I don’t know anyone who has seen the Himalayas and been unmoved.
The Himalayas radiate a breath-taking presence. If you have experienced presence of an enlightened person, someone whose mere presence touches your soul and stills its storms, you will know what I mean. If you have found meaning in your life by the mere being of another, you will understand what I mean. If you have experienced the power of someone whose calm and smiling face can stop time, you’ll know what I mean. If you have felt the soft, soothing voice of care and respect, you will know what I mean. If you have been embraced with warmth in the mere look of a person, you will know what I mean. If you have discovered joy, being alive, and a life energy in the presence of another person, you’ll know the feeling. If you have been touched by the sweet breath that breaths life, energy, and joy in another, you will know what I mean.
The Himalayas somehow combine the experience of all of this simultaneously, and more. My words are inadequate and fall short to bring you to experience of the magic of the Himalayas.
If the presence of God could be felt, it would perhaps be like the presence of the Himalayas. It is a presence that has calm and movement at the same time. The calm with a height that seems unfathomable, even in clear skies. A movement that has a rhythm and harmony that evokes peace as it causes your soul to merge in its rhythm.
I remember how they moved me, the first time I set my eyes on them. I think they have the power to somehow occupy a place in each person who has experienced them. I too feel some of the Himalayas continues to live in me, even years after having felt their presence.
No wonder, many describe the Himalayas as mountains of emotions, not rocks and boulders. Many believe we must preserve and nurture the Himalayas to not only save our culture, but to save our souls and what our souls may be capable of feeling.
I am not surprised that many consider the Himalayas as the abode of gods. Or the home to the Shangri-La, an earthly paradise, a retreat from the pressures of modern civilization. A pilgrim’s paradise, a heaven of spiritual practice, and the place for penance. A place to atone for our sins.
Or that many compare them as a physical representation of the loftiness of the human soul and the universality of human consciousness. Or that they are sacred, not only because they give rise to the rivers on the western and eastern ranges, or because they bring life to the plains and the skies that are far beyond their mountain ranges, but because they are alive, just as you and I are alive.
So, for someone who finds life as sacred, the aggression of our human acts on the Himalayas, and in fact every ecosystem which is similarly alive, is sacrilege. It is irreverent to seek to exploit the Himalayas, and any ecosystem, to serve the purpose of a single species and destroy the ecosystem in the process.
Even Sunderlal Bahuguna, the Himalayan saint who left us for life beyond the physical two weeks ago, evoked our conscience for respect and care for our ecosystems through his satyagraha, the insistence on truth, by asking “Why should a river, a mountain, a forest, or the ocean be killed, while we cling to life?”.
Perhaps he also meant how will we live when our mountains, our forests, our rivers, our oceans, and our air, which give us our life, are killed?
Last Saturday was the World Environment Day. Nine remarkable people from different parts of our common home, the Earth, came together and highlighted our relationship with the Himalayas, and in fact all ecosystems, has become one of exploitation of the resources it has to offer, not one of sustaining the ecosystem. These nine people brought the Himalayas to us, wherever we were. No, they evoked the Himalayas in us.
As our infrastructure and technology have consistently failed to protect us from the climate crisis and extreme events, do we need to examine our relationship with our ecosystems that sustain us, they asked. Is there, then, a responsibility we should have to the Himalayan, and in fact any, ecosystem? Will we recognize that responsibility to our ecosystems if we see them as a resource to be exploited? Will we recognize our responsibility if we do not have an ethical compass to guide our actions?
What is our ethical responsibility to the Himalayan ecosystem, in fact, to every ecosystem?
Will recognition of that responsibility cause us to control our aggression, exercise restraint, and express humility in our acts towards the ecosystem?
These wise souls addressed these difficult questions. They invoked our conscience to drive our actions. They helped us to recognize the environment as a living whole, of which we are but a small part. And from that recognition to appeal to our institutions to recognize, and to act with the ethical responsibility towards the ecosystems that bring us our life and sustain it.
They invited us to meditate on their wisdom through the lens of their unique and rich experience and understanding of our ecosystems, and of our ethical responsibilities. They invited us to celebrate our ecosystems.
A celebration is an act of humility. It is even an act of reverence towards the union we form with others to make the whole. It is an act of recognizing the sacredness of the interactions of the parts that sustain the whole. Celebration is a graceful expression of our harmony of our unions with the other. A celebration is an ethical act.
There can be no celebration with aggression, lack of restraint, or an absence of care and respect.
Without a celebration of our ecosystems, there will be no harmony, perhaps even no whole.
It is time to recognize the presence of our ecosystems. It is time to learn to celebrate our ecosystems.
#All views expressed in this column are the authors and/or individuals or institutions that may be quoted and Pune365 does not necessarily subscribe to the same.
He can be reached @AnupamSaraph