Yoga Ecology

Swami Satyananda Saraswati

Please explain the concept of yoga ecology.

You do not have to understand yoga ecology technically. The ancient texts explain how Vashishtha and Vishwamitra and all the other saints and sages used to live. There is a story in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad about Janaka, the ruler of Mithila and father of Sita. Many great scholars used to sit in his court. One day he announced, “Whoever considers himself to be the most intelligent scholar may take away these 10,000 cows.” Yajnavalkya rose and told his disciple, Somashrava, to drive all the cows home. That is how the story begins.

Ecology does not just mean forests, gardens or parks. You need to have ample pastures for your animals. Here, there is not even enough pasture for 100 cows, let alone 10,000 cows! Factories have been built near the pastures. People must have the courage to oppose these things, but they don’t because we are becoming materialistic. All our efforts now are aimed at artha and kama, not dharma and moksha. Artha means prosperity and money, kama means fulfilment of desires and passions, dharma means higher duty, and moksha means freedom.

In yoga ecology, you have to remember that the purity of the atmosphere depends on fulfilling the needs of both animals and human beings, so they can live in peace. It is not necessary to have a computer or a camera, but it is very necessary to have pure air, pure water and pure surroundings. Compare Rikhia with Bombay. Here you get fresh air, but you may not get a taxi or a motor car. You may not have good roads, a fax or a satellite telephone. But are those things necessary for survival?

For a good life, for good health, for a good mind, what is necessary? When you practise yoga or live the life of a yogi, you must have a certain type of surroundings. You may have fifty parks in Bombay, but that does not serve the purpose because cows cannot graze there. You must have enough space for cows, bullocks, donkeys, horses and goats to graze and for chickens to fly. If you eat meat, at least the animals must have pure flesh. Meat in itself is impure, so you do not want to make it more impure.

The role of yajna

In the past, yajna had a very powerful impact on ecology, both human ecology and global ecology. Nowadays ecology speaks of how to reduce the greenhouse gas effect and global warming, how to neutralise carbon monoxide, but the greatest contribution to ecology will be yajna. Yajna is a combination not only of knowledge but also of faith, belief and action. Swami Sivananda used to say that in order to experience completeness in life one should combine jnana, karma and bhakti. A human being is composed of head, heart and hands – intellect, emotion and action, Tension, frustration and a destructive social environment result from ignoring one of these aspects.

Yajna is a complete process of living that spiritual life, not only at a personal or social level but also at an ecological level. In ancient days yajnas were performed for two reasons: to purify the planetary atmosphere and also to purify the internal atmosphere. There are descriptions of how the smoke from the yajna fire would emanate from homes three times a day, morning, afternoon and evening, purifying not only the atmosphere of the house but also the global atmosphere, removing not only the external pollution but also the mental pollution.

Mental pollution is a very great disease. The mental environment changes when you become part of the process of yajna and when yajna manifests in your life as belief, action and lifestyle. All the yogas are integrated in the process of yajna, where you begin to perceive yourself as the offerer and the offering. Your actions become the offering. This is what the sages and saints in the past have taught us.

Ecology of yajna

Yajnas should transcend religious and geographical barriers and become one of the most powerful means of ecological balance. Yajna purifies the air. The smoke from the yajna is the best cleanser, because the herbs, flowers and twigs are specially chosen for their purificatory qualities. Everything offered purifies the atmosphere. So those of you who are educated and who can communicate must see that yajnas become a part of our effort to purify the atmosphere. The customs need to be explained so that people can perform yajna in their homes. This has been our traditional system.

In the Vedas, there is a system of yajna that an individual can perform at home with his family. Every morning, my father would position a few sticks in a copper pot and chant the Agnihotra Vidhi Veda mantra for fifteen minutes. I still remember it from the time I was a small child. So an individual can perform yajna at home and purify the atmosphere. A community can perform yajna and purify the atmosphere of the community, the village or town.

Purifying the environment

Yajna in India is a very popular event. People come in their thousands because yajna purifies the physical atmosphere. Yajna also purifies the akashic or subtle atmosphere, the atmosphere which influences your mind. But first of all, it purifies that atmosphere which influences your body. Yajna is the remedy for imbalances such as the greenhouse effect, global warming, and so on. First of all, lovers of the environment, all those who believe that the atmosphere should be purified, that carbon monoxide must be reduced, are the ones who must practise yajna, not only on this scale but also on an individual scale.

More than purification of the physical atmosphere of the earth and its environment, it is now becoming more important that we should purify the mental atmosphere, the psychic atmosphere, the emotional atmosphere which has become corrupt. Your mind is full of bad thoughts. It is just like a monkey that has been stung by a scorpion. How can you silence that monkey? Our ancestors said, “Perform yajna.” Yajna means offering. When you offer food to the poor and hungry, that is yajna. When you give clothes to someone who has none, that is yajna. To give and to give and to give is yajna. In Sanskrit the word yajna is a combination of three letters ‘ya’ ‘ja’ and ‘na’ – production, distribution and assimilation. There has to be a balance between these three components. The Bhagavad Gita has also suggested various other forms of yajna. Yajna is a very powerful tool for inspiring and enlightening human consciousness.