The world is in flames: Facing ecological challenges with Alain Daniélou

Jacques Cloarec, Honorary President of FIND (India-Europe Foundation for New Dialogues), shared his thoughts on the current situation of planet Earth over the past few weeks with newspapers from all over the world announcing that the world is in flames. Many urban dwellers, however, pay little attention. He said:

Forests are burning, among other places, in Amazonas, Africa, Siberia, and Indonesia. Human beings are destroying not only the biggest oxygen supply we have but also the real source of life for all species on this Earth. But such catastrophes are perceived as far away from the city’s problems.

For Europeans, in particular, these catastrophes are ultimately not so bad as terrorism in Paris, London, or Berlin. The assumption is that these wildlife problems do not concern us, that they are not primarily related to our lives.

In many of his texts and letters, Alain Daniélou – a French historian, intellectual, musicologist, Indologist, and a noted western convert to and expert on Shaivite Hinduism – spoke of Shaivism as the worship of Nature. He based his assumptions on the image of the pre-Vedic deity Paśupati (Lord of Animals) and of the marginal character of this religion in the face of urban elites. He was criticized for this, because the scholarly trend in the west related Shaivism with a later form of Hindu theism and assumed that it had more to do with monotheistic creeds than with a life guided by natural forces.

Regardless of the “objective aspect” of the debate on Shaivism, which I am not competent to clarify, I think that one point should be emphasized in the light of the present situation of the world.

Daniélou was convinced that the source of all religions is found in the human being’s reconnection with Nature, that Nature is not only what science describes and classifies (which is perfectly fine in the domain of experiments and technical manipulation of resources, but not beyond it), and that Jacques Cloarec FIND’s Honorary President’s archaic attitude to Nature can teach us valuable lessons for the future.

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During the last four and half years, FIND Research and Intellectual Dialogue has paid careful attention to such needs. Adrián Navigante has tried not only to do justice to some crucial indological matters related to Daniélou’s heritage but has also opened a debate going beyond the India-Europe axis and its scholarly and non-scholarly commonplaces.

His transversal approach at the FIND “Transcultural Encounters” Forum within the framework of FIND’s Grant Program, as well as in different FIND interactions, has led to an expansion of the research and discussion field.

This year, FIND’s Forum will host African, Amerindian, and Indonesian traditions to tackle the complex issue of Nature and Anti-Nature in religions; an online review is also engaged in examining the relationship between human and non-human beings with special attention to the environment. But even more: it was decided – as a crucial orientation of FIND – to meet the urgency of the so-called “ecological question” that is so mindful of the end of Kali Yuga.

In this sense, it is insufficient to think that projects or interactions covering India and Europe are relevant just for the sake of Indian and European culture, rather than focusing on projects and interactions (in India, Europe, and beyond) with an innovative approach through a new understanding of Nature.

To use Daniélou’s words, I would say that the roots of paganism, a reconsideration of animism, a new perception of the divine in Nature, enhanced attention to tribal traditions, as well as the recovery of authors contributing to a change in sensibility and understanding related to this problem, have become a desideratum.

Daniélou left us a clear trace of his engagement with this issue: the Labyrinth (which is also the name given to the A.Danielou Foundation in Zagarolo, Rome) is not only the main branch of FIND, but also a place where the urgent needs of our times are met, especially the harmonious interaction between humans and non-humans, an interaction that goes beyond functional or utilitarian motivations. It is with this spirit of change that FIND hopes to counterbalance the current destructive tendency that threatens to put an end to life on this planet.

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