Environmentalism, Prasada, and the Vaishnava
By B. R. Sridhara Deva Goswami
This is the suicidal plane, the discordant plane where we cannot live without devouring our environment. That is the law of this land. If you want to live here then you must devour your environment, otherwise, you cannot survive. So it is the suicidal plane. One is eating another and only then can he live, that too is only for the time being. So is this a proper land to live in?
Prasada—that is the highest solution! The principal necessities of any life here in this world are to preserve and to propagate. Our first priority is to preserve, and for self-preservation, we create havoc in the environment by exploitation. The first principle of exploitation begins from the urge for self-preservation, and that means eating. We are to adjust our dealings with the environment in our most primitive necessity which we can’t avoid in order to keep body and soul together. So if we can solve this one difficulty, we can almost solve the whole problem.
Prasada-seva korite hoya, sakala prapanca jaya—Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur says that the key to the solution of the whole problem of this mundane life is in prasada. The first necessity of life is eating, and if we can solve that problem, we have solved the whole thing. The most important thing is to learn how we should take prasadam to maintain ourselves. Our life depends mainly on that.
To live here we cannot but consume, and we cannot but create devastation in the environment by our eating. If we go to consume anything, even plants, grasses or seeds, then microscopic creatures are being killed. So the question is how to get rid of this reaction? It is said in Srimad Bhagavad-gita that we shall get relief from that reaction only if we can successfully connect everything with the supreme satisfaction, with him whose pleasure all existence is meant to fulfill (3.9). So, in the taking of food, really we are to be conscious that we are collecting the ingredients for his satisfaction, and then cooking and offering to him for his satisfaction—that should be our real purpose. And then, because our whole life and energy is for serving him, we need energy and must take something out of that. But the main point, the real substance of the transaction will be to collect, cook, and offer to him according to his will expressed in the scriptures. That is the first step, and only after the foodstuffs have been offered to him shall we take anything ourselves. This will help to make us always conscious of why we are eating. We are eating because we want only to serve him. Furthermore, whatever has been accepted by God, the ‘poison,’ the bad reaction, will have been absorbed and digested by him just as in the case of Mahadeva who drank the poison generated from the ocean of milk.
Krishna is absolute and can digest anything. Not only that, but those things that have been consumed in his connection also receive promotion, so actually there is no himsa, violence. What appears to be himsa is not really so, because those who are apparently violently treated actually receive a high promotion through connection with the supreme. In addition, whoever has been instrumental in fulfilling that connection will also receive some reward. So the devotee must think, “What shall I take? I won’t take anything from the world, I shall take only from my master, as his grace. It is his grace, his free grace to me—prasada.”
The word “prasada” means ‘kindness’, ‘grace’. The devotee will feel, “Whatever service I do, I am not expecting anything to be paid to me in return. It is a free transaction. And whatever I receive is only his grace. So I shall take prasada, then I shall be free from all entanglement of action and reaction even though I am in the midst of it. Because it is a fact that with every action I must disturb the environment, then if all my actions are meant for him, the Supreme, there will be no bad reaction coming to me, but rather the opposite reaction will occur and help not only me but those that were offered also. Through me, through myself as a center, such waves will emanate that will help others to progress in their path of purification.”
So, through the godliness in their heart, all must become purifying agents. God is on the throne of the heart, and from there he will emanate such a fine ray that will purify not only that person’s heart but also the environment. “Vaishnava” means a purifying agent who emanates goodness, absolute goodness, everywhere—through movements, words, actions, everything; deed, thought, and word, kaya, mana, and vakya. A Vaishnava is an agent of auspiciousness; te vaisnavah bhuvanamasu pavitrayanti. There are so many Vaishnavas, and by their chanting the holy name, by all their practices and by their whole lives, they are like so many purifying agents.
By proper knowledge, proper dealings and proper conduct, they set everything in its proper position and create adjustment in the domain of maladjustment. This world is maladjusted, and the balancing agents, the unifying factors, are the Vaishnavas. Just as there is a germ, a virus which spreads a particular contagious disease, so there must be the opposite of that, something which emanates only a pure and healthy atmosphere, and that is the Vaishnava.