The human body contains about 100 trillion cells, but only about 1 trillion of them are human cells, which is to say our cells. The other 99 trillion cells belong to all the bacteria, viruses and other microorganisms that live in and on our bodies. That’s right: you’ve got 99 trillion other people living with you… in your body.
So we live in this body along with 99 trillion other living beings with whom we have a symbiotic relationship: we give them a place to live, and they help keep us alive. They’re not just carpetbaggers along for the ride: Those 99 trillion other living entities are busy keeping your body healthy. They extract vitamins and nutrients from your food and process the useless stuff so you can discard it. They teach your immune system how to recognize dangerous invaders and produce defensive chemicals to fight off those unwelcome interlopers… the list of what they do to help us goes on and on.
These microbes are usually our friends. But if, due to unhealthy habits, we disrupt the delicate ecosystems that microbes create in different parts of our bodies, a normally benign microorganism can become a malignant one. The irony, of course, is that when a malignant organism looses its sanity and destroys the body it calls home it destroys it’s own means of survival. Not very smart.
Strange as it may sound our existence is, in a way, defined by the presence of 99 trillion microbes living in and on our bodies. Similarly, the Earth is, in a way, defined by her in habitants; she herself, according to yoga philosophy, is a living organism populated by innumerable living entities. And we have the same kind of symbiotic relationship with her as microbes have with us: she gives us a place to live and we help keep her alive.
At least that’s what we do when we’re sane. Unfortunately, humanity has developed a malignant streak. Rather than being the grateful recipients of Earth’s bounty, we’ve come to think that we can and should exploit the Earth’s resources for the sake of economic development and gratuitous enjoyment, mindlessly destroying her delicate ecosystems in the process. The irony, of course, is that when a malignant organism destroys the body it calls home it destroys it’s own means of survival. Not very smart.
The Sanskrit phrase for smart people who do stupid things is mayayapahrta jnana: those whose knowledge has been stolen by illusion. The objective of yoga is to awaken the yogi from the spell of illusion. But now that humanity’s reckless predilection for exploitation has brought the world to the brink of ecological disaster it’s reasonable to ask if supplementing our Facebook posts with yoga and meditation is actually going to make a difference. What does a spiritual practice have to do with saving the planet?
The purification of our external environment starts with the purification of our internal environment. And the purification of our external environment naturally inspires us to deepen our spiritual practice. The yogi aspires to create a mutually-reinforcing balance between a spiritualized heart and a spiritualized world.
The imbalance in nature we call ‘Climate Change’ is an external expression of an internal condition: the imbalance in our collective consciousness. Environmentalism therefore begins with taking care of the ecology of our consciousness because someone has to be sane enough to acknowledge reality. And that someone is us: yoga is a prescription for sanity.
Someone has to model a healthy relationship with the earth. And a yogi naturally models that healthy relationship because the yogi sees the earth as a person worthy of love and respect. Just as you’re a person playing host to 99 trillion microbes living in and on your body, so the earth herself is a person generously playing host to us and all the other living beings who reside here with us.
Yogis also see the earth as a manifestation of spiritual energy and see each feature of the earth as a reminder of the spiritual source of the material world. When your conception of the earth is that of a person with whom you have a relationship, of a sacred representative of the source of all creation, and as a generous host to innumerable other beings with whom you share a communal interest, then it’s impossible to take the Earth for granted or exploit her as an object for our enjoyment.
Exploitation is not in the nature of God, and therefore exploitation is not in the nature of saintly people. Respect for the environment and understanding that we are the custodians of the Earth rather than the proprietors of the Earth are essential parts of our spiritual culture. The spiritualization of our materialistic culture is the essential means by which humanity, and all the Earth’s creatures, can live in peace, friendship and prosperity.
Yoga is the science of purifying our hearts, elevating our consciousness, and experiencing the joy of our true spiritual nature. It provides a blueprint for living in harmony with nature, in harmony with one another, and in harmony with the source of all creation. So become a yogi and encourage others to become yogis. And together we can work towards a spiritualization of society that will save our planet.