Fragile Ecosystem, Vedic Solution?

I recently posted a review of a book by Daniel Quinn titled “Ishmael”. The book is a semi-fiction/philosophical dialog between Daniel Quinn and an old Gorilla called Ishmael (of course Ishmael is the archetype of a wise elder, and symbolic of the anti-thesis of modern man).

The dialog is worth reading and I would urge all medhavis to get a copy of this excellent book and read through. The contents of this book are timeless I think, but they are very relevant nonetheless in today’s world.

When we have problem after problem being created by our Modernity…massive industrialization, automation via fossil-fuel consuming monsters, pollution of Mother Earth on such an epic proportion, that what Ishmael has to say is definitely very very relevant!

The gist of the book is that there is a constant subliminal brain-washing underway, which the author calls “Mother Culture’s message”. The important thing about the message that Mother Culture is constantly whispering in the ears of her “Children” is it’s roots in a very virulent premise — that of the primacy of Man over all other things existent in this Universe.

Quinn (or perhaps I should say Ishmael) makes a very interesting observation:

He traces all problems with the world starting approximately 10,000 BCE. And the problem he claims is the rise of the Farmer. To be more precise, he observes that human beings have bifurcated primarily into two categories around that timeframe — 

a) remain the hunter-gatherers they were from pre-historic times

b) become farmers (and eventually become “Civilized”)

Ishmael further observes that the two groups can be called “The Leavers” and “The Takers” respectively. That is, the Hunter-Gatherers he calls “The Leavers” and the agriculturists and settlers he calls “The Takers”.

The premise behind this nomenclature is his assertion that at the time (around 10,000 BCE), when the first farming communities were forming, man had two choices. To “take” to the farming way or “leave” it and continue with the hunter-gatherer lifestyle. So the takers chose to “take up” the farming way of life and the leavers decided to “leave it”.

The other explanation/understanding of the “Leaver/Taker” dichotomy can be as follows:

The Leavers follow Natural Laws (in harmony with the way of things…in Nature. Such as limited competition, etc).

The Takers on the other hand violate all Natural Laws. Instead of fair and limited compeition for food and survival, The Takers hunt down and exterminate all sources of threat to their food supplies and survival. The example Ishmael gives is that one can never find a pride of Lions hunting down and killing everything that might potentially become (or is already) a competitor for food and survival.

The Takers however (with history as witness) has done so (and will continue to do so).

 The names can have other connotations to and the irony of that fact will not of course be lost to the readers.

 

Ishmael then goes ahead to state the following (I will tabulate what I understood, and my apologies if I have mis-interpreted any of it):

The Taker’s World:

Compete Exterminate  Rule
 for food  competition  Nature
 for survival  competition  Nature

 A short list of competitors:

Competitors
 The Leavers
 Natural competitors (those animals that compete for same/similar food items
 natural competitors of the Takers’ Food sources (anything that might prevent natural and preferred food items of the takers’ from growing to levels satisfactory in the takers’perspective)

Classic Taker Traits:

 Taker Traits
 At war with rest of the natural world
 World is made for Takers
 “Control” and “Improve” the world, such that conditions are conducive for population expansion of the Takers
 Eradicate everything that does not “enhance” the chances of Taker Population growth sustenance
 Bring land under the plow (earlier) or in today’s context “Bulldozer”. This trait is connected with the traits of 

 

Classic Leaver Traits:

Leaver Traits
 In harmony with rest of the natural world
 Part of the world, made for the world (World not made for Leaver)
 Compete fairly and only to the extent needed for sustenance
 Not seeking to grow Leaver Population at all costs
 Hunter-gatherer lifestyle (typically hunters, herds-people with limited agriculture

These are all very valuable insights, especially into the typical Western Civilizational mindset/model that us Indians or Africans or other civilizations that have been “colonized” can definitely identify. In fact, doomsday scenarios painted in many science fiction stories (such as the Matrix) is an exaggeration of our awareness and acknowledgment of such traits (Taker traits) in us. The fact of the matter, sadly enough, also is that almost no “civilized” society today is immune from this syndrome (the Taker Syndrome).

The American subcontinent was “tamed” under the premise that “Taker Civilization” is true Civilization and elimination of the “Leaver Society” (such as those belonging to Native Americans) was done in massive scale and proportion. So effective were the attempts at purging America of it’s Native cultures, that hardly a whiff of those cultures remain (and also what remains is either an extreme caricature of the real thing or a mere shadow of it) .

We have seen similar things happen in Africa and Asia as well, to varying degrees of success. Africa was simply raped and pillaged (and this continues till date, the method of the execution and the executioner might have changed, but the rape continues). In Asia we saw countries like Japan, China, India first slowly poisoned and then effectively take on Taker traits (the Taker-ization of India and China is still underway).

Quinn however, in his thesis doesn’t recognize the fact that Traditional Indian or Chinese societies were not as extremely “Taker”esque as he would like to believe they were. He paints a broad stroke and colors all Civilizations as Takers and only identifies the Native tribal cultures as being the Leavers. In my humble opinion, Quinn did not have good background knowledge of Indian or Chinese civilizations (beyond the fiction that passes as history in the West). 

One of the most effective weapons in the Taker Culture’s  arsenal is Religion. In fact, Taker Culture sanctifies Taker traits using Religion as a validator. Take the Judeo-Christian thesis for example:

God created man in his own image. In God’s image he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them. God said to them, “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the sky, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

Genesis 1:27, 1:28

  This is clearly an example of that kind of validation, which clearly was confabulated by facilitators of Taker Culture. However, inspection of the “religions” of India or China will never give rise to this kind of concept. Nowhere in the Vedas or Upanishads will we find justification for complete dominion of the Earth by man, in the name of God(s).
 
In fact, Ancient Indian Civilization seems very Leaver-esque. The Vedas and Upanishads bear witness to this fact.
 
Ancient Indian Civilization never demonstrates:
 
  1. An insatiable appetite for Agriculture. In fact, majority of the Vedic seers are actually Forest-dwellers.
  2. Man’s life is clearly divided into four sections (that of Brahmacharya, Grihasta, Vanaprastha and Sanyas), that help individuals live a civilized life, but also one respectful of the natural world. In Grihasta stage, man as a family-dweller might take to farming, but he would only farm for sustenance and never for mass profit. In fact, I am certain the concept of Farming for profits did not exist in Ancient India. When man transitioned to the Vanaprastha stage, he and his wife would head to the Forests where they would set up a quite ashram and prepare themselves for Spiritual growth.
  3. There was respect for all forms of life. Indian society was primarily vegetarian. Also, the presence of Animal deities in various ancient (and even modern) Indian sub-cultures is a clear indicator that the Indic man was not in competition with other inhabitants of his ecosystem.
  4. The fact of the matter is that Indic culture and Civilization not only survived, but in fact thrived without violating Natural laws (such as the law of fair/limited competition, not harm other creatures unless absolutely necessary, etc).
Vedic scriptures never positioned man as “Master of the Earth”. Instead, man is (along with other creatures), positioned to be a “child” of Mother Earth. 
 
There is no concept similar to that of “The garden of Eden” in Indic society. There is no concept of Original Sin or desperation for redemption, etc either.
 
The Indian school of philosophy known as Purva Mimamsa, venerates Rta (Cosmic Order, which later metamorphoses into Dharma or the “Upholder of the Source/Way”). All aspects of early Vedic society is focused on upholding/maintaining Rta (or Balance). 
 
The Shanti Path is a classic example:
 
Om Dyau Shanti 
Aantariksham Shanti
Prithvi Shanti
Aapah Shanti
Aushadhayah Shanti
Vanas Patayah Shanti
Vishwa Devah Shanti
Brahma Shanti
Sarvam Shanti
Shanti Eva Shanti

 
roughly translates to:
 
Om 
May the Heavens be at peace
May the Space be at peace
May the Earth be at peace
May the Waters be at peace
May the Medicine be at peace
May the Plants and trees be at peace
May the Gods be at peace
May the Brahman be at peace
May there be Eternal Peace
 [video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nrDJztOUFjo 400×400]
 
The major challenges we face today as an ecosystem, is primarily due to The Taker Culture. Can we not “take up” (again) the harmonious way of upholding Rta, Dharma as our guide and regain the balance of the Leavers?
 
A careful study of Vedic/Upanishadic advice on how to live will clearly show that the Rishis were evidently aware of the Natural Laws and everything they taught, was with these laws in mind. Balance and equillibrium was paramount and every component of Mother Nature’s creation was considered as being infused with Life. The flora and fauna obviously included, even rivers, oceans, mountains, soil were considered sacred and living. 
 
Can we not re-affirm this Ancient tradition of respecting everything in our eco-system, knowing very well that even the minutest component of this fragile system playing a huge role in the sustenance of every other component?
 

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