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Dhenu and Vrishabha as symbols of Dharmic Environmentalism

Technology & Ethics: Negotiating with challenges in Modern World


anthropocentricity with respect to ecological problems is the issue –
envisioning the universe as a Dharmic system, during which we are instigated to be
unselfish, is the answer” observed Professor Vishwa Adluri in a talk
delivered in 2018 titled ‘Unburdening the earth – Hinduism and
Trendy Ecology’ organized by Assume Olio on the well-known Strand Bookstore in New
York Metropolis.

the moment, the global ecological crisis is probably the most important challenge that
humanity as an entire is dealing with. The destruction of ecology with the advance of
know-how is so widespread and well known, it is not a query of
whether or not environmental disaster is actual or imagined. It is maybe the most important
menace that our future generations can be dealing with and yet, we proceed to
pursue a life-style that furthers this crisis. Whereas the
root-cause of such apathy in the direction of ecological crisis arising out of
technological development lies in the truth that with the march of know-how,
there has been a loss of ethics and values in the society. That is solely an element
of the larger story.

Adluri noted in his lecture that the historical roots of the ecological drawback
may be traced again to Christian theology that promotes anthropocentrism- a
worldview that posits people as crucial being within the universe. For
instance, Genesis 1:28-29 states:

And God blessed them, and God
stated unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue
it: and have dominion over the fish of the ocean, and over the fowl of the air,
and over every dwelling factor that moveth upon the earth.

And God stated, Behold, I have
given you each herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and
each tree, within the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall
be for meat.”

anthropocentric worldview implies that environmental exploitation is justified
utilizing the rational of human wants and the assumption within the human dominion over all
nature. It is this impulse and the will to grasp and dominate nature that
resulted within the advance of know-how which in-turn result in the current
ecological disaster.

Adluri further noted how modernity and its reliance on know-how is intimately
linked to Christian theology together with its understanding of time as linear and
man as centre of the universe, and the way human destiny is that of a future
influenced by God with only one modification: God is replaced by Know-how.

transfer away from this anthropocentric worldview that has brought about a violent
relationship between man and setting, and therefore is on the coronary heart of
ecological crises, and as an alternative develop a extra harmonious relationship with
nature, Prof. Adluri presents a
five-fold means of transition:

  1. Shifting Ahead to the
    Ancients – Carry ourselves from the brashness of modernity to the
    time-honoured knowledge of the ancients.
  2. Shifting away from the
    Christian conception of reality to a more healthful one.
  3. Shifting from
    anthropocentricity to cosmology – to mirror our understanding that man is
    but a speck within the universe.
  4. Shifting from historicity
    to poetry – the narrative of history is nearly tyrannical as a result of there’s
    just one story, one fact. Therefore, we should always transfer to poiesis where
    our thought process is extra self-conscious.
  5. From want to have
    energy over every part to the mastery of the self.

brief, shifting away from anthropocentric strategy to setting to a Dharmic
strategy to setting, i.e. creating Dharmic Environmentalism.

Prof. Adluri suggests Mahabharata as an excellent guiding text for enabling this
transition into Dharmic Environmentalism, in this article, I need to discover Dhenu
and Vrishabha- the cow and the bull, which are among the most essential and
revered animals in Hindu custom and society- as metaphors for Dharmic

Significance of Cows and Bulls in Hindu Tradition

cows and bulls have occupied an necessary place in in Indian tradition and
society since Vedic occasions. We not solely discover each of them depicted in the Indus-Sarasvati
civilization, we additionally discover them extensively mentioned in Vedic and Pauranik

the Vedas, the Cow is known as ‘aghnya’ that which should not be slayed. Shukla
Yajur-Veda (13.43) says: “harm not the cow which is pure and illustrious.” The
similar Veda further says (13.49): “hurt not the cow which provides ghee.” Reiterating
this, we discover in Mahabharata (Shanti Parva 262.47) a verse saying: “The very
identify of the cow is ‘aghnya’- that which should not be slaughtered. Hence, who can
slay them? Those that kill a cow or a bull commit a most heinous crime.” Thus,
not only the cows, however even the bulls have to be protected.

cow was not only thought-about used full in a materialistic sense, but was also
thought-about a mom. Describing the motherly facet of the cows, Rig-Veda
(6.28.1-Eight) calls them as ‘bringers of fortune’ whose milk might be fed to Gods in
sacrifice and in addition to the visitors. The mantras additional say that the cows ought to
be stored completely happy and must be shielded from any damage or harassment or theft.
At another place, Rig-Veda says: “Might the cow eats better of the grass, might she
be blessed, and by her might we also be blessed with wealth. O inviolable cow,
ever feed on grass, and are available again and drink water.” (Verse 1.164.40).
Equally, the Atharva-Veda (11.1.34) calls cows as the home of all bounties. [For
more elaborate treatment of Hindu view on Cow, See: Beef
Controversy: Hinduism and Cow.]

the remedy of Cow as personified by Kamadhenu as an abode of varied deities
and as a wish-fulfilling cow that fulfils supplies material prosperity as nicely
as religious welfare as well as its association with Lord Krishna who’s
thought-about as the protector of cattle is well known, what is much less recognized is Rigveda’s
(6.28-1-Eight) association of cows with Lord Bhaga and Lord Indra. Additional, bulls
are associated with Lord Shiva, first as Vrishabha, the mount of Lord Shiva and
then personified as Nandi, the divine gate-keeper of Kailasha who can also be
thought-about as the Guru of Agamic and Tantric techniques of Information in addition to of
the tradition of Kamashastra.

each cows and bulls occupy a particular
position in Hindu society and non secular apply. While the former
is related to feminine qualities, particularly the Sattvik qualities of
motherhood, wealth, compassion, love, selflessness, innocence, loyalty,
divinity, sacrifice, service, purity, and auspiciousness; the latter is
associated with the masculine Rajasic qualities of virility, power,
aggression, preventing power, manliness and mighty power.

is this association of Dhenu and Vrishabha with the feminine and masculine
features of the character, respectively that the Hindu Puranas construct further upon in
a significant method such that a unique and harmonious perspective on setting
and setting protection is arrived at.

The metaphor of Dhenu and Vrishabha within the Purana-s

are many fascinating accounts about Divine cows and bulls within the Puranas, most
notably Sri Krishna’s love for the cattle in Srimad Bhagavatham. Amongst these
quite a few narratives, two narratives are notably related to understanding
cows and bulls as metaphors for Dharmic environmentalism. One is the account of
King Prithu which is mentioned in Vishnu Purana and the other is the account of
Maharaja Parikshit mentioned within the Srimad Bhagavatham.

the account of King Prithu, when Prithu’s father, King Vena took to Adharma,
the sages turned indignant and slayed him. Following the dying of Vena, anarchy
spread all over the place inflicting further deterioration of the society leading to
famine, starvation, and other problems. The Sages then introduced out Prithu from the
right arm of Vena’s body and made him the new king. The individuals then approached
King Prithu and appealed him to cease the famine and remove their hunger. Since,
the famine was triggered because the earth not yielded any meals, King Prithu
marched in the direction of earth, the Bhoomi Devi and confronted her. She then assumed a
form of cow and swiftly fled from King Prithu. He pursued her and when he
finally caught up together with her and threatened to destroy her, Bhoomi reminded him
that if she is slain, all the things will come to finish and there can be nothing to
nurture and help his individuals. Nevertheless, Bhoomi within the type of cow then assured
King Prithu that she would help the king restore the earth, vegetation, and all
the assets, if he can discover a calf who can milk her. King Prithu then
requested Manu to be the calf and thus, the earth, its vegetation and its
assets have been all restored. (Vishnu Purana, Chapter Eight).

the account of Maharaja Parikshit, once when he was driving close to River Sarasvati,
he observed that someone was beating a cow and a bull with a membership. Whereas the cow
was very distressed and in tears, the bull having already lost its three legs
was standing on only one leg and getting crushed. The account then identifies
the cow as Bhoomi, the Bull as Dharma, and the man who was beating them as the
personification of Kaliyuga- the epitome of Adharma. Parikshit then saves the
Cow-Bull duo and assures them protection. He additionally banishes Kalipurusha to 5
places: playing, consuming, prostitution, animal slaughter, and gold. (Srimad
Bhagavatham 1.17)

the above two accounts, we will make out a transparent identification of Dhenu (cow)
with Bhoomi (earth) and Vrishabha (bull) with Dharma (Righteousness).

Key concepts for Dharmic environmentalism

above accounts make a clear case for a way it is human obligation, particularly the obligation
of rulers and governments to make sure that setting is protected and not
exploited. The account of King Prithu superbly uses the metaphor of cow to
clarify how earth have to be understood as a dwelling mother who nourishes and
nurtures all life and never merely as a supply of useful resource for human abuse. It
then makes use of the metaphor of calf and milking to point out how setting if protected
and allowed to flourish will nourish us by providing us all that we’d like. It is
exactly this association of cow with earth and motherhood, combined together with her
feminine and sattvik attributes that has made Cow central to Hindu philosophy
and apply, and hence, is probably crucial metaphor that upholds
the significance of environmentalism in the Dharmic framework of life.

in the account of King Parikshit we meet one other facet of Dharmic
environmentalism. It connects the disappearance of righteousness and the
emergence of unrighteousness with the struggling and deterioration of earth and
surroundings and posits the former as the cause for the latter. The Parikshit
account truly notes that the four legs of the Dharma Bull truly
represents four Dharmic rules of Tapas (austerity), Shaucha (cleanliness),
Daya (mercy) and Satya (truthfulness) and in the Kaliyuga the Bull stands on
only one leg of truthfulness.

must understand that Dharma means ‘that which sustains life’- all life,
together with the setting around us. Hence, when Maharaj Parikshit enumerates
the duties of the king throughout his conversation with the Dharma bull, he’s
truly enumerating the human duties in the direction of environmental.

1.17.14: Whoever causes
offenseless dwelling beings to endure must worry me anyplace and all over the place within the
world. By curbing dishonest miscreants, one routinely benefits the

SB 1.17.15 — An upstart
dwelling being who commits offenses by torturing those who are offenseless shall
be immediately uprooted by me, regardless that he be a denizen of heaven with armor
and decorations.

SB 1.17.16 — The supreme obligation
of the ruling king is to provide all safety to law-abiding persons and to
chastise those who stray from the ordinances of the scriptures in strange
occasions, when there isn’t any emergency.

importantly, through the use of the Bull as the metaphor for Dharma and its legs
representing 4 rules of Dharma, the Puranas are giving us a framework
of Dharmic rules using which we will shield our surroundings and make them
a central part of our worldview.

Shaucha, for example, implies preserving
the character clear and wholesome with none violation or pollution. Daya implies treating
nature with kindness, compassion and love. It consists of Ahimsa or non-injury in the direction of
setting. Satya implies realizing and centring our life in the realization
that we are a part of this nature, not its conquerors. Understanding Bhoomi as
our mom who nourishes us will lead us to take upon ourselves the obligation of
defending her. Likewise, Tapas implies striving onerous, giving all our efforts
to guard nature as a method of austerity. It includes transcending human greed
and selfishness.

and until we surrender the self-serving strategy to ecological problems with seeing
environmentalism as another ‘ism’ for human survival and sustenance and as an alternative
adopt a selfless and loving strategy of rooting ourselves in the universal
vision of setting as Mother Nature and people as her youngsters who’s
nurtured by her, there’s not a lot hope for our future generations.

Only such a Dharmic worldview can really save us from the approaching international environmental disaster in the direction of which we are very rapidly continuing. Hence, it is time that we construct a new discourse on environmentalism based mostly on the Dharmic rules exemplified by the metaphors of Dhenu and Vrishabha.

Featured Image: Native Planet

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With a degree in civil engineering, and having labored in development subject, Nithin Sridhar passionately writes about numerous issues from improvement, politics, and social points, to faith, spirituality and ecology. He is based mostly in Mysore, India. His first e-book “Musings On Hinduism” offered an summary of varied features of Hindu philosophy and society. His newest guide “Menstruation Throughout Cultures: A Historic Perspective” examines menstruation notions and practices prevalent in several cultures & religions from the world over. Tweets at @nkgrock