Richard (now Radhanath Swami) learned to live in harmony with nature. His companions in the ‘Valley of Saints’ at Uttar Kashi were snakes, mongoose, brown and white monkeys, and leopards, besides other wild animals. Richard had learnt from Kailash baba the sacred virtue of respecting all life; he was also beginning to appreciate the difficult life of the sadhus, living all alone in the forests.
Radhanath Swami has always emphasized on the need to respect all life, especially on the need to protect environment. I was personally inspired by Vandana Shiva who was born in the Himalayas and grew up in the mountain forests, with her father who was a forest conservationist. In the 1970s, when logging of the mountain forests intensified, the women of her region rose to stop the deforestation. They said they would hug the trees to prevent the logging. In Hindi, Chipko means to hug [or stick]. Vandana joined the movement as a volunteer and spent every vacation working with the Chipko till the ban on logging in 1981.
Quoting from the Vedic scriptures, Radhanath Swami reveals that if we protect the environment and the forests, these forests in turn protect our lives. Quoting the Buddha, Radhanath Swami says, “In protecting oneself, others are protected; in protecting others, oneself is protected”. It’s important that we have reverence for all of God’s creation and live in harmony with nature. Radhanath Swami also clarifies that the nature of life in this world is that one living entity is food for another living entity and violence in some form is unavoidable. However Radhanath Swami insists that as human beings- the most evolved of all species- it’s our responsibility to ensure that minimum possible damage is done to the environment. Radhanath Swami says that civilized human life means a life of gratitude and and we can express our gratitude to Mother Nature by respecting all life.
Hearing Radhanath Swami’s words of wisdom I am reminded of Sufi teachings, a branch of Islam that teaches the need for all of us to respect life and feelings of others. The basis of Sufism is consideration of the hearts and feelings of others. “If you haven’t the will to gladden someone’s heart, then at least beware lest you hurt someone’s heart, for on our path, no sin exists but this”, said Javad Nurbakhsih, a master in the Sufi order. It’s amazing how all religions essentially teach us the same lesson; to live in harmony with nature and respect all life. Mahatma Gandhi’s words also ring in my ears, “The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”
Radhanath Swami explains the root cause of the abuse of nature is the selfish pursuits of man. “It’s the pollution of the heart that has to be cleaned first before we clean up the pollution of the environment” says Radhanath Swami. As long as human endeavor is directed to meet only our needs, strife and crisis is inevitable. We need to begin looking at the needs of others. He loves to quote Gandhi who said, “There is enough in this world for every person’s need but not sufficient for even one person’s greed.”