According to Indian thought and scripture, Vrindavan is the manifest earthly terrestrial playground of the god Krishna and his eternal consort Radha. It is considered the holiest of holy places – a temple of Nature. Vrindavan is said to be a paradise.
The modern town was founded in the early 1500s and the remnants of this city planning are still present in the architecture and streetscape of the old town. Just as Shiva is the destroyer and Brahma is the creator, Krishna is the enjoyer. Thus Vrindavan and its forest groves exist as a worldly home for the Divine Couple to enjoy. This worldly home is also accessible to humans.
Just as Krishna and Radha manifested human form to experience the bliss of the gardens of Vrindavan, there is also the possibility of this place as a sanctuary for mortals. Through the practice of higher or divine thought coupled with a respectful relationship with Nature it is said that humans can experience the wisdom and bliss of the divine pair in this place.
This Human Sanctuary idea presents a perspective that there is a terrestrial Divine in the world and a transcendent Divine abstracted from the world. Religious thought and scriptural perspectives from Vrindavan propose the possibility of a synthesis of these two through a balanced yet dynamic ecological state consisting of divine humans in nature. This is where the mathematical equation of Vrindavan = Nature + Divinity arises. In this schema Vrindavan is the example of duality, an earthly and heavenly realm, a representation of the manifest and unmanifest.
The main tenet of the Vrindavan Ecological Concept is that the human is the special creature of nature. Humans are both society and nature. Through practice humans can be at peace with themselves, the world and nature. This is what I term “being concentric.”
Being concentric means being in touch with your true nature. Therefore concentricity is the practice of existing in this balanced state. Or, in other words, concentricity means connectedness. It is attained through a practice of mindfulness, thankfulness and respect for humans and nature. If one lives in accordance with these principles, one will be in an aware state living concentrically. This is important because as humans our fundamental need is to be happy and peaceful. By being ‘happy’ I mean coming to an understanding of the balance and rightness of all things.
For a human to exist equals (a) survival and (b) happiness. For a human to be happy equals achieving (a) and (b) in balance with nature. This accounts for the possibility that some humans may engage in harming other beings with questionable impact on their own happiness.
Concentricity involves developing oneself in a way that one has the most interaction with the inner self or prana which is a reflection of the Divine. Blockages will always be there but by being concentric—by being aware of our blockages—we know their place and learn how to interact with life without our habits and blockages becoming detrimental to our being. The more concentric we are, the more aware we are of the movements of the Divine through us so that we can do the desired work of the Divine. By being connected to our inner prana, inner self, we feel connected – this is where we are 1 and in this way we can relate to others as 1. Here the possibility of grouping and being with others and Nature in this 1 + 1 = 11 scenario arises Duality
Pivotal to the Vrindavan Ecological Concept is an understanding of inner and outer nature. Just as we have skin on the outside and organs on the inside, we have an external and internal nature. Our external nature is that part of us that interacts with people, the world and nature, while our inner nature is our internal dialogue with our self and the Divine. Now let’s look at nature, by that I mean plants and other biota.
Like self, nature can be conceived as having an inner and outer aspect. Firstly, the outer is the natural world, including plants, animals and people and the inner is the Divine, Source, God, Centre or however you choose to term it. Finally, the Divine. We can look at it as having two aspects, an outer, which I term breath or life, and an inner, which I term existence, also known as chi or prana. This inner Divine, of course, doesn’t have a name and is beyond names or the ability to name. What I am building here is the foundations of the principle, which can be represented by the following mathematical equation:
1 + 1 = 11
In this situation, the concentric human realises a state of 1 + 1 = 11 or in reality, one one. 1 + 1 = 11 is actually nothing to do with divine mathematics – it’s about a coexistent balance where one thing is not greater than the other. In other words, humans interacting with humans or nature in accordance to their real nature.
What I am arguing with reference to the actual place of Vrindavan and the Vrindavan Ecological Concept is that Radha and Krishna showed practically how humans can live in balance with themselves and with the outer surroundings by understanding their own inner and outer workings. This is where the sanctity of the environment of the actual place of Vrindavan, just south of New Delhi, becomes important.
The significance of Vrindavan is as the place, a place, where the Divine became manifest in its dual human form. Because the Divine is not dual, the Divine just is. But Vrindavan is important because it was from here that the human sanctuary idea arose as a reading of the living of the divinity in Nature anywhere. This is realised in the following equation:
Vrindavan = Nature + Divinity
Vrindavan means the concentric existence where the Divine is expressed through the human in nature perfectly. It’s not really that ‘Vrindavan equals Nature plus Divinity’ but that when we look to nature with a spiritual eyes and with divine vision, that is, when we are concentric and connected to nature within and nature without, then that place becomes Vrindavan wherever it may be. I argue this is the reason for understanding Krishna’s environmental pastimes as an ecological aesthete. His vision is a very positive and hopeful vision for the human based on working in consonance with nature for the betterment of the human and nature itself. It is through this concentric balance achieved in nature that we can enjoy not only nature and the rest of the human world but also become aware of the movements of the Divine in and through us as we continue to evolve, change and grow aware.
Living the Vrindavan Ecological Concept
Balancing the cultural with the natural While this has up till now been a philosophical presentation, I want to discuss the possibility of balance between the cultural and the natural. So how does one live the Vrindavan Ecological Concept? The process that we apply in order to live this is the synthesis of body, mind and heart. The tenet is the same as the theory – to live a life of respect, mindfulness and thankfulness and that nature is our master teacher. In nature we observe duality in its naked form.
Why is this so important? If we do not accept the duality of our existence, then we get stuck in the ‘push-pull’. This makes us unhappy. When we talk about duality we are talking about the co-eternal existence of binary opposition. Everything only exists because it co-exists. Our rational minds need a concept like duality in order to make sense of the natural and cultural world. Duality is what happens when the unmanifest manifests. That is how we perceive it to be and so that is how it is.
The Vrindavan Ecological Concept and its portrayal in the form of what I have termed ‘spiritual and ecological mathematics’ is intended to act as a set of tools to interact harmoniously with self and others. This is concentricity. This is where the individual becomes one. Such a concentric individual interacts concentricity with other humans, society and nature.
This is the one and one equals 11 state. This is itself a literal representation of duality. Duality is exquisitely illustrated in the arena of nature. In the practice of the Vrindavan Ecological Concept, students are encouraged to observe nature as their primary source of wisdom. The integration process or sadhana involves an initial separation and then the bringing together of the two halves – the self in seclusion and the self in a concentric relationship with the world. This is done through daily meditation practice, understanding sensual energies, that is, what drives our wants and needs.
This is meant to be a very dynamic practice – students are not encouraged to live ‘up in a mountain’ rather participate fully in society. Being a modern pilgrimage centre, Vrindavan definitely offers many possibilities to engage with society while one’s internal practice is taking place. Being concentric, being one, should be something we take with us beyond the time and place where we carry out the practice.
In order to further understand the workings of this concept, I show how the Vrindavan Ecological Concept’s assumptions are based in a three tiered model. Primary basics are things learned from Nature. For example, if I let go of this pen right now in the room, will it hit the ground? What if I do it in Norway next week, will the same thing happen? Water will always find the lowest point. Secondary basics are the human constructs derived from nature. For example, celebrations of harvest, equinox, and season; grottos, temples and chanting. Tertiary basics are those taken from society. For example, thou shalt not kill, covet or steal. Red = stop, green = go.
I claim that being concentric involves seeing this three-tiered scheme of directives in balance. As a cultural being and member of society, whichever society, we are always obliged to work within its boundaries. However, achieving this balance and being aware of our inner and outer nature should not come at the cost of maintaining our societal obligations. And vice versa.
As is common in many Indian approaches to spirituality, the Vrindavan environmental concept can be represented in the forms of a yantra or symbol and phonically in the form of a mantra. The Concentric Symbol developed in Vrindavan has been an integral part of the contemplative activities of the Vrindavan environmental movement. So what I am showing here is a form and sound representation of the human sanctuary idea and its manifestation in the world in the form of concentricity, an icon of concentricity.
This symbol is both dualistic in its depiction and triadic in its meaning. If we start from the centre, and we move outwards, we can go in two directions. One direction goes one way and leads us back inside, the other goes outside into the world while still being connected to the centre. If we think of our existence as consisting of life energy at the centre, followed by our emotional, mental and physical set up, this cyclic symbol takes shape. By being concentric, according to the scheme presented earlier, and by being in tune with Nature and the outer dealings of society, we attain a situation which this symbol represents – a concentric one where we have balanced inner dealings with ourselves and external dealings with the environment.
The concentric symbol has as its mantric aspect three elements comprising a Sanskrit mantra: Shri, Hari and Vansh. Looking at the meaning of these words, ‘Shri’ means everything or Nature or the universe we live in. ‘Hari’ is the Divine, the Centre, Inner Prana and the Source or the Unmanifest which becomes manifest to form the natural world. ‘Vansh’ means cosmic family or society of which we as individuals are also a part.
The Concentric Symbol embodies duality, balanced environmental dealings and balanced human relationships and represents the human as an integral element of Shri (the cosmos, nature, everything) under the jurisdiction of Hari (the Divine, that being who steals and gives everything) in direction and interaction with Vansh (the cosmic family, people, persons, things and situations). In this sense the Concentric Symbol is a depiction of the divine trinity depicted in most religions – i.e. Nature (Shri), Hari (the Divine, spirituality) and Vansh (cosmic family, society, the other cast members on the stage of life). It presents the possibility of reaching a balanced state whereby there is consonance between the human and the natural world. That is, the 1 + 1 = 11 state.
The Vrindavan Ecological Concept is a method and tool for us to understand our relationship with Nature; it helps us understand and experience the nature of inner and outer, introverted and extroverted activities and ultimately the movements and ebb and flow in nature. This living and experiential approach does a lot to help us appreciate relationships between humans and nature as a dialectic. As the location I have presented is Vrindavan, it can also help us understand the relationship between Krishna, the male, and Radha, the female. I claim this is the philosophical reason for the existence of modern Vrindavan and the reason so many pilgrims undertake pilgrimage there every year.
Radha and Krishna in this depiction enjoying and playing in the forests of Vrindavan are posed on the canvas of the world as the Divine Contradiction, the Cosmic Polarity of male and female as seen not only in nature but also as members of society on the world stage. This is the perspective with which the Vrindavan environmental movement understood its reforestation and education work and ultimately the practice of personal meditation and personal development and evolution. Such practice was encouraged to take place with one foot in the world and the serving of society while introverted activities would maintain a constant grounding in self and introversion. I accept that modern or ancient doctrine does not necessary equate to lived accord; but the principles here are known through their existence in nature to be innately balanced.
Vrindavan = Nature + Spirituality, 1 + 1 = 11 and concentricity are all important components of what I have posed as spiritual and ecological mathematics. So how does spiritual and ecological mathematics appear as espoused by Radha and Krishna? Firstly, that we are two halves, i.e. we are dualistic creatures, living, walking and talking yin-yangs, who form a whole. When this is realised and practised through awareness creation or concentric practice in nature then we become 1. We are then able to group with other humans in a 1 + 1 = 11 formation; we are independently co-dependent and co-dependently independent.
This equation is exemplified and practised by Radha and Krishna. While the modern town is important historically, geographically and spatially for demonstrating these principles, it also leads to and shows that this 1 +1 = 11 equation is a depiction of Vrindavan: The Human Sanctuary and a state that is realised by another equation: Vrindavan = Nature + Divinity. This vision learned from and in Vrindavan is one which is not only restricted to the geographical location of Vrindavan. This is one of the aspects, ideas, metaphors and realities, which Krishna as an ecological thinker came to teach, namely that the whole cultural and natural world, when seen with a divine perspective is Vrindavan. That Vrindavan is a Human Sanctuary and that Vrindavan is anywhere.