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Harmony with Nature: Insights from Spiritual Ecology, Part 1 of 2

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The core idea of spiritual ecology was summarised by US advisor on climate change, James Gustave Speth, when he said: “I used to think that the top environmental problems were biodiversity loss, ecosystem collapse, and climate change. I thought that thirty years of good science could address these problems. I was wrong. The top environmental problems are selfishness, greed, and apathy; and to deal with these, we need cultural and spiritual transformation.”

An early pioneer in the spiritual ecology movement is Satish Kumar. Satish is the editor emeritus of Resurgence & Ecologist, a bi-monthly magazine focusing on the environment, activism, and ethical living. “We are nature. Nature means to be born, natal, nativity, nation, native – they’re all words coming from the same root. So, we are nature, and what we do to nature out there, we do to ourselves. And therefore, let us create a new consciousness that we have to revere Nature.”

Numerous indigenous traditions worldwide have acknowledged the inherent vitality of nature, a concept often referred to in academia as “animism.” Shinto is the name of the indigenous Japanese tradition in which forests and mountains are understood to be teeming with spirits who inhabit a world scarcely revealed to humans. Kami are spiritual beings said to reside in all things, including natural elements and landscapes. Japanese communities offer food and drink to powerful local Kami to foster harmony between people and spirits and to receive their blessing for land use practices.

Our Most Beloved Supreme Master Ching Hai (vegan) also heralds the value of indigenous traditions and encourages utmost respect for nature, which She tells us is full of the Divine Spirit.

“Many super beings are mostly spiritually high, elevated beings, and they sometimes manifest themselves into different dimensions or different kinds of forms in order to help others. Even a river is a super being. The Earth is a super being. The Sun is a super being. They are not just inert material planets. They are beings. It’s just that they don’t look like you or they don’t look like moving, so we don’t know they are beings, but they are super beings. They manifest themselves as rivers, as seas, as mountains, as Earth, as stars, for the benefit of others. They are to be respected. So in the ancient time, or even now, some people still worship river and mountains, they are not all in the wrong. They do see that mountain has a spirit, trees have spirit, even stone has spirit. They do see things, so they worship them. But, of course, they are not the ultimate manifestation of the Divine. They’re not the Most High. But nevertheless, they are a super part or super manifestation from the Divine. So, it’s all worthy of our respect, salutation and gratitude.”
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