Q. I am concerned that with so much emphasis in your teachings on leaving the material world and our bodies to get to the spiritual world with Krishna, this philosophy is creating an ethic that disregards the earth we live on. Why isn’t nature revered and loved just as much as Krishna? Is not the world, our environment, Krishna too? How can ISKCON join forces with the environmental movement to heal the relationship between people and land?
A. You’re right in saying that as devotees of Krishna we should respect His creation and Srila Prabhupada always taught that. (See Divine Nature, by Mukunda Goswami and Drutakarmä Dasa, available from our Hare Krishna Bazaar http://www.krishna.com) Prabhupada himself showed respect for everything because he knew that everything is connected toKrishna.
Still, we don’t equate Krishna and His nature. We accept the philosophy of “simultaneous oneness and difference”—Krishna is one with His creation and different from it at the same time. So although we respect nature as Krishna’s energy, we don’t elevate it to the status of God.
You shouldn’t get any argument from devotees about the sanctity of nature. What you might find is debate about how much of our energy should go into conservation. Prabhupada taught us to try to live simply and most of us could improve in that area. But Prabhupada never told us, for example, to go out and raise money for environmental causes.
Still, Prabhupäda did encourage us to spend money to set up Krishna conscious rural communities based on farming and cow protection, activities that improve the environment. He also liked nice gardens at his temples and he argued against needless killing of animals, needless cutting of forests and so on. He set goals that require us to collect and spend money in ways beneficial to creating a cleaner environment, one more hospitable to the practice of Krishna consciousness.
Ultimately, Prabhupada taught that Krishna consciousness solves all problems. So our mission is to give people Krishna. Environmental problems are only one of hundreds of problems that concern people. There are so many causes we could take up. But Prabhupada taught that trying to solve problems one by one is like trying to water a tree by watering its leaves and branches rather than its root.
Again, we agree that devotees could improve in their respect for the environment. And they will—as they advance in Krishna consciousness and learn more and more how to use the energy of Krishna in His service.