I worship the two splendors that cavort in the Vrindavan forest, one with the effulgence of gold, the other of sapphires. They have more beauty than millions of Ratis and Kamadevas, and it seems they have stolen the glory of millions of Lakshmis and Narayans.
vipina-vihāri maho-dvayaṁ bhajāmi ||
So someone asked me, “Sanctuary from whom? We humans are the most destructive species, the one all other species must take sanctuary from.”
Sewak Sharanji himself uses the phrase abhayāraṇya to translate sanctuary, and this is a term that is used in the ancient epics as the kind of forest ashram life where the ancient munis and rishis lived. “The forest of fearlessness.”
In Sewakji’s earlier writing, he emphasized that Sanatan Dharma culture was formulated in these communities. The “rishis” or “seers” lived in this kind of protected atmosphere, where naturally they lived in harmony with nature.
Sewakji’s naturalistic philosophy is based on an equation of Vrindavan with nature and spirituality combined. A human sanctuary is a place where sattva guna predominates. At least this is the way I see it.
Most other people I know, even Sewakji himself, feel an air of hopelessness about the direction that development is taking the town. Rajas and tamas are predominating in an aggressive and unapologetic manner. The people of the town themselves have sold out to economic development above all other considerations. Vrindavan’s spirituality is a commodity to be sold for a profit, and one does not have to be particularly spiritual to profit from it. And certainly the environment has taken a back seat in all this. A tree has no economic value until it is chopped down.
Modern economic thinking professes humanism by holding that everyone will be most benefited by economic development and the conveniences and amenities that it brings. The full flowering of every human being comes from giving opportunities to develop their own innovative powers and to receive the benefits thereof.
But the offshoots of rajas, without the attenuating force of sattva, are usually tamas, and that is what we can feel. Even those coming from other parts of the world feel the tamo-guna as more acute here than in their own homes. Partly because Westerners have become rather good at keeping tamas hidden most of the time.
In this modern race to “civilization,” some few people consider the roots of Indian civilization and thinks about giving them some sanctuary. And it may be almost impossible to do that “naturally” any more, so let us do it consciously and intentionally.
A human sanctuary is not the same as a modern Hindu ashram. I see it as an attempt to recreate a model human society on the model of the forest hermitages of yore. Prabhupada used the expression “high thinking and simple living.” The idea has been revived again and again in human societies ever since humanity began: Tolstoy and Gandhi come to mind.