Thursday, 19 January 2012

The Sustainability Mantra

-         By Vrndavanlila devi dasi (Dr Vrinda Baxi)
hen a butterfly sneezes in Africa, there is a hurricane in Caribbean Sea. This is true not just of stock markets but even in the real world that we live in. It brings out how fragile our systems are. A fall in subprime sector in the US melted down scores of sectors and economies across the globe; many big companies closed down, giant financial organizations turned paupers and sold out. This was further spread to other verticals like IT industry, Outsourcing industry, Real Estate and so on. Lucky survivors are still struggling to come out of it even though three years have already gone by. This phenomenon of depression was totally unheard of in the past. It is a modern development of a few centuries when we started moving drastically away from the Vedic standards. It is a ‘reward’ of our efforts to modernize, move from localization to globalization, from agriculture to industrialization, from village to cities, and from simplicity to consumerism. We take pride in calling ourselves developed but it has no value as it is not ‘sustainable’. Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. The wide cracks in the edifice of ‘development’ have already started showing. It is now time to take action before it gets too late.
The primary pillar of sustainability for any country is cow protection. It is capable of nourishing other primary factors that contribute in attaining sustainability ie, agriculture and education.
Agriculture – It not only provides for the material requirement of food, but also helps purify the senses, if produced and consumed properly. The cow gives the dung and urine besides the next generation of cows and bulls, which is used as manure and in preparing pest resistants besides many more things, while the bull tills the land. But replacement of bulls with tractors, chulhas with gas stove, manure with chemical fertilizer, and growth of dairy industry have demolished the old culture of having a cow in every family.
Education – It helps answering a human being’s fundamental spiritual queries and understanding his duty towards the society and the Supreme father. It educates and provides for even less evolved people to progress gradually in realizing the ultimate goal of human life.
Education, which helps in upholding the brahminical culture of knowledge and spiritual realization intact in a society, is also dependent on cows. Cow, being emblem of prithvi and bull of dharma provide for everything to sustain life. Both cows and brahmana, are in the mode of goodness and belong to the same family. While brahmanas are qualified to chant the Vedic mantras, the cows supply all the ingredients (panchgavya) required by a brahmana to perform his duty or sacrifices and yagnas. In the Gomati-Vidya it is said, “Only by the combination of brahmanas and the cows, is the performance of sacrifice for the pleasure of Vishnu complete.” In this age where everybody is a shudra this has become a real task, unfortunately it gets further complicated by government policies.
One may find attribution of complete sustainability to cows little far fetched but it is well supported by scriptures and even by common sense. In reply to Lord Parasurama’s questions, son of Lord of water Varuna, who lords over Pushkar Dwipa and is expert in scriptural knowledge spoke Gomati Vidya (Vishnu-dharmottara,Part II, Chapter 42),which offers an insight into the spiritual and other wonderful attributes of mother cow. Even the material prosperity after which the whole world hankers cannot be achieved without cow protection and brahminical culture. Laxmi, the Goddess of prosperity, herself resides in cow’s dung.
The example of serving the cow was set by the Lord Himself in His pastimes. The Supreme Lord, who is sampurana tended cows in Vrindavan; and Himself received his childhood Brahmin friend, Sudama vipra, by cleaning his feet with His own hands (go-brahmana hitaya ca). Importance of agriculture was also upheld by Lord Balrama, always carrying a plough in his hands (not the steering of a tractor). This is why, when Macaulay visited India, he was surprised not to see a single beggar, rather everybody was content and happy. This made him suggest Queen Victoria to strategically destroy India’s cow-centric culture, educational structure and agricultural system, if England wished to rule successfully. History proves how successful they were in this. When India worshipped cows, India was a prosperous nation, called the golden bird; later when we got independence owing to mother cow (recall the first revolution for freedom because of cow fat being used in cartridges), the government chose to continue the policy of systematically slaughtering the cows! India ranks 6th in the world in Beef export. No wonder now we are a skeleton bird, dependent on MNCs and KFCs to even fill our stomach. What a stride of development we have taken!
This can be realized only if we take to the solution that Srila Prabhupada gave us just before he was to leave his body – taking to varnasrama and establishing our own farm community where the life revolves round cows, land and Krishna. In the last film footage of Srila Prabhupada we find him lying on his bed with HH Jayadvaita Swami holding a microphone to his lips. Carefully choosing the words for what were to become his final purports, he explained exactly why we need varnasrama:
…nasta prayesu abhadresu nityam bhagavata sevaya. Then raja guna, tama guna cannot do us harm. Therefore varnasrama dharma is so essential that people live in sattva guna. Tama guna, raja guna increases lust and greediness, and that implicates the living entity who exists in the material world in many, many forms. That is very dangerous. Therefore, they should be brought into sattva guna by the establishment of varnasrama dharma.
Srila Prabhupada clearly expected us to establish varnasrama dharma within the context of agrarian based self-sufficient communities, the actual norm and standard of Vedic society. And this is the only mantra for sustainability in all spheres of life, be spiritual, social, economic, political, or just anything.
The decision to implement varnasrama may be very difficult, but it is not impossible. Vedic culture is not completely lost. Today, things have exponentially worsened, but still it is not so late. It is also important to realize that everything exists in a context. If we had Vedic culture, we also had a set of traditions to follow which functioned as a support system to that culture, and offering conducive atmosphere for practicing it. For example, everything was more localized, be management, economy, transport or just anything. I remember the days as recent as 45 years ago, when my father got a job in Indian Air Force and had to leave the village and get transferred in different parts of the country, it had become a very serious issue. Travelling within the country was so difficult; going overseas was just unimaginable in cultured families. No wonder it helps in protecting the culture. It was equally impossible for a person to accept any eatable from outside, where the cook is unknown or not related. This explains why their consciousness was elevated. The only time people travelled was when they went for dham yatra. Then also they would carry a potful of sattu (powdered mixed grains) or beaten rice which could be eaten just by mixing water in it. No need of biscuits, hotels, etc. Life was so simple. You want to clean your teeth, don’t need to keep a plastic tooth brush that you use for days and a fancy tooth paste. Just take a neem twig and brush, every day a fresh tooth brush, with an add-on tongue cleaner. There is such a deep science behind smallest of the actions that it is better to follow it with faith rather than challeng it at every step. Similarly India has an immortal tradition of cow worship. If we return to that and revive our old traditions, other structures will certainly follow on their own. This will ultimately lead to sustainability – both spiritually and materially. few may find cow protection as the bija mantra for sustainability as little far fetched. But recall Srimad Bhagavatam. In order to usher in his era of decadence, Kali chose to attack the cow and bull. He did this in complete wisdom that he was hitting at the very foundation of the entire structure. So, if we have to save ourselves the solution lies in cows. Further, sustainability of an economy is nothing; when complete creation can be sustained by mother cow. Shiva Purana and Mahabharata mention that seven entities can sustain humanity and creation – cows, brahmanas, Vedas, chaste woman, truthful people, not greedy people, and charity. Mahabharata says:
Gobhirviprasya vedaihscha, satobhih satyvadhibhi
Alubhdhirdanashilaishcha, saptabhirdharyate mahi
Therefore, any development or happiness is fragile, shortlive and unsustainable unless mother cow is happy. Srila Prabhupada commented that one can earn happiness by pleasing the bull and the cow. When the bull and cow are in a joyful mood, it is to be understood that the people of the world are also in a joyous mood (SB 1.17.3 Purport).  Cow protection is not possible without villages, and naturally “India's civilization was based on village residence. (Morning Walk 13/10/75 Gita Nagari)” “Clever means that he must stay in his own land. He should not be cheated by the paper and go to the city [which will one day collapse].” (Conversation 25/7/73 London) “Actually, everyone should be engaged to produce food, but the modern set-up of civilization is that few people are engaged in producing food, and others are eating. ... They are artificially getting money.” (Conversation 25/7/73 London)This scenario is certainly not sustainable in the long run. What is the solution for this? “So this Kåñëa consciousness movement is trying to revive the original, constitutional position. So one of them, in Kåñëa consciousness movement, is village organization, as you are trying here.” (Lecture 15/7/76 Gita Nagari). We have ever well wisher Srila Prabhupada’s solution for sustainability, will we take it?