Although we may take it for granted, we are blessed that our planet Earth is a hospitable home. It provides everything we need to live and thrive and not just survive.

The air we breathe, the water we drink, the fertile soil, and the warmth of the sun enable us to thrive. In truth, man did nothing to earn these conditions; he was gifted with them. All the leading religions speak of the Earth as God’s creation. Sathya Sai Baba said, “Creation proclaims the Will of the Lord.” Nature is a manifestation of God. Since God is omnipresent in His creation, the Earth vibrates with Divine consciousness – planet Earth is truly sacred. The reality is that man’s relationship with the Earth, indeed the whole creation, is in God.

Sathya Sai Baba said that man, Nature, and God are intimately interrelated. Man is a visitor on this Earth, a trustee of the riches that the Earth offers. It follows that the Earth’s treasures, its gifts of God, are to be used wisely, with moderation and humility, and with deep gratitude; the gift of the Earth’s resources is not for man to wantonly exploit.

Man has thrived at a greatly accelerated pace in the past century. But it is at the height of his seeming dominance of the Earth and its resources, when he considers his powers to be unassailable, that it is clear man has lost himself in his mindless greed, oblivious to the harm that he is doing to the Earth and to himself. Man’s desecration of Nature has been laid bare.

The problem is that man sees himself as the conqueror rather than a visitor and so has lost sight of his obligation to offer his humble gratitude to God, the provider of his wondrous home. Man has become absorbed in the illusion that this is all his and that he owes nothing in return. How did we come to lose all sense of responsibility for the Earth?

Man has the rare good fortune of adoring Nature as the Body of God and offering grateful worship to God. But, is he conscious of God being the Source and Sustenance? Does he give God the first place in his thoughts which is His due? Or, is he engaged in the activities of life in total disregard of God?

Sathya Sai Baba, July 11, 1985

Because of selfishness and greed, some nations have prospered, and some individuals have accumulated inordinate material wealth – the Earth’s riches are not justly shared. There is exploitation. But the so-called victors have lost their peace; it has buried them in ignorance of who they are and what the true purpose of their lives is. Their endless pursuits have taken a heavy toll on their physical, mental, and spiritual well-being.

Man is not protected from the law of cause and effect – the natural consequences of  his excesses. One need only look around today and bear witness to the havoc that Nature is causing as a consequence.

Of course, there are enlightened people who understand the mutual interdependence of all creation, and they live accordingly. Sadly, in many instances, their voices have been drowned out, and not enough people listen to them.

It is a pity that, instead of paying attention to God, Nature, and Man, in that order, men today are concerned most with themselves, more with Nature, and very much less with God. From birth to death, from dawn till night, man pursues fleeting pleasures by the exploitation, the despoiling, the desecration of Nature, ignoring the truth that it is the property of God, the Creator, and any injury caused to it is a sacrilege which merits dire punishment

Sathya Sai Baba, July 11, 1985

There is a solution to this dilemma. A life of peace and happiness is actually within easy reach, and the solution is glaringly simple: We need to let go of the material pleasures that we madly crave and the attachments that bind us, so that we may truly experience the simple joys that life offers. The joys that touch our hearts are really simple and give us proper perspective about our own lives: the alluring smile of a newborn child, the loving embrace of one’s daughter on her wedding day, the serenity of a stream in the quiet forest, etc. Yes, less is really more!

We need to live simply again, knowing that a life lived honestly and lived well, free from the inner enemies of greed, lust, attachment, anger, ego, jealously, etc. – which rob us of our humanity – provides true self-satisfaction. The removal of our inner enemies makes space for the purity of heart and mind needed to live in God’s Will, where real peace and happiness is found.

It is time to give up false notions about where to find peace and happiness and know that by living in God’s Will we actually live true to our inner selves. We need not seek peace and happiness, these will come naturally when we live in this way.

When we live simply, we inevitably tread softly, move reverentially, and utilise gratefully. Nothing is taken for granted; everything is seen as a gift from God, for all. We switch off what we don’t need, we consume only what we need, we don’t kill to satisfy our palate, we walk and benefit from the exercise, and we utilise public transportation. By these simple steps, we learn humility and gratitude.

When the cravings of the mind and senses are stilled and the ego is diminished, we actually experience our interconnectedness to everything around us. This will nourish the sense of responsibility towards the Earth and all living beings, including animals and plants.

None of us will be here permanently. Nowadays, eighty to eighty-five years is considered a full life span. Since everything is so temporary, why give so much time and energy to accumulating what we cannot take with us when we leave this Earth? Why sacrifice the potential to live mindfully with higher thinking just so that we may accumulate more and more money and live mindlessly?

Are we not better served by seeking and manifesting the best within us and living more wisely, more productively, and in service of others, so that we may deserve to have the truth revealed to us? Our material possessions are, by comparison, like sand castles on a beach, fleeting.

Living simply reminds us that our sense of being comes not from what or who we possess in the world outside us but rather from what is inside us. The deep conviction that one’s life is precious because it is inextricably connected to God is truly empowering. So is the knowledge that we are really Divine. Once gained, nothing can take away this self-realisation. Then we can thrive on this Earth with a light carbon footprint.

Our purpose is not to be slaves to the mind and the senses, but it is to go beyond these trappings to realise our true identity – our innate Divinity. That is why we were born. Living simply and protecting the planet is an important part of that journey.

Ashok K. Sakhrani, Hong Kong
2nd Illustration by SSE Students, USA