by Meera Baindur.

Abstract

When the sages of the Upanishads are speaking of nature and speaking of the sacred they were drawing deep connections between nature, human beings, and life. These insights reveal to us a renewed understanding of the way we should relate to nature that not only realigns us to the natural world but also deepens our relationship to ourselves and transforms us. Drawing from my own experiences of living amidst nature, I combine my autobiographical notes and verses from the Chandogya Upanishad into a discussion about the idea of sacred nature. I sincerely believe that these texts hold the key to a renewed understanding of nature that is relevant even today.

Introduction

The Upanishads are some of the oldest Philosophical texts of Indian traditions.  They are considered to be parts of the Vedas that focus on the reflected tradition of knowledge as opposed to the ritualistic traditions of the earlier parts.[i]  MacCulloh suggests that even in the ritualistic parts of Vedas many verses eulogize parts of nature as deities.[ii]  According to him a sense of wonder about the natural elements made the Vedic people ascribe divinity and power to various natural elements including the Earth, the Heavens, the Clouds, the Sun, and the Moon.  Some kinds of these deities were powers that controlled nature such as the ruler of clouds and rain called ‘Indra’, the master of all waters called ‘Varuna’ and power of death called ‘Yama’.

We were trekking across a high altitude ‘Darva top’ pass above Donditaal in the Himalayas. The porters had gone on ahead to set camp and we were slowly dragging ourselves along. Suddenly we chanced up a cloud perched on our footpath. It was a small mass of sparkling white about the size of an elephant. We had never seen such a solid-like cloud up so close before. Though our reason told us we could walk through it, it was only vapour, we still hesitated nervously because it seemed so unearthly. One of my companions let out nervous laughter and hoping to inspire us to walk on he said, “Hey Indra, thanks for the welcome.” Right behind us as if on cue we heard a crack of lightning and heard a loud rumble. We fearfully turned back to see if Indra had indeed turned up but all we saw were large cumulus clouds darkening up the sky ominously. We turned around and the cloud had vanished and we walked on, in silence, all of humbled by this experience. [iii]

Most people understand the idea of sacred nature as the deification of the parts of nature. However such deification is an ancient pre-modern belief no longer relevant to the modern nature lover and environmentalist alike. We do not believe in Indra or fear Varuna anymore. Moreover, to understand sacred nature as just a magical belief of the Vedic people is to reduce the extremely sophisticated poetry of the Upanishad to mere ritually significant practices. Instead, if we see the development of the idea of sacred nature in the Upanishads, we find that the deification of these nature gods led to the development of the idea of a single deity called the sacred force. Sometimes Upanishads speak of a substantive spirit within all of us called Brahman or Atman.  However, the idea of this sacred being of the Upanishads cannot be merely regarded as an extension or culmination of Vedic thought.  Instead one can see the Upanishads developed as a line of thought that was very contrary to the idea of Vedic ritual practices.  In fact, one main difference between the idea of sacred nature in the Vedas and the idea of sacred nature in the Upanishads is that they both were meant for different environments.  While the ritual parts of the Vedas were produced within the regulated settlement called gramya, the Upanishads have been associated with the forest.  Some scholars believe that these texts were to be studied by people in the fourth and final quarter of their lives, the vanaprastha stage.  During this stage, people would be retired householders and would spend their last days in the forest.  The Upanishads themselves do not mention any such association. In Sanskrit, aranya means the forest.  The Upanishads are called aranyaka-s or texts of the forest.  The forest was often contrasted with the landscape called gramya or settlement during the Vedic period. It is clear some of the Upanishads were called aranyaka, suggesting that they are associated with wisdom produced in a forest.

 The forest in the Indian traditions

For Indian traditions, the forest was not only the ‘wild’ space but it was also a place not bound by the rules of the society.  Thapar suggests that the forest was not just a jungle beyond the settlement but it was also a place “where the hierarchies and regulations of the grama were not observed (113).”[iv] The aranya was an effortless place, a place that inspired reflection and was free of the restrictions of society including duties of caste and community.  The original residents of the forest were often non-aryan people designated with mystical and dangerous characteristics. One of the first references to the deity of the forest is found in the Rig Veda in a hymn to aranyani or the goddess of the forest.  She is described as someone who does not till the land to produce food; she is unafraid and not violent to those who are not her enemies. (From Rig Veda 10.146)

It is clearly known in India that there are designated areas called sacred groves, which are sections of the forest that are regarded as sacred, or as belonging to a god.  However, my essay is not about finding these particular geographical or designated sacred places but looking at the idea of nature itself as sacred.  Understanding the idea of sacred from my experiences and the readings from the Upanishads, I discuss the process of creating a spiritual relationship to nature as opposed to other forms of exploitative or unethical or even uninterested kinds of interaction with nature.

My first introduction to the Upanishads was through the perspective of the non-dual philosophy called Advaita.  In most of these studies, both secular and religious teachers taught me these texts through commentaries of philosophers and other commentators who subscribe to the non-dual tradition.  Most of these Upanishad–studies often neglected the study of two older Upanishads, the Chandogya and the Brihadaranyaka. Even self-study of these texts seemed to make sense within the perspective of Advaita. As long as I studied these texts in the city, I assumed that these texts are speaking of the inner nature of human beings and any mention of nature was metaphorical and only incidental to the primary liberation- oriented content of these texts.

A number of later philosophical traditions have interpreted the Upanishads according to their own philosophies.  Advaita philosophy for instance claims the whole of creation is an illusion ‘Maya’ that keeps us from seeing the reality called the Brahman or Atman, the true self within being. Dasgupta points out that the Upanishads should not be read from the perspective of the absolute claims of the proponents of any particular philosophical school. He suggests that the modern reader must “… take the texts independently and separately and determine their meanings, though keeping an attentive eye on the contexts which they appear.”[v]

There is no philosophical problem with a non-dual interpretation of these texts. However, when we begin to examine these texts from the perspective of ecological philosophy or environmental ethics, the non-dual interpretation proves to be of little use. As Nelson points out, the experience of the sublime and nature from an advaita perspective has little to offer by way of an ethically relevant relationship to nature.[vi]  Like the mystical swan that drinks only milk and leaves the water behind, similarly, the experience of nature through the perspective of Advaita splits the world into a divine abstract sublime spirit and the mundane material nature.  This kind of a split allows nature to be sacred only if it rejects its ordinariness and the everydayness of its diversity. On one hand, the philosophical explanations of the Upanishads gave us an overview and connections between all the Upanishads.  On the other hand, there were still some passages that seemed very mystical and not at all in line with the non-dual ways of thinking.

My renewed understanding of these texts happened when I lived in a forest for some years as a seeker.  Following the age-old injunction “go to the forest and meditate,” I lived in the Himalayas on the banks of a river engaging in spiritual practices in an ashram. I realized that the exile from the settlement was not just an adventure but it was of a willing quest into spaces of exploration that led me to the same environment that produced these Upanishads. The texts were not only produced amidst nature but they were also as much about nature. This transformation of understanding of these texts is experiential and may perhaps be very contrary to what has been described so far by scholars and philosophers.  But all I can claim is that personally, during this time I studied the Upanishads and drew experiential insight from them that allowed me to deeply understand the relationship between nature, life, and the human being.

The texts such as the Upanishads, particularly if they are seen as sacred literature are often studied as disembodied texts that describe ideas and concepts. It is assumed that one can make sense of them only through words and meanings that are interpreted through philosophical commentaries.  However, my interaction with these texts in an environment that was as close as possible to the composers of these works gave me insights into the deep or processes and of a way of relating to nature that was sacred and uplifting.  As one tries to reconcile of the normal spiritual teachings of these philosophies and the concept of nature as sacred, one is left with a dry relationship to nature that seeks to reject landscapes, people, animals, birds and all the other entities of nature described in these texts as if they were unimportant and mundane, mere metaphors and examples that aided the loftier goal of discovering supreme self or Brahman.

Some key nature themes in the Upanishads

The vision of nature in these Upanishad is not that of the non-human but a vision that views the universe as an interconnected series of journeys of the self or life-force that moves through beings and nature.  Unlike the poetry of romanticism, which saw nature as sacred as a reflection of heavens’ own beauty or a beauty created by God, the poetry of the Upanishad is mystical looking beyond a static and theological inspiration. It is to be stressed here that nature in the Upanishads is not the abstract conceptualization of a non-human nature or wilderness that is so commonly associated with the term. Instead, nature is the realm of the experienced, the earthly world that we inhabit. In that sense, human beings are not separate from nature but are a part of this order of beings in creation.

The sacred in the early Upanishads is the idea of the vital force.  This is known as prana. To the seers of the Upanishad, the essence of life that made things alive, grow, move, or reproduce was sacred.  Nature and humans were the same, showing the external manifestation of this life.  All names and forms were seemingly directed and ordered the universe was the vital force. The single life force manifests itself as all beings as one single nature:

“That deity willed, “Well! Let me enter into these three deities, [fire, water, and earth] through this living self, differentiate and manifest names and forms.” (Chandogya Upanisad 6.3.2)

As one wakes up to a morning in nature the predawn silence seems to give in to the sounds of the stirring forest, birds, insects, people, even the cracking fires all of which together create a symphony of sounds of life. Individually they are recognizable as individual sounds.  But together they form inspiring evidence of the life of the vital force that moves them.  These natural sounds are heard together like a hum, the sound of AUM. The unifying darkness of the night is drawn aside by the sun which shines through like the truth, flowing downwards on the snow-clad peaks like a golden curtain. The light moves down into the valley chasing out all the darkness. But the shadows of the mountain valleys only get darker as the sun climbs overhead. Everything reflects the interplay of unity and diversity at the same time.

The first chapter of Chandogya Upanishad speaks of this sound as uplifting, the uplifting sound of the life-force.  The uplifting comes not from the mere sound and its inspiration but from the source that is their life that lives in nature and makes possible the union of Life and Speech. A life that is unity and speech that is the diversity come together in this sound.

This Couple [Speech and Lifeforce] is joined together in the syllable AUM. (Chandogya Upanisad 1.1.8 )

A life that is manifested as the beings and nature and it is the same life that reaches out to touch the phenomenal world through the senses from us.  The presence of life makes itself known to us through the sound.  This life force is the essence of all beings.  The life that reverberates in the outer world is the same life that courses through the heart of the human being.  The presence of this life, this connection of the outer and inner, is a sacred nature of the Upanishad.  The possibility of a union of this inner and outer world is the ritual that makes nature sacred. The Upanishads also saw the sun as the source of all these activities. The sun was that which made life possible.

“The Sun,” said Usasti: “all these movable and immovable beings sing the praise of the sun when he has come up. This is the deity that belongs to the Udgitha.” (Chandogya Upanisad 1.11.7)

Separation – the political, and union – the spiritual

When in the city the weather was a mere inconvenience or convenience to the purpose of other activities. The clock time was calibrated and the days of the week were marked with appointments and life went on according to work, college, and movie show timings. In the forest however one lived by nature’s timetable. Even the everyday broom was bound by annual time and season. The larger grass broom had to be gathered in the fall when it was just yellowing. The pine needles however had to be gathered in summer when they were longest and strongest to make the finer brooms for the kitchen area. Life was annual, other dates and days made no sense. Cloud bursts, windy seasons, snowfall, flooding of the river, flowering apricot blooms, and the migration of monkeys marked the season for us. The rhythm of time was aligned to nature, the days in winter were shorter and often we spent only about seven to eight hours awake.

It has always been a custom for the seekers of truth to venture into the forest for contemplation on meditation. This can be a temporary journey such as a pilgrimage or a retreat.  Sometimes this can be a deeper quest of a lifetime to seek the goal of liberation.  Whatever the duration of this journey, the quest is always traditionally undertaken to a forest which is a sacred landscape.  This aranya becomes a territory where one is willing to let go of the familiar ways of separating oneself from nature, defending oneself in many ways against the natural. This separation of nature from us becomes a part of the political process of separation of nature and culture. This idea of separation begins with the Aristotelian claim that humans are political animals.  Rolston (1998) supports this idea and suggests that human beings live in a cosmos and also build themselves a polis in which they can socialize. According to him the architectures of nature and culture are different, and culture will always seek to improve nature, the management intent spoils the wilderness. Culture processes by their very ‘nature’ interrupt evolution, he claims: “Humans in culture gain dominion over nature. We rearrange the earth to make it a city.” [vii]

One can say that the kind of sacred that one experiences in nature are the experience of being nature, being prakrti.  This experience of nature is lost to us in the gramya [settlement] and its extension of the nagara [the city]. As the environmental philosopher Rolston points out, people build cities “polis” to keep nature out.  This keeping out seems to establish order and maintain human culture apart from nature.  This is the first political move that allows a relationship of exploitation with nature.  To return to the sacred is to first reject the polis, the political act of separation from nature.  This is where going to the forest becomes a symbol of accepting nature within us and outside of us.  In this sense, the spiritual becomes the opposite of the political.  If political is to separate from nature, the spiritual is to unite ourselves with it.  And because nature allows this unity, it is sacred.  Upanishads describe nature and its unity for us as sacred and spiritual. It is as a part of nature that one can have those deep reflections on creation and the processes that surrounded the human being.  Such a nature was not separate from the human being.

A major part of developing this understanding was to drop all preconceived notions of order and chaos.  Every walk into the jungle, everything looked different.  No tree was alike, no path the same, not even the sky was the same every day.  On the other hand, when I got lost, everything looked the same.  Every tree seemed similar to the other, the rocks resembled each other. Nature changed, yet it remained the same.  Understanding this was the first step to experience the sacred state of being nature.  Every act of mine that tried to create order—mark trees, clear pathways, and cut grass in a straight line— I felt comfortable performing but I had no experience of the sacred, it was always me against nature.  I saw nature as the other, and my mind moved toward separation, which became a relationship based on power where I was the active agent and nature a passive recipient of my acts.  Even if I chose ‘to see the sacred’ in nature, it was always an unequal relationship, a one-way political response that was not sacred.  Even finding peace, beauty, or truth in nature was still about using nature for my own ends.

This attitude Buddha refers to as the “normal” way of relating to the world.  According to him, one relates to the world through the intention of a relationship through three modes: to use something, need it (Upaya), to like or dislike something, to judge (Abhinivesha), to fuel one’s desire or greed (Upadana).  This relationship is political because the human being sees, gets, or uses nature that is separated from her.  We never know the true nature, the one that nature chooses to reveal to us.

When we read about the interactions between human beings and nature in the Upanishads, we find that these seekers simply go to the forest and wait.  They may engage in conversations and teachings but ultimately it is nature that reveals the sacred to them.  In some passages, nature has a direct conversation with a human being.  In other passages, nature demonstrates the reality of the sacred.

To go to the forest and meditate is to go and crossover into the realm of undivided nature, the sacred landscape that is both within and without.  I live amidst nature in the Himalayas, experiencing ‘dwelling’ in nature rather than visiting or seeing nature. Every tree, every rock and bamboo patch was familiar in the sense that it existed. Not that I had to know its scientific name, label the birds, or document the wildlife. It was enough that they were present.

To experience sacred in nature is to not measure, theorize, or mystify nature.  These are answers to our questions about nature, no different from the project of scientific understanding of nature.  This understanding of nature does not allow us to access the wisdom of nature, which arises when we’re willing to let nature reveal to us what it wants and hide from us what it doesn’t reveal.  One cannot relate to nature as sacred if one goes poking around and trying to see the inside of birds’ nests or look for insects under a rock.  These actions long practiced by the tradition of science are hegemonic and almost an intrusion into nature.  To know nature by being nature is to know oneself.  We see how easy it was for the composers of the Upanishad to relate knowing nature [cosmos] to knowing the self.  The human being was also nature and thereby formed an important part of the study to gain the wisdom of sacred nature.

The creators of the Upanishad rejected the social rules of the gramya and its binding spiritual disciplines setting the beginning of a tradition of “going to the forest” for what they called “knowing the creation”.  We thus find every archetype hero of many Hindu myths and stories repeats these journeys of moving out from the world of settlements, and then experiencing nature in the forest which transforms them. Rama (in the Ramayana), the Pandavas (of Mahabharata), or even for that matter the King Dushyanta (of the Shakuntala story) have transformative experiences in the jungle.

In my being with nature in the early days of my stay in the Himalayas, I always found myself relating to nature as if it had to be dealt with.  Some of my earliest experiences in the Himalayas are about learning to live as a part of nature rather than with it.  Living with nature presumes an attitude of separation.  For instance, your hands do not live with your legs or live with your head.  As a whole, you are your hands, and legs and the head. As I became nature, I no longer stumbled on rocks that were ‘in my way.’ I walked as one with the landscape; I no longer thrashed out wildly at insects that landed on my face, I merely brushed them off. I didn’t wince at the rain but gathered the water from the roof for the ashram use along with my other companions. I sat down on the muddy floor of the forest comfortably. Mud was no longer ‘dirty.’ The greatest of changes was finding food in the forest. There were so many edible things that sustained you through snow and rain. Mushrooms, wild berries, a grove of Dalchini trees, wild apricots, fern fronds that tasted like okra, even the stinging nettle of the Himalayas called Kandayali which made a good curry. All we needed was to live as nature devoid of our pretenses and our need to modify everything on sight.

Food when eaten becomes divided into three parts. What is its grossest ingredient that is faeces, what is its middling ingredient, that is the flesh, and what is the subtlest ingredient, that is the mind? (Chandogya Upanisad 6.5.1)

As long as one separates oneself from nature there is fear and danger in the wild that blocks intimacy with nature, blocks the sacred.  This separation creates ignorance about nature’s processes.  One misses the connection between the food on the table and the grass growing on the water’s edge.  The missing gaps in the cycle of life, the understanding of our own impending end in death, seem to be kept aside as we’re torn away from all that is natural, seeking recourse within artifacts of our own making.  To be with nature one cannot choose only good nature that is flowers, landscapes, and scenery that one must also choose the heat, the cold, the putrid decaying parts of a wild animal, a river that overspends its banks and twists bridges, merciless rain that carries down entire mountain slopes into the valleys.

This inter-connectivity is sacred for the sages.  The presence of life is not mere sentience but it is a process that binds together the Sun, Moon, stars, water, smoke, fire, and the human being.

In nature, once the exploitative relationship with nature has been rejected, a realization arises such that the surrounding habitat not only inspires deep reflection but in some ways becomes the teacher.

Satyakama was sent away with the cows and a bull for a long time into the forest by his teacher.  Nature in the form of natural beings such as the bull and the swan provide him the experiential understanding of his inner nature, outer nature, and the oneness of creation.  This understanding of nature is experiential and does not come through learning books and theories.  The sacred has to be experienced in and amidst nature. Nature thus becomes sacred when we investigate the deeper parts of our being or when we seek to connect ourselves to the idea of life as prana.  The Upanishadic lore lays a deep emphasis on the idea of life.  This organic life is not a mere living mode that is absent in death but it is an expression of the deeper being for whom all other beings ‘sing’.

This organic life is the interdependent web through which life and its processes move through fires’ smoke to clouds to rain, thence to wombs as children, to the sap of trees and plants and permeate as nectar in the flowers.  It is sweet as it brings things alive, it is powerful as that which sustains them, it is hidden for one can see only through its manifest forms. The Upanishad does not distinguish between the entities of nature and the processes of nature.  When seeking the essence of all things, the sacred inner life, it does not reject the everydayness of the seeker’s natural world.  Instead, it is through the everyday nature that the seekers of the supreme find the truth.

Contemplation on nature as a whole being

The most important part of learning to be with nature was to learn the importance of these three things: Food, water, and the fire. In a forest, nature provided all three.

The ways of the water were difficult to understand.  We lived next to a perennial river but water is never certain in a forest. As we walked up the slopes the river was too far away to reach. On the other hand, it was little springs that quenched our thirst. We would find a broad leaf and fix it to the bare surface of a wet rock or mossy slope at an angle and the water would collect on the leaf and flow off its tip. During rains, the turbid river was brown with silt and we drank rainwater collected in buckets under the open sky. In winter where the banks were slippery with ice, we melted snow on the fire to make chai and sat watching the embers die out one by one.

And water and food are the pathways through which life sustains itself. There are so many references to water and food in the Chandogya where the Upanishad clearly makes the link between the water and the life-force.

“Where could its root be apart from water?” (Chandogya Upanisad 6.8.6 )

The civilization that treats water with disrespect and wastes it certainly loses touch with importance and value for life. We ignore its significance beyond our use of it. Water connects us not only across all beings but it also connects us to the evolution of life itself on this planet. It is water that sustains life. Like the old king Midas we exchange the freshness of water for the market of petrol and power losing our own connection with our earliest history, our origin as life-forms. We are destroying systematically the very womb that bore us, the water-places. Nature is a term that captures a ‘whole.’ The idea of wholeness is not about a sum of its parts alone, it is an emergent that transcends it. In this regard, one can the concept of the cosmic being vaisvanara is the closest to the idea of nature in the Upanishads.

Seeing the sacred

In the Chandogya Upanishad, the body of the universe is perceived as a being whose feet are the earth that is sustained by food and water. The proper contemplation of nature is not to separately focus on each part or components of the being Vaishvanara or Atman or Brahman but to see it as a whole Being.

According to a story in this text, fiver householder, Vedic scholars approach a king to understand this being. All of them contemplate different aspects of nature and are unable to find the truth. The King Ashvapati asks them to describe the aspect of the cosmic being of nature that they contemplate on. Each of them replies that they meditate on one of these diverse aspects – the heaven, the sun, the air, the ether-space (akasha), water, and the earth. Having listened to them, the King advises them to contemplate on the whole being. A being whose feet are the earth and the heaven is its head. The Being is the eater of all food in the universe all food is offered to him. The deepest understanding of this life force principle is that it is not linked to rationality or consciousness or sentience but to interconnectedness.

What is missing in the modern idea of nature is the lack of perception of this link between ‘us’ and nature as the ‘other.’ We in the cities do not perceive the connection between our electricity consumption and the tiger or the honey bee. The separation is so deep that this lack of connection leads to a non-sacred connection with nature.

“Just as the spokes of the wheels are fastened to the nave, so also is all this fastened to this Prana. Prana moves by Prana. Prana gives Prana and it gives to Prana. Prana is the father. Prana is the mother Prana is the brother, Prana is the sister, Prana is the preceptor, Prana is the knower of the Brahman  (Chandogya Upanisad 7.15.1)

To relate to nature requires two processes of contemplation. The first is to understand that we too are a part of this cosmic life being. And to look for this being outside, one has to look within oneself for the life of one’s life, the inner self. These ideas perhaps led to the development of the advaita philosophy. Sacred is a state of being in union with the absolute being of life.   The first step is to realize that we are the life force within.  Once we have felt at one within and acknowledged the life and death within ourselves, then we have to look outwards. We would then see the various names and forms. However, the Upanishads do not stop with the description of the inner self. After every description of a process of contemplation, the teachers of the Upanishad draw our attention to the wholeness of the cosmic being, the interrelatedness of all entities in the cycle of life. So the second process is to see the unity in the diversity, the interconnectedness of life. Using the recognition of unity within ourselves, it is then possible for us to see the same life force in all the beings and creations and understand the interconnectedness of everything.

One year, the people around the forest where I lived decided to go in for apple orchard farming. Large scale felling of local trees and shrubs left the slopes bare, with mud and loose soil. That year the rains saw unprecedented landslides and a huge rock smashed into the suspension bridge that was our link to the world. The bridge was twisted like a Mobius strip, unusable. As I slowly walked through the now ravaged orchards I found a small green grove. It was the devtha pani place or the local spring under the tree. I pointed it out to the villagers. “See how the trees hold the land and the water.” I pointed. Then an old villager who was the voice of nature said this, reminiscent of the upanishadic lore:

“The tree holds the water, the earth holds the tree, and the water holds the earth. This is Pratyaksh Bhagvan( Seen- God).”

The Upanishads called this a special kind of ‘knowing’ and this is not mere learning but is experiential.  They use the verb “to see” to emphasize the empirical nature of this experience. This state of being in nature is to dissolve the boundaries and confines of the narrow mind to see the enworldedness and the embodiment of life interconnected with all beings. The sacred nature is thus not a disembodied abstract event of consciousness but for the Upanishads, it is the experience of nature as a totality through its body of which we too are an integral part.

Many years have passed since I lived amidst the forest landscapes. But still, I live amidst nature. Though in the city, my inner being can connect with a spider, a blade of grass, any life form human or other and transport me back to my state of oneness. These experiences changed and impacted my love for nature as myself, as life, as the cosmic oneness in all of us. Recently on the beach one evening I called out to the ocean, chanting verses from the Upanishads. After my chanting, I looked out over the expanse of water at the setting sun and spontaneously composed a poem to the ocean and the sun. As nature, I called to them “Give me wealth, being of light and lord of restless waves, wealth that is imperishable.” The waves bumped against my toes with a piece of driftwood and it got stuck between my toes. I pulled it out to look at it clearly. It was a piece of wood carved into the shape of the sacred udgitha, Aum. Nature is still my teacher within and without.

Let those virtues that are in the Upanishad; be in me who am engaged in my Self, may they reside in me.

( From the Chandogya Upanishad invocation)

End Notes

[1] See Surendranath Dasgupta, A History of Indian Philosophy. Vol.1. (1922, Reprint, New Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Private Limited, 1975).

[1] See, MacCulloch ,. J.A.  1994. S.v ‘Nature (primitive and savage).’In  Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics. Vol. IX. (ed.) James Hastings, reprint 1926, Edinburg: T&T Clark.  pp. 201-202.

[1] These passages in italics are remembered autobiographical accounts and entries from my diaries and writings during my stay in the forest. As they were written with no particular date and time or order they are inconsistent in style, sometimes poetic, sometimes informative.

[1]  For a detailed history of the forest in Ancient India see Romila Thapar’s article “ Perceiving the Forest: Early India,” in India’s Environmental History: From Ancient Times to the Colonial Period,  edited by Mahesh Rangarajan and K Sivaramakrishnan ( Ranikhet: Permanent Black, 2012).

[1]  Dasgupta, History of Indian Philosophy, p. 42. [1] Lance E. Nelson, “The Dualism of Non Dualism: Advaita Vedanta and the Irrelevance of Nature,” in Purifying the Earthly Body of God: Religion and Ecology in Hindu India, edited by Lance E. Nelson, (New Delhi: D.K Printworld (P) Ltd, 2000).

[1] Holmes III Rolston, Environmental Ethics: Duties to and Values in the Natural World, ( Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1988).


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