What We Do to Our Rivers, We Do to Ourselves
Narrating a story from his farming days, Sadhguru warns us of the fundamental mistake we make when we view ourselves in isolation from the rest of the existence. He describes the dire situation facing India’s rivers, and reminds us that what we do to our rivers and forests, we do to ourselves.
Sadhguru: Years ago when I lived on a farm, I employed a local villager to help me. His name was Chikkegowda. He was hard of hearing and an object of ridicule for the rest of the village. I found him a pleasant companion because I wasn’t particularly interested in talking.
One day, at four a.m., I saw him preparing the plough. “What are you doing?” I asked.
“It will rain today,” he said.
I looked up. It was an absolutely clear sky. I said, “What nonsense! Where is the rain?”
He said, “No, Swami, it will rain.”
And it did.
I sat up for days and nights after this. Why couldn’t I feel what this man could feel? I sat, holding my hand in different positions, trying to feel the moisture, the temperature, trying to read the sky. I read books on meteorology, but to no avail. And then, finally, with careful observation of my own body and my surroundings, I discovered the fundamental mistake most of us make: we view the ingredients which constitute our body – like earth, water, air, and food – as commodities and not as an organic part of the life process.
The Writing on the Wall
This seems like a minor issue, but this is the tragedy of human life. The impending global environmental disaster and the severe water crisis and drought conditions that plague this country today are related to this process of fragmentation and commodification. In allowing traditional wisdoms to be eroded, we have forgotten that the body is part of a larger organism called the planet, which is part of a much larger body called the solar system, which, in turn, is linked to the cosmos. If we view these in isolation, we are hacking at the fundamental unity of existence. The result: we are simply committing suicide in installments.
The environmental dystopia predicted in this country in the next decade is no longer the prophecy of alarmist doomsayers. The writing on the wall is clear: if we do not act decisively, perennial rivers will turn seasonal, and several will vanish altogether (as they already have). The per capita water availability in this country has already plummeted by seventy-five percent since Independence.
In Tamil Nadu, there is an old proverb: if the palm trees go dry, you are heading for a disaster. In the last ten years in this region, the level of environmental degradation is unimaginable. The monsoons have been erratic, as they will be when vegetation grows increasingly scanty. The situation in many other regions of this country is similarly grave.
A Nationwide Campaign
There is much that can still be done: rainwater harvesting, afforestation, the cultivation of nurseries, urgent population control. However, none of this can simply be addressed by a government initiative. The environmental cause has to become a people’s movement, a mass campaign in which aware and motivated citizens participate in something that is seen to address their personal and collective survival on this planet.
However, a crash course in civics will not accomplish this. The spiritual process has become vital today because it is the deepest possible reminder to an individual that a human being is not an island. This reminder is not ideological. It is existential. Yoga is a clarion call to a truth we forget time and again: we are not separate from the world we live in. What we do to our rivers and forests we do to ourselves.
Editor’s Note: If you are concerned about India’s rivers, the simplest way you can participate in reviving them is by giving a missed call to 80009 80009. Don’t forget to encourage everyone you know to give a missed call too! Learn more at http://isha.sadhguru.org/rally-for-rivers/