4) Our environmental actions affect our Karma. Karma, a central Hindu teaching, holds that each of our actions creates consequences -- good and bad -- that constitute our karma and determine our future fate, including the place we will assume when we are reincarnated in our next life. Moral behavior creates good karma, and our behavior toward the environment has karmic consequences. Because we have free choice, even though we may have harmed the environment in the past, we can choose to protect the environment in the future, replacing environmentally destructive karmic patterns with good ones.
5) The earth -- Devi -- is a goddess and our mother and deserves our devotion and protection. Many Hindu rituals recognize that human beings benefit from the earth, and offer gratitude and protection in response. Many Hindus touch the floor before getting out of bed every morning and ask Devi to forgive them for trampling on her body. Millions of Hindus create kolams daily -- artwork consisting of bits of rice or other food placed at their doorways in the morning. These kolams express Hindus’ desire to offer sustenance to the earth, just as the earth sustains them. The Chipko movement -- made famous by Chipko women’s commitment to “hugging” trees in their community to protect them from clear-cutting by outside interests -- represents a similar devotion to the earth.
6) Hinduism’s tantric and yogic traditions affirm the sacredness of material reality and contain teachings and practices to unite people with divine energy. Hinduism’s Tantric tradition teaches that the entire universe is the manifestation of divine energy. Yoga -- derived from the Sanskrit word meaning “to yoke” or “to unite” -- refers to a series of mental and physical practices designed to connect the individual with this divine energy. Both of these traditions affirm that all phenomena, objects, and individuals are expressions of the divine. And because these traditions both envision the earth as a Goddess, contemporary Hindu teachers have used these teachings to demonstrate the wrongness of the exploitation of the environment, women, and indigenous peoples.
7) Belief in reincarnation supports a sense of interconnectedness of all creation. Hindus believe in the cycle of rebirth, wherein every being travels through millions of cycles of birth and rebirth in different forms, depending on their karma from previous lives. So, a person may be reincarnated as a person, animal, bird, or another part of the wider community of life. Because of this, and because all people are understood to pass through many lives on their pathway to ultimate liberation, reincarnation creates a sense of solidarity between people and all living things. Through belief in reincarnation, Hinduism teaches that all species and all parts of the earth are part of an extended network of relationships connected over the millennia, with each part of this network deserving respect and reverence.
8) Ahimsa (nonviolence) is the greatest Dharma. Ahimsa to the earth improves one’s karma. For observant Hindus, hurting or harming another being damages one’s karma and obstructs advancement toward moksha -- liberation. To prevent the further accrual of bad karma, Hindus are instructed to avoid activities associated with violence and to follow a vegetarian diet. Based on this doctrine of ahimsa, many observant Hindus oppose the institutionalized breeding and killing of animals, birds, and fish for human consumption.
9) Sanyasa (asceticism) represents a path to liberation and is good for the earth. Hinduism teaches that asceticism -- restraint in consumption and simplicity in living -- represents a pathway toward moksha (liberation) that treats the earth with respect. A well-known Hindu teaching --Tain tyakten bhunjitha -- has been translated, “Take what you need for your sustenance without a sense of entitlement or ownership.”
One of the most prominent Hindu environmental leaders, Sunderlal Bahuguna, inspired many Hindus by his ascetic lifestyle. His repeated fasts and strenuous foot marches, undertaken to support and spread the message of the Chipko, distinguished him as a notable ascetic in our own time. In his capacity for suffering and his spirit of self-sacrifice, Hindus saw a living example of the renunciation of worldly ambition exhorted by Hindu scriptures.
10) Gandhi is a role model for simple living. Gandhi’s entire life can be seen as an ecological treatise. This is one life in which every minute act, emotion, or thought functioned much like an ecosystem: his small meals of nuts and fruits, his morning ablutions and everyday bodily practices, his periodic observances of silence, his morning walks, his cultivation of the small as much as of the big, his spinning wheel, his abhorrence of waste, his resorting to basic Hindu and Jain values of truth, nonviolence, celibacy, and fasting. The moralists, nonviolent activists, feminists, journalists, social reformers, trade union leaders, peasants, prohibitionists, nature-cure lovers, renouncers, and environmentalists all take their inspirations from Gandhi’s life and writings.