The Bhakti Center, located in the heart of Manhattan, recently hosted a unique confluence with academics, diplomats, researchers, monks and in enthusiasts concerned with the topic of environmental sustainability.
“Sustainability from the Inside Out”, as the conference was named, was hosted conjointly by Govardhan Eco Village (GEV), Mumbai and the Sacred Ecology Forum at the Bhakti Center on June 10th, to explore the profound connection between the practice of yoga and the sustainability of the Earth and its resources ahead of the International Yoga Day.
The conference began with Gauranga Das GEV Director and Vice-President of ISKCON Chowpatty explaining the inspiration and history behind the conception of the event – as a follow up to the conference on “Hinduism and Ecology” which was held last year in GEV, as a unique way to commemorate International Yoga Day.
The discussion was around the broad theme of the role of spirituality in providing a narrative to the question of sustainability. Mr. Sandeep Chakravorty, the current Consul General of India in New York, stressed the human role and the need of inner change to address the question of climate change. He mentioned about the role of austerity and frugality in abating the blazing fires of consumerism – quoting Gandhi, “There is enough for everybody’s need and not for anybody’s greed.”
Mr. Sandeep Chakravorty Consul General of India
The academia was represented by Dr. Mary Evelyn Tucker and Dr. John Grim who are the co-directors of the Forum on Religion and Ecology at Yale University, and Dr. David Haberman who is a professor in the Department of Religious Studies at Indiana University. Mary and John stressed the need of shared future for a better future – where religious values can assist science and technology for a sustainable future. They quoted and lauded GEV as an example of a fine “engaged project” – which shows the confluence of spiritual values and a working ground model where the values have been duly applied.
The Yale professors, Dr. Mary Evelyn Tucker and Dr. John Grim
Professor Haberman made his presentation on explaining how practically all aspects of nature, be it stones, trees and rivers are all considered sacred in the Vedic tradition – focusing much on the example of Govardhan worship. He stressed how Krishna, Himself taught by His example when he advocated the worship of the hill Govardhan.
Radhanath Swami explained that the crisis of environment is actually the crisis of the human spirit – the state of environment is actually an external manifestation of the ecology of the heart. He quoted examples from the life of his spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada how he personally cared for Krishna’s creation – be it being upset on a severed tree in an ISKCON property, instructing disciples about a leaking faucet in a farm or shedding tears for a struggling insect on the floor – and these all amidst his busy schedule of translating Shrimad Bhagavatam and preaching worldwide.
Among other dignitaries, Anita Patiala, Agricultural Counselor, US Embassy Costa Rica and Dr. Peter Whitehouse, President, Intergenerational Schools International shared their personal journeys in the field of religion and sustainability.
The program was also decorated with a beautiful musical rendition of Srila Rupa Gosvami’s Sri Yamunastakam by Jahnavi Harrison.
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