The Eco-Dharmic Balancing Act

by Rohan Narine, Sadhana Co-Founder

            My most favorite genre of music is electronica. As the bridge between the physical and the metaphysical, electronica is to the novice’s ear an impossible obstacle course riddled with distortion. However, to the ardent astronaut, trained in harnessing the material cosmic frequency, electronica is the modern mirror of Nostradamus, granting one the ability to predict and shape the future. On Monday April 10th, 2018, a series of coincidences, coupled with my clarion call for the material cosmic frequency to enter into my body, guided me to the Auburn Theological Seminary, and to a reunion with my spirit brother – Christopher Fici.

            Soon-to-be doctor Chris Fici ideated the Sadhana Salon as a pathway to delve deep beyond just the debate of what being a ‘progressive’ Hindu is, but to actually insert new narratives of thought into already progressively held beliefs. The discussion for the evening – Progressive Hindu Earth Seva - sought to define exactly how Hindus, specifically the progressive ones, see their daily worship in a global ecological context. How do Hindus connect themselves to Mother Earth? What is the dharma of a Hindu ecologist? Why are Hindus discouraged from using the term “environmental justice”?  

            While en route, and tuned by the frequency, I imagined in my mind’s eye how the evening would progress. I attempted to predict the future of a fellow yogic journeyman, placing myself in his body, looking at life through his eyes, and naively thinking I was that good. I was wrong. Christopher Fici, also a meditator, on the path, attuned, and focused on the future, was strong enough to foresee our dharma’s crossing paths and prepared years for the telepathic encounter. Once on the 18th floor of the Seminary, I knew then that my electronically tuned frequency, now in harmony with the other three in that space and time, would plant the seed of future conversational trees to serve as the foundation of what it means to be a progressive Hindu.        

            Present at the Salon with Christopher were two journeywomen, seeking something but also bringing into the space an energy that said, “I heard the wisdom, and merged with my own we create a true space for reflection, reverence, and realization.” Their names are Helen Erwin and Varsha Narasimhan. Arriving late, I instantly jumped into an ongoing thought exercise. On a dry erase board split into two were two words in the middle of each side. On the left was the word earth, circled, and on the right, was the word eco-dharma, circled. The goal of the exercise was to define what the word earth meant to us as caretakers of it, and then to define what the word eco-dharma means to one who is a caretaker of the earth. The answers were thought-provoking, but also spiritual, and metaphysical, causing the self to search for the Self, and to dive deeper into not just a Self that takes care of the body, but also of the earth, bearing witness to the divinity of the feminine power of mother earth.

            Three questions were posed to Chris. How do Hindus connect themselves to Mother Earth? Chris says, “In the Bhagavad-Gita, Lord Krishna says that if one offers me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, a fruit, or water, I will accept it. Elsewhere Lord Krishna says He is the radiant sun...the flower-bearing spring...the taste of water...the original fragrance of the Earth. For Hindus, the elements of Earth as Bhumi-Devi, the creative substance of life are the means of expressing bhakti as well. Hindus understand that Mother Earth is also a dear devotee of the Divine, and the Divine infuses Her creative body with creative energy. In worshipping Yamuna-Devi, many Hindus directly experience divine love through care in their relationship with these elements of Earth.”

            What is the dharma of a Hindu ecologist? To this question Chris says, “That dharma is eco-dharma. It must be eco-dharma in our emerging Age of Climate Crisis. Dharma is the inherent harmony of the Divine. This harmony manifests in the universal creation and within our own selves. This harmony is the matrix of the rhythms of life and death, regeneration and reincarnation, yin and yang, Shiva and Shakti. A Hindu ecologist always attempts to create symbiotic living within the natural, holistic rhythms of the biosphere they are embedded in and embodied by. A Hindu ecologist can be open to seeing their eco-dharma as an environmental justice practice. For example, those concerned with pollution of such sacred rivers as Ganga-Devi and Yamuna-Devi must connect their practices of devotion to confronting and healing the systems and structures of economic and environmental injustice. Task-driven environmental justice initiatives can be an effective partner in confronting and solving pollution.”

            Lastly, why are Hindus discouraged from using the term “environmental justice”? Moving slightly, he says, “Some Hindus are suspicious of justice language because they feel it emerged from Christian traditions and desire that the roots of Dharmic language is most appropriate for Hindu environmentalism. I agree that Hindu ecologists should always primarily root their work in the rich soil of dharmic language, but I am very open to exploring the dance between dharmic language and justice language. For example, I'm always interested to explore how communities of Hindu eco-dharma could see some of their work through The Seventeen Principles of Environmental Justice.  Exploring creativity between eco-dharma and environmental justice could enhance each concept. Justice frameworks help dharmic communities to think more systematically. Dharma frameworks help justice communities to root their movements in spiritual harmony, for healing.”  

            Being in that space, in a steel and brick encased skyscraper trapped within four walls within four walls, I felt my mind was in a forest pierced by sunrays glistening as leaves weave in between light and laughter. As I slipped back into the conscious moment, I shook hands, hugged the group, but felt neither here nor there. It was as if my soul flew to another plane, touched down on that plane, and left my body in New York City to live. It would be at least one hour before my soul returned, enchanted by eco-dharma and fully aware of a newfound practice of progressive Hinduism.

            As Chris fluidly clarifies his theory, the balancing of eco-dharma and environmental justice may perhaps be best practiced by Sadhana’s Project Prithvi, the enduring and ever-evolving cleanup project performed in a triangular collaboration with Sadhana, the National Park Service, and the Indo-Caribbean Hindu Mandir community. Perhaps, as Sadhana inherits the strength to not just activate activists, but to postulate axioms for a new generation of frequency-focused Hindus, we are witnessing a Hinduism flourishing outside the motherland. Perhaps, Hindus could grow to like this Hinduism, dare I say, better.