Respecting fragile and subtle eco-system is divine wisdom

Deccan Chronicle.  | C B Ramkumar

Opinion, Op Ed

The entire controversy of the World Cultural Festival of the Art of Living (AOL) foundation is a reflection of might is right.

Art of Living founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

Our ability as a nation to recognise and protect fragile ecological zones is again in question. We have scant respect for our natural resources. Natural resources like rivers and lakes are neglected and destroyed, with our own Bengaluru in the news for the pollution of the Varthur lake.

While the large obvious resources like rivers and lakes are neglected and polluted, what will then be the fate of our subtle eco systems like river banks, open grasslands, marshes, etc.

It is understandable that every citizen does not understand the significance of these fragile natural resources. But one would expect that at least the learned elite from the AOL organisation should be aware and support its protection?

The entire controversy of the World Cultural Festival of the Art of Living (AOL) foundation is a reflection of might is right. I am an AOL follower too having does the first basic course more than a decade ago.

I still respect the breathing techniques and the teachings of Sri Sri Ravishankar, as it has contributed to my life in a very positive manner. This 'enlightened' organisation with noble objectives is so blind to nature, and this is what saddens me even more. It would have been easier if I was an AOL hater, and Guru basher.

The whole issue has now taken on political overtones with the ones against the festival being held on the fragile river banks on the River Yamuna being branded as belonging to the Congress party.

Actually it was smart for the AOL to turn it into a political slugfest, because in politics as long as you are backing the right horse at the particular time, you are likely to win. And win they did…sadly.

But why on the banks of an already fragile river!? Is there no other venue that can hold the devotees of AOL and still have been successful?

River banks are meant to be kept empty, natural and untouched. They are not wastelands. Their marshy surroundings with small pockets of water rich with life are great sources of nourishments for birds and insects.

Small shrubs, reeds and trees line these banks and they are important part of the overall eco system. They support life in a very subtle but important manner. All this is not meant to be removed and compacted, so that one can build wooden stages with fiber glass domes, car parks and portable toilets.

Two reasons, I guess. Firstly the River Yamuna is steeped in religious history. The name Yamuna seems to be derived from the Sanskrit word "yama", meaning 'twin', and it may have been applied to the river because it runs parallel to the Ganges.

The Yamuna is mentioned at many places in the Rig Veda, Atharvaveda, and the Brahmanas including Aitareya Brahmana and Shatapatha Brahmana. In Rig Veda, the story of the Yamuna describes her "excessive love" for her twin, Yama, who in turn asks her to find a suitable match for herself, which she does in Krishna.

It is also said after the death of Sati Devi, Lord Shiva couldn't tolerate the sadness around him and he went to River Yamuna, it became black as it absorbed all his sorrow. With a juicy history like this, I am sure it was a great attraction for AOL.

The second reason should have been ignorance of the significance and importance of the river bank ecological system. Volunteers of AOL are meant to be well educated and significantly more aware than the common man.

How could this group pick a fragile, ecologically sensitive zone like a river bank! Surely someone in AOL should have been more sensible. Surely a Guru like Sri Sri Ravi Shankar should have been more sensitive!

Obviously the ego in this event is much larger than any such considerations - a large event on the banks of the holy river must score well for bragging in the after parties.

The AOL organisers and Sri Sri must have known that no one can dare succeed and stop an AOL programe with the President and Prime Minister attending it. And they have succeeded. And the entire river bank eco system has failed.

Sri Sri Ravishankar teaches the world to recognise the subtle energies in our bodies and minds. We need to first respect the subtle eco systems that God created. Then we can become divine. Until then, we have a long way to go.  

The writer is an author, speaker, trainer, consultant, an entrepreneur and an expert in applied sustainability. Visit: