Karma, Heaven and Moksha

How every action leads to an effect and how bad actions will return to haunt you - Anil Bhanot conti

Hindus believe that God cannot be monopolised or limited to one way or the other. The Hindu concept of God is one of love, indeed God is considered to be beyond love and in Hinduism when a person reaches the state of Moksha or Nirvana the experience is one of utter bliss which no word can describe.

Moksha is the ultimate stage of salvation where the Atma, the divine body of Man, merges with Brahman, the ultimate reality. We have 3 bodies, Atma the divine body; Sthula the fine body of mind, intellect and ego; and Physical body. The physical body dies and the elements go back to earth but the fine body and the Atma live on and go to heaven until there is time for the Atma and the fine body to take rebirth on earth again to continue its journey towards the ultimate salvation of Moksha. Heaven is a transitional stage, it is not the ultimate one, and there is a higher sphere of the one God, Brahman, which is beyond words or descriptions.

Hindus have several commandments from the Vedas and many Shastras (Law Books), as those were the times of civilising the race. But those commandments are seldom highlighted as the Hindu way of life grew on that basis and as a result a deeper understanding of good v bad. The underlying concept that is woven through, this way of life, is that we are all connected, through the entire creation including animals and plants. Therefore the commandments became redundant as the emphasis shifted simply to the idea of “not hurting another soul” - even the plants have a soul in Hinduism.

There is an evolutionary element to the soul even in the Hindu creation story. The main guidance on how best to live your life now is taken through the theory of Karma, that every action will lead to an effect and that effect will become a cause for another effect.

It is a chain reaction with the proviso that your actions will in the end lead to having an effect on you so that if you do bad action their effect will return to haunt you but if you always walk on the straight and narrow, truthfully, which may take longer to achieve your goal but you will continue to evolve and perfect your soul towards God for the ultimate goal of Moksha.

The theory of Karma is intrinsically linked to the theory of reincarnation. It is not that there is an eternal heaven or an eternal hell – a Hindu God could never be so vindictive to Mankind or any of His creation. Lord Krishna says in the Gita that he sees all with an equal eye but those who worship me are dear to Him and he further says that even those who worship other Gods or worship Him by other names or forms, “they too will surely come to me” – this was when Krishna said, “I am Brahman”, i.e., the ultimate reality.

Krishna said that it is the substance of prayer that mattered to him, not the form, that it was the purity of the thought and actions that mattered to him not the methodologies, though he said he rewards those seeking paradise also but “verily they return on earth after exhuming the fruits of their actions”.

Hindus have a vast number of holy books. The first and foremost are the Vedas accompanied by the Upnishads, then there are the Puranas, there are epics like Ramayana and Mahabharta and the most complete spiritual compendium the Bhagwad Gita. There are Yoga treatises; there are six systems of philosophy, stretching the science of metaphysics to the limits. There are Shastras and Samritis like that of Manu and so on.

Equally there are several festivals. Every month of the year will have a few major festivals but in the UK the main ones being celebrated are Lohdi, Holi, Mahashivratri, Ramnaumi, various Rathayatras, Durga ashtami, Krishna Janam Ashtami, Rakhi, Ganesh Chauth, Dushehra, Vijay Dashmi, Diwali and so on.

Anil Bhanot read Actuarial Science at university but then qualified as a chartered accountant. He was one of the founding members of Hindu Council UK in 1994 and was first elected as general secretary in 2003.
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The rise of the green mayor – Sadiq Khan and the politics of clean energy

At an event at Tate Modern, Sadiq Khan pledged to clean up London's act.

On Thursday night, deep in the bowls of Tate Modern’s turbine hall, London Mayor Sadiq Khan renewed his promise to make the capital a world leader in clean energy and air. Yet his focus was as much on people as power plants – in particular, the need for local authorities to lead where central governments will not.

Khan was there to introduce the screening of a new documentary, From the Ashes, about the demise of the American coal industry. As he noted, Britain continues to battle against the legacy of fossil fuels: “In London today we burn very little coal but we are facing new air pollution challenges brought about for different reasons." 

At a time when the world's leaders are struggling to keep international agreements on climate change afloat, what can mayors do? Khan has pledged to buy only hybrid and zero-emissions buses from next year, and is working towards London becoming a zero carbon city.

Khan has, of course, also gained heroic status for being a bête noire of climate-change-denier-in-chief Donald Trump. On the US president's withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, Khan quipped: “If only he had withdrawn from Twitter.” He had more favourable things to say about the former mayor of New York and climate change activist Michael Bloomberg, who Khan said hailed from “the second greatest city in the world.”

Yet behind his humour was a serious point. Local authorities are having to pick up where both countries' central governments are leaving a void – in improving our air and supporting renewable technology and jobs. Most concerning of all, perhaps, is the way that interest groups representing business are slashing away at the regulations which protect public health, and claiming it as a virtue.

In the UK, documents leaked to Greenpeace’s energy desk show that a government-backed initiative considered proposals for reducing EU rules on fire-safety on the very day of the Grenfell Tower fire. The director of this Red Tape Initiative, Nick Tyrone, told the Guardian that these proposals were rejected. Yet government attempts to water down other EU regulations, such as the energy efficiency directive, still stand.

In America, this blame-game is even more highly charged. Republicans have sworn to replace what they describe as Obama’s “war on coal” with a war on regulation. “I am taking historic steps to lift the restrictions on American energy, to reverse government intrusion, and to cancel job-killing regulations,” Trump announced in March. While he has vowed “to promote clean air and clear water,” he has almost simultaneously signed an order to unravel the Clean Water Rule.

This rhetoric is hurting the very people it claims to protect: miners. From the Ashes shows the many ways that the industry harms wider public health, from water contamination, to air pollution. It also makes a strong case that the American coal industry is in terminal decline, regardless of possibile interventions from government or carbon capture.

Charities like Bloomberg can only do so much to pick up the pieces. The foundation, which helped fund the film, now not only helps support job training programs in coal communities after the Trump administration pulled their funding, but in recent weeks it also promised $15m to UN efforts to tackle climate change – again to help cover Trump's withdrawal from Paris Agreement. “I'm a bit worried about how many cards we're going to have to keep adding to the end of the film”, joked Antha Williams, a Bloomberg representative at the screening, with gallows humour.

Hope also lies with local governments and mayors. The publication of the mayor’s own environment strategy is coming “soon”. Speaking in panel discussion after the film, his deputy mayor for environment and energy, Shirley Rodrigues, described the move to a cleaner future as "an inevitable transition".

Confronting the troubled legacies of our fossil fuel past will not be easy. "We have our own experiences here of our coal mining communities being devastated by the closure of their mines," said Khan. But clean air begins with clean politics; maintaining old ways at the price of health is not one any government must pay. 

'From The Ashes' will premiere on National Geograhpic in the United Kingdom at 9pm on Tuesday, June 27th.

India Bourke is an environment writer and editorial assistant at the New Statesman.

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