I t is common knowledge that the world is going through a crisis, which may lead to the extinction of the entire planet “Earth”. All sorts of evils have struck the world. Evils are of diverse types. Usually they are called natural evilsand physical evils. Natural evils are beyond our control. Earthquakes, floods, storms, volcanic eruptions may be cited as some of the natural evils. But most of the other types of evils are usually man –made. It has been stated by some philosophers that God created this world, because it happened to be the best of all the possible worlds and man is supposed to be His highest creation. But unfortunately the world today is going through a crisis due to the machination of man himself.
The world has been bogged down by various man made evils like terrorism, violence, corruption etc., which have caused untold suffering to mankind. But the greatest risk to the world comes from environmental pollution, which has become the prime issue for the philosophers, scientists, environmentalists and others. If we go by epics and ancient literature, we find that once upon a time man lived in perfect harmony with Nature and wild life. From those books we learn that in that age man treated nature with humility and reverence. Nature was considered as a gracious deity bestowing all her bounty on human beings. This anthropomorphic notion had great impact on man. In that age man was friendly with natural flora and fauna. Forests were of great value, not for material benefit, but for spiritual enlightenment. In Ramayana we find that Ramchandra, along with his wife Sita Devi and brother Lakshman went to the forest for 12 years exile, in order to fulfill his father’s pledge to his step mother Kaikayi. In Mahabharata too it has been staged that the Pandavas with their wife Draupadi went to the forest to serve 12 years exile after being defeated in that infamous game of dice in the royal court of Hastinapur. The householders, after reaching a certain age, went to the forest for practicing ‘Vanprastha’ and ‘Sanyas’. When Sakuntala was on the point of departure to her husband’s home, the trees of the hermitage gave her gorgeous dresses and ornaments as the bridal gifts. The plants also served as witness to her wedding with king Dushyanta. These incidents might have been pure fib but they did demonstrate the fact that man treated nature with great respect. Animals, birds and other beings to were held in high esteem by the people. There was peace and happiness in the earth and no question of ecological imbalance ever arose. But now this menace has posed a threat to the survival of the planet Earth.
Once man venerated nature, but with the passage of time he became arrogant and ruthless. With the advancement of science and technology human beings have learnt and discovered a great many things. He started to think that the world was created for human usage. For his personal gain he started exploiting nature. By cutting down forest all over the world man has ruined the ecological balance. We hear of global warming almost every day which might lead to earth’s destruction. It is true that science and technology have done a wonderful job, making man’s life easier. For benefit of human beings science has offered innumerable things like television, telephone, aeroplanes, computers etc., which are of great value to human beings. The world has become smaller due to the scientific discoveries. The astronauts have frequently gone to the space to solve the mystery of creation. The scientists have even claimed that they can increase the longevity of man.
The scientists have explored nature and have brought out precious things from the ocean, land, animals and various other things. Now we have patrol, diesel, coal, kerosene, as well as diamond, gold, pearls and other things from the bosom of the earth. It is true that we have gained a lot due to the contributions of science and technology. But science also has given us destructive weapons which have caused havoc on this good earth of ours. Man’s insatiable greed has brought the earth to the verge of extinction. Belatedly people have become aware of the danger to earth and various types of seminars, discussions, debates etc. have been organized to find ways and means to save the earth. Hence preservation of environment has become a prime issue with philosophers, scientist as well as intellectuals. Alan Marshall’s category of ecologic extension places emphasis not only on human rights, but on the recognition of the fundamental interdependence of all biological entities and their essential diversity. Hence all environmental studies should include an assessment of the increasing values of non human beings. It is time human beings realized their relationship with environment.
Pollution and depletion of natural resources have not only been the concerns of the environmentalists; dwindling plants, animal bio–diversity, the loss of wilderness, the degradation of ecosystems, and climate change are all part of a raft of ‘green’ issue that have implanted themselves into both public consciousness and public policy over subsequent years. Humanity has moral obligations in the face of such concerns. We have duties regarding environment in order to find means to save the earth. The crisis of earth has arisen mainly due to the anthropocentric attitude, which means “human centredness” of human beings. All the actions are based on human benefit, without any concern for the environment. Unless the human beings show concern for nature and natural resources, as well as for wild life, the end of the world is imminent.
Besides that, man has become morally bankrupt. Terrorism has caused havoc on this earth as well as on individuals. We hear of all these bomb blasts and killing sprees all over the world. No country is safe from terrorism. In Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran and some other Asian countries we see terrorism at its worst. In India too, the same situation prevails. Assam too has been suffering from terrorism for decades. Once our country had peace; even during the British rule the situation was not so bad. At least there was trust and good will amongst the people, which is now nonexistent.
Today love, compassion, sympathy and all other higher values have disappeared. Earlier a single case of murder would have shocked the entire nation. But now they occur almost every day. The people have become used to these heinous crimes, since they have become commonplace. The newspapers report these incidents regularly, yet we feel nothing –no compassion, no sympathy at all. This fact clearly demonstrates that man has lost position as the greatest creation of God.
Even a few decades back crimes were not such universal phenomena. But during the present period not a day passes without some crime being committed somewhere by somebody. The greatest tragedy is that man, supposed to be the greatest creation on earth, has lost his humanity along with the highest values of life. The world, which God created for the good of his created beings, has turned into the worst kind of hell, due to selfishness and greed of human beings.
If we look around we see nothing but the all pervasive suffering. Every morning the media feed us with the news of terrible crimes like murder, extortion, abduction, corruption, rape and so on. And the horrible part is that we go through all these news with indifference without a trace of feeling for those unfortunate victims. This shows how callous we have become regarding the sufferings of fellow human beings. If at night somebody’s home is broken into, neighbors do not rush to that home to help the family in distress. There is no feeling of neighborliness anymore and that highly acclaimed statement “love thy neighbor” has become obsolete in the present context. And you cannot blame them, since nobody wants to risk his life for somebody else, even if he happens to be a friend or a neighbour.
There was a time when all these criminal activities were almost nonexistent. People were God fearing and value conscious. They could not even imagine such terrible activities. One could move around freely without fear. The news of such horrible incidents, which are occurring today, would have shocked the people to the core. But now life has become cheap and no one feels for others. The whole world is wallowing in crime and we are no exceptions.
In our country crimes have become a rule rather than exception and our state which was a haven of peace till some years back, is steeped in crimes up to its neck. The value based Indian people have lost their cherished values. Morality has become unknown to the present generation and they seem to be following that adage of “eat, drink and be merry”, which is ruling the modern man. This kind of Egoistic Hedonism is slowly but surely leading the society to utter destruction. Little girls are being raped by men old enough to be their fathers or even grandfathers. You dare not walk across a dark lane in the evening, lest somebody lurking behind the bush is waiting to take a shot at you.
Some years back we could not imagine locking our doors during the day since guests used to come anytime till late in the evening. But now nobody dares to keep the front door open even during the day. If somebody rings the bell late in the evening, we get shivers down the spine, as we fear that some criminal may be at the door.
Corruption is another malady, which has done irreparable damage to our nation. Some decades back very few persons indulged in corruption and they were treated as social outcasts. But now honest people have become a rarity and you may not find such a person even if you scour the entire length and breadth of the country or may be outside even. Jobs are sold and bought like any other commodity and merit does not count. There is no question of educational proficiency or ability. It is only money that counts.
There is no end to our sufferings. Adulterations of various food products have posed a great threat to the health of the nation. Rice may be mixed with little stones, sugar may be mixed with glass particles and mustard oil may be mixed with burnt mobile and so on. Even that life saving capsule may contain nothing but chalk powder, the saline bottle may contain plain water. Even baby food is not spared.
Religious and ethnic violence have erupted as never before. It seems that all these fanatics do not understand the true meaning of religion. No religion ever recommends violence and all religions preach love and tolerance. But these fanatics kill people in the name of religion, thereby tarnishing the image of their own religion. It is greed, and not need, that is ruling the modern man.
All these factors have brought a crisis to the world. If we consider these forces, we can see that the main factor behind all of them is our materialistic outlook. As Lord Buddha had stated, ignorance is the root of all our sufferings. People do not seem to realize that life is not eternal and pleasure and pain do not touch the soul, which is the only reality. India was once the land of ‘Rishis’ and these great sages taught men to practice spiritualism. In Indian philosophy it has been stated that the true goal of a human being is to attain liberation and a liberated person becomes free form bondage. Western materialism has caused havoc in our society. Greed for money has warped our judgment. We should realize that money cannot give us happiness rather it brings suffering. If we are rid of the materialistic point of view and concentrate our minds on God or Brahman we will be able to attain perfect bliss. Then will realize that there is no difference between ‘mine’ and ‘thine’, since the same ‘paramatma’ is present in every ‘atma’. This kind of realization needs the determination to sacrifice physical comforts in order to achieve eternal happiness. If spiritualism is given due importance and materialistic outlook is discarded, only then the crisis to the earth might be minimized.
(The writer is a former Head, Department of Philosophy, Cotton College, Guwahati)
Dr Jyotsna Bhattacharjee