Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev

Sadhguru explains why in India, rivers were not seen as geographical entities but as life-giving gods and goddesses, and how this was an important part of human wellbeing.

Sadhguru: If you look at the people we worship in this culture, whether Shiva, Rama or Krishna, they were people who walked this geography at one time. They went through many more trials and tribulations than most human beings do, but the reason we worship them is because, no matter what situations happened around them, no matter what challenges life threw at them, they did not deviate from their inner nature. We worship them because they remained untouched. In many ways, a river represents that: it doesn’t matter what kind of people touch it, it remains pure because its nature is to flow.

In this culture, we did not see rivers as just water bodies. We see them as life-giving gods or goddesses.

In this culture, we did not see rivers as just water bodies. We see them as life-giving gods or goddesses. To a thinking mind, which is confined to the limitations of its logic, this may sound foolish or very rudimentary. “A river is a river. How is it a goddess?” If you lock up such a person in a room without giving him water for three days, and then show him a glass of water, he will bow down to it – not to a river, just a glass of water! What we call water, air, food and the earth that we walk upon, are not commodities. We never saw rivers as just geographical happenings. We always saw them as life-making material because over 70% of our body itself is water. Whenever we look for life, we look for a drop of water first!

Today, in the world, we are building medical infrastructure in such a way that we seem to expect that everyone will be seriously ill someday. There was a time when there used to be one doctor for the whole town and it was enough. Today, every street has five doctors and it’s not enough. This shows how we are living. When we forget how to live, when we do not respect what makes our life – the earth that we walk upon, the air we breathe, the water we drink and the very space that holds us in place – when we have no respect and reverence for that, how they behave within us will be very different.

You are a water body. And on this planet, rivers are the water bodies with which we have the closest relationship. But our rivers have depleted dramatically in a matter of a few decades. In two generations, our perennial rivers – which have been flowing for millions of years – are turning seasonal. We are turning this land into a desert. For thousands of years, these rivers have embraced and nourished us. A time has come when we have to embrace and nourish our rivers.

People think because of water there are trees; no, because of trees there is water. If there is no forest, there will be no river after some time. But a large part of India now is farmed land, which we cannot convert to forest. The solution is that, for a minimum of one kilometer on either side of the river and half kilometer for tributaries, wherever it is government land, we plant forest trees. Wherever it is private land, the government needs to subsidize farmer to move to tree-based horticulture. This will also be of economic benefit to the farmer because his income will more than double in five years.

We urgently need to shift from thinking of how to exploit our rivers to how to revitalize them. We have to make everyone in the country aware that there is an express need for action to save the rivers. If we spread this awareness to everyone in the country, arrive at a common policy, and start the implementation, it will be a huge and successful step for the future of our nation and for the wellbeing of generations to come.

Editor’s Note: Visit RallyForRivers.org for more information on how you can participate and get involved in Rally For Rivers – a nationwide campaign to revive our rivers.