Dr.Pankaj Jain was an Associate Professor in The Department of Philosophy and Religion at University of North Texas, USA. Being a scholar of Indic studies in the western world and noticing the people’s discrepancy in conceptualizing the scientific and religious world, he thought of harmonizing Western technologies with regional legacies, which helps in the environmental and economic flourishing of the rural people. In this book, he takes up HESCO and Baba Seechwal’s work as an example and establishes that to bring a change, we must harmonize science and dharma.
With the environmental crisis taking over our planet at a fast pace, Dr. Pankaj Jain sheds light on two major projects in the Indian States of Uttarakhand and Punjab that are working on preserving the environment to the best of their capability. He highlights the work done by Dr. Anil Joshi in an organization named HESCO (Himalayan Environmental Studies and Conservation Organization) in Uttarakhand and by Baba Balbir Singh in restoring the holy river Kali Bein in Punjab.
The book aims to examine the Indic meaning of science (Vijanana) through HESCO and Baba Seechwal’s enterprise in Punjab. Technology and dharma have their delineation in Indian thought, seen in the book through the two splendid initiatives. HESCO and Baba’s methodologies consider new technology reviving the culture which is lost in the fast world today.
Dr. Anil Joshi writes on the dualism of science and dharma. He states:
“All dharmic rituals and practices have a scientific basis as well. For example, lightning a lamp in Hindu dharma, is done with revering the five great elements (Punch Mahabhutas of the earth, water, fire, wind, and space). Science gives the same importance to these five elements. Both dharma and science are complementary”.
HESCO’s approach is to transform rural areas on the foundations of dharmic principles and scientific technologies, empowering the Himalayan region and making the villagers self-reliant. We have suddenly turned towards more recent technologies, forgetting the principles through which our ancestors have survived. Due to this, we see the rapid degradation of the environment. The books help us reflect on the lost principles that are friendly to the ground and revive the long practice methodology.
The work being done by Dr. Anil Joshi is highly commendable as he looks into different sectors of the society closely and works towards benefiting the individuals. His prior concern is for the environment and preserving natural resources with the help of dharma and technology. He has been spreading knowledge from village to village and has resolved the problems of scores of villagers.
The methodologies of HESCO and Baba Seechwal take into account newer technologies, changing climatic conditions and reviving the traditional culture and ecosystem. Dr. Anil Joshi says,
“In my childhood, I used to avoid brand new clothes, shoes and toys and instead tries to wear used clothes and shoes of my elder brother and also ride his used bike. In my HESCO work also I have preferred to enforce a new technology. Instead we strove to upgrade and revive the older traditions and technologies. Thousands of years of natural and cultural resources should be maintained using traditional technologies otherwise we will end up destroying them”.
These words by Dr. Joshi explains his efficient idea behind the project HESCO.
Baba Balbir Singh took an initiative to restore the river, Kali Bein which is the holy river in Punjab and is a major source of water table recharge. The river’s pollution was hurting the health and the religious sentiments of the pilgrims. Baba took an initiative to clean the river and organizing major kirtans (singing procession), spreading environmental awareness and narrating the significance of the river religiously and environmentally.
Baba Balbir Singh Seechwal headed the anti-river pollution comapign in Punjab by combining his self-help philosophy with the environmental essence of the Gurbani. Through his dharmic approach he has resurrected 110 miles long Kali Bein rivulet.
Dharmic devotion can be seen from the activities of HESCO and Baba Seechewal as they motivated the people to practice dharmic principles, while making use of western technology.
In the last decade, people have become more vocal about climate change, with the glaciers melting twice as fast as before, late monsoons, warmer summers, and colder winters. It has been a massive concern for the planet. Dr. Jain has shed light on the people’s vital projects to protect the environment and go back to the roots of the Indian system with the latest technology. Since science is different from dharma and the situation will change when we harmonize science and dharma.
Dr. Jain debates that science works hand in hand with dharmic principles in India advocating sustainable development. With the advent of modernity, people have started using the latest technologies and neglecting the fact that it is harmful to the environment. Slowly people are going back to the roots. This book appeals to the people to go hand in hand with the technologies and the dharmic principles, thus preserving the environment and promoting environmental wellbeing.
Dr. Anil Joshi’s appeal to consider the GEP (Gross Environmental Product) instead of GDP (Gross Domestic Product) is the need of the hour. We are moving towards the darkest hour of the planet and facing the troubles created by the mankind. This book helps us understand how these organizations’ steps can be fruitful to society. We should take the middle path as also suggested by Buddha in the view of dharma and technology.
Dharma and science emerge as two complementary aspects of the human endeavor. As the Isa-Upanishad states,
“He who has both spiritual wisdom (dharma) and secular knowledge (science) together keeps death at bay through the latter and experiences immortality through the former. Science provides us with the knowledge of the know and how and dharma provides us with an understanding.”
The harmonious development of the society is the proper integration of science and Dharma. This is more crucial in the present day when advances in the science and technology have empowered us enormously. However with lack of wisdom and understanding of dharma’s importance, this advancement in science is leading to the poisoning our land, air, water and minds.
Buddha said, “Believe nothing merely because you have been told to it, or because it is tradition, or because you yourself have imagined it. Do not believe what your teacher tells you merely out of respect for him. But whatever, after due examination and analysis, you find to be conducive to the good, the benefit, the welfare of all beings, believe and cling to that doctrine, and take it as your guide”.
The book has finely argued that the concept of dharma can be applied as the overarching term for the social-environmental work of HESCO. Religion and science are treated as dichotomous in the west, they are intertwined in the Indian tradition. The two projects sets an example that science and dharmic traditions works hand in hand focusing on preserving the environment and approaching towards sustainable development. This book offers great insights on the work being done for the social and environmental good. This book can be a delight to the people in the fields of environment, philosophy and cultural studies.
(Science and Socio-Religious Revolution in India by Dr.Pankaj Jain is available here)
(Hear more from Dr. Pankaj Jain in this Indic Chat with Sahana Singh.)
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