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EROSION OF VALUES

So, what is it that makes Hindus act against the philosophies of Hinduism? "Our minds

have been polluted, so, how can the environment be in good shape? The values have

suffered degradation," says Veer Bhadra Mishra. Although the fury of the flooded Ganga

has not eroded the ghats of Varanasi, Mishra has seen widespread erosion of values at

the same place.

Swami Srivatsa Goswami quotes an example from the Bhagwad Purana , wherein a

disciple asks his teacher why Kalyuga (the fourth and final yuga , or era) is going to be so

chaotic. The teacher replies that it will be because dharma will be the profession of those

who have nothing to do with dharma.

Although people from different backgrounds cite different causes for the deplorable

spiritual state of Hindus, there is unanimity on one count: the increasing

commercialisation that is leading to degradation of values and ethics."All this is the gift of

the so-called civilisation," says R R Pandey, professor of philosophy at the bhu. According

to him, factors like globalisation have led to increased commercialisation of our traditions

and rituals. People cannot see beyond money, he laments.

"The decline in values has led to increased greed and corruption. This, in turn, has made

us forget our stewardship towards nature, leading to exploitation and degradation of the

environment," says C M Jariwala, former registrar of the bhu . He attributes the sad state

of religious and environmental affairs to the self-centred attitude that people have

developed.

Pandey indicates that increased commercialisation is reflected during festivals in the spirit

of keeping-up-with-the-Joneses. "It is sad to think that all these stupidities have become

status symbols. People display their status by spending money on fireworks or the size

and gaudiness of the idols," rues Pandey. In fact, there is an entire consumer base

catering to the booming business of fireworks and other materials that are used during

celebrations. Millions are spent on polluting the environment, Pandey points out.

"Earlier, when people used to bathe in the Ganga, they used to take a bath in their

houses before taking a dip in the holy river. Now, every kind of filth goes into the

Ganga," says Mishra. According to Goswami, the kumbh mela, one of the most auspicious

occasions in the Hindu calendar, is actually a congregation where things are supposed to

be discussed in terms of society and a better world. "However, it has reduced to a 12-
year economic cycle, an occasion to make money and create filth," he laments.

What has led to commercialisation of values? "The traditions and scriptures have been

misunderstood and misinterpreted. This can be the problem with a primarily ritualistic

tradition. The rituals might remain, but the values might decline," says Jariwala. So, who

is responsible for this? The government, as usual, or the religious leaders?

The failure of religious leaders

Authorities tend to ignore environmental issues linked with religion, fearing that they

might hurt the religious sentiments. In the September 1998 incident in Vadodara, the

officials and the authorities reportedly shied away from the problem because the issue

had to do with religion. "The reason," Goswami notes, "is that the people who know

nothing about dharma, who have nothing to do with it, are the ones who propagate it

now." According to S C Gupta of phed , Bhopal, politicians prefer to let religious issues

alone as religion is a means to garner votes during elections, even if this destroys the

environment. Says Goswami, "It is not that the religious leaders do not have power.

However, they use it for their own petty interests."

Several mahants of Varanasi say the government has not paid any attention to the

religious leaders and teachers. "They have given so much for education in English and all

the other fields. However, there is hardly anything that they have done for traditional

education," complains a mahant. Goswami is not willing to take that: "The religious

leaders are equally responsible. Our leaders and teachers have failed us. They are not

doing what they are supposed to do. Instead, they are busy hogging money and power,

using religion to meet their own ends," says he. Mishra is of the same opinion, saying

that even religious leaders fail to understand the connection between religion and

environment.

Pandey pegs the ignorance down to religious teachers keeping people in the dark about

the scientific aspects of things: "They told us the dos and the don'ts. But they did not tell

us the whys." Mishra is of the opinion that educational institutions were not

institutionalised, preventing education from trickling down to the masses. "The Hindu

clergy is also responsible for what is happening. Their approach towards religious ethics

has also been commercialised," says Pandey.

How will Hinduism face up to the challenges of the changing world in the new millennium?