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Environment and Vedic culture

Vedic culture is inseparable from our environment because it taught us the fundamental principle of the constitution of phenomenal creation is through the elements of nature. Pancha Bhutas or five primal elements namely water, fire, air, earth, and space or ether are the basic components of all that exists. Vedas are also clear that these are by their very nature subject to decay! Or change. In Vedic culture there is godhead for each and every component of nature. It defines their presence in every gross form and explains how they reach their subtle form when their life cycle ends! Water is ruled by Lord Varuna, Fire ruled by Agni, air ruled by Vayu, earth ruled by Soma, Space ruled by Surya. Principal god heads (The trinity)also represent these elements as they form the basis of phenomenal creation and their respective godhead! The Vedas have clearly explained the dynamic nature of our environment.They called the phenomenal creation by a term Vinasam that literally means changing. Lord Siva is represented by five elements in five shrines! When prayers are addressed to these representations, they address these components of environment. In Rig Vedic hymns addressed to Lord Siva called Rudra prasnam the flora, and the water bodies of various kinds are said to be His personification! In mantra pushpam hymn in Yajur veda that begins with equating flowers with water, we all know the beauty, tenderness, freshness, fragrance, its honey are all due the presence of water, once this water content is not there everything withers! Here the hymn adds the cattle and progeny to flowers thereby emphasizing that all are inter dependent. Next the mantra proceeds to state that fire and water are the source of each other, one who understands this the mantra says is established in eternal truth. Next air and water are stated to be interdependent , then the Sun is taken up and paired with water,then the moon and then the stars are paired with water, then clouds are stated to be the source of water, thereby causing rain. Then the mantra proceeds to establish that the it is called verily Brahman, Vayu, soul, truth, everything in the phenomenal creation and is also called purusha. It further states that the indweller of these basic elements is the God principle. The subtle principle of water is represented by light

in all the seven planes of phenomenal creation and is called Brahman the single source! Lord Mitra who is always praised along with Indra or Varuna the rain god is representing the principle of harmony. Varuna represents apart from principle of water, the force or energy and vastness. He is also said to be a cohesive force that binds all living entities. In the mantra Samno mitra sam varuna: it prays for peace to all the elements, primarily water. It signifies that life for its smooth passage requires water that is calm and pristine! Similarly it proceeds to pray for peace in air! We can easily conclude that this again highlights the quality and abundance of good atmospheric air. Then it prays to Lord Vishnu the Brahman to protect both the humans and their environment and also foster their collaborative effort to harness energy! The the mantra concludes by declaring let there be peace in environment, and in the forces that act upon humanity! What a foresight! In the Shanti mantra that begins with the phrase Badram karnebhi surnuyama deva: it pleads for perfect hearing, eyes, and healthy limbs, this is a clear indication that what Vedas aspire is holistic living as opposed to over exploitation. The stress on environment is much more pronounced in yet another Shanti mantra that begins with the phrase Ohm dayurshanti antariksham shanti. That states let there be peace in the intermediate space, the environment, all over the earth, upon the flora like trees and herbs and creepers, waters, and asserts that peace flows from Brahman towards all! These mantras are in Taittriya, Mundaka, and Aithareya Upanishads. In Taittriya Aranyaka of Krishna Yajur Veda a suktha called Agamarshana Suktham is recited. The basic purpose of the mantra is purity, it starts with addressing Varuna and water represented by him to remove all bodily impurities along with sins accumulated and says let that water be medicated to remove all the illness causing elements! Then it proceeds to address Agni the progeny of water, Indra, Varuna, and prays to them to keep away whatever that is inauspicious, alarming, infectious, that is present in the physical form of water and also that which is not physically identifiable to be removed and cast away! This is addressed to the water kept for consumption of all the living entities! Varuna who is visualized as

being seated within the waters is invoked to remove blemishes within and without through the medium of water! Then the Suktha proceeds to address the rivers like Ganga, Yamuna, Saraswati, Sutdruti, Parukshini and prays for enviable growth, and prosperity. This emphasizes the basic premise that they wanted rivers to sustain growth, not whished them to be a source of pollution and ills! Then the next stanza addresses the earth, especially earth beneath the flowing rivers addressed earlier that sustained civilizations! The mantra praises it to be medicinal and when smeared all over the body (mud bath) not only clears the impurities on the skin but also the sins committed through organs of perception! It says that Lord Brahma was responsible for creation of earth and Sage Kasyapa purified the earth! So it seeks wealth prosperity and strength and vitality from earth! Then it addresses a grass named Durva, it is said that it represents Agni as an element in its constitution, hence is considered to impart purity, this grass grows in plenty in the river beds that has potable water! There is mantra specifically addressed to the grass that assures the grass that the person who cuts it shall not cut it vertically that will impede its growth, and also not cut it near its roots, but leave cubit from the bottom. It prays to the grass to help those who use them for the purpose of purification and holistic living! Apart from these mantras there are many hymns that state the food we eat and the human body and its soul are not different. They are Aham annam, Aham annam, Aham annadham etc. In Mahabharata in Bheeshma Yudihstira samvada the thousand names of Vinshu occur, there is specifically stated that Jangama Ajangamam chetam Jagan Narayanodhbhavam From the Lord Vishnu all these living and non living entities have emerged. All the primal elements are also established on Vishnu! Now turning to Purnas we see the ten avatars of Vishnu they include fish, tortoise, lion. The Gods are always worshiped with their celestial vehicles such as Garuda (Kite), Snake, Swan, lion, Bull, Ram, peacock, owl, crocodile, bandicoot, elephant, Tiger, parrot, and there are monkeys, bears, buffalo that are personified as divine and worshiped. Similarly the trees are considered holy especially pepal (ficus riligiosa), Sal (Magno liophyta), banyan, Neem, Bilwa (Rutaceae),herbs like Tulsi (Basil), Arugu (Cynodon dactylon), Amla (Emblica officinalis), mango,

coconut, plantain tree, are also considered holy and widely used in rituals apart from fig tree, Purasu (betua monosperma), and many other species are considered holy. It is quite interesting to note that they also state their medicinal properties and elaborate about the ailments and illnesses they cure! Similarly many flowers are specified as special offerings to specific deities as they are aimed at specific purposes and a branch of Veda called Ayur Veda propagated by many seers like Bharadhwaja, Chyavana, Sushruta, have written detailed commentaries on the usefulness of many herbs and medicinal properties of plants and elaborated their end use too. Yajur Veda specifies many specific herbs to be used as offerings in the sacrificial fire that helps purify the atmosphere and bring about all around goodness and prosperity! Sulba sutra by Apasthamba rishi and others specify many mathematical calculations involved in construction of Fire altars, and also specify the nature of earth to be used and their chemical composition. The explanatory notes to these verses talk about their effects on the performer! Patanjali propagated the Yoga sutras, in which he emphasized among many important principles, Ahimsa that means non hurting that includes every component of our environment including ourselves, non stealing or desiring to possess what is unrighteous, not being avarice, and Purity in thought, action and in the physical! This naturally establishes a conducive environment! Then he proceeds to explain the Pranayama a yoga practice of inhaling pure air with full of vitality and regenerating the cells of our physical body! So from these facts it is quite clear that Vedic culture stressed the upkeep of our environment and scorned its abuse!