An incredibly power packed panel was organised on the sixth day of the Parliament of World’s Religions with HH Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji, Rabbi David Rosen, Bhaisahib Mohinder Singh Alhuwaliaji, Rev Dr Michael Bernard Beckwith, Dr Vandana Shiva, chaired by Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswatiji.
The theme of the event was “Faith for the Earth” — what do our faith traditions tell us about our duty to protect and preserve the planet and those with whom we share it? What do our faiths teach us we must do in the face of climate change and ecological degradation that threaten the very survival of our planet? Each of the renowned and eminent speakers emphasized how our personal dietary and lifestyle choices have an enormous impact on our planet as well as what the world’s religions have to say about this and what are the practical implications for us. They also spoke about the values that underlie these precepts and their relevance for our contemporary society. They shared ways that each of us can make a significant impact on the health of our planet through simple choices we make every day.
Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswatiji, Secretary-General of GIWA, set the tone of the session by saying, “The teachings in our religious traditions of ‘love thy neighbor as thy self’, or ‘do onto others as you would have them do onto you’ are not limited or relegated to the neighbors or others who share our culture, our race or our religion and but it includes ALL, including not only every race, religion and color but also every species. In the Hindu tradition we pray and chant may all beings be happy and may all beings be healthy and we also remember that it is not only those who are alive today but that it is our grandchildren and our unborn brand children are also our neighbors and our responsibility. Let us choose for them.” She gave several terrifying and compelling statistics of the impact of the animal agriculture industry on world hunger, water and land.”
Dr Vandana Shiva said, “What we need today is an ecological regeneration and a spiritual regeneration of our relationship with our Earth so that we can start healing. Remember two things: one that food is nourishment and everything is connected to the food system. Therefore, how we eat our daily bread determines the fate of the planet and fate of all of humanity. A small change in eating with conscious intention of healing is our journey to begin the peace with the Earth and humanity. Second, connect with Navdanya and our farm in Dehradun. I welcome you to begin the journey of healing by joining our Organic Farming training from the 15th March in India immediately after the International Yoga Festival at Parmarth Niketan (Rishikesh) next year.”
Rabbi David Rosen explained, “Today all other issues are moving the deck chairs on the Titanic. They may be important movements but if we are moving towards this massive iceberg, if we are moving towards destruction, then no other issue compares then the very issue of survival of that vessel– of our home– of our planet!” He added, “Meat is a drug and it is difficult for people to wean of off drugs therefore we must be compassionate towards those who have been brought up on such drugs. But, the religious imperative is a plant based diet, a vegan diet and if you are not there don’t worry, don’t despair, because every journey starts with the first step. Start with a small contribution: reduce your consumption of meat and dairy.”
Rev. Michael Beckwith emphasized beautifully, “We must understand the distinction between Earth and the world. Mother Earth is alive, it’s a living being that’s evolving! Two people can stand in the same place on planet but be in different worlds. The world is a configuration of thoughts, beliefs, opinions, points of view that form a world view. There is a world of greed, fear, doubt and worry in which individuals have not evolved but work from an animalistic aspect of their being. A world in which might makes right, a world in which profit is more important than people. And then there is a world that God sees, a world of love, peace and harmony, which is the frequency of infinite potential and divine ideas, which emerge when conditions are right. This condition is not possible with the meat industry. However, as Rabbi David Rosen shared let us begin one step at a time.”
Bhaishaib Mohinder Singh spoke full of emotion and conviction that, “We are called to assist our Earth to heal her wounds and in the process heal our own. We are urged to live responsibly in the world and to inspire others to do so. This loving duty is our dharma. We have a Universal Declaration of Rights but we also must have a Universal Declaration of Responsibility. Responsibility is a precursor to rights.”
Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji, Co-Founder of GIWA, explained beautifully that, “Whatever has been given to you, you must remember you are not the master of that. You are merely a custodian. As we are celebrating 150 years of Mahatma Gandhi who was such an Earth custodian, let us learn from his divine example. Gandhiji said there is always enough for everyone’s need but not enough for even one person’s greed. There is not a food, land, or water shortage. There is only a shortage of consciousness. Conscious living means living with less. Whatever you buy, share, eat or wear do it consciously.”
Admist a standing ovation by the audience, Pujya Swamiji and Sadhvi Bhagawatiji led a beautiful pledge with the esteemed panelists to inspire all to live consciously and to be the change they want to see in the world.