Dr. Christina Nellist has written a book called: ‘Climate Crisis and Creation Care: Economic Sustainability, Ecological Integrity and Justice’. It is published by Cambridge Scholars Publishing. The last chapter of the book has contributions from various faiths. The following is the Hindu and Jain Perspective by Nitin Mehta MBE.
Two of the oldest religions of the world, Hinduism and Jainism, have advocated a lifestyle which is in harmony with nature. The resources that nature has provided in the form of forests, rivers and oceans, as well as the sun and the moon are worthy of worship to Hindus and Jains. The idea is not to exploit the world’s resources but to respect and revere them. It is not unusual to see people in India offering prayers to the rivers, mountains, the sun and moon, or bowing down to an elephant. The idea that animals are sentient beings and have souls has been around for tens of thousands of years. The struggle that other cultures and faiths have with this idea is a source of mystery to faiths born in India, namely Hinduism, Sikhism, Jainism and Buddhism. Compassion towards animals is a core belief of Hindus and Jains. Indeed, there is no spiritual progress without compassion towards all living beings. It is bad karma to harm animals-even insects. It is in the nature of a mosquito to bite you but it is bad karma to harm it. You may protect yourself from being bitten by taking preventive measures but you should not harm it. Just as every action has a reaction, good and bad karma will impact an individual’s actions. Closely linked with the law of karma is the belief in reincarnation. Our next birth depends on our actions in this birth.
The Hindu Perspective
The Bhumi (Earth) Project has put together a Hindu declaration on climate change. It quotes several ancient Hindu scriptures.
The Mahabharata (109.10): “Dharma exists for the welfare of all beings. Hence, that by which the welfare of all beings is sustained, that for sure is Dharma.” The Srimad Bhagvatam (11/2/41): “Ether, air, water, earth, planets, all creatures, directions, trees and plants, rivers and seas, they are all organs of God’s body. Remembering this a devotee respects all species.”
The Jain Perspective
The Jain Declaration on Nature was presented to Prince Philip at Buckingham Palace on 23rd October 1990.
There are 24 Tirthankars, enlightened souls, in Jainism. The 24th Tirthankar, Lord Mahaveer was present around 2,600 years ago. He preached a complete and absolute compassion to all living beings. Jains are well known for running animal sanctuaries in India. There are five main concepts Jains live by: non-violence (Ahimsa); truth (Satya); non-stealing (Asetya); chastity (Brahmacharya); and non-possessiveness or non- materialism (Aparigraha).
Jains also have a concept called, ‘Abhay Daan’ which means giving someone protection from fear of death. So not only do you have to avoid any violence, you have to be proactive in your non-violence (ahimsa). This means you should actively campaign against all forms of exploitation, especially of animals as they cannot fight for themselves. Many Hindus and Jains stop animals being taken for illegal slaughter.
Jains also believe in the idea of ‘Parasparopagraho Jivanam’, meaning that we are interdependent on other living beings, as well as all that nature provided in the form of rivers, oceans, forests, and mountains. For tens of thousands of years practicing Hindus and Jains have been vegetarian and more recently vegan. To solve the existential crisis that we are facing today a move away from a meat-based diet to a plant-based diet is extremely urgent.
Nitin Mehta17 March 2021.