National Hindu groups in India have pledged to make addressing environmental damage a top priority. Joining a growing international network of Hindu organizations, they will endorse ethically sourced food, waste recycling, and promote good environmental practice to their members.
Meeting in New Delhi on January 4th, the groups discussed their current and future environmental plans. Convened by the Bhumi Project, this meeting followed a similar successful meeting of Hindu leaders in England in 2009. Hindu leaders from Africa and America are now planning to meet later this year. The Delhi participants, comprising a large cross-section of Hindu groups, unanimously agreed that environmental damage is one of the biggest problems facing modern India.
Sudhir Garg, of Patanjali Yogpeeth Trust, explained “Indian tradition and culture is rich in good environmental practice. At a time when the world is looking for alternative solutions to environmental damage, there is much we can offer. This is an opportunity to show how our tradition can help with modern concerns and issues.”
The Bhumi Project is facilitated by the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies (OCHS), in partnership with the Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC), and backing from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Using Indian scripture and traditional culture, they promote lifestyle choices that are in line with Hindu religion and kind to the Earth. Gopal-Lila Patel, Project Manager for the project commented, “Weʼre not asking people to do anything new. Weʼre simply encouraging them to re-learn the teachings of the past; to re-examine the principles and practices their forefathers lived by – whatever their religious background.”
Whilst all organisations present are already doing considerable environmental work, all agreed more was needed to be done, and that collaboration was vital for success.
Bharat Vig of the Art of Living Foundation, commented quoting Sri Sri Ravi Shankar “It has to be noted that the ultimate aim of sustainable development is to preserve the planet earth, replenish, not deplete its resources and make life a celebration.”
Susie Weldon, of ARC, noted, “India is one of the three countries which will decide the environmental future of the world. This meeting is the beginning of a process which will hopefully see many more Hindu groups take seriously the issue of environmental harm, and work together to address it.”
The Bhumi Project is an international Hindu response to climate change launched at Windsor Castle in November 2009 with HRH Prince Philip and HE Ban Ki-moon. Using Hindu perspectives, teachings, and ancient culture, they work with temples and organisations to help encourage the Hindu community take a more active role in the care and protection of the planet.
The Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies is a Recognised Independent Centre of the University of Oxford. The principal aim of the Centre is the study of Hindu culture, religion, languages, literature, philosophy, history, arts and society, in all periods and in all parts of the world. All Hindu traditions are included.
The Alliance of Religions and Conservation is a secular body that helps the major religions of the world to develop their own environmental programmes, based on their own core teachings, beliefs and practices. They help the religions link with key environmental organisations in creating powerful alliances between faith communities and conservation groups. ARC was founded in 1995 by HRH Prince Philip. They now work with 11 major faiths through the key traditions within each faith.