Community//

Start New Pro-Environment Religious Traditions to Fight Global Warming

Religion should be practical. It exists for humankind; humankind does not exist for religion.

Photo of Amma distributing sapling to youth
For the Kerala New Year, Mata Amritanandamayi (Amma) distributes saplings to teenagers and children, a new tradition she introduced into the holiday in order to fight global warming and deforestation.

Currently it is as if Mother Earth has stage 3 cancer. This is due to humankind’s selfishness and greed. Our bond with nature has deteriorated to such a degree that restoring her to full health will be extremely difficult. How long can she be sustained? Our care alone will determine that. If the efforts of all countries and cultures are united, we can bring her back to some extent. If it is only 10 percent, at least that much harmony would be restored. Even this would reduce global warming and earthquakes, tsunamis, floods and other natural disasters.

“I would like to ask religious and spiritual leaders throughout the world to consider creating and integrating new traditions that would contribute to protecting the environment into at least one of their annual religious festivals or holidays.” — Amma

In this regard, I would like to ask religious and spiritual leaders throughout the world to consider creating and integrating new traditions that would contribute to protecting the environment into at least one of their annual religious festivals or holidays.

For example, five years ago, our ashram started a new tradition on Vishu, the Kerala New Year. As per custom, on this day elders throughout the state give children pocket money. We decided to start giving away saplings and to encourage elders to give them away on Vishu as well. The goal is not only to grow more trees, but to also infuse love for nature in the upcoming generation. We even told the youngest ones that each day before going to school, they should say goodbye to their sapling, water it and give it a kiss. When they return home from school, they should do the same. Children who have been practicing this start seeing the plant as it is — a living entity. Upon coming home, some of them even tell their plants about their day at school. Some have even shared with me stories that their plants have told them. Such children will always treat trees with love and respect. They will not destroy them or pollute their soil. They won’t cut them down unless it is absolutely necessary.

Over the past few years, this tradition is being more and more accepted among the people of Kerala. Some celebrities and other organizations have joined in, and this has further helped to instill this new custom into our culture.

To religious leaders who ask, “Who are we to modify and augment our traditions?” I would ask us to look to the religious and spiritual leaders of the past. In Hinduism, Sri Krishna asked the cowherds of Vraj to stop worshipping the god Indra and to worship the Govardhana Hill itself instead. He wanted them to understand that the Creator and creation are not two, and to worship God through nature. This practice continues in that place to this day. In Christianity, the customs associated with Christmas have also evolved over the years. Customs have evolved in other religions as well. By these we are not changing the essence of the festival; we are simply finding new ways of expressing it. There is nothing wrong in this. Religion should be practical. It exists for humankind; humankind does not exist for religion.

“We push our children to become engineers or doctors because we want to secure a good future for them, and for them to be happy and to have some status in society. But in order for them to survive, they need this planet and clean air and water. Therefore, if we really want to secure their future, it is even more important to inculcate love and respect for nature in them.” — Amma

Children are like blank pages. Their minds are like fields of fresh grass. It is easy to make paths to goodness in them. But for this, parents must play their part. Care for Mother Nature and good environmental practices such as not wasting and recycling must be taught and demonstrated at home. We go to great pains to ensure our children get the best education possible. We push them to become engineers or doctors because we want to secure a good future for them, and for them to be happy and to have some status in society. But in order for them to survive, they need this planet and clean air and water. Therefore, if we really want to secure their future, it is even more important to inculcate love and respect for nature in them.

In destroying nature, we are destroying ourselves. May it never come to pass that humankind must perish in order for the earth to survive. We need to uplift ourselves from the current culture of taking to the culture of giving.

May grace inspire leaders of all the world’s religions and sects and cultures to create new environmentally restorative traditions, and may they take root throughout the world.

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