Is sustainability a reality?

by Renu Gulati December 18, 2020

I run a women’s empowering, sustainability organisation in Rishikesh, India. I have for years asked the question, ‘How sustainable is my own lifestyle?’ This blog was finally triggered by a discussion with a new friend who has similar ideals. I have been meaning to write this blog for years and years, as my ideals are entrenched in sustainability.

However, I want to write a few home-truths about how sustainable my lifestyle is. Where to start? Well to begin with, without getting into each and every aspect of my own lifestyle, I am probably a big carbon footprint creator. Technology, electricity, transport, clothes, food packed in plastic, exports and imports are some of the categories in which I am not totally sustainable, what to speak of others. How sad, we thought over our probably non-sustainable drinks.

A depressing situation, not to be able to walk our talk, even though our ideals are good. Well, at least there is honesty in my words. Is honesty not part of sustainability?

If we look at the ancient tradition of Ayurveda, our purpose of life is based on Dharma and the ultimate Dharma is non-violence. Sustainability is non-violence, and that is how our ancient societies lived.

What do we do now to align with the sustainability in modern life? Live in a cave in a jungle and eat berries and leaves? How is this possible with all the desires we have? Again, Ayurveda recognises we naturally have desires but these need to be based on non-violence.

I am certainly not ready to lead the cave or jungle life. I am a product of modernity with all mod cons and gadjets. I can only aspire to walk in the direction of sustainability by not harming the earth, water and air. I walk in this direction in as much as I can, given my earthly ideas and intellect. If I were to suppress my desires in the name of sustainability, I may develop a sustainability trauma syndrome with all the rules, I would have to follow. I coined this phrase from ‘religious trauma syndrome’ which is not a dissimilar syndrome caused by a guilt complex from not adhering to religious rules. The same could be said of sustainability. Of course, discipline is a necessary part of a healthy body and mind but when it is in excess, the mind feels jailed and guilty and one loses one’s joy in life which in turn can create stress. Stress is a negative state causing dis-ease. Dis-ease is violence to the body and mind which can result in exuding negative vibrations. Are these negative vibrations part of sustainable living?

So, we now see that sustainability operates on a very high level. The word ‘sustainable’ does not even exist in the oldest language of the world. The elements such as space, air, fire, water and earth were worshipped in traditional Indian society. The planets were worshipped too. So, from this, we see the respect of our environment.

All was based on Ahimsa or non-violence which is a catch-all word for the terms such as eco, organic, natural, biodegradable and such like.

I may have gone off on many tangents in this blog but my conclusion is Ahimsa is a journey not a static term. It is Ahimsa that leads us to health and harmony of the individual and the planet.

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