SAN FRANCISCO, CA: For most scholars of environmental studies, Ayurveda is an unexpected topic to find at an academic conference. But as Acharya Shunya spoke about the teachings of Ayurveda on the relationship between Ayurveda and Dharma, at the Embrace of the Earth Conference on May 23, the compelling relevance of Ayurveda’s teachings became clear.
The conference was held at the California Institute for Integral Studies (CIIS) Public Programs & Performances in San Francisco, co-sponsored by the Society for Consciousness Studies. The aim was to explore the connections between consciousness studies, depth psychology and ecology.
The co-hosts Dr. Allan Leslie Combs (Professor and Director of the Center for Consciousness Studies) and Dr. Craig Chalquist (Professor and Department Chair, East-West Psychology), did an excellent job of bringing together a diverse and meaningful range of experts, including Jungian psychologists, quantum physicists, environmental activists and those leading research in cutting-edge Consciousness Studies.
Acharya Shunya acknowledged that Ayurveda may be known to those present as primarily a system of herbal remedies. But, in fact, the sages of Ayurveda had a much larger vision, which details human beings’ deep interconnection and co-creative relationship with nature.
Shunya emphasized the inter-connected web of conscious existence and underscored the fact that not only do we have the capacity to shape the universe, but we are, in fact, shaping the universe at every moment with our thoughts and actions. Throughout the room, heads nodded as Shunya emphasized, “Your thoughts can pollute the environment more than your plastic.”
Shunya quoted from one of Ayurveda’s foundational texts, the Charaka Samhita, which was written over two thousand years ago, yet sounds so contemporary in what it addresses. Sage Charaka, the author, says: “The root cause of the derangement of seasons is the loss of dharma or ethical behavior.
If dharma is lost, over time the seasons will get disrupted, rivers will be disturbed and their course will change, meteorites will appear more frequently, earthquakes will shake the terrain. In this natural and man-made mayhem, diseases will thrive and multiply, causing mass scale harm to both people and all living creatures.” (Charaka Samhita, Vimanasthana III:20)
Shunya explained that this means self-serving, exploitative and shortsighted actions, which indicate a loss of dharma, ultimately lead to the upset of natural laws and the disruption of nature’s fragile ecological balance.
She went on to describe how the remedy prescribed by sage Charaka is to cultivate a deep sense of oneness with all life, to envision oneself as spread across the universe, and the universe as held within one’s own being.
Shunya pointed out that this vision is both spiritual and practical. When the sense of being separate from the world and people around us gives way to a vision of unity and oneness, the impulse to abuse and misuse the natural environment dissolves.
Since ancient times, Ayurveda has championed a non-polluted, clean and pure environment, along with deep respect for the natural web of mutual dependence and respect between humans and their universe.
Though the role of Ayurveda in environmental studies must have seemed unclear before she spoke, Shunya’s presentation integrated seamlessly into the broader topics of the conference. Attendees were both moved and deeply interested to discover so many parallels between her points and themes raised in other talks, such as those from the vantage points of quantum physics, consciousness studies, and cultivating inner resilience in the face of ecological change.
India Post News Service