“Compassion is the key to Hinduism, does it still exist?” in TOI Blogs

The Times has reported that the Holy Banyan tree is dying, the same tree under which Krshna ‘delivered his message of the Bhagwad Gita to Arjun’. With cemented paths, large bells, lights fixated all over, the problem has escalated with two claimants battling for the care of the tree while the tree is withering. The last remaining relic of the Mahabharata is dying; we have lost sight of what is important.

We pray to nature, to animals, to every living being. We pray to images that replicate holy deities in the form of shivling, in the form of a footprint. Yet we have turned the heart of our nation, Delhi, into the most polluted city of the world. Our metropolitans are growing fast, but to what end? Children have asthma, pm 1.0, 2.5 and 10 are polluting every pore of our natural being, blackening our lungs, shortening our life expectancy. During winters young and old alike leave the city and head for the mountains or the beaches, shutting down businesses, taking long vacations from their jobs, while breadwinners of the family send their spouse and children outside of the city to make sure they are safe.

As a religion that equates every living being to God, we have failed in respecting nature and our religion. In turn we are poisoning our family, our friends, and our neighbors. The cruelest act to mankind is pollution, we are living in a slow poison genocide. Each one of us is responsible for this act, and each one of us can make a difference.

India has a rich history when it comes to forest conservation. In 1730 AD Khejarli Village of Rajasthan, the King had ordered for the felling of Khejri trees, sacred to the Bishnois. Bishnois are an offshoot of Hinduism following 29 principles. Amrita Devi couldn’t bear to witness the destruction of her faith and the village’s sacred trees, so she hugged the trees and said “A chopped head is cheaper than a felled tree.” People from different villages joined her. The soldiers chopped slaughtered 363 Bishnois. As soon as the King received news of this he ordered the soldiers to stop the operation and designated the Bishnoi state as a protected area. This legislation still exists today. In memory of the deceased, a number of khejri trees are planted around the area.

This was the beginning of the Chipko movement, now nationally prevalent and widely acclaimed as an effective method of forest preservation.

The United Nations made June 5th World Environment Day in 1947, in 1950 Dr. K M Munshi created Van Mahotsav festival for forest conservation and planting trees. It is now a week-long festival, usually from the 1st of July to 7th July. We celebrate World Environment Day where for an hour we turn off the lights of our homes, but have forlorn Van Mahotsav festival which is more in-line with our ‘dharma’.

On World Environment Day 2017 ‘Mann ki Baat’, Prime Minister Modi talked about how traditional Hindu scriptures such as Gita, Shukracharya Niti, and Anushasan Parv of the Mahabharta highlight the values of forests. He planted a Kadam tree which has much religious value in Hindu scriptures, and also placed a traditional earthen-pot with it, a traditional method of conserving water, and ensuring it has regular water supply.

On Twitter Narendra Modi encouraged farmers to plant 5 trees in celebration of the birth of their daughter, as the farmer can reap monetary benefits from the plantation and use that for her marriage. A two pronged approach which saves the life of a girl child and doesn’t make her seem like a burden, and also helps the farmers family economically.

‘Each one plant one tree,’ a popular yet simple motto if followed can make a huge impact due to our 1.3 Billion population, the second largest population in the world. As at 2016 the tree cover of India was 23.81%. The Government of India has set a target of 33% cover by 2020. If united we can bring a change in the pollution levels, not only nationally but also globally thereby leaving a world safe for our future. If each one plants one tree, if each one ensures that each sapling lives its complete life, we can save the world. With Delhi’s population of 18.98 million people, if each person decides to plant at least one tree we can come closer to meeting the minimum requirement of 33% forest coverage in a metropolitan area.

The question arises, why only ‘each one plant ONE tree’, why not two? For each Hindu’s Antim-Sanskar we need at least 2 trees, we can return the favor to Mother Earth. If we could make the effort, find the motivation, respect our heritage and living beings of all nature then we can collectively make a difference in India which can impact the globe positively.