Environment Awareness Series, Part 1 - Air Conservation by Shri Prannath Jyanpeeth (with Subtitles)
I bow before you or your rivers, bow before mountains and forests. I bow before you or your rivers, bow before mountains and forests. Whom shall I bow before O’ my Bharat, whom shall I bow before? Whom shall I bow before O’ my Bharat, whom shall I bow before? O’ human: Living in a world of technical advancements and staying in a state of material comforts, are you day-dreaming of eternal happiness and peace? But it is time that you opened your eyes and saw the melting Himalayas, infertile land and the rivers filled with filth and faeces. In the past, you used to live with a smile drenched in the fragrant-filled cool breeze of nature. You need to introspect on how you are now living in a suffocating environment of dust and smoke! Salutations to Shri Raj-Shyama Ji: Om, Peace is in Sky; Peace is in Space (between Earth and Sky); Peace is in Earth; Peace is in Water; Peace is in Plants; Peace is in Trees; Peace is in Gods (presiding over the various elements of Nature); Peace is in Brahman (Absolute Consciousness); Peace is pervading everywhere; Peace alone (which is outside) is in Peace (which is inside); May you be (established in) that Peace (and make your life fulfilled); In this limitless creation manifested by the desire of that Supreme Lord of unfathomable wisdom, love, bliss, beauty and peace; infinite life forms are in existence. Known as endless from the point of view of human intellect, this world is made of the five base elements of ether, air, fire, water and land. In this context, the element of land is not limited
to our earth but also includes all solid matter in the cosmos. Similarly, the bodies of all living things are also penta-elemental in nature. It is because of this only the well-being of ether, air, fire, water, land, medicinal plants and all flora has been wished for in the unworldly Vedic scriptures. In fact, the envelope over the earth consisting of ether, air, fire, water and flora that wraps all living things, constitutes the environment. Think! could there be any such stone hearted person whose heart does not get spellbound while seeing the swaying trees under the monsoon rains, swaggering rivers, mountains covered with snow and medicinal herbs, wafting waves of the oceans and the pink coloured sun rising in the east in the summer months? No doubt that the sages of Upanishads have upheld the existence of the power of God in these life-sustaining entities. It is so said in Shwetashvataropanishad that - Yo devo agnou yo apsu yo bhuvanamavivesh ya aushaddheeshu vanaspathishu tasmai devaya namo namaha I greet with gratitude that power of the bliss form of Supreme Principle inherent in fire, water, entire universe, in medicinal plants and vegetation.
Have we ever thought what would happen if even for five minutes there was no air or oxygen on this earth? In that state, can one who writes the history of this creation or one who builds the skyscraper buildings catering to our ego ever exist? How long will we remain alive if we do not get water for a few days? Had there been no vegetation, neither would there have been any herbivore animal nor carnivore animal. In fact, the present-day human wearing the mask of technological and material advancement and considering oneself as civilized is not realizing that by polluting the environment he is merely day dreaming of wellness. He is forgetting that he is cutting the very branch on which he is sitting. It is the contention of Upanishads that air has manifested from ether, fire from air, water from fire and land from water. The etherial principle is highly subtle and pervades the entire creation. The air principle however
does not permeate the entire creation. In this perspective, the purity and cleanliness of the air principle can be considered as the purity of the etherial principle. The air is a mixture of many gases of which majorly there is 78% nitrogen and 21% oxygen. The
rest is constituted of argon, carbon dioxide, hydrogen, ozone, neon and helium. Extending above the earth up to about 10 – 15 km is the troposphere and still extending above between 15 – 50 km is the stratosphere overhanging which is an ozone layer which absorbs almost 99% of the ultraviolet rays coming from the sun and prevents them from reaching the earth. In temperate countries which experience very cold conditions, plants and vegetables are grown in glass houses which retain the heat of sun’s rays penetrating through without permitting it to radiate out. The atmosphere of our earth has a blanket of gases such as Water vapour, carbon dioxide, methane, ozone, nitrous oxide and chlorofluorocarbons which trap infrared radiation of sun light and prevent the heat from radiating away. They therefore function like green houses and hence are known as greenhouse gases. It is because of this the earth maintains an
average temperature that is supportive of life. In the absence of these greenhouse gases, the earth’s average temperature would drop down from 14C to 15C to -16C to -18C which would not be conducive for survival of life. If the proportion of these gases increase due to human activity, it can lead to unbearable global warming and wreak havoc on life on earth. The observed erosion of the ozone layer
is mainly due to these greenhouse gases of human origin. The first horrific effect of air pollution was seen in December 1952 in London. A thick layer of smog had so covered the city that it turned day into darkness. Such a scene was never witnessed by anyone before that. This smog took a toll of about 4000 lives. There are about 23 crore registered vehicles in India of which 1 crore is in Delhi itself.
Vehicular pollution contributes to only 60%, but burning of straw, fireworks, and smoke emanating from chimneys and vehicles cause so much of air pollution in the months of October and November that Delhi has come to be known as the ‘Gas Chamber’ of India and Calcutta as the ‘Smog City’. The contributor in terms of maximum emission of carbon dioxide is United States. The average annual individual contribution to atmospheric carbon dioxide in America is about 5 tons while in India it is only 0.2 ton. The city of Calcutta releases about 1300 tons of pollutant gases into the atmosphere every day. As compared to carbon dioxide, methane has 22 times more heat absorbing potential and so its contribution to global warming is almost 50%. The spread of emanating toxic gases due to the vehicular burning of petroleum and the burning of coal in electric power stations as well as the mixing of fine particles of dust in the atmosphere is already sounding the death knell of the world. The destruction of Ozone layer by the greenhouse gases is
detrimental to human life. There would be escalation of skin cancer, cataract and various skin disorders due to the entry of ultraviolet rays on earth. These ultraviolet rays not only harm plants but also weaken our disease controlling immune system. These gases also
play a great role in global warming. The global warming caused due to these has already started to melt the Himalayan glaciers as well as the polar ice sheets. If this process continues unhindered, it would lead to dangerous flooding of Ganges, Sindhu and Brahmaputra rivers to begin with and then to their ultimate drying up. In addition, the rise in sea level would lead to the submergence of coastal areas. The humanity will have to face many respiratory diseases besides facing famine. Because of the increase in poisonous gases,
dust and ash particles, it is likely to bring in an ice age too. This will make it impossible for humans to survive under such extreme cold condition and lead to mass extinction. The question in this context is ‘what should we do in this situation?’ Should we in the name of pollution control do away with motor vehicles and go into the era of bullock carts and horse carriages? Should we under the fear and threat of environmental pollution stop electricity generation and stop all our industrial activity? Or, is it that the human intellect has no answer to this trying problem? It is a perennial principle of this creation that there is a definite solution for every problem that arises due to our follies. What
is needed is execution of eradication process in a rational way. We have developed a mentality of consumerism to enjoy the material pleasures made available through increasing industrialization. This is compelling us to exploit all-natural resources endlessly. In this process, we either did not think about the consequences of pollution or have purposely ignored. Even now, we have no qualms of polluting the air and water without which our existence is at peril. Are we not trying to erect our
economic empire over the corpses of our fellow humans? It is a fact that once we remove the reason or cause, action related to that also stops automatically. We will have to either do extensive research or forego the activities which cause extensive pollution of our atmosphere and air. Then only pollution can be controlled. When we do not have the power of bringing back to life of a dead creature, by increasing pollution we are not only endangering the lives of all creatures but are also somehow responsible for the act of committing terrible sin.
Instead of contributing to air pollution by burning the stubble of paddy crop in the open it can be put to better use; for example: 1. Brazil generates 35% of its total electricity from the bagasse of cane sugar. We can also generate electricity by making electricity generating heating houses. 2. The crop stubbles should be used for paper making and to feed cattle. The crop stubble is used as cattle feed in Bihar, Bengal, Nepal, Assam and North Uttar Pradesh while in West Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Haryana it is burnt. 3. If the stubble of crops is shredded into fine pieces and mixed with soil it can serve
as good biofertilizer. By burning the stubble of crops in the field, the soil loses its fertility. Instead of using open fire or mud stove for cooking in which wood or dung cakes are burnt, we should make use of modern clean stoves which emit much less carbon dioxide and also can result in 75% saving of wood. Usage of BS4 vehicles and BS6 engines can also help reduce pollution to a great extent. Instead of petroleum driven vehicles, battery operated electric vehicles or hydrogen energy equipped vehicles need to be popularized. It would be still better if solar energy is used to
charge the batteries of electric vehicles. If solar energy can help fly airplanes, why can’t it help drive much lighter vehicles like car etc.? It is definite that one day or the other, the sources of coal and petrol will get exhausted. At that time, hydrogen energy, solar heat, hydroelectric power, windmill, biomass and biodiesel alone will come to our rescue as endless sources of energy. Presently, India meets 60% of its
energy needs from coal only which not only adds to aerial pollution but also contributes to global warming. What is needed in this scenario is that we develop such innovative technology for garnering unhindered or unabated sources of energy like the solar heat and light or hydrogen energy etc. which could end our dependence on petroleum and coal. If all the countries start consuming oil and petrol like America, the entire natural
resource may not last for more than 10 years. One can have an estimate of how costly is petroleum import from other countries by the fact that during the year 2018 to 2019, 22 crores 70 lakh metric ton of petroleum was imported at a cost of 8.8 lakh crores of rupees. At the same time, we should also keep in mind the essential utility and saving of energy. It is necessary to switch over to solar powered geysers instead of electric ones and also use LED bulbs instead of the conventional bulbs. This can result in almost 80% savings
of electricity. Usage of solar charged cooler instead of CFC gas generating air conditioners and refrigerators would go a long way in reducing atmospheric pollution. It is ironical that we humans who take pride in our modern education, scientific progress and industrial revolution are forced to wear masks when we venture out for a walk. As things
stand, breathing of cool fresh air seems to be something of an imaginary world. Our ancient scripture Rig Ved says that elixir resides in clean fresh air and it is also considered as medicinal in nature to all living beings. This is the contention of the following verses. ‘yath avaha vaath thh’e grhe amrtasyan niddhihi hithaha’ and ‘thvam hi vishva bheshajo’ Inhaling of fresh air and performing breathing exercises (pranayama) in the mornings can keep at bay many incurable diseases. The question is whether the modern world would pay heed to this contention of Rig Ved and understand the importance of fresh clean air and work towards stopping or reducing the release of poisonous gases into the atmosphere? On the night of 3rd December 1984, a very tragic incident occurred. There was a leakage of methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas from the Union Carbide Pesticide plant in Bhopal, which affected nearly 5.5 lakh people of which about 15000 people
embraced death and the rest became victims of physical handicap, blindness etc. However, a very surprising incident was also witnessed in the midst of this tragedy. In the same area of gas leak, a gentleman called Shri S. L. Kushwaha and his wife used to reside. Being a follower of Vedic tradition, performance of Vedic Yajn daily in the morning was his ritual. This Vedic Yajn is nothing but a fire ritual of burning herbal essence and medicinal herbs. On that eventful day the miraculous effect of Yajn could be seen in reality. While cries of despair were heard and dead bodies were seen
strewn all over, the family of Kushwaha was hale and hearty with no ill effects of the poisonous gas. Scientific investigations of Yajn have shown that the levels of carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide in the air which were in the range of 1280 ppm and 696 ppm respectively before yajn had actually decreased to 471 ppm and 410 ppm respectively. Similarly, the levels of bacteria and fungi in the air before yajn, which was at 230 and 60, actually decreased to 110 and 10 respectively after yajn. Keeping in mind this scientific finding, if fire ritual of burning essence and medicinal herbs becomes a regular practice, we may not face the problem of living in an unbearable choking environment especially in the months of October, November and December as is the case in cities like Delhi and Calcutta. Moreover,
it would also keep us safe from deadly diseases like cancer and asthma. Some 5000 years back from now, Shri Krishn had said in Gita – ‘yajnaath bhavathi parjanyo’ meaning, rain laden clouds are formed because of yajn. If, along with pure clarified butter, medicinal herbs are also added in the fire offering, it would cleanse the atmosphere and bring in rains. If, modern science is adept at forming rain laden clouds by the use of specialized gases, the ancient wisdom of Yajn or fire offering is also equally adept in causing rain by forming water laden clouds. Along with that Yajn would also help in keeping the atmosphere clean and pollution free. Causing rain at will is also mentioned
in Yajur Ved – ‘nikaame nikaame nah parjanyo varshatu’. Yajn is at the core of Indian culture. To do meditation of Supreme Lord is known as ‘brahma-yajn’ while, burning essence and medicinal herbs in the fire is called is dev-yajn or agnihotr-yajn. If self-study of scriptures is gyan-yajn, to make the soil fertile is gomedh-yajn. If ruling a country systematically and harmoniously is ashwamedh-yajn, keeping the earth under the command of a central power is rajasuya-yajn. For that matter, doing every
good deed is also a form of yajn only. It is so declared in the scripture of Sushrut of Ayurved that the smoke that comes out from the burning of lac, turmeric, atees (a medicinal root), harad (myrobalan), motthan (a kind of grass), harenuka (hemp-tree), cardamom, cinnamon, tagar (rose bay), fruit and priyangu (beautyberry) and other medicinal herbs should be used for cleansing of the air. However, the currently popular burning of essence sticks does not match the contention of Sushrut. Since, these essence sticks have a coating of some poisonous chemicals, though they may emit a good smell, it nevertheless is harmful to our health. The Attharva Ved which is known for its undoubtable knowledge says that – ‘na tam yakshmaa arunddhathe, yam beshajasya gulguloha’ ‘ashranga yaja rakshaha sarvaan gandhen naashaya’ which means, the fragrance fumes of guggal (a fragrant resin of a plant) cures Tuberculosis. Besides the fumes of jataamaasi, bala, pramandani and aja shringi help in neutralizing the harmful air pollutants.
In case, the religious belief of someone does not allow performing yajn, one can always burn the medicinal herbs mentioned in Ved and Ayurved to neutralize air pollution. After all, protecting the lives of all beings is the righteous duty of all humans.