Vrindavan is a dham : Vrinda-van, the forest grove along the banks of the Yamuna, where Sri Sri Radha Krishna and their associates manifested their lila pastimes are the soul-focus of the residents of Vrindavan. Remembrance and meditation on these pastimes, and the glorification of their incomprehensible wonderfulness are the heart meditation of the innumerable Vaishnav groups that have their centers here in Vrindavan. The Vrindavan described in texts conjures for many of us images of a pastoral wonderland – rivers, trees, birds, and cows….
I remember reading years ago about how the brothers who built the Shahji temple would pass stool in pots and have it deposited outside Vrindavan, so as no to defile the dham. Certainly in today’s world that seems extreme and not practical. But how about something more practical?
It is obvious that trash and garbage are endemic in most Indian cities and towns and Vrindavan is no different. There are two solutions. One is a comprehensive trash collection and recycling program, the other more obvious, but seemingly overlooked, is to reduce or limit consumption.
We come to Vrindavan because of Sri Krishna and his Dham. Yet, many of us who travel long distances to come and live in Vrindavan as pilgrims or residents struggle with limiting our consumption, especially that which leaves trash behind? None of us really wants to suffer or live in difficult situations, rather we all seem to want comfort – be it in shelter (diesel generators and air conditioning) or in the foods and refreshments that we consume. From bottled water to sodas to juice packs to plastic cups and spoons and what not – from the moment one gets here till one leaves, one is constantly generating garbage. We are leaving behind a footprint that will long outlive our visits here. Ideally, of course, the only footprint we leave behind should be the meritorious effects of our devotional activities.
Does affluence and consumption go hand in hand? One would expect those with the most resources to be the most informed (if not necessarily educated or knowledgeable about the environmental impact of our activities. However, it is the ones with the most resources, who consume the most, and often seem the most callous to the effects of their actions.
Offenses in the Dham
We often hear of how an offense, or the reactions to sinful actions, in the Dham is multiplied 10 or 100 fold. At the least, such warnings and admonitions can be seen an instruction to be cognizant of the auspiciousness and purity of the Dham; a request to one and all to exhibit restraint and not succumb to the desires of the body while in Vrindavan – to minimize one’s bodily desires and focus on the soul’s journey.
The other day I observed a new SUV parked near the Krishna-Balaram temple. A family had come from Delhi on a day trip outing to Vrindavan. A woman was cleaning out the car in preparation for the return trip, throwing used diapers, potato chip wrappers, empty bottles and other refuse onto the street.
Are only illicit sex, gambling, meat eating and intoxication illicit? How about crass material consumption, the trash that it generates and then the callous burning of the trash, especially in Vrindavan? Is littering in Vrindavan sinful? Is burning trash in Vrindavan sinful, and what would the tenfold reaction of it be?
Sure, no one expects a tourist, pilgrim, or a family person to live like a renunciate. But what does it take for an educated Indian or westerner to know that most of the trash they generate ends up strewing the streets of Vrindavan or getting burnt? It does not take a rocket scientist to know that garbage collection and processing is nowhere near where it should be in India. Does no one see the ubiquitous trash that is the result of our new-found prosperity and the consumerist ethic that is its very cause?
Keep Vrindavan Clean.
We need a comprehensive solution to this problem. One Delhi company has been started to encourage reducing consumption, reusing whatever can be reused and recycling as much as possible: Pom Pom, Another is active in creating zero-waste communities, Saahas. These are innovative action plans that need to be implemented everywhere in India, but especially in a holy spot like Vrindavan, where people hope to see the best of the human spirit in action.
I am of the opinion that there are certain things that the state should take care off – and sanitation is certainly one of them. It is beyond any individual to come up with a comprehensive solution and implement it. However, in the meantime it is not beyond oneself to restrain one’s consumption in Vrindavan. Those who visit Vrindavan should endeavor to be part of the solution and not just part of the problem.