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| Last Updated:: 16/10/2015

UN Bristol Meeting on Faiths and the Sustainable Development Goals September 7th – 10th, 2015



The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC) organised the UN Bristol Meeting on Faiths and the Sustainable Development Goals, in Bristol, UK, from September 7th to the 10th. This meeting was initiated by UNDP as a key part of the United Nations’ post 2015 process


Faith leaders from around the world and senior United Nations officials gathered to discuss on working together to implement the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), aimed at lifting people out of poverty and creating a sustainable planet.

The aim was to discuss how faith groups can support the SDGs, which will set the direction of development work worldwide for the next 15 years.


Dr. Nanditha Krishna, Director, CPR Environmental Education Centre read the following Hindu reflection taken from Vedic tradition on the inaugural day.  






Environmental Protection for Climate Change


The principle of the sanctity of the earth and all life forms – the pancha bhuta (earth, air, fire water and space), plants and animals - is clearly ingrained in Indian traditions. Only God has absolute sovereignty over all crea­tures including man; thus, man had no dominion over his own life or non-human life. Consequently, man cannot act as a viceroy of God over the planet, nor assign degrees of relative worth to other species. There is no sense of absolute superiority of man over nature. The Divine Being is the one under­lying power of unity, beautifully expressed in Yajur Veda 32.8. The sacredness of God's creation means that no damage may be inflicted on other species. Therefore, all lives, human and non-human, are of equal value and all have the same right to existence. According to the Atharva Veda (XII.1.15), the earth is not for human beings alone, but for other creatures as well:


“Born of Thee, on Thee move mortal creatures;

Thou bearest them—the biped and the quadruped;

Thine, O Earth, are the five races of men, for whom,

Surya (Sun), as he rises spreads with his rays”.


The omnipresent Purusha is described as: “Thousand-headed, thousand-eyed, thousand-footed, He having pervaded the earth on all sides, still extends his fingers beyond it. Purusa alone is all this - whatever has been and whatever is going to be. Further he is the lord of immortality and also of what grows for food.”

Rig Veda, 10.90.1


In the beginning there was the self alone in the form of Purusha. He transformed himself into man and woman...Later, he transformed himself into other creatures. In this way he created everything that exists on earth, in the water and the sky. He realized: "I indeed am creation, for I produced all this." Thence arose creation (Brihadāranyaka Upanishad, 1-5).


The subject of creation is discussed in detail in the Mahabharata. In the Shantiparva and Moksadharmaparva, Yudhisthira and Bhishma converse about the universe, its creation and creator:


Yudhishthira asks Bhishma – “How was the world created? What was the position of creatures at the time of Praylaya? Who is the maker of the sea, sky, mountain, clouds, fire (Agni) air and other things of the world? How are all creatures made, how did cleanliness and impurity emerge, and how did Dharma (religion) and Adharma come into existence?”


In reply Bhishma says – “God is the form of Shrishthi (creation). The Father of all creatures made the sky. From the sky he made water and from water he made fire (Agni) and air (Vayu). From fire and air, Prithvi (earth) came into existence. Mountains are his bones, Earth is the flesh, Sea is the blood, Sky is his abdomen. Air is his breath, Agni is his Teja, rivers are nerves. The sun and moon which are called Agni and Soma are the eyes of Brahman. The upper part of the sky is his head, Prthvi (earth) is his feet and direc­tions (disha) are the hands.”

Mahabharata, Moksadharmaparva, 182. 14-19


The important message is that earth and every aspect of the natural world is sacred, for they are aspects of the Supreme Being himself. This reverence for the earth and natural resources made ancient Indians lead a lifestyle which respected the earth and her creations. From the design of their homes to the food they ate, the clothes they wore and the trades they plied, they ensured that least harm was caused to the earth and her resources.


Respect and consideration of the natural world includes the flora and fauna of the earth, all creatures in the sky and under the sea. It is considered that all that exists has been created by the Supreme Being, comes from the Supreme Being, and will return to the Supreme Being, which is an adequate basis for the veneration of the nat­ural world in which man finds himself.


From Him, too, gods are manifoldly produced,

The celestials, men, cattle, birds,

The inbreath and the out-breath, rice and barley, austerity, faith, truth, chastity, and the law.

Mundakopanisad, 2.1.7


During the period of great epics and Puranas, trees were considered as being animate and having life, feeling happiness and sorrow. In Mahab­harata, it is said that

“Trees take water from the roots. If they have any dis­ease, it is cured by sprinkling of medicines. It shows that they have the life flow. Trees are alive and they have life like others because on cutting they feel sorrow. Similarly they have the feeling of happiness. After cutting, a new branch comes out.”

Mahabharata 18.15-17


The importance of planting trees was emphasized in the Varaha Purana:

“One who plants one pipal, one neem, one bar, ten flow­ering plants or creepers, two pomegranates, two oranges and five mango trees will not go to hell.”

Varaha Purana, 172.39


By the early years of the Common Era, the authors of the Charaka samhita were forecasting the effects of environmental pollution: “It seems that all stars, planets, moon, sun, air, Agni and nature or directions have been polluted. Seasons also appear to work against nature. Prithvi, in spite of being full of virtue, has lost its rasa in all medicinal plants. Medicinal plants are without original qualities and have been polluted. When such pollution will occur, human beings will suffer from diseases. Due to pollu­tion of weather, several types of diseases will crop up and they will ruin the country. Therefore, collect the medicinal plants before the beginning of terrible dis­eases and change in the nature of Prithvi.”

Charaka Samhita, Vimanasthana, 3.2




Pledges By Faith groups 


Micro credit and livelihood schemes for the poor, increased access to education, tree-planting on a massive scale, investments in clean energy and initiatives to green pilgrimage are just some of the pledges announced by faith groups.


The faith leaders, who represented 24 belief traditions from around the world and belonged to Buddhism, Confucianism, Christianity, Daoism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Sikhism and Shintoism, also declared they would do all they could to support the new SDGs.