By Divesh Maharaj
ISKCON Vaishnava Research Forum
The 3rd Vedic Ecology Convention organized by the ISKCON Vaishnava Research Forum (I-VRF) was held at the Sri Sri Radha Radhanath Temple of Understanding, in Chatsworth, south of Durban, on Sunday 22nd April 2012. Many educators from the surrounding schools as well as various academics from the institutions of higher learning were in attendance. Members of the public, devotees and well-wishers of ISKCON also attended.
The convention was officially opened by Mrs S. Rajbansi, an influential public figure in the political landscape of KwaZulu-Natal and a prominent and longstanding well-wisher of ISKCON in South Africa. She highlighted the importance of understanding environmental challenges and indicated that the Convention provided an important platform for dialogue in which to brainstorm possible solutions to such challenges. In her address, Mrs Rajbansi invited the organizing committee to engage further with her in order to take the concepts of Vedic Ecology forward in a practical manner within the local region.
The programme director, Haridev Das, introduced the keynote speaker, His Grace Govardhan Das giving details of his deep interest in the harnessing of environmentally-friendly energy resources. Govardhan Das was instrumental in the development of the Darling Wind farm, the first experimental wind farm in Africa. He also highlighted Govardhan Das’s various high profile positions in the petroleum industry and his participation on the task team investigating the bio-fuels strategy, and his chairing of the government Committee for the removal of lead from petrol and his managing the “Clean Fuels One” program in South Africa.
Govardhan Das started his talk by highlighting the “perils of the planet” such as deforestation, climate change, urban development, rising sea levels and adverse weather patterns. He then spoke about the great paradox of modern times, “we don’t want industrial pollution, but we wants jobs, economic growth, wealth, energy security, etc.” Govardhan Das explained that all of these things come at the risk of great environmental damage as we are currently witnessing. He then proceeded to highlight various important points relating to Ecology and the Vedic literature.
In a lecture in London, in July 1976, Srila Prabhupada, the founder of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness said, “This is not a good civilization. It will not stay. There will be catastrophe, waiting. Many times it has happened, and it will happen because transgressing the laws of nature, or the laws of God, is most sinful.”
The next speaker was Her Grace Prasuti Devi Dasi, a disciple of Srila Prabhupada. Prasuti Dasi spoke about ancient Vedic village life and she made a comparison between the tranquil and peaceful Vedic village lifestyle and the congested, materialistic and consumer-driven modern day city life.
In his book, Vedic Ecology, Ranchor Prime quotes Srila Prabhupada, “Human prosperity flourishes by natural gifts and not by gigantic industrial enterprises, which are the products of a godless civilization and cause the destruction of the noble aims of life. The more we go on increasing such troublesome industries to squeeze out the vital energy of the human being, the more there will be unrest and dissatisfaction of the people in general.”
Mayapur Chandra Das spoke next, on the Global Eco-village movement – a future beyond the fear based economy. He shared many practical aspects supported by an open invitation to the audience that he is willing to participate in knowledge-sharing programs at schools and other institutions. His presentation was followed by Akhanda Kirtan Das, who is currently managing the Krishna Conscious Center in Umlazi, south of Durban. He spoke about the implementation of food gardens in Umlazi, and the need to assist the local people to overcome the challenges of everyday life and to bestow upon them the gift of Krishna Consciousness.
The last two presentations were made by Smita Krishna Das and Acarya Das. Smita Krishna Das spoke about Epistemology and Ecology – what you see is what you do. He discussed the various processes in which knowledge is disseminated and explained that if one acquires knowledge from persons who are materialistic and exploitive, then this will have the adverse effect of cultivating an exploitive society.
Acarya Das presented various slides showing the decay of the Yamuna River in India. He explained that parts of the surface of the river close to the city of Delhi is heavily contaminated with a white toxic foam from industrial wastes that makes it resemble an Antarctic environment. A dam has been erected in the Haryana area which greatly impedes the natural flow of the river, leaving very little water to flow towards Delhi. After the city of Delhi, the sacred river can be equated to a mere drain. Acarya Prabhu mentioned that Mother Yamuna is sacred to the followers of the Vedic culture and impeding her natural flow is similar to Ravana capturing Mother Sita in the Ramayana epic. He invited the audience to help save the Yamuna by signing the online petition via the website www.saveyamuna.org
Two intense and engaging question & answer sessions allowed the speakers to further share their knowledge and vision with the audience. The conference concluded with a summary of the key points of both the keynote address and the five presentations by Her Grace Krishni Devi Dasi. For further information, please e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org