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October 2006

High on Waves

Mother Nature – Our Saviour
Swami Sivananda Saraswati

Living with Nature
Swami Satyananda Saraswati

Plants and Trees
Swami Satyananda Saraswati

Yoga Ecology
Swami Satyananda Saraswati

Connecting with Nature
Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

Tree Pooja
Swami Prembhava Saraswati

Tulasi – India’s Most Sacred Plant
Swami Vibhooti Saraswati

The Ten Avataras – 9
Swami Satyadharma Saraswati

Prayer to a Tree
Jignasu Madhumati

Yoga Ecology and the Art of Compensation
Swami Yogatirthananda Saraswati



Connecting with Nature

Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

In both the Vedic tradition and modern physics, there is a ‘unified field’ theory, which states that every cell of our body is interconnected. Similarly, there is a connection between every life form on this planet. We are not isolated individual beings. For example, there is a connection through the breath and the air we breathe. Today we may be breathing the same air exhaled by Christ, Mohammed and Krishna, and many others. We are connected to the past and the future by living in the present. The same connection exists with the planet and creation. If the earth were to blow up, the solar system would definitely be affected and each planet would feel the earth’s destruction. If our solar system is destroyed, the galaxy will also be destroyed and so on. If our galaxy is destroyed, other galaxies will be affected. An ecological balance has to be maintained.

In the Vedic culture, systems of personal, global and universal healing were practised. The ancient Vedic rishis and seers were the scientists of their times, and when science has a spiritual bent, it leads to the development of civilisation. They said that one has to live in harmony with the cosmic self, and devised practical ways of avoiding ecological disasters and maintaining the natural balance of the planet and its relationship with the universe. Their vision was that if the tattwas and life forms of the planet are in harmony, that effect spreads throughout the entire universe. They devised certain methods which influenced the personality and the environment, inducing harmony and removing imbalances. These methods included upasanas, havans and yajnas, which are not just rituals, but processes of trying to unite the life form of this body with the universal body.

In that process it is the matri shakti or feminine force with which one has to connect. We are born out of a feminine body and our first contact and associations are with our mother. Similarly, the universe came out of hiranyagarbha, the golden womb. Birth represents an extension of the feminine force. The entire world was created, nurtured and sustained by matri shakti. Similarly, the quality of goodness is recognised as representing the feminine force. In Sanskrit, sympathy, love, compassion and the ability to nurture are all feminine qualities. All the good qualities of life are feminine in nature. Prakriti, cosmic energy, srishti, creation, and shakti, energy, the powers of creation, are also feminine. When we invoke that power, we connect with the goodness in life. We begin to sympathise with the effect of the wrongs and try to make them right.

This is not the first time in human history that our planet has undergone a crisis. Every civilisation. has had problems, whether air pollution, water pollution, or overpopulation, and yet the earth has always found a way to maintain its balance. In each yuga or age, there has been growth and decline. This is the cycle of the world. One lights a flame to dispel fear and ignorance. In the immediate vicinity there is light, but as you go further away the light diminishes, until you cannot see it at all. Similarly, events are seen in the darkness of time and space. As we move further away from them in the course of time, they are remembered as experiences, then as history, then as myth and later forgotten. Yajna is a point of light in the upswing and downswing of civilisation.

Communicating with nature

Yajna is not just the fire ceremony. Real yajna is expressing your sentiments and identifying with the object of worship. Tree pooja is also a form of yajna. When we perform tree pooja, we are coming in contact with nature. This sambandh, contact or communication, has to happen for spiritual development. Communication is being able to interact with the environment with inner sensitivity. If you see someone suffering on the side of the road, you may choose to go and help. If you see a withered plant in need of water, you may choose to give it water or to ignore it. Even a simple act like giving water is a form of communication. You are conveying your sympathy and compassion, and that is what is received. In this case words have no meaning.

Human beings have the ability to communicate with each and every part of creation in a non-verbal manner, but we are so used to communicating through speech that we have lost our non-verbal skills. In prakriti, or nature, the same energy and spirit is flowing in all aspects of creation, so the communication between your life force and the life force inherent in others is not mental, intellectual or verbal, but communication of thoughts and feelings. In yoga ecology, the first attempt is to communicate and have empathy with nature, not to misuse nature, but to enhance the beauty, growth and birth of nature.

Many people have experimented with non-verbal communication. For example, the members of Findhorn in the UK were interested in communicating with plants, vegetables, trees, flowers, fruits, etc. They believed that through communication it was possible to awaken the spirit of the devas, the illumined beings, within.

In Stalking the Wild Pendulum, physicist Isaac Bentov spoke of the energy being awakened in a lifeless rock through worship and prayer over centuries. He discovered the simple principle of non-verbal communication. Spiritual masters have understood this connection and expressed it, not in a scientific manner, but definitely through the same experience. They have come to the same conclusion – the mind is energy.

The body is matter, the senses are expressions of matter, but the mind, thoughts, feelings, emotions and spirit are all energy. Communication happens in the realm of energy, in the non-material dimension. Energy simply brings into play the inherent nature that already exists in different things. When two pieces of wood are rubbed together, a spark is created and then fire. Fire was created because it was inherent in wood. Similarly, when you are able to develop empathy with a plant, a tree or any other object of creation, you are connecting your energy with it. The energy inherent in that tree comes alive, which is the principle of yoga ecology.

Tree pooja

In order to develop this energy communication, we start with tree pooja, which is the first step in yoga ecology. It is a very simple act. Try to choose the weakest tree, so that you can see how it responds to tree pooja after one month. Every day at sunset, light a small candle or an oil flame in front of the tree, place a flower there, light a stick of incense and pour a small bowl of water at the base of the tree. Then for ten seconds close your eyes. Become that tree. If the tree is sick, feel the sickness of the tree and say a prayer for its well-being. “May you become strong and healthy. May you become well to nurture life.” After some time the tree will become healthier and stronger. If you continue with this practice with full belief, trust and compassion, you will understand the tree is responding to your actions. Of course, the process has to be developed; it cannot happen in a day or a week. You have to fine-tune the frequency of your brain to receive the waves being transmitted by the tree.

This is the beginning of your connection with nature – not just admiring the tree, but feeling a connection. A great sense of satisfaction and fulfilment comes, happiness and hope come. That is the spirit of yoga ecology. Some movements say hug a tree. The Satyananda yoga ecology movement says adopt a tree, worship a tree, be one with the tree, feel for the tree. Although tree pooja looks simple, it has a deep meaning, because it is worshipping Mother Earth, the source of all nourishment and life. Tree pooja is a way of honouring and remembering that transition where matter is no longer inert but contains a spark of life and consciousness. It is also a way of connecting oneself with nature, and through nature with the divine.

Yajna

After tree pooja, the next component of yoga ecology is yajna. Yajna is a process of cleansing the mind through the chanting of mantras, through connecting oneself with nature, the elements and the environment, and experiencing the external purity internally. To teach the science of yajna, first we have to understand the ingredients used, the properties of the herbs and wood, the properties contained in the ash and the smoke, and their effect on the environment. We need to discover from the tradition which ingredients purify the air in a particular way and create a balance in the atmospheric conditions. Just as burning a handful of chillies can create a drastic change in the environment, a handful of other herbs can help to purify the environment. Each mixture of herbs and woods used during yajna has its own properties. Some remove toxins from the body upon inhalation, some uplift the mind, some bring about balance in the motor and sensory nervous systems, some help to destroy the pollutants that we breathe in from the environment. It is possible to induce a change in the mental patterns and attitudes, to heal illnesses and diseases of the body by using certain combinations of wood and herbs in a yajna.

The Vedic seers recognised that yajna, upasana and havans are the means of identifying with the universe. There was an understanding of how to maintain ecological balance. They knew which herbs would cleanse and purify the soul, the air and the water. In the Vedic age every household performed small yajnas, or sandhyas, three times a day with the smoke curling up into the atmosphere in the heavens. By burning different combinations of herbs and wood, smoke is created which rises and combats air pollutants.

In the past, yajna was the accepted way of creating a balance in the environment. There is a scientific theory which postulates that the sulphur dioxide resulting from volcanic eruptions rises and eventually counteracts the effects of excess carbon dioxide already in the atmosphere. What are considered to be toxic fumes can actually counterbalance the pollution we have put in the environment.

Swami Satyananda has said, “Forty years ago, when I was investigating the need of society, I decided yoga would play a vital role. Today yoga has become a common word throughout the world. Now the time has come to start teaching the system, process and tradition of yajnas and havans, because that will be the need of society in this century.”

According to the Vedic tradition, yajna has three components: deva pooja, worship of the divine; prakriti, connection with nature; and participation of the individual as the worshipper. Yajna creates an environment where you are in tune with yourself and nature. Yajna is not a religious activity or ritual. The tradition speaks of over 200 different kinds of yajna: to improve the quality of the soil, the quality of the air, to bring forth rain, for progeny, etc.

In India, a centre for yajna research has used the ash from yajna to fertilise barren soil. In Munger, some local farmers also experimented with ash from the Chandi Yajna. A handful of eggplant seeds were covered with ash overnight and then planted beside a row of seeds not exposed to the ash. The seeds dipped in ash grew much taller and were more full-bodied than the normal seeds. Chemicals damage the soil. A study comparing the quality of soil in India and in USA concluded that the soil in USA had the capacity to feed the entire world for 50 years, whereas the soil in India could feed the entire world for 200 years, because the agrarian culture in India used natural fertilisers, rather than chemicals which diminish the soil’s vitality.

Role of yoga ecology

The Vedic tradition emphasised the importance of living naturally. Living naturally does not mean that you leave all the comforts and luxuries and ‘go bush’. It means understanding nature, caring for nature, supporting nature, encouraging nature to perform its duties by maintaining this subtle balance. A different type of mentality has to be developed to sensitise people to the process of upasana or worship. The selfish, consumer mentality may give pleasure for a few years, or a lifetime, but the destruction that happens to human society and to the planet is irreversible. We are overly conscious of ourselves and as a result fail in our interactions with other people and nature. How can we expect then to interact with the divine nature? Spirituality becomes only a philosophy, not a part of people’s lives. As a result, we have been unable to maintain a connection with the divine, transcendental power, and that has left us weak.

Our main role is to act as catalysts to improve, not destroy, the quality of our existence. Although a lot is being done to preserve and protect nature and to discover alternate sources of energy, there has been irreversible damage to the environment. Planting trees and preserving what is left of the rain forests is not the real solution. We can help to purify the atmosphere, but we cannot replenish what has been lost.

Today, nature is no longer our home. Urbanisation, concrete jungles and polluted environments are our home, and we call this progress. As time passes, human beings lose contact with nature. That is the trend of modern civilisation. because we have been misusing nature and the natural resources for our own satisfaction and gain. In this way we are killing our own planet as well as ourselves. If there is no mother, then there are no sons and daughters.

The devastation happening around the world at all levels has to be recognised, not in a political manner but in a more humane, humanitarian manner. There is no use trying to change the laws, because laws are not pro-human, they are pro-society, pro-civilization. There seems to be a clash between humanity and civilisation. We can become human beings again by connecting with nature. Nature connects us to the transcendental, the divine, the cosmos. This is the attempt of yoga ecology – to connect and where we can to rectify the imbalances we have created. Through yoga ecology we can learn how to rejuvenate and revitalise nature around us.

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