Uploaded on 16 April 2020
SPIRITUALLY-ORIENTED ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION PROGRAMME FOR COPING WITH COVID-19
Professor Akbar Husain Department of Psychology Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh (India)
We do not have much belief in the Divine or spiritual intervention. In response to the spread of Covid-19, “Where is God?”, We are pointing that He is taking our examination. The task for people of the world today is to give weight to our spirituality in earth. This is especially urgent, because the ecological crisis has forced us to see that we need to bring awareness to the people of earth through spiritual environmental education.
We need to develop spiritual strength to remind ourselves that we did not manage to generate a reverential or loving relationship with the earth. The exploitation and destruction of the environment must be compensated by a strong earth-based approach emerging from our increased sense of cosmic spirituality. Spirituality in environmental education will need to combat with earth-based creation in the form of coronavirus pandemic which is the highly infectious disease. Different approaches to this infectious disease are at the root and alienation in our culture. Because we have either refused or been unable to see the interdependence of things, there is social alienation, social distance and environmental decay due to this epidemic.
Spiritually-Oriented Environmental Education Programs
Humankind is facing a global environmental crisis in the form of epidemic disease, coronavirus (covid-19). The covid-19 pandemic is spreading throughout the world. The present environmental crisis can be seen as a crisis of the human spirit. Therefore, in solving this problem, special attention must be paid to the following spiritually-oriented environmental education programs.
Nature connection: There is no doubt that the spiritual relationship with the environment can play an important role in environmental protection and in coping with environmental crisis. But it is unfortunate that people are not moving towards adopting the spiritual strategies to protect the environment. To mitigate the adverse effects of virulent disease, people need to develop connection with nature.
Contemplation and Soulful Knowing: We live on different planes or platforms. We are educated at school, taught to read and write, and how to deal with the external environment. That is, we are put forward to make ourselves useful and agreeable in the world to demonstrate our talents, shine, manipulate and conquer others.
One way that we can nurture to the soul or face environmental emergency is through contemplation. Through cognitive logic and soulful knowing, one can seek the right answer about how to keep healthy as the whole being. Sardello states: “Illness occurs when something partial is taken to be the whole”. In order to cope with environmental problem i.e. covid-19, attention must be focused more upon internal environment and perfection of the soul.
Love for the Earth Planet: This also motivates us to help and make the world a more beautiful place. At present we are not comfortable with pain what we received from covid-19. Yet the cost to our life is enormous as the soul seeks to be in touch with the basic realities of life which includes suffering and death associated with this pandemic.
Spirituality can be helpful in overcoming the environmentally-related problems. At present nothing appears to be happening in relation to the resolution of the problem, but we have expectations in terms of time. It has its own timetable. However, if we love the earth planet in our own way, we will find a solution.
Cultivation of Healthy Habits and Positive Lifestyle: In order to combat with the present crisis i.e. covid-19, cultivation of good habits and positive lifestyles of human beings are needed rather than attachment with materialistic possessions. Positivity always prevails. We should pray to God for empowering ourselves through the development of faith, love, care and compassion for all to meet this crisis.
Human beings should develop healthy habits and positive lifestyles to protect it from further development through care, passion and concern for each other. Healthcare professionals, police and military personnel and non-governmental organizations are doing works of kindness and positivity to help victims of ‘coronavirus’ pandemic. So let us be more loving, compassionate and caring, and altruistic which generates more positivity.
Fostering positive attitudes and attributes: Education can help people in nurturing positive attitudes and attributes to cope with environmentally destructive behaviours. These positive attitudes and attributes include integrity, honesty, generosity, loving-kindness, social responsibility and distancing. More specifically, education for the environment or sustainability helps encourage students to develop an attitude of caring for the earth (including the biosphere) and its resources, and to actively participate in maintaining and improving the quality of their environment. Environmental education can help students and people to develop spiritual relationship with the environment, thus leading to their desire and willingness to take actions for the environment. More specifically, teachers and students of environmental education should develop connectedness among themselves, others, living things, society, and the environment.
Be environment conscious: Majority of people do little care about the physical environment or surroundings in which they live. Quarantine is a novel concept for us to have testing and coping with covid-19. We need to conserve the environment in the best possible manner to avoid infection. When we talk about the ‘environment conscious’ in the context of the present scenario, it implies the external environment.
Social spirituality “refers to the endurance of personal relationship, a relationship with the community either at the global or local, and caring for others”. In the current scenario, this may be path of healing suffering of all living beings. Until we develop ‘social distancing’ as part of spirituality, there can be no healing.
Family spirituality “exists where the members of the family take feast and do Japa in group.” It exists where members of the family conveys their admiration for family well-being and hopefulness and helps the entire family to share in the experience of being so admired”. In the field of human relationship, nothing is as important as family spirituality. In the widest sense it brings happiness and satisfaction, and it improves well-being. We need to spend more time with family in order to increase intimacy. Communication between parents and children and between life partners will be improved, if family spirituality exists, during the time of situational or environmental crisis.
Spiritual Practices: Our ancestors have trained our mind and heart to perform religious/spiritual practices for facing personal, social and environmental crisis. Based upon religious belief the tendency of Indian people is to spread spiritual enlightenment with spiritfulness and values what our parents have cultivated among us. Efforts are needed to deal with life stressors through the sacred practices. Service spirituality is a universal form of spirituality in numerous religious beliefs. Performing prayer, observing fast, reading scriptures and meditation should be started immediately to cope with covid-19.
Recitation of Holy Scriptures: This has spiritual value to the people who have faith in it. For example, the Qur’an has deep spiritual meanings in it. It is meaningful to Muslims and their spiritual development. The recitation of the Qur’an is considered as a spiritual activity. Similarly, Valmiki’s Ramayana and the Mahabharata have both literary and spiritual value. Ramayana deals with great literary work dealing with the heroic exploits of Rama. Ramayana is a scriptural text which conveys something more than just story and this forms the essence of Hindu tradition. Reading these epics can be considered as an account of man’s spiritual progress. I believe that holy scriptures have spiritual merits which provide strength among us to deal with humanitarian crisis. Read one para or chapter of your holy book daily.
Spiritual Quest and Struggle: The spiritual quest is to embark upon the path of Allah and His Messenger (SAW) to seek perfect guidance. If you desire to become the beloved of God, then follow the path of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and his virtuous actions. Allah, the Exalted has commanded obedience to the Holy Prophet (SAW). The believers of Islam should follow the entire life of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW).
Intrapsychic type of spiritual struggle deals with guilt about sin, fear of punishment from God, and religious doubting. With respect to dealing with these problems, religious teachings may be an important resource and may actually play a constructive role in personal spiritual development. Individuals who suffer from covid-19 lack a potentially important cognitive and emotional resource that could help them to facilitate positive adjustment.
Service and Caring: Service and caring to covid-19 patients bringing happiness in their life by doctors and nurses are a sacred activity. To give a gift in the form of cure that deserves it, bringing a smile to a patient who is sad and in misery, empathizing with those in grief, patients and their kith and kin, sharing the burdens of others who are under stress or need your support, talking and listening to others, all these are acts of good service. If we can dedicate our lives to serving the covid-19 patients for improving their well-being implies that we will move beyond all feelings of separateness and selfishness. Then we will be freed from the stress, anxiety, and negative karma that arise from our reliance upon our egos to determine which actions we take in our lives.
Lokasamgraha: This is a well known concept of Bhagvad Gita which means welfare of all (society). Lokasamgraha provides the goal, direction and therefore it is the technique of performing one’s action and duty. Lord Krishna explains the concept of ‘Lokasamgraha’ in Bhagvad Gita. The underlying teaching of the Gita is that mere theoretical knowledge about what is good and real is not enough unless this knowledge is reflected in one’s conduct (Bhagvad Gita, 3.21). Bhagavad Gita emphasizes lokasamgraha as the welfare of the world which is the purpose of all actions. As explained in Gita, Lokasamgraha has the social and universal dimension of Krishna’s teaching.
In the context of covid-19, lokasamgraha means bringing about a unity of purpose and cooperative effort in the society for the prevention and treatment of this dreadful disease. People are not to confine in their own actions, but also to encourage others to act as well. That is, every person should adopt a slow and steady effort to educate common people and to encourage them for adopting the approach of the Gita. Keeping in view of the present crisis, we need to adopt the concept of “Lokasamgraha” for the unity of the world and the interconnectedness of the society. Gita requires us to give emphasis on human brotherhood.
Ishvara Pranidhana (surrender to God): The term ‘Ishvara Pranidhana’ is made up of two Sanskrit words; Ishvara and Pranidhana. Ishvara means ‘Supreme Being’,‘God’, ‘Brahman’, ‘Ultimate Reality’ or ‘True Self’ and Pranidhana means “surrender”, “dedicate”, “devote” or ‘fixing’. So here we are advised to ‘surrender’ self completely to the Supreme Being, which in essence means cultivating a deep and trusting relationship with the universe, and making each action as an offering to something higher than us.
Ishvara pranidhana is the spiritual practice of surrendering the self fully to God to guide the life and actions of the self in order to work in the world. In surrendering the ego to the Supreme Being in humility, it is thought that the character of the divine can be attained. In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, this can be exercised through practicing the asanas along with a mantra and mudra, through meditation and prayer, and/or through one’s actions of daily living.
“By total surrender to God, Samadhi is attained.” In the context of covid-19, ‘Ishvara Pranidhana’ means offering of our actions to ‘the divine’ and humanity. Therefore, the practice of Ishvara Pranidhana is to be taught and trained by the educationists, how we can completely surrender our individual ego identities to God. Ishvara pranidhana will help to cure the afflictions of the mind that cause pain and suffering, as it is designed to redirect our energy away from our selfish desires and work towards the ultimate pursuit of Oneness.
Heart-to-Heart Meditation: This technique suggests how to connect with others, despite social and physical distancing.
Sit comfortably and gently close your eyes.
Imagine the person to whom you wish to establish love connection.
Imagine he/she is sitting in front of you.
Feel you are connecting your heart with him/her.
Gently send love message to the person from your heart to his/her heart.
This heartfulness technique may strengthen your emotional connection and your intimacy level. When we are connected through our heart, we create a vibration of love around us.
Messages: Develop Spiritual Fitness and Strengths by Spiritual Practices and Connection.
Prophet of Islam advised, “Those with contagious diseases should be kept away from those who are healthy” (Bukhari, 6771).