To live a life according to the wisdom of ecology is the most urgent task for humanity today. What can the philosophy of yoga contribute to this critical challenge? How can we develop an environmental ethics according to yogic principles? What would a sustainable ethics based on yoga look like?
To be a true yoga master, you need to master the art of negation. That’s Patanjali’s idea, from the Yoga Sutras:
2.33 Vitarka badhane pratipaksha bhavanam
The practice of pratipaksha bhanavam prescribes that, when disturbed by negative thoughts, opposite thoughts should be brought into awareness.
It takes a good amount of logical and spiritual training to know how to approach the art of negation. It’s like when you were studying algebra, and you learned how to use the order of operations. When you are solving for x, you need to understand the operations and their inverses, and figure out where the parentheses are, to really figure out the value of x. And just like algebra, it takes a good amount of practice to do it consistently well.
Our relationship with the Earth, specifically in the West, is an adversarial relationship; one that springs from a fear of nature giving rise to the need to control, exploit and profit from it. Because of this feeling of separateness from and superiority over nature, we are taking more than we are giving back.
The commons was once considered to be the public space where water, earth and air were available and accessible to everyone equally. Laws about the commons were passed in the spirit of protecting this accessibility.
For Carly and Hillary, both are bashed for their looks while the white guys around them chuckle and high five like a fraternity debate club. The glass ceiling of ego and opportunity seems almost impossible to chip, let alone crack, even with saber and skull in hand. It was almost silly to countenance someone like Sarah Palin as a serious VP candidate, and Elizabeth Dole seemed way past her prime and two decades too soon. The Geraldine Ferrero’s of the world and their second-in-line assembly has been documented, hypothesized and tucked neatly away like a cocktail napkin in a coat pocket. This is now a woman’s race - or stands to be anyway - unlike any of the second place VP-candidates of the past. Both have ten arms in intellect and articulation; both broads are tough enough to heave that gilded hammer so stoutly swung they stand to shatter all glass ceilings from this point on. Taking a page from the Frau Angela Merkel playbook, it would appear that perhaps, perchance, times, they are a changing. But are we ready?
It’s possible to use illusion to create a different reality for oneself, and sometimes even for entire groups of people. It’s possible, sometimes through sheer force of will, to manufacture positive change from negative experiences...On the individual level or on a larger social scale. It may take years, it will take work, and certainly much collaboration with others – no abracadabra here – but the alternative is to remain mired in the muck of illusion, waiting on someone else’s magic to make a change.
It is impossible not to act. There is no such thing as inaction, no matter how hard you try. In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna tells Arjuna (a warrior who has lost his will to act) that even if he were to try not to act at all, you can’t stop acting. You eat, you breathe, you pump your blood, you interact, you gather, you build. Action is a fact of embodied existence. Our actions affect each other. We are all connected to one another; each action makes a ripple in the pond of inter-being. None of us can act in perfect isolation. The question then becomes, what ripples do you want to make? Even non-action is a form of action.