Understanding Self for Climate Action
This month we share with you reflections from MNIPL Board Member, Narayan Dhakal on the Understanding of Self through the lens of his Hindu faith. It reminds me of this Parker Palmer quote:
“As I learn more about the seed of true self that was planted when I was born, I also learn more about the ecosystems in which I was planted the network of communal relationships in which I am called to live responsively, accountability, and joyfully with beings of every sort. Only when I know both seed and system, self and community, can I embody the great commandment to love both my neighbor and myself.”
This month’s curator
Narayan Dhakal is a conservation scientist trained in the complexity of ecological processes involving human communities with the perspective on human dimensions of nature conservation. Narayan previously managed the Terai Ecology Project / Chitwan National Park, Nepal in collaboration with the Smithsonian Institute, USAID, US – National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, US-Fish and Wildlife Service and WWF. He’s also developed a community-based conservation model by harnessing economic benefits from biodiversity conservation. Between 2004 to 2013, Narayan worked in academia in the U.S. with a focus on human dimensions of natural resources management. Over the last four years, his interest has been in the information technology field and through his work within software development as a System Quality Analyst.
Narayan also serves on the Board of Directors of MNIPL and we are delighted to offer his perspective, insight, and experience with you!
Ways to Understand Self for Climate Actions
by Narayan Dhakal
April 13, 2018
There are several ways that my Hindu faith teaches me how to understand the Self. This helps immensely to define ourselves as a responsible and moral human being dedicated to saving the environment. The ways of living and being according to the Hindu philosophy that has been practiced by millions of people tens of thousands of years ago provides an enormous reservoir of knowledge that enables people to live a happy life in harmony with nature. The beauty of such literature is that it does not segregate or discriminate against anyone from being studied. Anyone from any religious belief can read and write any scriptures of Hinduism for the benefit of human development. These scriptures are to enhance universal knowledge for wellness.
The ancient knowledge those practices in Asia told us how people should maintain their lifestyles by living a profound wellbeing. This knowledge resembles valuing nature and all its diversity. The Hindu belief says, “let all be happy and healthy” at the subtle level our body is made through the combination of Water, Fire, Air, Soil, and Space. These elements we get primarily from food that we eat. If we see food at the subtle level then food also made from these elements. If you extend your thoughts then use your analytical intelligence then all material forms in this universe are made from these profound five elements. Likewise, our mind and the human body that vibrates according to time and space that teaches us how to live a sustainable life in this universe if we practice the self-realization.
One of the literatures that I am going to highlight today is the Tittiriya Upanishads. This literature is a discussion between father and son in relation to how to reach in a blissful state. It offers several tools for carving our living toward happiness. The chapter I to VI of this document explains how to gain absolute Brahman (Ultimate Bliss). Even though this is a discussion between a father and a son, there is a good teacher & disciple conversation in the experiential research on defining human behavior. In each insight that the disciple gets returned to the teacher and ask for verification of his finding. Those insights were Food ( Anna ), Breathe ( Prana ), and Thought ( Mana ), Knowledge( Vigyana ), and Bliss (Ananda).
Is Food ( Anna ) a God?
The disciple claimed that he experienced eating food and start to believe that food is the main source of energy. It gives the vitality to maintain body and it produces blood, tissue muscle, an entire human body and needed chemistry and microbes into it. Through the process of blood and body chemistry, the human body creates children through the reproductive process. The student therefore confidently asked if the food is the god. The teacher said your study is moving in right direction but your finding may be a stepping stone in the pursuit of finding a god. “You just began your school and you should work hard to experience other steps to find god” teacher replied and asked him to go back and do more experiential research.
Is Sense ( Prana ) God?
The disciple returned to the forest and continued experiencing through the practice of mediation and the input provided by his teacher/father. The second time he came and explained his research finding and asked if the Sense (Prana) – the process of taking oxygen through breathing exercise is one sense. There are several other senses such as seeing, hearing, touching sensation, and reproductive system, digestive system, heart system, speaking system and thinking (brain) all these energy forces collectively called “Prana” the senses. The disciple’s second question was if being sensible is achieving god. The teacher declined to justify this is a god but motivated the disciple was progressing and he needs further hard work to find god by considering every important step of meditation.
Is thought ( Mana ) god?
The thought is anything that originates in the brain. That could be an idea, feeling, pleasure etc. Spiritual gurus like Maharshi Mahesh Yogi clearly illustrates the origin of a thought like a small bubble that starts from the bottom of the lake and later expands through a ripple that covers the whole lake. Meaning at the beginning though may be very subtle but later it expands and become a great endeavor that could be a big company or great idea or anything that contribute to human development and other living and being. The “Science of Thought”, another book where a sage in Nepal explained about the thought that arises in our brain drives us toward a leader. The thought is the main factor that brings creativity and we can achieve a great thing possible. Reaching the peak of the Mt. Everest, leading people for a better life, researching on enhancing goodwill and wellness, and up bring ingenuity. Thus, the student’s third question to the teacher is if a thought is a god? Teacher applauds him highly coming up to this level and assured that the student is progressing his endeavor but the self-research and self-analysis is yet complete to bring reflections through the experience.
Is knowledge ( Vigyana ) God?
The above-mentioned steps are due to both physical and mental mechanism that one can define his/her soul. We understood the importance of food, senses, thought all these are essential for living in harmony with nature. Everything he achieves up to this end is not his failure but steps toward knowing the self totally. Majority people work hard to support family earn income, buy house, car and all required household necessities. Another important factor the disciple experienced is “Knowledge” once we develop our thought process toward gaining knowledge for the betterment of the environment. Increasing knowledge makes us know that we remain knowing cause and effect of every phenomenon. This reduces our stress and anxiety as everything is governed by the cause and effect. The disciple asks forth question if being knowledgeable is achieving god? The teacher again praises and applaud the dedication of the disciple and indicated that he is approaching the ultimate truth. The disciple again went to mediate with deeper thoughts and experiences.
Is achieving bliss ( Ananda ), God?
The disciple came and claimed that he experienced a blissful state while on medication and he may have experienced God. The student asked is this achieving god. The justification he gave was all above-mentioned states of mind were fulfilling the need to maintain the household and profession and maybe increase name and fame. However, there is always stress, anxiety, and trouble a person may be suffering from. It is hard to say that I do not have stress or I am free from stress. The scripture explains when your mind is at peace then you may be in bliss. This state of mind is that your neo-cortex is fully in function and an individual is making his/her decision through intuition. The teacher confirmed that the disciple achieved Brahman or God or Bliss by being in the blissful state. The story ends by saying feeling happy and being at the blissful state is experiencing self and experiencing self is finding god within. The important to note here is the state of bliss may be different for everyone how he/she is moving toward his/her thought process.
Anyone who experiences his/her “self” by being in a blissful state knows how to live in harmony with nature. To live in harmony with nature requires consuming the only amount that requires maintaining your body. For example, the amount of food you need to maintain your physical energy? Eating these days may be consuming all sort of food good or bad. If we consume more chemically manipulated food that comes with the preservatives and added extra chemicals then it causes disease and we may suffer. On the contrary, if we consume a good and healthy and just required food then it keeps our physical body healthy as well as maintain the positive thought process that ultimately brings happiness.
To live, we must eat and breathe. The process of breathing maintains our bodily energy and purify blood and keeps our heart moving giving us vital. Impure and shortness of breath also cause disease like asthma, hypertension, diabetes, sleep apnea etc. Good breathing also makes our sense active and we can see, hear, smell, taste and feel. Thus, breathing well is the vital energy source for our happiness. All attributes discussed now is common to every living being as it needs food for energy and oxygen to breathe. The Thought, Knowledge, and Bliss are components that only human brain can practice. And these attributes come when the full brain is in function. Being a human, we think and create knowledge and stays in the blissful state. Bringing always positive thought process is the way to bring happiness.
However, being in a blissful state is not an easy step, there are various steps that we may need something either discard or detached or sacrifice. For example, the over-consumption of resources too attached to material wellness. In an equitable lens, an average individual in the USA consumes resources that can fulfill the basic need of 19 people in the developing world. The USA is producing maximum carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Meaning degrading this planet earth toward worse-off. At the micro level, the behavior of everyone in the US may affect people in the developing countries because of climate change. To be sustainable means reducing our consumption that makes less pressure on the earth resources and is a climate action. To reduce pressure on the Earth’s environment one should understand the consumption patterns and re-define our ecological footprint. It needs the change in our behavior to be more responsive to the world and its people in a situation of climate change.
Prime Ranchor, 2002. Vedic Ecology: Practical Wisdom for Surviving the 21st Century
NPR Interview with Ranchor Prime
Muller Max, 2001. Upanishads