Religion and Environmental Ethics Praves Intongpan abstract


The Ecological Conscience : Self-realisation or Holistic View



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6. The Ecological Conscience : Self-realisation or Holistic View

The whole is a mysterious whole within which one lives. The Self-realised persons strive for the growth of as many individuals as they can and for the whole. They feel themselves as part of the cosmic adventure greater than themselves though an adventure whose destiny partially depends on their actions in the present. The more Self-realised a person is the more interconnectedness he sees in the universe.


Once we realize that human is a part of the nature, we will not treat nature and the non-human world as having merely instrumental worth. We will allow things to flourish in their own right and use them only when necessary, i.e., we would curb wanton use of the non-human world.
If one really expands oneself to include other people and species and nature itself, altruism is not required. The larger world becomes part of our own interests. It is seen as a world of potentials to increase our own self-realisation, as we are part of the increase of others.

In every relation we should see a mirror of the macrocosm. Thus whatever relation is in the universe the same relation obtains in the microcosm. This indicates that the whole is interrelated. The universe has to be seen as a gestalt so we should not think that more information will make things clearer. We need a re-orientation in thinking that we can learn from specific simple things by examining, appreciating and recognizing their defining relations with other things.


If we see the ecosystem as part of ourselves, if we see ourselves as intricately related to the ecosystem, then we would see the needs of the ecosystem as our own needs : there is thus no conflict of interests. Rather we see the ecosystem as a tool which would further one’s own realisation and fullness of life.
If we progress along the lines of identification the very notion of environment would be required. This would be a very wide interpretation of the concept of love. In love one loses one’s identity and becomes part of the large whole. This being the aim of a Self-realised person, he would hardly ever think on the lines of using nature. We should never use nature as a means. Nature should be valued as being independent of us and of our valuing. Nature can be compared to our friends. If we misuse and maltreat our friends we tend to lose them. Same is true of nature.

The term ‘Self-realisation’ indicates a kind of perfection. Self-realisation includes personal and community Self-realisation. It is conceived also to refer to an unfolding of reality as a totality. By doing so the mysteries of the universe will slowly unfold themselves and man will see more and more interconnectedness in the universe. Self-realisation involves not only one’s own progress (for I am related to others) but also progress of others. My progress is linked up with the progress of others because I am interconnected with them. According to Naess (1993: 89) there are three types of realisation – self-realisation, ego-realisation, Self-realisation with capital ‘S’


The Self of Self-realisation has been referred to as universal self, the ‘Absolute’ or the ‘Atman’ also self-realisation, self expression and self interest are various terms used to talk about ego-realisation. In ego-realisation there can be extreme incompatibility of the interests of various individuals, as goes the Norwegian proverb ‘one man’s bread is another man’s dead’. Self-realisation requires the unity of social, psychological and ontological hypothesis. We need not repress ourselves; we need to develop our self. Increasing maturity would relate more of our personality to more of the environment. This would make us act as a whole and therefore act more consistently. This would be more meaningful and desirable.

Our ego need not be ignored or suppressed in order to achieve self-realisation. We are not so selfish and egoistic as we think ourselves to be. Our personality is not so narrow as we think it to be. We need to understand ourselves and our potentialities. Our sources of joy can always be cultivated in such a way that we enjoy while relating with others, while broadening our self to come in contact with the Self.


The norm ‘Self-realisation’ is a condensed expression of the unity of certain social, psychological, and ontological hypothesis …We need not repress ourselves; we need to develop our Self. The beautiful acts are natural and by definition not squeezed forth through respect for a moral law foreign to mature human development. Increasing maturity activates more of the personality in relation to more of the milieu, It results in acting more consistently from oneself as a whole. This is experienced as most meaningful and desirable, even if sometimes rather painful.” (Naess, 1994: 57-59)
We think that we can cultivate ourselves by acting egoistically but as a matter of fact our personality is not as narrow as we think. Our sources of joy are much deeper. We need not cultivate our ego, and become self-centred in order to realize our potentialities. Rather by being more generous and by identifying with others, humans, as well as the ecosphere, will we realize our potentialities and realize the ‘Self’.
The higher the Self-realisation attained by any one the broader and deeper is the identification with others. The decrease of egocentricity is inevitably linked to an increase of identification and care for others. Here what is implied by care for others? Is it merely other human beings and most animals or does it imply the ecosphere in general? In Buddhism the identification has to be with the total ecosphere. As far as human beings are concerned there is hardly any need for further clarification. Almost every religious tradition would accept it. If I want to realize myself, I should take my friends, relatives, and other humans along with me. Further on, it also implies that if I want to realize myself then I have to take the entire humanity with me. I can do this when I have no enemies, I identify with all. If I want to realize myself, I have to forget my egocentricity, as long as I have my ego I cannot realize my Self. The moment I realize the true nature of my Self and thus would identity with every person. The more Self-realised a person is, the more he will identify with others. There is unity in diversity. That is why one can say that the higher the level of Self-realisation attained by any one, the more its further increase depends upon the Self-realisation of others. In Self-realisation, ego-centricity has no role to play.
Next question that arises is that of identification with nature. What is its role in man’s Self-realisation? Undoubtedly only man is capable of Self-realisation. But for this he has to identify also with nature. There is no special effort which man has to put. When he is following the path of Self-realisation he is wonder struck at the beauty of the ecosphere.
Thus to conclude Self-realization is a process in which the more Self-realized a person, is, the less ego-centric he will become, and more and more he will identify with others as well as with nature, for he will see the other human beings as well as in the ecosphere.
The universe is a complex web of relations. Each individual human being is interlined with others, with animals as well as with the ecosphere. Whatever relation is there in the macrocosm it is there in the microcosm. Thus in order to understand the universe and its complex web of relations we have to look within ourselves, realize our potential and realize ourselves. The knowledge of the universe will automatically follow.
Once we have knowledge of the complex web of relations, our attitudes towards nature will automatically change. We will no longer want to exploit it but will rather make friends with it. We are part of nature and if we try to bring any changes in it, any changes in its homeostatic balance, it would have repercussions on us.



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