Dharmic Ecology: Perspectives from the Swadhyaya Practitioners Page: 312
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312 Jain /Worldviews 13 (2009) 305-320
chose to build tree-temples to help farmers offer their efficiency and time for
spiritual development based on Bhagavad Gita's message of selfless work,
Karma Yoga. Initially tree-temple was named Upavan. Later on, to distin-
guish from other gardens, the name was changed to Vrksamandira.
Obviously environmentalism does not appear to be the motive of Atha-
vale or his followers. Swadhyayis strongly emphasize that such prayogs are
only for expressing their devotion for the almighty in a novel way. Instead
of usual rituals of offering done in temples, devotion can transform one's
perspective towards one's daily work-schedule. This routine labor can be
utilized for devotion which Athavale called krtibhakti, literally action-
oriented devotion or devotional action. What is also noteworthy is that
this devotion is not merely based on blind faith in the words of their
founder guru. Rather their goal is to apply this devotional labor into their
work of farming to develop their bonding with the trees and to learn
moral qualities from the trees. Ironically, the more I asked him about the
role of such gardens for environment, the more he denied it,
Ecological problems have to be solved at the global level, not at the local
level. Trees are only a small part of ecology; it was not an issue with Dadaji.
Only small number of gardens cannot really help the environment. Farmers
commonly own much bigger fruit gardens for their business that might have
a greater ecological impact. Farmers in general have no awareness for ecol-
ogy. However, we regard even stones as divine, so trees can also be regarded
as divine, especially those in which we do Prana Pratistha.
Prana Pratistha is a ritual ceremony to invoke and establish the divinity in
the trees. According to this Swadhyayi, after many years of participating
in the Swadhyaya sessions, people start understanding their relationship
with God and then they are involved in Swadhyaya activities such as tree-
temples that help them transform their lives. For Swadhyayis, their
krtibhakti based on the interpretations offered by Dadaji is a major moti-
vation to participate in these prayogs.
In my observations, the devotional labor of Swadhyayis appeared as a
significant force that can be a role model for several other traditional
communities. While governmental efforts also routinely organize tree-
plantation projects, the survival rate of such plants remains questionable."
") According to a survey done in the 1980s by Food and Agriculture of the United
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Jain, Pankaj. Dharmic Ecology: Perspectives from the Swadhyaya Practitioners, article, 2009; [Leiden, Netherlands]. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc38896/m1/8/: accessed July 24, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT College of Public Affairs and Community Service.