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Climate Change and Hinduism

Climate Change and Hinduism

EARTH & PSYCHIATRY

-Series Editor: H. Steven Moffic, MD

Nature is an integral part of religion. Religion serves as a bridge between humans and the environment by using rituals to mark the rhythm of the seasonal changes, to express gratitude for a bountiful harvest, and pray to keep away destructive natural forces. Many religions teach that humans are the caretakers of this planet earth. The beliefs about human-nature relationships, religious cosmologies, and climate change perceptions are a set of interrelated concepts, reinforced and shaped by one another. How might we approach climate change from the Hindu point of view?

Hindu Worldview and Climate Change

It is critical to understand how various cultures function concerning nature. Hindu religion is a multifaceted faith with numerous perspectives on human-nature relationships.1 There is no central authority that prescribes and proscribes universally accepted human behavior to all Hindus. There is a description of unity in all diversity: “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam,” meaning “the whole world is a family” in Sanskrit.

Hinduism teaches that the 5 significant elements (space, air, fire, water, and Earth) that constitute the environment are all derived from prakriti, the primal energy. Each of these elements has its own life and form; together, the elements are interconnected and interdependent. Hinduism recognizes that the human body is composed of and related to these 5 elements. Each element is connected to 1 of the 5 senses. The human nose is related to Earth, tongue to water, eyes to fire, skin to air, and ears to space. This bond between our senses and the elements is the foundation of our human relationship with the natural world.

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