Views on Environmental Ethics in Sant Kabir’s Philosophy
The world of our experiences may be divided into two: The Given World and The Created World. There is something which is given to man, which he has not created, and there is something which he creates out of the given. (Prof. V. N. Jha, Dhimahi, pp. 118). Under this viewpoint we can say that the Environment that surrounds us is the given one. It may be for the worse or for the better than that of the present world. From times immemorial, irrespective of ages, humans have lived ‘in it’, ‘with it’ and created or invented many things ‘out of it’ that remained part of it, or as an independent entity, having a special identity. But we as human try to live ‘with it’, ‘in it’ and create ‘out of it’. And thus, it establishes a relationship between the environment and us. We are living ‘with it’ means that it is a separate entity with which we are living, and we may also live without it, and vise-versa. Whereas, living ‘in it’ means that we are a part of its totality, and we may also end with its end. And creating ‘out of it’ means we are adding value to our surrounding i.e. ‘Environment’. And in this way our relationship with the environment depends on the basic thought of our “identity” with the environment.
We can build relationships in many ways with the environment. But do we need to consider the ‘Environment’ through the lens of ethics? Do we think of Environment as an independent entity? Do we have any ethical relationship with it? How did our ancestors understand the ‘Environment’? Did they have the same problem as we are facing now?’ ‘Do we find answers for today’s problems in our ancient literature or philosophies?’
In this essay we limit ourselves to India, and not going beyond the medieval period of the ‘Bhakti Movement’, and with particular emphasis on the teachings of Sant Kabir.
Before we enter into a discussion of Sant Kabir’s view on Environmental Ethics, let us briefly look into the meaning of Environmental Ethics.
Environmental ethics is a newly developed philosophy. It deals with ‘Nature’ or ‘Environment’ yet, essentially, it talks about ‘Human’ relationships and concern with ‘Nature’. The American environmentalist, Aldo Leopold says, in his book ‘Sand County Almanac’ that, “We can be ethical only in relation to something that we can see, feel, understand, love or otherwise have faith in.” I Totally agree with Leopold’s statement. Yes, we are ethical only with what we see, feel, understand, love or have faith in. Obviously, we can see and feel the environment directly. But the question is HOW? The question can be understood by the discussions to follow.
To be continued.
Sudha J. Pandit
(Written when she was a Ph. D student,
University of Pune)