“Awakening the Light of Dharma”, an International Conference held from November 6th to 9th , 2015 in Varanasi & Sarnath, brought spiritual leaders from various faiths such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Sufis, Jews, American Indians and Christians together from various countries to the banks of Holy Ganga, in dialogue to understand how to uphold Dharma in the world today.
The opening session was blessed by Sri Jagadguru Chandrashekar Shivacharya Mahaswami, the head of one of the five Jnana Peethas of Veerashaiva Lineage, and His Holiness 17th Gyalwang Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje, the head of the Karma Kagyu Lineage of Tibetan Buddhism.
The sessions included topics such as “Transforming our relationship with the natural world, Dharma & Social/Economic Advancement: Cultivating Dharmic Societal Models; Reclaiming the Sacred: Addressing the Commercialization & Secularization of Spiritual Practices; Principles of a Dharmic economy; and Steps Spiritual Communities can take to foster deep understanding of dharma”.
Swamini Pramananda (Ammaji) gave her opening remarks on the topic of “Transforming our relationship with the natural world”. She said, “In today’s world, everything has become crisis: climate change crisis, economic crisis, political crisis, cultural crisis, and social crisis. Old systems are not working anymore as the context is fast changing. But this is not an era of crisis, instead it is an era of knowledge. While crisis brings fear, Knowledge empowers – bringing hope and transformation.
If humans see themselves as finite, lacking and unhappy, the change will be driven by greed, selfishness and ego-centric tendencies. Whereas if humans know themselves as divine, infinite, limitless, the change will be driven by their Spiritual Essence. India’s greatest gift to human civilization were the “Rishis – sages” who revealed to the world that we are not human beings searching for spiritual experience, but spiritual beings enjoying human experience. They were the originators of the sacred tradition and culture of India and people of India were awakened to the fact that ‘All that is here is Sacred and Earth life forms is one family’. This sanctity and reverence for life is the heart of a practicing Hindu! Take this away, and there will be no Hindu on earth!!
Today, all we need is awakening of the people to India’s sacred icons – the Himalayas and the Ganga. Their magnificent existence brings to the people of earth inter generational identity, timelessness and a great reminder of who we truly are. For example, if we know Ganga to be a Devi, a divine being that she is, we would not treat her as we do. If we know the forests to be inhabited by living beings, we would not treat them as we do. If we truly respected animal and plant life as sentient beings, we would not desecrate them as we do. In the Dharmic traditions, all of the natural world is known to be alive and to have an integrity of its own and a right to life. And yet, today do we really live according to this precept?
Only this change in consciousness will help us address the ecological and climate crisis. Protection of Himalayas and Ganga is critical today by bringing about a soft revolution of the heart towards life as it presents itself through our forests, rivers, animals, birds, and mountains. The knowledge that we are different facets of one consciousness and that there is one underlying unity and brotherhood is the need of the hour. It is only through education and learning that such a change will happen. The spiritual leadership must help facilitate this process and bring an awakening to the people of their congregations so that more and more understand the truth of life! Our present consciousness must evolve to being who we truly are – the Infinite Being! We need to claim our highest self, own up the inner powers of the soul so that we, as a human race, become protectors of our earth and not destroyers of our planet!