Dharmic Ecology: Perspectives from the Swadhyaya Practitioners Page: 306
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306 Jain /Worviews 13 (2009) 305-320
showed warmth and enthusiasm to welcome me and explain about the
tree-temples and several other works and ideologies of the Swadhyaya
movement. The tree-temple appeared like an oasis having suddenly
sprung up out of nowhere. It was a dense garden of trees of mangoes and
chikoo (sapodilla). Although I appreciated the view of lush green trees, I
was particularly impressed that it was built on a land where people had
previously lost all hopes of cultivation. Even the government had declared
it as a barren land. As the caretakers of this garden began explaining about
the way they perceive the trees and the vision of their guru Athavale, I
began asking questions related to environmentalism. What I present
below is based on my several such interviews with Swadhyaya followers
who have participated in such work. I have also extracted relevant infor-
mation from the vernacular literature of Swadhyaya that is based on the
video-recorded discourses of Athavale.
Swadhyaya is one of the least known new religious movements. It arose
in the mid-twentieth century in the Western states of India. Although this
movement now has some presence in several Western countries such as
the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom, it has not received
the attention of scholars of Hinduism except in a few introductory
articles.2 Before I begin introducing the tree-temples of Swadhyaya, it is
important to mention that their environmental significance is denied by
the Swadhyayis. In fact, one of the Swadhyayis was taken aback when I
told him about my topic of research. In his own words,
You might misrepresent Swadhyaya if you choose to research it from ecologi-
cal perspective. Swadhyaya and its activities are only about our devotion
to almighty; ecology is not our concern. Environmental problems are due
to industrialization and the solution lies beyond Swadhyaya's activities.
Swadhyayis are not environmentalists!
2) Between 1994 and 1996, some observers and scholars had visited the Swadhyaya vil-
lages. Their observations were compiled in an edited volume by R. K Srivastava (1998).
This is a helpful introduction of the movement. In addition, I have provided some other
scholarly articles in the bibliography, see Dharampal-Frick (2001), James (2005), Little
(1995), Paranjape (2005), Rukmani (1999), Sharma (1999), and Unterberger et al. (1990).
After completing this article, I also came to know that Ananta Giri has published a mono-
graph on self-development and social transformation brought about by Swadhyaya, see
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Jain, Pankaj. Dharmic Ecology: Perspectives from the Swadhyaya Practitioners, article, 2009; [Leiden, Netherlands]. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc38896/m1/2/: accessed July 22, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT College of Public Affairs and Community Service.