Dharmic Ecology: Perspectives from the Swadhyaya Practitioners Page: 307
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R Jain /Worldviews 13 (2009) 305-320 307
Based on my observations of Swadhyaya's several activities, I tend to agree
with him. Athavale has repeatedly emphasized that the main goal of
Swadhyaya is to transform the human society based on the Upanishadic
concept of "Indwelling God". According to him, since the Almighty
resides in everybody, one should develop a sense of spiritual self-respect3
for oneself irrespective of materialistic prestige or possessions. In addition
to one's own dignity, the concept of "Indwelling God" also helps tran-
scend the divisions of class, caste, and religion and Athavale exhorted his
followers to develop the Swadhyaya community based on the idea of
"brotherhood of humans under the fatherhood of God". Activities of
Swadhyaya are woven around this main principle, which in turn are also
aimed at the Indian cultural renaissance.
Although environmentalism is neither the means nor the goal of Swad-
hyaya's activities, natural resources such as the earth, the water, the trees,
and the cattle are revered and nurtured by Swadhyayis based on this
understanding. Environmentalism does come out as an important by-
product of its multi-faceted activities and this was noted by a 1992 con-
ference in Montreal where Swadhyaya was invited to present its ecological
philosophy and work.4 I argue that a multivalent term like dharma can
comprehend and describe this kaleidoscopic phenomenon and the way it
relates to the ecology. Swadhyaya followers do not regard environmental-
ism as their main duty, their dharma. Alternatively, from the outside, one
can regard their dharma, their cultural practices, as ecologically sustain-
able as I show below. I also want to note that my observations are based
on their activities in the rural parts of India since the urban and the
diaspora Swadhyayis do not have such ecological projects yet.
Vrksamandiras, literally tree-temples, are constructed as inspired by
Athavale's teachings that regard trees as gods. By several explanations from
Indic texts, he developed a set of preaching that I would like to term
"arboreal dharma," dharmic ecology inspired by the qualities of trees. He
3) Since the 1990s, this became the theme of celebration for Athavale's birthday, which is
celebrated as "Human Dignity Day" around the world by his followers.
4) This conference, "Living with the Earth: Cross-cultural Perspective on Sustainable Devel-
opment, Indigenous andAlternative Practices", took place on April 30-May 3, 1992. It was
organized by the Intercultural Institute of Montreal, Canada. A three- page report titled
"Presentation by Didi (the current leader of the movement) on the Swadhyaya Move-
ment" was written by Robert Vachon in the proceedings of the conference. An interview
with Didi was subsequently broadcasted nationwide by the Canadian Broadcasting Cor-
poration on a one-hour radio program called Ideas.
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Jain, Pankaj. Dharmic Ecology: Perspectives from the Swadhyaya Practitioners, article, 2009; [Leiden, Netherlands]. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc38896/m1/3/: accessed September 24, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT College of Public Affairs and Community Service.