Chapter 2. Believe in Nature and align with it to the extent possible.
A new born baby learns very soon to look for and find comfort in the loving gaze and warm touch of its mother and the nourishment she offers it through her breast milk. When everything else in the maternity home or house looks strange and inaccessible, when its movements are still restricted, its mother is its unique source of comfort. The mother’s womb had accommodated it earlier and provided security and nourished it in its prenatal stages by sharing with it through the umbilical cord, sustenance from part of whatever she could eat and drink. The extraordinary capacity for love, caring and physical suffering that Nature has endowed the typical human mother is a very strong example of how millions of years of even pre-human evolution in Nature have worked on the potential characteristics of the body and mind of the typical human mother. In fact, Nature has continued to evolve along with the living species that suddenly appeared in Nature through seemingly random interactions of non-living natural chemicals.
Living beings adapt over the years to the natural environment where they happen to be born and live out their life and if they cannot, they cease to be. The environment gets involved in cycles of weather and makes available to the species present in it the raw materials they require in the quantities needed. Having assumed a dominant role among all earth bound living species, humans living in any part of the planet soon learn to use all the resources available for their own advantage. In fact, several of the other living species lose out to the human population in sharing the natural resources and therefore get endangered and slowly eliminated. Some of these are carefully farmed or reared by man because they serve him in some capacity or other including becoming his feed.
Having evolved into a highly intelligent primate with abilities which his primate ancestors did not possess, man has become arrogant and moved far, far away from living styles, attitudes and activities aligned with Nature, including his own sustained nature as a primate. He has, however, retained curiosity, which is among his greatest assets and has brought him Scientific theories and practice as his trusted tools of progress. Wise men, who see the tremendous basic and applied value of human scientific investigations do appreciate these developments. But of late, there is caution and even some fear of danger in their appreciation. Man may have overstepped his limits in the exploitation of the resources that Mother Nature had laid before him through a combination of selfishness, greed, recklessness and sheer folly. And more than any other human failing, what would be most frustrating to future historians of modern times could very well be modern man’s inability and even a mulish refusal to read the warnings that Nature had been flashing before him from time to time. Like its supreme product, the human Mother, Mother Nature too had been lavish with her bounties for her children, namely all living beings on the planet. While her non- human children had generally been using her bounties while following her rules with great discipline, human beings have grabbed her resources and exploited them in full, even considering most other forms of life as additional resources and disregarding most of her rules.
In a key paper titled “Trajectories of the Earth System in the Anthropocene“,published in the Proceedings of the US National Academy of Science (6.8.2018),a group of 17 climate and environment scientists (Will Steffen, Johan Rockström, Katherine Richardson, Timothy M. Lenton, Carl Folke, Diana Liverman, Colin P. Summerhayes, Anthony D. Barnosky, Sarah E. Cornell, Michel Crucifix, Jonathan F. Donges, Ingo Fetzer, Steven J. Lade, Marten Scheffer, Ricarda Winkelmann, and Hans Joachim Schellnhuber) have issued a stern warning to humanity with regard to the future of advanced life on Earth (http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2018/07/31/1810141115).
Dr Sujatha Byravan points out in her article in the Hindu (https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/pulling-back-from-the-brink/article24754571.ece) how these Scientists had been able to identify a threshold beyond which the earth’s systems would no longer be able to stabilize at permissible “intermediate” rises in temperature. The threshold has been determined to be about 2 deg. Celsius above pre-industrial times. There are, of course, some clusters of “tipping”-linked cascades, that are not within human control, that could happen over time leading to unexpected temperature rises. Wild fires in large natural forests, loss of permafrost due to unexpected local warming, weakening of carbon dioxide absorption by oceans and melting of polar ice caps are examples. But human activity in terms of excessive burning of fossil fuels, use of some fluoro-chemicals as refrigerants and more importantly, farming of a very large number of ruminant animals which provide meat and dairy products and let out huge volumes of methane into the atmosphere, are very important contributors to temperature rise too. Global emissions have not yet plateaued, despite several international resolutions, and have actually risen by 1.4% last year, Byravan points out.
The Sankhya School of Sanatana Dharma, as well as related knowledge systems of the other religions of ancient Bharat, namely Jainism and Buddhism have considered Prakriti to be the principle behind all matter in creation whereas Purusha is said to be the principle behind metaphysical consciousness and pure awareness. In Indian languages derived from Sanskrit roots, Prakriti also refers to the feminine aspect of all life forms, and frequently a woman is seen as a symbol of Prakriti. The term is discussed by Yāska (~600 BCE) in Nirukta (https://archive.org/details/in.ernet.dli.2015.485860), and connotes “nature, body, matter, phenomenal universe” in Sanatanic texts. I would like to use the term to refer to what I have so far been calling Mother Nature.
When, as the Nasadiya sukta (Rgveda samhita,suktam 129, mandala 10,ashtaka 8, adhyaya 7, anuvaka11, vargam17, Rk 7) proclaims about the beginning that there was nothing whatsoever, evidently consciousness or awareness of a superior kind did exist (Purusha) and its sankalpa created a singularity from which as our modern scientists deduce, all , ALL, of creation has emanated, and since we are able to sense some of it and understand some more of it, shall we call all of it Prakriti, our Mother Nature? Our Rishis and Acharyas have taught us in steps that Purusha the Consciousness is immanent in all ‘his’ creation and Prakriti (she) in turn resides within ‘him’. Consciousness would seem thus to be both the content and the protective outer shell of all things, guaranteeing existence for all Existence, sustaining it both momentarily and for ever in the middle of natural change for ever.
How can we not believe Prakriti when we are both a subtle and a gross part of it and it is both a subtle and gross part of each one of us? First let us attempt to see whether we understand our Universe. The astrophysicist Ethan Siegel says in one of his blogs, “When we think about our Universe at a fundamental level, we think about all the particles in it and all the forces and interactions that occur between them. If you can describe those forces, interactions and particle properties, you have everything you need to reproduce our Universe, or at least a Universe virtually indistinguishable from our own, in its entirety.” (https://www.forbes.com/sites/ethansiegel/2015/08/22/it-takes-26-fundamental-constants-to-give-us-our-universe-but-they-still-dont-give-everything/#272496af4b86). He then goes on to describe the 26 dimensionless constants that can give us a reasonably complete description of our Universe. Science students among us, who need these constants for understanding some function or other of the Universe can believe the latest version of these powerful constants and use them. Lay humans among us, arguably components of lower significance on earth if not in the Universe, can with great awareness discover our own true nature and live as true to it as is possible. That could give us great fulfilment and benefit our kind, namely humanity, over a longer period.
I mentioned curiosity as an important characteristic of the primates that we have always been. We do not need to give it up at all. In fact, we can see that it has blossomed in Homo Sapiens as a great urge to seek the truth, whether it is the secrets of the material Universe outside of us or the meaning/purpose of our existence. In this sense it even seems that the vast Universe which has been created long before we evolved into men, could have been waiting for us to look at it, wonder and try to unravel its mysteries. It has been a mutual engagement, fulfilling a quantum mechanical obligation of a phenomenon requiring an observer to confirm it. Our Dharma postulates the ever-changing nature of Prakriti or creation and the constant presence of Consciousness that creates, maintains and terminates its being, to start it again in another cycle.
The primate ancestor of man was strong and energetic, who however did not kill any other living animal for his sustenance. He lived on fruits, nuts and roots, occasionally venturing to snack on tree-insects. His oral structure and aliment were totally suited to consume only such fare. It has not evolved too much in the few thousand years in which, curious man has learnt to eat meat and all kinds of processed foods. As a result, man has developed diseases related to his digestion, and chronic ailments such as cardiac problems and diabetes. If all of us somehow get back to eating only monkey-feed (all kinds of fruits) along with simply boiled vegetables and cooked whole grains and pulses of all kinds so they are easier to digest, we may be able to restore our lost health. And as we would not then require raising of cattle for meat and dairy products, we will considerably reduce greenhouse gas emissions and save our world from undue global warming. It does not require extraordinary intelligence on our part to know that Prakriti Ma is already flashing her signs of warning about her warming in the past few years. We only must believe her.
Through the symbolism of chaturyuga cycles, our itihasas and puranas have taught us of the likelihood of deterioration in human values at the end of each cycle and consequent sufferings. It is up to intelligent managers of human society to reverse such trends even in an advanced stage of deterioration. High levels of scientific and technological advancement have marched shoulder to shoulder with dishonesty, avarice, selfishness and indifference to the suffering of fellow men. This has not been taught by Nature. Nature blends the benediction of Space, air, water, sunlight and soil for the sustenance of all living things. The Sun, held in position by other orbs in space, shines on us providing energy and photosynthetic pathways for vegetarian sustenance of all life, including that of carnivores indirectly. Air provides life-breath and nitrogen, again for photosynthesis. Water for our body fluids is provided by the clouds hovering above us and the rivers flowing from mountains to oceans. Soils take care of plentiful mineral supply in the food chain, once again via plant life. Trees seem to grow essentially to make food for all other life. Living with dignity, providing for others, creating a brotherhood of living systems would all seem to be the message of Nature and we would be wise to believe her to the extent our faculties permit us.
Unlike the primate to vegetation relationship which can ideally obtain in human society, rain forests teem with whole groups of predators, preys and plant life. But unlike in man managed animal husbandry, rain forests do not have periodically endangered species except when human activities have managed to change weather and atmospheric conditions there. There is always disciplined hunting, disciplined eating and adequate fertility, keeping populations virtually unchanged. We could believe this message of Nature in general discipline of restraint and curbing our urge to exploit fellow men, all animals and indeed all available resources that the planet has been liberally making available to us.
The fact that it has taken such reckless depredation on the part of mankind to bring earth even to the present sad level and not much worse should also teach a lesson to us. Nature alone taught our ancestors about Rakshasa or demoniac forces present on the planet. They have always been around. Prakriti gives nurture both to predators and victims. There will always be a mix of good and evil. But sustenance of the planet demands that good forces prevail over the evil at critical times. We must believe in this lesson of Nature, if we are to survive. Our belief will strengthen the good in us and enable the defeat of whatever is less than good at critical junctures.
Nature created our ancestor in the African tropics so that we would substantially remain vegan and keep the planet in good condition. But some of our forefathers ventured into colder climes, suffered change of colour in skin and hair, befriended the wolf and hunted with packs to learn to eat meat in winter when plants would remain unable to feed them. They developed other aggressive qualities too. Some others learnt to delve deep into themselves and realize the power of the mind. All these experiences have lessons for us. Ma Prakriti has been continuously teaching us truths. We ought to believe her that every location on the planet where a life form happens to evolve and develop will be able to provide optimal sustenance for the life form. This will be through plant-based munificence, when the life form happens to be a ruminant or a primate. Animals learn this fast enough and hold on to it throughout life. In rare instances, as in the case of some birds, Nature teaches them to fly on long trips in winter to specific warmer spots. Man, whose scientific mind has indeed taken him over land water and by air everywhere on this planet and is helping him to venture into space, is having to learn additional lessons in adapting to his new statuses on his own. He is learning all the time, while being severely challenged by the limitations of his body and mind. Nature may not have intended him to venture so much. Part of his training may have to come from the realm of his mind, about which we will talk later.
More posts by this author:
- Thought as therapy
- An Invocation to Truth
- Just believe. Chapter 3. Believe in your Biological Clock and its Circadian Rhythm
- The sequential appearance of the five koshas
After R & D and technical management experience of over three decades in petroleum and organic chemical industry, have been devoting the past fifteen years to the study of Tamil and Sanskrit classics, including dharmic works and doing some serious translation work. Have been a significant contributor to the medha journal almost since its inception upto 2013 and expect to continue my association with it.