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A green crusader in robes gets the ears at Cancun

Last Updated : 19 November 2018, 09:32 IST
Last Updated : 19 November 2018, 09:32 IST

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Like Vivekananda, the Naga sadhu wears saffron and is on a mission. He has his roots in West Bengal and is an excellent orator. This new age baba may not have made waves like Vivekananda's 1893 Chicago speech, but he left his imprint at the recently concluded United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) at Cancun.

“We've never come across a spiritual personality attending a global summit on climate change, especially those living in caves at higher reaches of the Himalayas. We're a bit surprised at your presence in Cancun,” a journalist from The Washington Post shot this poser to Soham Baba, a representative of Naga sadhus of India, at the Cancun convention in Mexico. Journalists apart, delegates from 192 nations at the convention were initially taken aback at the presence of a young Indian spiritual leader at such an important international meet on climate. Slowly, the veil of mystery was lifted as the monk began addressing some of the critical yet pertinent queries of the media and assembled delegates.

“Mere meditation, performing pujas and yagnas will all become meaningless if Mother Earth is destroyed and the environment polluted. Being a sadhu, I could hardly keep myself engaged in religious activities when people are faced with a serious problem of global warming,” was the young monk's reply to the journalist. His discourse which followed next at the Cancun meet captivated everyone, as he endeavoured to shed a new light on the whole concept of climate change that was 'never there on sea or land.'

Fluent in English and Hindi besides Bengali, the Naga sadhu was born of Indian parentage, but domiciled in Western Europe. Soham Baba, who hails from Bengal, has done his Masters in Surgery, but opted to live in the caves of the Himalayas in pursuit of his dream. His dream is to see a world united in peace, love and harmony and in order to translate it into reality, he has founded Soham Baba Mission in the Netherlands in 1991 which is currently active in 128 countries. Having drawn his 'power and energy' from as many as 21 Gurudevas who meditate in the Himalayas, Soham Baba was perhaps the only monk to have received an invitation from the United Nations to participate at the UNFCCC at Cancun. Having spent several years in meditation in the caves in the higher reaches of the Himalayas along with his gurudevas, Soham has a first hand experience of the dangers to the climate of this icy region. And he made no bones about it. The fast-melting glaciers in the Himalayas could destroy Hindu pilgrimage spots as well as the caves where thousands of sadhus meditate.

“The glaciers across the Himalayan region are melting at an alarming rate which may lead to destruction of Hindu pilgrimage spots and meditative places of thousands of monks. A large number of birds and medicinal plants have already disappeared from the mountain range and several mountain springs which I'd seen in my childhood, have dried up now,” he said. “The Himalayan region is the most sensitive area, where three nations-- India, China and Pakistan -- have nuclear power. Recent massive floods in Pakistan and Ladakh were due to the melting snow of the Himalayan peaks and it was never so devastating in the history. If this climate change of melting ice continues, there will be a huge shortage of drinking water in these countries, and then, the world will face most terrible and devastating scenario,” Soham Baba cautioned his listeners.

Sharing his experience at the Cancun meet where he shared space with Union Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh, Soham Baba said: “I went there with the hope that what Copenhagen failed to deliver Cancun can and there'll be a settlement on the Kyoto Protocol, but I was disappointed. The problem of climate change cannot be solved only by investing funds from the developed countries and implementing bureaucracies or diplomacies.”

Unlike the traditional talk of raising awareness about global warming and its attendant consequences, Soham Baba chose to introduce a slew of new concepts. Before talking about the grave consequences of climate change on our planet, he raised the question of ‘a change of inner climate’ in the human beings. “What about the change of our inner climate? What about the mess in our individual life? Climate change is an issue of human values which is directly related with the green values of the planet earth,” he said.

Human behavioural patterns have a direct contribution to the climate change directly and indirectly. Referring to the issue of offering subsidised fund to the developing countries by the developed, he felt that awareness has to be raised about subsidising the essence of human love, compassion, accepting and respecting each other to share the collective responsibilities of the planet.

Soham Baba has taken a strong exception to the repeated use of the word ‘negotiation’ in the convention. During his exclusive meeting with the UN Secretary General Ban-ki-Moon, the Indian spiritual leader stressed that the word ought to be ‘sharing’ and not ‘negotiating’.  “On the one hand, negotiation leads to comparison, competition and confusion and at the end, delays the process of implementation. On the other hand, sharing leads to human brotherhood. And the process of sharing can also bring co-lateral or bi-lateral agreement with the countries,” argued Baba. “This is one of the main reasons why the Kyoto protocol has been derailed.”

According to him, the real need of the era is not re-cycling, but up-cycling. Up-cyling is advocation of the use of zero degree waste product and creation of something that will directly enhance the life of a creature. Practising vegetarianism, which is an ancient pathway, can be used to reduce the greenhouse gas (GHG) emission; and to be a vegan is to contribute actively in the green solutions to stop the climate change, he felt. 

Besides, for centuries, forests have been the source of revenue, but this paradigm has been changed in view of severe destruction of the forests. However, a new consciousness has dawned upon a large section of the mass across the world that with every tree cut, we take a star way from the sky, a message that great Himalayan sages of India have already given. Soham Baba, who has already received an invitation from the UN to participate at the UN Durban Convention next year, feels that if the developed countries are loathe to reduce carbon gas emissions from their domestic industries, mere adoption of an MRV (monitoring, reporting and verification) strategy for funds allocated to the developing nations will not help.

The battle to save this planet, he thinks, will be easy once there is an increased awareness of the ‘Divinity’ within.

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Published 25 December 2010, 16:19 IST

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