I attended a workshop on “Understanding Dharmic Roots and Worldview of Sustainable Development” on 24th January 2012.
Here is an outline based on the workshop. There were so many topics and action items discussed in the workshop. What is given here only a small part of the discussions.
The current definition and model of development is not sustainable. For example, there are about 450 cars per 1000 people in USA, 10 in India and 27 in China. If the number of cars is considered as an indication of development, if both India and China develop as much as USA, there would not be place for cars in the entire world. But we cannot force one part of the world to be developed and keep another part of the world as undeveloped. The goal of humanity should be to ensure uniform development through out the world and among all people in every region. For development to be sustainable, “development” itself has to be redefined.
The Western model of development, that is being adopted and pushed to the entire world as a universal concept, is based on consumption and rights. Development is measured based on external possessions and based on the energy consumption. Civilization is measured based on the rights enjoyed by the people. This model is neither universal or is it sustainable.
There have been successfull civilizations that continued for thousands of years based on an alternate model – the Dharmic model. For example, the Indus-Saraswati civilization covered an area of half of Europe and existed for more than two thousand years. It did not damage the environment and that is why we exist today. By the way the current development is proceeding, we cannot say the same thing about future societies.
The Western Model
The Western model is based on the assumption that the world is meant for exploitation for the betterment of human beings. Even the causes for environment and preservation of endangered species is ultimately from a point of view of sustainable human utility. The entire model is based on efficient and increased consumption. Only in the past 50 years there have beentalks about sustainability. So the model has become based on efficient, increased and sustainable consumption.
The Dharmic Model
The Dharmic model is based on symbiosis and duties.
Success in personal life is defined by internal maturity towards a state of emotional independence. The more a person can be happy without depending on external people, objects and situations, the more the person is considered as developed. A society that gives this awareness and a conducive environment for its realization is considered as a developed society. For example, the ashrama system gives simplicity as the means of life for three of the four stages of life. Only a grihasta is an active consumer and creator of wealth. The brahmachri, vaanaprasti and sannyaasi are prescribed a life style of minimum consumption. This automatically reduces the burden on the resources of the earth. According to the varna system, it is not wrong for a person to lead a simple life. The glory of the brahmana is in his simplicity of life. A person who follows a lifestyle of simple living and high thinking is considered as the best person. Only the vaishya and kshatriya are allowed to consume more wealth. They are considered as lower to the brahmana, who bets his life on knowledge and not possessions.
An advanced civilization is where each person does his duties even under demanding situations, without worrying too much about rights. The rights of one person becomes the duties of another. Forming a society where each person is more interested in demanding his rights will create only tension, whereas forming a society where each person is more interested in doing his duties will create a beautiful peaceful society.
Earth is treated as a living Mother. There is a symbiotic relationship of honor and respect towards the resources of the earth. Ancient Indian systems of water management, agriculture, metallurgy, etc have been much more eco-friendly and sustainable than the modern methods imported from the West.
Need of the Time
To ensure that humanity can peacefully and prosperously step into the future, it is important to study and revive the ancient Dharmic models of development and civilization. These are models that have proven themselves for thousands of years. There is a need of the time to study these and discuss them at an international level. The future of the human race depends on this.
The workshop has contributors from different walks of life. Swami Harshananda, Adhyaksha, Ramakrishna Math, Basavanagudi, Bangalore, gave the benedictory address. Rajiv Malhotra gave the keynote address and actively participated in the entire workshop. There was a retired IAS officer, retired World Bank executive, professor of Sanskrit, professor of History, several social workers from different NGOs, etc. Dr.T.S.Mohan was the convener.