I recently had the opportunity to curate December 2021 issue of Sri Aurobindo’s Action Journal dedicated to the theme of Nature. To be more specific, I was guided primarily by the idea of love for Nature, a love for Mother Earth.
After much reading and reflecting, I finalised on a diversity of selections from various sources, with the hope that they would facilitate an awareness in the reader that an appreciation and understanding of deeper spirit of Indian culture naturally and organically makes one sensitive and responsible toward Mother Earth and all Nature.
This is significant because Sri Aurobindo and the Mother remind us that it is in Indian spirituality that we must seek the truest solution to all the modern problems of mankind.
Preserving the delicate ecological balance and reversing the damage that has been done to the environment ever since the Industrial Revolution are two of the key challenges before mankind today. The solution begins with changing the mindset – instead of looking at Nature as a resource to be plundered for man’s comforts, she is the Mother who needs to be loved and cared for.
All ancient cultures had some sort of sacred-ness in their view of the earth and nature, but over time as modernity has made inroads into societies and cultures, that vision has gone into the background. Indian spiritual culture has the deepest vision of Oneness of Divine and Nature and Man. And that is what is needed today.
Love of Nature is usually the sign of a pure and healthy being uncorrupted by modern civilisation. It is in the silence of a peaceful mind that one can best commune with Nature.~ The Mother, CWM, 16: 401
One of the selections I chose for this issue comes from a magnificent writing of Sri Aurobindo on Isha Upanishad. It is part of the writing titled Isha and His Universe, which is included in his incomplete commentaries titled “The Karmayogin: A Commentary on the Isha Upanishad” (circa 1905-06). While explaining the deeper sense and significance of the word वास्यं in the first verse of the upanishad, he writes the following. Before I share the specific passage (re-organised in shorter paragraphs for easier readability on the screen), here is the first verse with Sri Aurobindo’s translation.
And now let me invite you to meditate on the passage which, no matter how many times one reads it, still leaves one mesmerised by its sheer beauty – beauty of the simplicity with which Sri Aurobindo explains a deeply profound truth. The Tree is not the Lord; the tree is in the Lord. The tree is not the Lord, nor the Lord the tree.
But this is not the only truth we discover here. We come across another profound truth in this one passage – the truth of murti-puja.
Here is the passage:
All this Universe must be clothed with Isha; we must draw the feeling of His presence round every object in the Universe and envelop it with Isha, as a robe is drawn round and envelops the wearer. For the Lord is greater than His universe.
This tree is not the Lord, it is in the Lord. We must avoid the materialistic Pantheism which identifies the visible Universe with the Supreme Being. It is true that He is both the final and material Cause of the universe, and in one sense He is His Universe and His Universe is He, just as Shakespeare’s creations are really Shakespeare himself, woven by him out of his own store of psychic material; and yet it would be obviously a mistake to identify, say, Iago with Shakespeare.
This tree is evolved out of original ether, ether pervades it and surrounds it, but the tree cannot be described as ether, nor ether as the tree; so, going deeper down, we find it is evolved out of the existence of the Lord who pervades it and surrounds it with His presence; but the tree is not the Lord, nor the Lord the tree.
The Hindu is no idolater; he does not worship stocks or stones, the tree as tree or the stone as stone or the idol as a material thing, but he worships the presence of the Lord which fills & surrounds the tree, stone or idol, and of which the tree, stone or idol is merely a manifestation or seeming receptacle. We say for the convenience of language and mental realization that God is in His creature, but really it is the creature who is in God, न त्वहं तेषु ते मयि. “I am not in them, they are in Me.”~ Sri Aurobindo, CWSA, 17: 178