Fifty-four years ago, on April 22, 1970, millions of people gathered around the world for the first Earth Day celebration. New York City’s festival, held at Union Square Park, was the largest, with 100,000 attendees. In the midst of the speeches, marches, and music, the unique presence of Hare Krishna devotees at that event marked one of the first opportunities for Vaishnava theology to propose an elevated and respectful understanding of the natural world that continues until today.

Some senior devotees trace their beginnings in Krishna Consciousness back to their attendance at this historical Earth Day event, where they encountered members of ISKCON’s 2nd Street Temple. The devotees were chanting the Maha Mantra, distributing prasadam, sharing literature, and engaging participants in philosophical discussion about Mother Earth, Bhumi Devi. Several participants followed the devotees back to the Temple, moved in that night, and later became disciples of ISKCON’s Founder-Acharya Srila Prabhupada.

In many of his writings and presentations, Srila Prabhupada advocated for what he called “a simpler, more natural way of life.” He encouraged his disciples to be wise stewards of earth’s resources and use natural materials and means when possible, seeing everything as a gift from God. In the Srimad Bhagavatam 1.10.6 purport, Prabhupada said, “…conscious cooperation between man and God and man and nature, as exemplified by King Yudhiṣṭhira, can bring about happiness, peace and prosperity in the world. The attitude of exploiting one another, the custom of the day, will only bring misery.” He also warned in a 1973 speech, “Human prosperity flourishes by natural gifts and not by gigantic industrial enterprises…The natural law is that the human being may take advantage of these godly gifts of nature and thus satisfactorily flourish without being captivated by the exploitative motive of lording it over material nature. The more we attempt to exploit material nature according to our whims, the more we shall become entrapped by the reaction of such exploitative attempts.”

Read more: https://iskconnews.org/iskcons-54-year-history-with-earth-day-and-environmentalism/

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