Article

Ecology

Christopher Key Chapple

in Hinduism

ISBN: 9780195399318
Published online January 2011 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780195399318-0018
Ecology

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The contemporary problems of environmental degradation have not gone unnoticed by adherents and scholars of the Hindu faith. From the Vedas, the Upanisads, the Mahabharata and Ramayana epics as well as later yoga manuals, and popular religious movements, we can gather a sense of the complexity with which the Hindu tradition has discussed the natural world. As is the case with all the world’s religious traditions, this issue is of contemporary concern and not directly addressed in the traditional literature and practices. However, by examining and creatively engaging the texts and practices of Hinduism, an environmental ethic is being explored and developed by scholars of Hinduism and Hindu theologians. This article will focus on general approaches to thinking about nature and ecology within the Hindu tradition. It will also include entries on specific issues, including forest preservation and river restoration. It begins with a survey of overviews and reference works and then examines four traditional resources: the Vedas (the repository for ancient Hindu teachings and rituals), the Mahabharata and Bhagavad Gita (the epic text that gives narrative examples of successes and failures of fulfilling Hindu dharma or religious ideals), the five elements discussed in both philosophy and literature, and the yoga tradition, which includes physical, metaphysical, and ethical speculations and practices. The goddess tradition will also be explored as a resource for thinking about the earth, particularly through Bhu Devi, the earth goddess. The bibliography then turns to four areas of environmental concern: forests, trees, and plants; sacred groves; rivers; and animals. Two activist movements merit their own bibliographies: Chipko and Bishnoi. Mahatma Gandhi himself talked about the problem of pollution and has inspired many contemporary environmentalists in India. Partly because of his emphasis on simple living and his critique of global economies and consumerism, his writings and example have helped define the global development of ecological values. One leading activist, Vandana Shiva, has done extensive work at the popular level in advocating a new, eco-friendly version of Gandhianism. This bibliography also includes a section on films that highlight environmental issues in issue, as well as a section of critiques of Hindu environmentalism.

Article.  7251 words. 

Subjects: Hinduism

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