Hope you are in good health and cheer at your end.
It's the time of the year when Pipal Tree, Bangalore invites friends and colleagues from across India to engage on issues relevant to our times. We are happy to share with you this call for our upcoming annual national conference which we have traditionally called the Fireflies Dialogues. This is part of Dialogues In Humanity. It has been a place for intercultural conversations amongst people from various walks of life. Pipal Tree has sought to hold space for interfaith peace by nurturing inclusivity, pluralistic views and non-violent communication. In the past years ecological awareness and climate action has thematically been our priority too. We have been working towards ecological consciousness, which we believe stems from a peaceful coexistence of multiple cultures.
During this year’s annual Fireflies Dialogues, Pipal Tree would like to involve interfaith leaders, networks, initiatives and individuals to come together to recast their peace, harmony and cultural understanding work to contribute to climate action. We invite you to enrich this space with your wisdom and life experience to move towards deeper work of linking intercultural harmony to develop ecological consciousness and climate action strategies.
This year we propose three thematic areas for Fireflies Dialogues:
1.Sensitizing diverse players in the field of interfaith dialogue and social development to the urgency of action on climate change
2. Can Religious faiths and cultural identities be moved to re-align with universal human values?
3. Developing strategies to find commonalities to work together towards impending Climate Change issues as it will deeply impact all areas of social development
Please click this link to read the Background Note for a more detailed understanding of the themes and intention of the Fireflies Dialogues.
We want to offer a space to share methods and strategies to explore innovative ways of creating and promoting dialogue spaces and create multi stakeholder engagement. We hope these dialogues will deepen our understanding of pluralism, create alternative strategies for intercultural engagement, promote dialogues across diverse sectors and enhance our sense of social well being.
Pipal Tree Intends to hold Fireflies Dialogues from March 10th (4.00 pm onwards) to March 13th (till 2.00 pm) Please confirm your participation by the 20th of February 2022.
We will comply with COVID regulations and precautions and hope to have early planning to ensure a smooth conference. We are cognizant of the fact that COVID cases are on the decline in most of the states in India including Karnataka.
It would also help us plan the conference better if you could write to us about:
- Which of the above three themes you would like to engage with?
- What is the input that you would like to bring to the conference?
- What is the format that you would like to interact in? (Panel discussion, Dialogue, Workshop and any other creative form)
Please fill this google form below that can capture your responses to the above questions.
Write to us or call us if you require any further clarifications.
Interfaith Dialogue for Ecological Consciousness
Fireflies Intercultural Centre,
mobile tel: 9620661111
per.office tel: 91-80-28432194
Pipal Tree office tel: 91-80-28432725
Interfaith Dialogue and Climate Change
A significant way to promote communal harmony is to work together on common themes that interest all faith traditions. One such important theme is climate change. It is amply clear today that climate change will create millions of climate refugees in the decades to come, dramatically reduce food production and flood coastal cities. We are already witnessing these effects all over the world with forest fires, hurricanes, floods and high temperatures. All the faith traditions have expressed major concerns about this.
Therefore, coming together to deal with the climate emergency would also foster friendship, trust and harmony between the religions.
At the time that our ancient religions emerged in history ecological threats hardly existed. Hence, we may not find forceful statements on the environment from the various scriptures. Nevertheless, there are significant statements strewn here and there that could provide the basis for a fresh interpretation of texts.
Here are a few responses from some major religions on how to view nature and respond to the ecological challenges we face :
Many Hindus would consider protecting the environment as an integral expression of dharma. In 2015, the Hindu Declaration on Climate Change ( from the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies) stated that it is a
"dharmic duty [to ensure that] we have a functioning, abundant, and bountiful planet.”
The “Hindu Declaration on Climate Change,” presented at the Parliament of the World’s Religions, Melbourne, Australia, December 8, 2009 states:
“The Hindu tradition understands that man is not separate from nature, that we are linked by spiritual, psychological and physical bonds with the elements around us. Knowing that the Divine
is present everywhere and in all things, Hindus strive to do no harm. We hold a deep reverence for life and an awareness that the great forces of nature—the earth, the water, the fire, the air
and space—as well as all the various orders of life, including plants and trees, forests and animals, are bound to each other within life’s cosmic web. …
We cannot continue to destroy nature without also destroying ourselves
In May 2015 A Buddhist Declaration on Climate Change was addressed to the Paris conference on climate change ,
Our concern is founded on the Buddha’s realization of dependent co-arising, which interconnects all things in the universe. Understanding this interconnected causality and the consequences of our actions are critical steps in reducing our environmental impact. Cultivating the insight of interbeing and compassion, we will be able to act out of love, not fear, to protect our planet. Buddhist leaders have been speaking about this for decades. However, everyday life can easily lead us to forget that our lives are inextricably interwoven with the natural world through every
breath we take, the water we drink, and the food we eat. Through our lack of insight, we are destroying the very life support systems that we and all other living beings depend on for survival.
A Hadīth related by a Muslim from AbūSa‘īd Al-Khudrī states: “We bear in mind the words of our Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him): The world is sweet and verdant, and verily Allah has made you stewards in it, and He sees how you acquit yourselves”.
Here are excerpts from the Islamic Declaration on Global Climate change , made in Istanbul, August 2015
2.8 In view of these considerations we affirm that our responsibility as Muslims is to act according to the example of the Prophet Muhammad (God’s peace and blessings be upon him), who – · guided his companions to conserve water even in washing for prayer, forbade the felling of trees in the desert, ordered a man who had taken some nestlings from their nest to 6 return them to their mother, and when he came upon a man who had lit a fire on an anthill, commanded, “Put it out, put it out!”; · Established inviolable zones (harams) around Makkah and Al-Madinah, within which native plants may not be felled or cut and wild animals may not be hunted or disturbed; · Established protected areas (himās) for the conservation and sustainable use of rangelands, plant cover, and wildlife; · Lived a frugal life, free of excess, waste, and ostentation; · Renewed and recycled his meagre possessions by repairing or giving them away; · Ate simple, healthy
food, which only occasionally included meat; · Took delight in the created world; and · Was, in the words of the Qur’an, “a mercy to all beings.”
The executive committee of the World Councilof Churches, meeting in Bossey, Switzerland, on 20-26November 2019, stated the desire to join: “other faith leaders, communities and civil society organizations in declaring a climate change emergency, which demands an urgent and unprecedented response by everyone everywhere- locally, nationally and internationally.
In the foreword to the five volumes of the earth Bible project, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a Nobel Prize winner, asks if biblical texts devalue the Earth “by making the self interest of humans its dominant concerns”. The “Earths Bible” project explores the biblical texts from the Earth, suspecting that the text and/or its interpreters may be anthropocentric and not geo-centric. It’s asks whether there is a concern for Earth community in the text or whether Earth is being treated unjustly in the text. It attempts to retrieve traditions that hear the voice of the earth that value the earth more than as a human instrument.
Indigenous peoples have always lived close to nature. Here is a quote from Chief Seattle, after which the city of Seattle is named.
We know this: the earth does not belong to man. Man belongs to the earth. Man has not woven the net of life: he is just a thread in it. Everything he does to this net he does to himself. What befalls the earth will befall the sons of the earth. We know this. All things are bound up in each other like the blood that binds the family.
Let me conclude with a story that I call the parable of the frogs:
Several water wells existed in a dusty village. One well had pleasing saffron walls. A few frogs rested tranquilly on its wall with their big, bulging, black eyes looking nowhere in particular. A gentle breeze stirred the few plants that clambered on the inside walls of the well. Life is good, the frogs thought to themselves. In a nearby well other frogs were feeling the same way about life. This well had vibrant green walls. In the relative cool of the morning the frogs gazed at the other wells nearby. One had yellow walls, another blue and yet another, silver.
The frogs sitting on the walls seemed happy to breathe the cool fragrance of moss and herb. By noon the weather got very hot. The frogs began to feel restless with the heat. As their irritation grew, they heard voices in their heads. The frogs in the green well heard a voice saying, “You are right to be upset, for although your well is the best one, and the waters the purest, the frogs in the other wells do not recognise this truth.” The frogs in the saffron well also heard a voice saying that their well was the most pristine. The frogs in the yellow and blue wells also heard similar ‘truths’. Soon the frogs began to croak aggressively at the frogs on other wells, each trying to outdo the other.
This went on for a long time, till the frogs began to get tired. And then a few frogs in the saffron well, now completely exhausted, decided to swim to the depths of their own well to cool themselves. The deeper they went the cooler they felt… and calmer too. Then they noticed little crevices in the walls and went into them, and the water was even cooler. They progressed in horizontal mode through these crevices. When they later came up, they realised, to their utter astonishment, that they were in the wrong well. The frogs from the saffron well had come up in the green well. The frogs from the green well had the same experience, some of them coming up in the saffron well. Likewise, the frogs in the yellow and blue wells came up in other wells, not their own.
Word of the discovery that all the wells were interconnected at their depths, and were nourished with the same waters, spread with the swiftness of frog-croak. The frogs realised that as long as they remained on the surface, they experienced the illusion that the waters were different. At the surface level the frogs experienced their separateness, but the deeper they swam they experienced the healing influence of the common waters. The waters were after all the same, coursing through each well through subterranean passages.
The metaphor is self-explanatory. We come into the world first as human beings, and only then, without our consent, do we grow up as Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists or indigenous peoples. Or we grow up as Indians or Pakistanis, Americans or Kenyans and so on; browns, whites or blacks. Some of us grow up to suspect our neighbours because they practice a different faith, belong to a different culture or have a different skin. And when we get restless, due to poverty and oppression in one context, or loneliness and alienation in another, we are willing to turn into aggressive demagogues. We desecrate the shrines of 'other gods,' even kill and rape in the name of 'our own god,' or watch people live in poverty, as we would watch another soap opera. The story illustrates that there is a potential for all of us to meet together in the common waters deep within ourselves and sense our oneness, our non-duality. While we see differences on the top of the wells, deep down they are all interconnected and it’s the same water that flows through all the wells. Deep down we touch our Buddha nature, our Brahman nature, our Christ nature etc. where differences disappear, and we experience our common humanity.
*Siddhartha is the founder of Fireflies Ashram, an intercultural center in the South of India. He is also the Coordinator of the Meeting Rivers programme.
Fireflies Intercultural Centre
Dinnepalya, Kaggalipura P.O.
Bangalore - 82 India
Phone: +91-9482536412 | +91-9606224243
Meeting Rivers is a global platform of religious, spiritual and secular actors who bring fresh understandings, experiences and solutions to the inter-related challenges of personal change, social transformation and ecological engagement. We are hopeful that the Meeting Rivers bulletins will help contribute to the growing search for sustainable solutions. You can access the previous dispatches of Meeting Rivers in our website: www.fireflies.org.in
If you have material which you would like to diffuse in this series please write to us at meetingrivers.fireflies [at] gmail.com