Dharmic Ecology: Perspectives from the Swadhyaya Practitioners Page: 311
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SJain /Worldviews 13 (2009) 305-320 311
vale have created about two dozen such tree-temples in Gujarat, Maha-
rashtra, and Andhra Pradesh. Villagers nurture them throughout the year.
They frequent tree-temples not as gardeners but as devotees. The orchard
becomes their temple and nurturing the plants becomes their devotion.
The fruits or other products collected of such orchards are treated as
prasada, divine gift. The income generated from selling such fruits is
either distributed among needy families or saved for future such prayogs.
On May 28 2007, I met a senior Swadhyayi volunteer Nathbhai at his
home in New Jersey. Nathbhai was one of the key-participants in the
building of the first tree-temple at Rajkot, Gujarat in 1979. Replying to
my questions, he did not want to label tree-temples as an ecological proj-
ect. He denied any significant ecological impact of tree-temples against
widespread environmental problems. For him, environmental problems
are the direct consequence of industries and it has to be dealt at that level.
Below I quote his responses in my translation. I first asked him about the
reason for this seemingly innovative project by Dadaji. He outrightly
rejected any ecological basis for these gardens and told me,
Dadaji did not plant these trees for paryavarana (literally, the environment)
even though he had taught us the reverence for all creation including mother
earth, rivers, trees, and animals based on Upanisadic concept iavasyam Idam
Sarvam, (Entire universe is divine because of omnipresence of supreme
Having denied environmental motivation, he went on to describe the true
motivation of constructing the tree-temples as he understood from Swad-
hyaya ideology. He also mentioned how the name was chosen for these
Dadaji taught us that the early humans chose water out of the five great ele-
ments, pancha mahabhutas, fire, earth, wind, water, and space, to offer to
God. Later, based on their discoveries from surroundings, humans started
offering other things such as the flowers, fruits, sandalwood, and abir (red
powder). Since water and other natural offerings were created by God,
humans wanted to offer what was created by humans to show their gratitude
towards God. Flowers and fruit are sowed by humans but grown by God.
Even further, what can we offer to God? What is our own that we can offer!
Dadaji told us that our own creativity, skill, and efficiency could be a better
offering than mere flowers or fruits. Since farming is the skill that farmers
and gardeners have, Dadaji devised tree-temples for their offering. He simply
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Jain, Pankaj. Dharmic Ecology: Perspectives from the Swadhyaya Practitioners, article, 2009; [Leiden, Netherlands]. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc38896/m1/7/: accessed September 22, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT College of Public Affairs and Community Service.