Dharmic Ecology: Perspectives from the Swadhyaya Practitioners Page: 317
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r Jain /Worldviews 13 (2009) 305-320 317
larly, another Swadhyayi recalled that Swadhyayi engineers had built sani-
tation facilities in thousands of tribal villages in Maharashtra.
Overall, we can conclude that the dharmic ecological work done by
Athavale and his followers can be compared with ecological work done
by environmental NGOs. However, for the Swadhyayis, their work is
simply a reflection of their krtibhakti, activity inspired by their devotion
to the divinity inherent in themselves and in nature around them. For
Athavale's followers, trees and plants merely symbolize the divine force
that works as a connecting force between the human society, purusa and
nature, prakrti. As Swadhyayis told me: "To be is to be related". By devel-
oping reverential relationships with the trees, cows, and other ecological
resources, Swadhyayis strive to develop their dharmic teachings into practice.
Athavale often cited the definition of dharma in the Mahabharata as
one that sustains both the personal order and the cosmic order.13 Swad-
hyayis, like many other Hindu communities, use dharma interchangeably
to describe their ethos as it relates to their religion and natural order. For
them, the distinction between the religious ethos and the ecological order
is negligible since they describe them with the common term dharma or
dharam. Several scholars have noted this trend in Indians. Ann Gold's
observations from her fieldwork in Rajasthan are especially helpful. She
describes the villagers who relate their moral actions with the ecological
outcomes (2002). Frederick Smith describes similar trends in the ethno-
sociology of Marriott and Inden (2006: 586). Smith also cites Arjun
Appadurai, "South Asians do not separate the moral from natural order,
act from actor, person from collectivity, and everyday life from the realm
of the transcendent." Smith concludes, "The distinction between mind
and body, humanity and nature, essence, idea, quality, and deity, would
be (largely) one of degree rather than of kind."
Dharma as "virtue ethics" has served as a role model for Indians for
several millennia (Matilal 2002). From my research with the Swadhyayis,
I found that their inspirations were the Hindu epic heroes and their guru
whom they see as role-models practicing dharma to attain moksa. In
several of the discourses of Athavale, I found him exhorting his followers
to follow the ideal ofArjuna, the warrior of the Mahabharata who preferred
13) Dharanad dharma ity ahur dharmena vidhrtah prajah, Yat syad dharanasamyuktam sa
dharma iti niicayah (MBh 12.110.11).
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Jain, Pankaj. Dharmic Ecology: Perspectives from the Swadhyaya Practitioners, article, 2009; [Leiden, Netherlands]. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc38896/m1/13/: accessed February 26, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT College of Public Affairs and Community Service.