Acharya Sachidananda Bharathi*
I see economy as the physical expression of an authentic and practical spirituality. Few ‘gurus’ and books have greatly influenced in molding my thoughts in this direction during the initial stages of my spiritual quest that began soon after an encounter with death in an air accident in 1982. (I was a 35-year old Indian Air Force Squadron Leader at that time). Important among the books that influenced my thoughts were ‘Economy of Permanence’ by J. C. Kumarappa, ‘The Marriage of East and West’ & ‘New Vision of Reality’ by Bede Griffiths, ‘Small is Beautiful’ by E.F Schumacher and ‘My Experiments with Truth’ by M.K. Gandhi. The concepts of ‘Green Economy’, ‘Sustainable Development’ and ‘Eco-Spirituality’ were just beginning to enter into the realm of human thought at that time. Today they have become something like a triangular foundation of our economic thought and discourse for sustainable development and global peace.
Earth Family Consciousness & Ecological Worldview
Discoveries of modern science have proved beyond doubt that creation is an interdependent organic whole in the form of a network of relationships. Planet Earth itself is a living organism the health and vitality of which depend on the health and vitality of its various individual parts and of the various species of life inhabiting it.
The saints and sages of India proclaimed from their intuitive wisdom that human beings, animals, plants and all other living beings inhabiting the earth together constitute one large ‘Vasudhaivakutumbakam’ (Earth Family). This ‘Earth Family Consciousness’ and holistic ecological worldview constitute the two greatest contributions of India to the evolutionary growth of human thought. What ancient India knew intuitively the western world today is proving scientifically. It is only on the strong foundation of such an ‘Earth-Family Consciousness’ and a holistic ecological worldview that humanity can build a united and happy world of sustainable development and abiding peace.
India always believed that earth is like a ‘mother’ (dharthi mata) to all living beings that share her resources for their existence. Pollution of air, water and soil, and destruction of natural resources and ecological harmony will have disastrous consequences for the whole Earth Family.
It is a shameful reality that out of all living beings inhabiting Planet Earth, it is only we human beings who destroy the ecological health and harmony of this our common habitat in space because of our insatiable greed. It is like the proverbial foolish man cutting the very branch upon which he himself is sitting. By destroying the ecological health and harmony of Planet Earth we are harming ourselves. However, we are now learning through many painful experiences the need to take care of Mother Earth and her resources, and to live in harmony with the rest of Earth Family and with the world of nature for our very survival on this planet.
Environmental degradation, soil erosion, floods, droughts, ozone layer depletion, acid rains, natural calamities, unknown diseases, wars small and big, violence, terrorism, etc. are today teaching us the need and necessity for living in peace and harmony with one another and with all other living beings constituting this Earth Family. We are forced to accept that an Earth Family Consciousness and holistic ecological worldview are essential prerequisites for building a peaceful, prosperous and happy world. But we are yet to develop the mindset and will power to abandon our old worldview and habits, and reorient our lives and remold our consciousness based on this emerging new integral vision of reality.
Promoting among the peoples of the world such an Earth-Family Consciousness and holistic ecological worldview based on the interdependent organic nature of creation and the unity of all life is the most important divine mission ahead of us. I see this ‘Green Enterprise Summit’ also as part this divine mission of the era.
A Spirituality of Peace & Sustainable Development
‘Spirit’ is the source and ground of existence. ‘Spirituality’ is the art, science and process of being in conscious communion with this source of our being and ground of our existence. Spirituality is not ‘religiosity’. It has nothing much to do with the code, creed and cult of religions. It is also beyond all rituals, dogmas and doctrines of organized religions.
Spirituality is a vision of reality that pervades, integrates and transforms all aspects and fields of individual and collective life; economic, social, religious, political, scientific, cultural and educational; for the fulfillment of human life in its totality.
‘Spirituality of peace’ implies a vision of life and reality that can inspire us to live in harmony with the whole human family and with all other living beings in the Earth Family. This is the deepest foundation of sustainable development. An ‘Earth Family Consciousness’ and a holistic ecological worldview are the two interdependent and interrelated dimensions of a spirituality of peace, and hence, of sustainable development. Through them a spirituality of peace also expresses itself.
Eco-Spiritual Foundations of Green Enterprises
Green enterprises are those enterprises that will help us build a green economy. The UNEP has defined green economy as that economy which contributes towards “improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities.” Environmental health and ecological harmony constitute the central theme of green economy and hence, of green enterprises.
Peace is essential for development, prosperity and happiness. Materialism and Consumerism, and their offshoots like Capitalism, Communism and Socialism, have violence and exploitation inherent in them. They are destructive to humankind and to the world of nature. Human experiences so far bear testimony to this truth. Mother earth has her limitations. I remember to have read somewhere that the ‘Club of Rome’ had brought out a document three decades ago on ‘limit to development’ pointing out that humankind cannot go on consuming the natural resources without ecological responsibility. We need to develop and adhere to an ‘ethic of enough’ for our own sake and for the sake of future generations. The materialistic and consumerist approach based on ‘market economy’ and ‘healthy competition’ will lead us to mutual annihilation and self-destruction. Hence, it is a historic imperative that we search and find a new sustainable developmental paradigm based on an Earth Family Consciousness, a holistic ecological worldview, an ethic of enough and a spirituality of peace. This will mean that science and technology will have to be rebuilt on a new foundation of love. This is the task of the era in which every one of us is called to play a unique yet important role. I see this Green Enterprise Summit as one such initiative.
Eco-friendly, people-centered and need-based economic enterprises were what Gandhiji had advocated for sustainable development of India and for a culture of abiding peace, prosperity and happiness on earth. This was the core concept in his ideology of ‘Sarvodaya’. Only through such a green economic order can we uphold and promote the interdependent organic nature of creation and the unity of all life. It is in this mission of building a peaceful world order based on green economy and green enterprises that Mahatma Gandhi and his ideas will have their eternal relevance. The world at large is coming to this realization today.
About the author:
Acharya Sachidananda Bharathi is a former Indian Air Force Squadron Leader turned Sanyasi. An encounter with death in an air accident in 1982 and the subsequent spiritual experiences transformed his life radically. In his spiritual quest he has also experienced the truth, goodness and beauty of four world religions – Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and Sikhism. He received ‘Acharya diksha’ in 1990. He renounced private property and family life in 1996 with the permission of his IRS officer
wife. He became a ‘Sanyasin’ in 2001 after 5 years of experimental life as a ‘Parivrajaka’. He initiated the ‘Bharathi’ Chaturashrama Sanyasa Parampara in 2003 and took the name ‘Swami Sachidananda Bharathi’.
Swamiji has travelled widely and has authored a number of books. ’A Vision and a Mission for the Third Millennium’, ‘The Second Freedom Struggle of India’ and ‘An Indian Face of the Christian Faith’ are his major works. He was one of the delegates who represented India in the ‘Millennium World Peace Summit of Religious & Spiritual Leaders’ organized by the United Nations. He has consecrated his ‘second life’ to God for a spiritual and moral regeneration of India and for a culture of abiding peace in the world.