Thursday, May 9, 2013

THOUGHTS ON EARTH DAY FROM HINDU REFLECTIONS


THOUGHTS ON EARTH DAY FROM HINDU REFLECTIONS

(I-DISCOURSE BY N.R. SRINIVASAN, BRENTWOOD TENNEESSEE)
Hindu Reflections is a Blog-site devoted to the cause of spiritual advancement as well as providing clarifications on many customs and modalities employed in the worship of Supreme Principle in Hindu Theology with the philosophy  that all river waters end in the vast ocean.  Sea water as such is hard for human consumption and needs enormous effort to make it fit for consumption though it is the abode for never exhausting wealth and enriches us many ways beyond our imagination.  I understand Germany is at the bottom of this technology though at present it projects a cost of 14 times more than normal water supply. Sea water pollution is also increasing of late.  As the head of the family of this group I participated in the celebrations of Earth Day in Nashville, Tennessee.  As I watched the Siva dance presented by an artist from Kalanivedanam, an organization devoted to classical Bharatanatyam and Carnartic Classical Music, with vivid  explanation from a speaker who introduced the subject explaining the importance of this dance earmarked for the day my thoughts as usual took me to great spiritual heights.  Bharata Naatyam was a very popular classical dance in middle ages as a devotional dance enacted before the chosen deity in temples at the same time appealing to the Supreme Principle in its spiritual content. The above dance was to Supreme Principle who is the cause and sustainer of Earth. Lord Siva is worshiped as Earth (attribute or Vyaahriti of Supreme Principle) in the famous Ekambaresvara Temple of Kanchipuram in Tamil Nadu in India.   Here he appeared as Tree-shrine as a unique Mango Tree yielding one fruit annually reminding us of the Vedic mantra Tadekam (One Supreme) and  also revealing that One is also Mother Earth. Usually mango trees yield plenty of fruits during the season.  Bharatnaatyam has risen to great heights today and is very popular among 

 Indian classical dances.  To know more about the fine arts of India please refer to “Origin and Growth of Fine arts of Hindus” on the Blog: Hindu Reflections.
No other planet in the Universe has been so kind and acommodative to human beings as planet Mother Earth for his comfortable living who continues to take maximum advantage of her bounties and benevolences. With the population explosion he is exploring the possibilities of living in other planets and settling down in greener pastures after exploring and exploiting the mother earth.  So far all such attempts have produced a denial as evidenced by the space research of modern scientists.  Man has been a spoilt child being over pampered and protected. He has polluted her in every act of his and continues to do so in leaps and bounds to the point of his own ultimate destruction. Our scriptures too project the same picture.  Their worries and anxieties are expressed in the Vedic mantras pleading repeatedly for all round peace and ecological balance. They too agree that there is no better place than earth for him to lead an active life, reform himself here and elevate too, before he could become one with the Supreme. Even Swarga (Heaven) scriptures say is only a temporary place for enjoyment for spending his holidays earned out of good work. Ultimately he has to return to this Mother Earth to exhaust his Karma and then to get back to merge with the Supreme where he has no problem of space and the connected problems. It is therefore peremptory on our part to focus all our attention on Mother Earth, care for the flora and fauna and try to preserve her pristine beauty to the maximum extent possible while enjoying her love and care. She has been too kind and tolerant to accommodate us and provide all comforts for too long. 
Earth Day thought was spontaneous one coming from the founder of Environmental Teach-In Inc., Wisconsin and Senator Gaylord Anton Nelson in 1969. He invited Sydney Howe, president of the Conservation Foundation to join the Board of his company. He was greatly shaken and grieved by the depressing scene of devastating oil spill off the California coast which he toured officially to assess the extent of disaster.  On January 18, 1970, The New York Times introduced a full page advertisement introducing the Earth Day, conceptualized by Nelson as follows: “It is a day for looking beyond tomorrow. April 22 seeks a future worth living. April 22 seeks a future”. Against stiff opposition from vested business interests Nelson moved forward and on December 2, 1970 President Richard Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency and gave impetus to environmental legislation. It is a day dedicated to preserve the flora and fauna of nature and leave the earth in her pristine beauty wherever possible to maximum extent while enjoying life on earth with her ever helpful and obliging nature as Universal Mother. Much needs to be done in the area of environmental protection and pollution control.   It is a battle to restore proper relationship between man and his environment, between man and other living creatures as well as man and his routine activities   including that of a devotee and his religious sentiments who in his enthusiasm of excessive devotion quantifies his action  and   unknowingly contributes towards pollution.
Devout Hindus in their everyday prayer seek peace or stability for herbs and plants, water, space, etc., thereby focusing their prayers on environmental protection:
Dyauh saantih antariksham saantih prithavee santih aapah santih oshadhayah santih|                                  vanaspatatayah santih visvedevah santih brahma santih sarvam santih saantireva saantih sa maa saantiredhi ||
There is peace in the heavenly region; there is peace in the atmosphere; peace reigns on Earth; there is coolness in water; the medicinal herbs are healing;   the plants are peace-giving: there is harmony in the celestial objects and perfection in eternal knowledge; everything in the universe is peaceful; peace pervades everywhere; May that peace come to me (May I contribute to that cause!)
Deep concern of our sages for environmental protection and calling for action by   humans is seen in the above Vedic prayer. We in our greed and getting rich and prosperous by any means possible disturb the peace and calmness of the pristine planet Mother Earth, pollute the water sources, pollute the atmosphere, contribute to the earth warming resulting in the devastating natural disasters not caring  for the flora and fauna. There are several such mantras   pleading for ecological balance and symbolic prayers to the natural shrines in Hindu theology. Lord Krishna said He is the perennial sturdy tree Aswattha in Geetaa.  Plant Tulasi is his consort. Parajita tree is his favorite resort for relaxation. You can thus see divine love of nature which thought the divine wants to share with humans.  The  classical Bharatnatyam I witnessed on this memorable day was directed to Lord Siva as the presiding deity of five elements as well as one who is  the cause of the five elements of nature, Earth leading the list—Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Space. These elements are invoked in all in Hindu prayers or used as media to meditate upon the Supreme Principle.
The short Mantras used in the worship and oblation contained In Mahaanaaraayana Upanishad which ends with the words Swaaha include the mantra: “oshdhivanaspatibhyah Swaaha”—oblations to herbs and trees. Thereby the performer of the Yajna (fire sacrifice) prays for the health of flora and fauna and at the same time asking for pardon for his wrong doings that contributed to the destruction of peace within plant kingdom. 
Upanishads glorify Mother Earth in the following mantra:
“Aditirdevaa gandharvaa manushyaah pituraah asuraah teshaa sarvabhootaanaam maataa medinee mahatee mahee saavitree gaayatree jagatyurvee  prithavee bahulaa viswaa bhootaa katamaa kaayaa saa satyeti amriteti vasishthah ||
The Sage Vasishtha  declared that the Mother and Protector of gods, of celestial minstrels, of men, of departed ancestors, of demons and others; that she is possessed of hardness and cohesiveness, that she is excellent and honored, that she belongs to the Divine Spirit, that she is fit to be praised, contingent and supporting all, that she is rich in crops, broad and possessing a wealth of objects, that she is universal and comprising of the blissful, transformed into the bodies of creatures, illustrious, enduring and hence immortal. [This passage is a praise of the Supreme as the Deity of the Earth. Her greatness is so vast that it cannot be described adequately].
There is yet another mantra of Rigveda chanted daily at the worship of any deity in temples or at home glorifying Mother Earth:
“Gandhadvaaraam duraadharshaam nitypushtaam kareeshineem | eesvaree(ga)m sarvabhootaanaam taamihoepahvaye sriyam||”
I invoke in this act of worship Sree, the support of all, who is known through smell, who is unassailable, perpetually prosperous, enriched by cow dung (providing fertility to the soil with no side effect) and the mistress of all created beings. [Here Mother Earth (Bhoodevi) is glorified as Sree because of the Earth’s Being is the cause of prosperity. She is called mistress as all life depends upon the Earth. We are not aware of the existence of such a life-activity in any other planet as on Earth. Prosperity of the Earth contains in fruitful vegetation, plenty of cattle and towns, rich minerals, and cities built in hospitable and habitable areas with her benevolence].
As we enter the temple we pay our obeisance to Mother Earth by lying flat before the flag-post with all parts of the body touching Mother Earth and we also pick some earth (mud dust) or symbolically do so, and bear her on our head.  Hindu married women wear vermillion powder (symbolically Mother Earth) at the partition of their heads. All Hindus wear Vermillion on their foreheads in some form or other whatever may be their caste claim by birth. Vermillion is symbolically Mother Earth as this is a product of turmeric which is a root coming out of the womb of Earth.
Purushasookta describes the entire process of creation in which mention is made of Mother Earth. It says   “Padbhyaam bhoomih… akalpayan” meaning from his feet manifested earth.    The same Sookta (Hymn) also mentions “padbhyaam soodroe ajaayata”—Soodra was born from the feet of the Lord. This line of this unfortunate mantra has attracted lot of attention in present day context forgetting the time of the mantra.  At the time this mantra was revealed to the humans there was no caste system as is found today claimed as one’s birth-right! During the same period one can find other Vedic Mantras in which it is said that Brahamanas, Kshatriyas and Vaisyas were all divines and Soodras were only product of Earth and lived on Earth planet thus exclusively associating humans with earth only.  These mantras also say that major portion of the knowledge (of Brahman) was kept secret from humans, one fourth being revealed and three fourth kept secret. Based on this Manu came with the bold statement “Janmanaa jaayate Soodrah” everybody is born as Soodra and only by individual effort one could raise to the status of other Varnas of Vaisya, Kshatriya and Brahmana as mentioned in Puraanas in the case of ancient Sage Viswamitra. Hindu complex caste system has been discussed at length in the discourse on “Prologue on Hindu Complex Caste System” and “Complex Caste System of Hindus” which could be referred for further details on the website of Hindu Reflections.
Further, it all depends the way we look at things--through colored glasses or through clear glass with an unprejudiced mind. For soccer player most important part is his feet. We have seen above how Mother Earth is addressed as Supreme Being in the Vedic mantras. Any physical activity on Earth is possible only when we stand on our legs.  Even Vaamana (Lord Vishnu) had to stand firm on Mother Earth with his one foot though he covered entire earth in order to cover heaven by his second foot. He too needed the support of Mother Earth and his feet for this great act. That is why human beings were considered as product of Earth only born as Soodras whose first stage in life is to stand erect on earth and try to start physical activities. Then only development takes in body, mind and then material progress.  Therefore feet is the most used physical organ of the body and is not considered as inferior in God’s creation.
It is also worth noticing that in all Vishnu Temples a true devotee   never misses to worship the feet of the Lord first, kept obviously at the entrance.  Touching the feet of elders (Charana spars) and bowing to elders touching the feet (Ashtaanaga Namaskaaram) is considered important etiquette in Hindu culture which is explained at length in previous discoursesn which is also advantageous from scientific point of view.  It is the life time ambition of every Hindu to go on a pilgrimage to Gaya to dig a pit in the Phalgu river to get water and offer Tarpana (water for satiation of the manes) and also perform the a sraaddha--a death anniversary ritual in which  twelve ancestors are to be satiated by these rites. For this the faithful offers Pindaas (rice balls at the Vishnupaada (holy feet of Lord Vishnu) in the most sacred Vishnu Temple and sprinkles the holy water of the sacred feet of Vishnu on self. The footprints of Lord Vishnu are in an octagonal basin 4 ft. in diameter and measure 16 inches by 6 inches.
We have the following Mantra from Taittareeya Brahaman III.12.3 glorifying the feet of the Lord also repeated in Mahaanaaaraayana Upanishad:
Charanam pavitram vitatam puraanam yena pootas-tarati dushkritaani | tena pavitrena suddhena pootaa ati paapmaanam-araaati tarema ||
He who is rendered holy by the ancient, widespread, sanctifying feet crosses over evil deeds and their effects. Having been rendered holy by those naturally pure, as well as purifying feet of the Lord may we overcome our enemies, the sins!  [Worshiping symbolically Lord’s feet (Paada pooja) is very important in Srivaishnava worship, of Lord Vishnu. If you closely observe 16-steps worship (shoedasa upachaara Pooja) starts with touching the feet  of the Lord and asking for his pardon for any omission or commission in the act of worship of the Lord to start with].

Charanam signifies Vishnu, as Charanadevata (Lord of the feet) and by implication the feet of Naaraayana, the Ancient One, whose wide gait encompassed earth, sky and heaven. He is also celebrated as Trivikrama or Vaamana one of the incarnations of Vishnu. This mantra is used for the purpose of Japa or meditation by one standing in knee-deep water about to plunge for taking his holy dip.  This mantra is also repeated while ceremoniously washing the holy feet of a Sanyaasi or Vedic scholar.  Thus we have a very close association of uman feet feet and Bhoodevi h
 Human feet and Mother Earth when we worship the feet in temples; it also signifies as praying at the feet of the Mother earth, who is a Vyaahriti or attribute of Supreme Being.  We all know that the word Brahman is rarely found in Rigveda and Supreme Being is worshiped in the form of Vedic deities or his Vyahritis. If highly celebrated Earth and Soodra sprang up from the feet of Virat Purasha why Vedas should be blamed for being partial to Brahmins and have treated Soodra as inferior?  In some translations Vedic religion is wrongly referred as Brahmanical religion, a religion dominated and controlled by Brahmins.
In all Vishnu Temples whoever be the main deity and his consort   the processional metal deity is always accompanied by Sridevi and Bhoodevi.   Bhoodevi is Mother Earth. This is so even in the case of Venkateswara who is worshiped alone as Padmavati his consort chose to live away from him as puraanic story goes. But in all Kalyanoetsavas in temples (marriage ceremony ritual) Venkateswara is accompanied by Sridevi and Bhoodevi.  It is strange that the worship of Goddess  Earth in exclusive temples or shrines  is not found in India though they easily add even modern saints to the pantheon of Hindu Gods, build  exclusive temples for them and conduct worship in the Aaagama or Tantric way.   You can find temples as well as exclusive shrines within the temple for Lakshmi, Durga, Kaali, Bhagavati, Maariamman, Saraswati, Santoshi Maa etc., and even for Bhaaratmata of Bankim Chattarjee’s creation but not for Bhoodevi. In   Mysore there is a small temple for Bhoodevi overlooking a large nursery named after the deity called Bhoodevi Farm which sells seeds, plants, fruits and flowers grown with the conserved   rain water stored in a lake. Nobody can beat the Tamils in their colorful temple worship, innovative ideas of iconography, Puraanic stories, sacred food items (Prsaadam) and rich literature guides used for worship. All Vishnu Temples in Tamil Nadu have an exclusive shrine for Aandaal, a Vaishanva saint who they glorify as incarnation of Mother Earth as she was found in the garden like Sita by Janaka by her foster parent Vishnuchittar, also a renowned saint. There are many Aaandal Mandirs where Aandaal philosophy and her devotional messages are propagated. There is a taboo by religious authorities on ladies to learn Vedas under a Guru, I do not know for what reasons but in Aandaal Mandir they learn Thiruvaimozhi considered as Tamil Veda which includes Aandaal’s Tiruppavai, a beautiful poetic composition similar to that of Geeta Govinda of Jayadeva. There were great many lady Vedic scholars during the Vedic period who are celebrated as authorities in Upanishads, yet women are prevented from learning Veda by orthodoxy. Incidentally Aandaal is also a staunch devotee of Lord Krishna.
 In Tamil Nadu Siva is worshiped as Prithvee-linga in the  famous Temple  of Ekambaresvara in Kaanchipuram where the worship is focused on Mother Earth. It is not uncommon to find linga form of worship for female deities, as mentioned in the discourse on “Linga and Saalagraama”.  Then this could also be a Linga of Bhoodevi though Saivites worship the same as Siva.  There is also the South Indian religious practice (called Paalikaa worship in Tamil) in which plants are sprouted, worshiped and given a ceremonial send-off (visarjana ceremony) immersing in a sacred river or pond while performing ceremonial rites during Wedding or Upanayana religious celebrations to bring home the awareness of healthy environmental consciousness and human responsibility to take care of the plant kingdom. It is also meant for the protection and prosperity of the family or the individuals for whom the function is held. Land breaking ceremony for Hindus is a ritual in which Mother Earth is invoked and prayed pleading for forgiveness and permission to start construction on her for living.  There is a Hindu prayer asking pardon for treading on her, unavoidable or unintentional.
Hindu Americans have successfully adopted some American significant  Remembrance  Days like Mother’ Day, Father’s Day, Graduation Day, Thanksgiving day etc., as religious-cultural celebration days in Hindu Temples by invoking God in their usual style. They have not left behind even Valentine’s Day in their enthusiasm. You could see the hustle and bustle on this day even in temples with exchange of greetings, dining tables decorated with rose buds and women treated as Devis (Goddesses) though they may be treated in different fashion on other days. Probably they are worried with the frequent divorces in America! It is therefore fitting and proper to celebrate Earth Day in Hindu Temples like many other adopted American Remembrance Days to pay tribute to Mother Earth, promote environmental protection consciousness to preserve flora and fauna and also show a sense of participation with the Nation sharing the noble thoughts of the adopted nation and its culture, as it fits into the Hindu religious way of worship and celebration of festive occasions more than any other holiday.  This day’s  worship could be focused on Lord Siva. There is no dearth for any number of Vedic Mantras on Mother Earth appropriate to the occasion.  There are also sacred Sooktas contained in Taiittareeya Samhita in glorification of Mother Earth (Bhoodevi) called Bhoosooktam and Neelaasooktam  though  they are not sung as frequently as Srisooktaam sung in praise of Lakshmi who is the most popular deity from Kashmir to Kanyaakumaari; money speaks even in the worship of Gods! The dance performed in the Centennial Park for the Day  described above could be very well performed before  Lord Siva as on Aridraa Darsanam Night as described in the discourse: “Naatya with Nataaraja on Aaridraa Night—Dance dedicated to Siva” (Hindu Reflections). It is also possible to focus the worship on this special day directly on Goddess Mother Earth as her icon is available in all Vishnu shrines as well as  in all temple complexes in the assembly of processional deities as Sridevi and Bhoodevi. I have seen in some temples Lakshmi icons being decorated as Aaandaal with her unique hair style of Tamil Nadu when they do not have an icon of Saint Aandaal where Tamil Priests are available well trained in the dexterous art of idol-decoration.
Sri Ganesha Temple in Nashville is quite alive to the problem of pollution control and environmental preservation as seen in its recent activities. It has eliminated the use of disposable plates and cups during its Prasaadam (blessed food of the Lord) distribution replacing them with washable steel platesand cups. Around 500 plates, more number of cups and plastic spoons used to be thrown into garbage every week. It has also made Abhishekam (bathing ceremony) more symbolic by considerable saving of milk products and giving it to charity on behalf of its devotees which is pleasing to its devotees who offer them in quantities to the Lord in their overflown devotion. The load on sewers is thus minimized. This could also be seen on special occasions like Sivaraatri.  They have also eliminated the use of paper towel in the bathrooms replacing them with hot air blade electrical dryers. They have taken care to preserve the flora and fauna around the land that belong to the temple on the little hillock without commercializing as is done in India  by Hindu Temples in India to enrich temple coffers. There is a scheme to conserve water in a tank for which provision is made in front of the temple.
Vedas proclaim “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam”— Whole world is one family. Individuals have their own world-view which is quite often varies from individual to individual. Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam  means respecting this difference contrary to the single world view or attitude as projected by Western Philosophy. Every family has his or her individual view yet they live together in Hindu joint family bound by family ties.  Upanishads say animals, birds, plants, herbs, trees and other organisms have the same Aaatman (Self) as their inner controller (Antayaamin). Therefore it implies the above maxim holds good for the Eco-society too which is part and parcel of human society. Hindus follow the Vedic paths guided by “Ahimsaa paramoe Dharmah”—inflict no harm is the Universal moral principle. Vedas also say: “Dharma eva hatoe hanti dharmoe rakshati rakshitah”— one who destroys dharma is annihilated; one who protects dharma is protected by dharma. Indiscriminate destruction of environment causes self- destruction. If we understands these it would be clear in our minds why Vedas prescribe a sacrifice “Oshadhi-vanaspatibhyah swaahaa”—Oblations unto herbs and plants; May that please the Supreme Principle!
Every Hindu religious act makes it obligatory to clean the body (deha suddhi) and ground (sthala suddhi) and then only commence the worship thereby bringing home the need for environmental cleanliness and pollution control. Even in our spiritual approach, importance is given to the purification of space, body, mind and spirit and in that order, as in Yogasaastra. Some founded religions go by the order of Spirit, Body and Mind in the reverse order as you see in YMCA brochures.  Let us therefore focus our attention on this important social and necessary obligation by earmarking a day for special worship as we do on other Special Days of worship. Let us   focus our thoughts on Mother Earth, pay respect to her and in the process also promote the spirit of National Integration by joining others by sharing our thoughts with them while caring for Mother Earth in every activity of ours!   

APPENDIX

NOTE ON PAALIKAA WORSHIP

A Reference made  to the  practice of Paalika worship popular in Srivaishnava and Smaarta  Traditions of South India needs an explanation, in the discourse  above.    This worship is inspired by the popular Vedic mantras recited in our daily prayers in glorification of plant kingdom in Saanti Mantras and others.  Vedas even recommend "Vanaspati-Oshadi Homam", a fire sacrifice.

The custom of germinating seeds is observed in Hindu Sacraments like Chaula (Mundan),  Upanayana, Marriage, Shashtiabda-poorti (60Th Birthday) etc. Five earthen pots are filled with earth--these are meant for five deities, Brahma, Indra, Yama, Varuna and Soma. The one for Brahma is kept in the center while the other four are kept at the four points of the compass (the pots of Indra, Yama, Varuna and Soma being kept in East, South, West, North respectively). Seeds of rice, black gram, green gram, sesame and mustard are soaked in milk and sown in the five different pots by five suhaasinees. On the fourth day of the marriage when the seeds have germinated the pots are immersed in a sacred river or pond (Visarjanam ceremony). This custom, called Panchapaalika is meant for the protection and prosperity of the family or the individuals for whom the function is performed.  Symbolically the worship is directed to the whole plant kingdom on the face of the Earth under the jurisdiction of four directional guards (vedic deities) directly watched by the Creator (Brahma) himself.

This ritual brings an awareness in the mind of a Hindu how he should take care of plant-kingdom, carefully nurture them and on completion of their usefulness how they  should be disposed-off  back to nature. In fact all visarjanam ceremonies of temporary images (Ganesha, Kaali etc.) have the same concept.  The Visarjanam or send off ceremony is as important as worship in the beginning called Aavaahaanam. This also reminds us of Eco-balance needed in our daily life. 

Though this is a very sectarian thought  ritual confined to Brahmin community in the South this could very well be adopted by all where such ceremonies are performed in  Hindu Temple-complexes abroad for all communities to bring home Eco-friendly consciousness and our duty towards plant kingdom while paying obeisance to   five  major Vedic deities. This need not be exclusive to selected few only.  Besides, celebration of Earth Day in Temples like what we do for Thanksgiving Day, Mother's day, Father's Day etc.  is also recommended. This will bring focus on our indiscriminate acts of destroying nature and to direct our thoughts and action to nurture and worship nature whose bountiful benefits we enjoy. Mother Earth Worship figures in all Hindu rituals  but her popularity  as Bhoodevi has been nowhere near that of the popularity of Sreedevi (Goddess of Wealth) in Hindu Temple Iconic Worship. This is not understandable!

 APPENDIX
Prithvi, the Earth Mother
Posted by The Editor | Feb 17, 2012 |  IndiaDivine.org
 Prithvi is one of several Sanskrit names for the Earth Mother, more commonly known as Mother Bhumi Devi. Prithvi is the personification of the Earth, and is therefore also known as Prithivi Tattwa, the essence of the element earth. Prithvi is also called Dhra, Dharti, or Dhrithri, meaning ‘that which holds everything’.
As Prithvi Devi, she is one of two wives of Lord Vishnu, His other wife being Lakshmi Devi (Sridevi). In fact, Prithvi is another form of Laxmi. As Prithvi Mata, “Mother Earth”, she contrasts with Dyaus Pita, who is “Father Sky”. In the Rigveda, Earth and Sky are frequently addressed in the dual, which may indicate the idea of two complementary half-shells.
Prithvi is the wife of Dyaus Pita (‘Father Dyaus’), and the widespread belief that these two were originally a single deity appears to be mistaken. (See Dyavaprthivi). Prithvi is known to be the mother of Indra and Agni. When Lord Indra killed Dyaus Pita, she applauded and married him.
Prithvi, or Mother Bhumi, is associated with the cow. Prithu, an incarnation of Vishnu, milked her in the cow’s form to get food from her. Prithvi also appears in Early Buddhism, where she is mentioned in the Pali Canon, dispelling the temptation figure Mara by attesting to Gautama Buddha’s worthiness to attain enlightenment.
Prithvi Sukta (Bhumi Sukta) is a celebrated hymn of the Atharva Veda (AVS 12.1), which consists of 63 verses dedicated to Prthivi (the Earth). In art, she is typically represented as a woman with four arms and a green complexion.
Mother Bhumi is also understood to be the consort of Lord Varaha. The demon Narakasura, whose killing by Krishna is celebrated as the festival of Diwali, is Bhumi Devi’s son. She is also the mother of Sita, so it is not surprising that baby Sita was found in a ploughed field. According to the Uttara-kanda, when Sita finally leaves her husband Rama, she returns to Bhumi.
Several female deities are believed to have had births similar to Sita. Alamelu Thayar of Tiruchendur, for example, was said to have been found in a ploughed field by Akasa Raja. Andal from Srivilliputtur in Tamil Nadu was found under a Tulasi plant by Perialvar.
 Mother Bhumi is often depicted in votive statuary, seated on a square platform which rests on the back of four elephants, who represent the four corners of the world. When depicted with four arms, the paraphernalia she holds are a pomegranate, a water vessel, a bowl containing healing herbs, and another containing vegetables. When shown with two arms, she holds a blue lotus known as Komud or Uttpal, the night lotus, in the right hand. The left hand may be in the Abhaya Mudra (fearlessness), or the Lolahasta Mudra, which is an aesthetic pose meant to mimic the tail  of a cow.



The Lights Go Off At St. Peter's Basilica For Earth Hour
The Huffington Post  |  By Carol Kuruvilla

St. Peter’s Basilica joined more than 1,400 of the world’s iconic landmarks on Saturday to take a stand for stronger climate action.

The Vatican’s central square plunged into darkness on March 28 for Earth Hour, a global campaign held between 8:30 pm and 9:30 pm local time in 172 countries and territories. Rome’s Great Synagogue and Great Mosque also took part in the initiative this year, along with other iconic religious sites, like St. Basil's Cathedral in Moscow.

Like his two predecessors, Pope Benedict XVI and Saint John Paul II, Pope Francis has taken a serious interest in promoting action on environmental issues. He’s currently drafting an encyclical about man’s relationship with nature, reportedly with the hopes of influencing the United Nation’s upcoming climate change conference.

In the past, Francis has called the exploitation of nature a grave sin.
"This is one of the greatest challenges of our time: to convert ourselves to a type of development that knows how to respect creation," he said while addressing students at a university in southern Italy last year.
"When I look at America, also my own homeland (South America), so many forests, all cut, that have become land ... that can longer give life. This is our sin, exploiting the Earth and not allowing her to her give us what she has within her."


 APPENDIX




Goddess Durga: Mother India as the World Mother
Posted by Dr. David Frawley | Sep 13, 2015 |  IndiaDivine.Org

 Since ancient Vedic times, India has been regarded by its people as a sacred land, the very land of the Goddess or Divine Mother. The subcontinent geographically is shaped like a woman with Kashmir as her head and Sri Lanka at her feet.
The region holds the mighty Himalayas, the world’s highest mountains, in the north, from which flow what is perhaps of the largest and most fertile group of great rivers in the world. India is the image of Mother Nature at her grandest from the mountains to the sea.
India has defined itself historically not in terms of conquests but in terms of spiritual teachings as a land of Yoga and meditation, which themes pervade its great national epics, the Mahabharata and Ramayana. It has produced the world’s greatest abundance of religious and spiritual paths; form and formless, personal and impersonal, theistic and non-theistic. India has developed its civilization not out of mere human invention or according to any special historical revelation, but from the concept of dharma, a recognition of cosmic law as the prime factor in life. India has remained a land of both nature and the spirit, a land of the Gods and the yogis, not simply a place of human habitation or a ground for worldly progress.
In the Rigveda, the oldest teaching of the region, India is already lauded the land of the great Goddess Sarasvati, who represents Divine knowledge, power and beauty. Sarasvati was the name of the great river in North India, which flowed from beyond the Ambala hills to the Rann of Kachchh in Gujarat, on which Vedic civilization first emerged after the end of the last Ice Age. Sarasvati, however, is not simply the outer river but represents the inner stream of wisdom and inspiration, what was later called the Sushumna or central channel of the subtle body. After the Sarasvati River dried up in a series of geological and climate changes during the third millennium BCE, the civilization of India shifted its center east to the more certain waters of the Ganga, but it never lost contact with its Vedic roots.
In classical India, Goddess Durga, the martial form of Shiva’s consort, came to symbolize the country, perhaps owing to the need to defend the land from the many outside invaders. It was Goddess Durga who, in a vision of his, gave the great Hindu King Shivaji his sword to resist the oppression of the Moguls under Aurangzeb and restore Hindu rule in the country in the seventeenth century. Durga is the protective form of the Mother Goddess. She saves her children from danger, slaying all the demons (negative forces) outwardly and inwardly that might assail the body and soul. Even today, Hindus worship Mother India in the form of Goddess Durga.
Durga is dressed in red, rides a lion and has a majestic form. She is royal power of the Gods that should be the true ruling power in the world. She represents the defense of Dharma, not an aggressive force of worldly expansion. This, particularly during the current information age, is as much an intellectual and spiritual defense as a military one. For those who wish to understand India and its characteristic civilization, they should examine the image of Goddess Durga. Why has Durga, the image of feminine and maternal power, come to symbolize India? Because India is the land of Shakti, the Divine evolutionary and transformative force, and embodies higher feminine qualities of patience, tolerance and synthesis. It is because India is “karma bhumi”, the land of spiritual work for the soul, which is also the land of the spiritual battle, Kurukshetra, where humanity’s spiritual aspiration is both developed and tested.
Yet Mother India, “Bharat Mata” in Sanskrit, has many names. She is Bharata Bharati, the solar voice (Bharati) that carries the Divine fire. She is Bharata Bhavani, Mother India as the source of life, in which form the great modern rishi, Sri Aurobindo, lauded her. She is Sita, the Goddess of fertile rivers and fields, humble before the Divine solar light of Rama. She is Parvati, the daughter of the Himalayas, wedded to Shiva, the transcendent. She is Lakshmi, the beauty and fertility that is wedded to Vishnu, the Divine force that sustains life. To understand India, we must first recognize the Goddess that is her personification in different forms.
 India as World Mother
India is like Mother Earth, reflecting her in a tropical abundance and carrying her secret will for the evolution of consciousness. India is like the Divine Mother incarnate holding the world Shakti in order to uplift humanity. She is like the caring cow that the culture has always afforded the highest reverence, providing nourishment for all.
India, in many respects, is the mother of humanity and the mother of civilization, particularly for the spiritual and yogic life. The great dharmic traditions of Hinduism and Buddhism arose through the power of this land, its sages, culture and peoples. These sages have left their imprint on the country by the power of their tapas, their yogic force which one can still feel in the many temples and tirthas of the region, giving the region a palpable spiritual presence.
India has best preserved the type of spiritual civilization that once dominated the ancient world from Egypt to China, Indochina, Peru and Mexico. It continues the ancient traditions of temple worship and carries on the old solar religion of enlightenment and self-realization, linking us to the ancient spiritual humanity from which we digressed. It is not in the deserts of the Middle East, with their few or meager rivers that could not sustain significant populations, where civilization arose but in India, the world’s most fertile subcontinent.
The greater Himalayan Mountains, which ring the plateau of Tibet, mark the crown chakra of the globe. Not surprisingly, the most lofty philosophies and meditation traditions have come from this region. While India has taken the greater portion of the Himalayan Rivers, others flow to Indochina, China and Central Asia carrying the influence of these great mountains and their sages in different directions.
The Divine Mother is the source all evolutionary transformations, of all life and creation itself. It is not we human beings who determine or guide history, progress or evolution. It is not our scientists, politicians, economists or intellectuals who consciously create our destiny as a species or as a planet. We are mere pawns in the hands of forces we that we do not even see. India with its yogic culture hold
the key to these transformations, if we would but recognize and honor her cultural potential for all humanity and all time.
The Present Crisis
There are not only forces that take the evolution of consciousness forward into the higher light of consciousness, but also those that take it backwards into the dark night of materialism and ignorance. Consciousness, moreover, does not develop in a linear but in a spiral fashion; sometimes it descends in order to ascend more surely at a later time.
India today is like the Divine Mother defiled and degraded, both by the inertia of her own people and by foreign enemies who cannot appreciate her spiritual beauty. The land of the country is ecologically devastated and both the common people and the intellectual elite are unaware of their great heritage and don’t know how to use it.
India over time became rigid in its customs, dominated by authority and ritual. Creative thinking and original inquiry gave way to an almost unconscious repetition of the old, a servile adulation of past achievements, instead of new thinking based upon the insights of earlier sages. This made the country prey to foreign attack and vulnerable to foreign rule. The deep devotion of the country became blind. This resulted in a condition in which the loyalty of the masses could as easily be given to a Queen Victoria or to a Babar, to any authoritarian ruler, as to a truly great Raja or king. A force of tamas or inertia settled over the land that prevents the people of the region from tapping the great reserve of spiritual power in which they live, removing them from the lionhearted sense of the Atman or higher Self that is the true force of Durga.
In this respect of spirituality, the civilization of India remains central to that of the rest of the world, in which our human spiritual potential is even yet more obscure. India is the land where the Gods can descend and where the great yogis can take birth. A resurgent India, therefore, is crucial for the regeneration of the planet. Yet India is also a land where the anti-Gods (Asuras) can rule and where hostile forces do not want a national awakening. The powers of the ignorance would just as well keep the country down for another thousand years if they can.
Fortunately, Durga, the Divine Shakti is coming forth again today. She is already stirring and beginning a new manifestation. She is preparing the decisive moment for her revelatory action. We must make ourselves into her vessels in order to aid in her transformations. While India may be the focus of her awakening, her action is beginning all over the world. She is the awakened planet that must soon arise to defend itself from the encroachment of an arrogant humanity that has fallen from grace. Meanwhile, a new humanity is also taking shape under her benefic glance.
Let us be receptive to her guidance and take up her energy!




REFERENCES:
1)Swami Vimalananda, Mahaanaaraayana Upanishad, Ramakrishna Math, Chennai, India.
2) Girish Khosla, Havan Mantra, Congress of Arya Samajs in North America, MI, USA.
3) Swami Chinmayananda, Purusha Sooktam, Central Chinmaya Mission Trust, Mumbai, India.
4) Devdutt Pattanaik, Devi, Vakils,Feffer and Simons Pvt. Ltd., Mumbai, India.
5) Swami Harshananda, Hindu Pilgrim Centres,   Ramakrishna Math, Bengaluru, India.
6) Frank Daniels III, Earth Day  Founder Saw a Long Battle, The Tennessean, Monday 22, 2013.
7) Ramchandra Rao, S.K., Vishnu Darsana,  Kalpataru Research Academy, Sankara Mutt, Bengaluru, India.
8) Srinivasan N.R., “Naataya with Nataraaja on Aaaridra Night—Dance dedicated to Siva” and   “Origin and Growth of Fine Arts of India”, Hindu Reflections, Internet.