared myself for a cultural shock, and the first one was environmental. I asked my friend Ajay who had come to pick me up, how so many cars could be sustained through the world’s current fuel crisis. Having arrived in the US just months before me, Ajay proudly declared, “Oh, this is America! They can run their cars on water if they have to, don’t worry!”
Such was the faith of many in America, whose daily lives rely on modern science and technological aids such as cars or cell phones. With impending environmental issues looming large over humankind, I wonder if this faith is weakening now, just 18 years after my first American encounter. Last month, after my latest visit to New York, I posted this on my Facebook: “First thought whenever I reach New York City: ‘How will all this sustain itself?’ First thought whenever I reach India: ‘How has all this sustained itself?’ ”
Immediately, my comment was challenged, and what ensued was my defense of India and its long-standing sustainability, versus the United States’, which towers at the other extreme. I started by comparing India’s meat consumption to the US, UK, China, Brazil and others. India remains the foremost vegetarian country in the world. Even after the globalization of modern Western ways, Indians have successfully preserved the vegetarian habits that were laid down by their dharmic traditions several millennia ago. The typical Indian diet still consists mainly of rice, wheat, beans and vegetables. Even most nonvegetarians depend on vegetarian food as the chief components of their diet, consuming egg, meat and fish only occasionally.
In a ground-breaking 2006 report, the United Nations said that raising animals for food generates more greenhouse gases than all the cars and trucks in the world combined. Senior UN Food and Agriculture Organization official Henning Steinfeld reported that the meat industry is “one of the most significant contributors to today’s most serious environmental problems.” But even after Western media reported this connection of meat eating with global warming, many of the issue’s leading politicians failed to take any action to change the habits of meat consumption in Western society.
Such clear evidence has seemingly been ignored by Western society in general. For example, in April, 2007, a leading New York Times columnist rejected any changes needed in the Western lifestyle, while demanding “greener” initiatives from the US government.
This Western dichotomy—expecting environmental initiatives from government and businesses while failing to acknowledge a need for change in our personal lifestyles—was the concluding subject of Ramachandra Guha’s book, How Much Should a Person Consume? Guha observes that Western society comprises only 20 percent of the world’s population but consumes about 80 percent of global production. The other 80 percent of humanity gets the remaining 20 percent.
Guha agrees with conservationist Ashish Kothari and criticizes the hypocrisy of the developed world. He explains that it is the allegedly civilized who have decimated forests and the wildlife which had previously sustained both tiger and tribal. With rifles and a quest for trophies, they have hunted wild species to extinction; now they disguise themselves as conservationists and complain that tribal groups are getting in the way. The real population problem is in America, where the birth of one child has the same impact on the global environment as the birth of about 70 Indonesian children.
Due to the dharmic traditions inspired by history’s gurus and sages, Indian society successfully moved away from the animal sacrifices and killings prevalent in its ancient past, adopting lifestyles based largely on vegetarianism. But most scholars ignore vegetarianism, though it is one of the most important dharmic lessons inspired by Indic tradition and one that could positively impact an array of threatening global issues.
In the 1990s India began to embrace the Western capitalist economic model, and today India is fast transcending its once slow rate of economic growth. Until this Western market invasion, the so-called “Hindu rate of growth” might have been both the result and the reason for limited Indian spending for consumer goods. A 2001 article by Professor Ann Gold of Syracuse University, NY, shows that consumption is severely constrained and morally limited by the traditional Hindu ideals of self-restraint such as fasting, detachment from material goods, eating only what is appropriate, etc.
Four consecutive Greendex Sustainability Surveys, conducted by National Geographic magazine in 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2012 (, show India continuing to rank first in sustainability, with the US hovering near the bottom. The survey compares major parameters of a country’s housing, transportation and food. In all these areas, Indian habits were the most sustainable. Many Indian houses continue to avoid or lack air-conditioning, heating and 24/7 hot water, and the dwelling sizes are much smaller. India’s average use of personal cars continues to be less than in other major countries, and Indians still prefer public transport for their daily commutes to work or school. Indian consumption of locally produced food remains high, while consumption of bottled water, meat and seafood continues to be less than in other countries.
Westerners who are sincerely interested in sustainable living would do well to follow India’s ageless example.

(PANKAJ JAIN, PH.D, is Assistant Professor of Hinduism, Jainism and Ecology at the University of North Texas.)

Quotes and Quips

Faith is the bird that feels the light and sings when the dawn is still dark.
Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941), celebrated Bengali writer who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913
It is not the knowledge of words that makes a man wise, but purity of heart and steadiness of the mind. Yogasri Svami Yogananda Giri, founder of Svami Gitananda Ashram, Italy

Those who cannot live in harmony with the world, though they have learned many things, are still ignorant. Tirukural 140

Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it. Rumi (1207-1273), Sufimystic and poet

There is no death. Only a change of worlds. Chief Seattle (1780-1866), leader of the Suquamish and Duwamish Native American tribes

Common men talk bagfuls of religion but do not practice even a grain of it. The wise man speaks a little, even though his whole life is religion expressed in action. Sri Ramakrishna (1836-1886), famed guru of Swami Vivekananda

Our life is only worth while if we do good deeds and walk the path towards God. Pramukh Swami Maharaj, guru of BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha

Build your own dreams, or someone else will hire you to build theirs. Farrah Gray, American businessman, philanthropist and motivational speaker

No one knows what’s next, but everybody does it. George Carlin (1937-2008), American comedian, writer and actor

If you are constantly absorbed in the soul, then only love and goodness is reflected back. You see the good in everything. Paramhansa Hariharananda (1907-2002), Indian yogi and guru

Man possesses unlimited strength, infinite capacity for work and boundless perseverance. It is because they cannot always realize it that most men are so miserably inert. Swami Pranavananda (1896-1941), founder of the Bharat Sevashram Sangha

Never forget that the universe is a single living organism possessed of one substance and one soul, holding all things suspended in a single consciousness and creating all things with a single purpose that they might work together spinning, weaving and knotting whatever comes to pass. Marcus Aurelius (121-180 AD), Roman emperor and philosopher

In a moment of crisis, the wise build bridges and the foolish build dams. Nigerian proverb

The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool. William Shakespeare (1564-1616), English playwright

I am not a saint, unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying. Nelson Mandela (1918-2013), South African president, revolutionary and philanthropist

Never look back unless you are planning to go that way. Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), American author, poet and philosopher

Perfection is the willingness to be imperfect. Lao Tzu (604-531 BCE), founder of Taoism

Just as the rays of light share and diffuse the radiance of the sun, so you too share and reflect the golden glories of Indra, the cosmic soul. Let us meditate on the divine presence and for our share, enjoy the ecstasy of bliss vibrating in the world of past and future creations, by virtue of Indra’s omnipresent majesty. Rig Veda 8.99.3

In India, “cold weather” is merely a conventional phrase and has come into use through the necessity of having some way to distinguish between weather which will melt a brass door-knob and weather which will only make it mushy. Mark Twain (1835-1910), American writer

God Siva’s all-knowingness is always inside of us. We don’t have to do anything for it to be there; that’s the important thing. We just have to look in the right place at the right time. Satguru Bodhinatha Veylanswami, publisher of HINDUISM TODAY

We must also have desirelessness even for the realization of the Self itself in order to freely proceed and attain the goal. The realization of the Self must never be to us a need to get away from something, an avoidance, a departure from or a means to become better than others. Now we can see that desire is the barrier to freedom, physically, mentally and emotionally. Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami (1927-2001)

D I D   Y O U   K N O W ?

Restorative Roots

K NOWN AS HARIDRA IN SANSKRIT AND CURCUMA LONGA BOTANICALLY, turmeric is a small plant closely related to ginger. Found in a variety of cuisines, its bright yellow roots are commonly ground into paste or powder. Sacred to Hindus and indigenous to India, turmeric is an essential part of Indian society. In temples, turmeric water is used daily in ritual ablution of the Deities, and the powder, mixed with unpolished rice, is an important offering during puja.
Western researchers have been rediscovering properties in this root already familiar to ayurveda, such as being anti-swelling, anti-cancerous, an age-abating antioxidant, a digestive enhancer, liver protector, blood purifier, antiseptic, cholesterol buster and skin toner. More uses are being discovered as researchers experiment with curcuminoids, turmeric’s active chemical ingredients.
According to a 2013 article by Sayer Ji, an advisory board member of the National Health Federation, turmeric’s medicinal properties have been the subject of over 5,600 peer-reviewed and published biomedical studies. Sayer Ji mentions his own five-year research project on the sacred plant, which revealed evidence of over 600 potential preventive and therapeutic uses, as well as 175 distinct beneficial physiological effects.
Given the sheer density of research performed on this remarkable spice, it is no wonder that a growing number of studies have concluded that it compares favorably to a variety of conventional medications. These include steroids, antidepressants, blood thinners, and drugs for inflammation, chemotherapy, diabetes and high cholesterol.

Om Tat Sat

(My humble salutations to Sadguru Sri Sivaya Subramuniyaswami ji, Satguru Bodhianatha Velayanswami ji, Hinduism Today and Articles writers for the collection)

(The Blog  is reverently for all the seekers of truth, lovers of wisdom and   to share the Hindu Dharma with others on the spiritual path and also this is purely  a non-commercial blog)



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