Seeing the Whole Picture

by Seetha Ananthasivan

Seeing the Whole Picture

The words holy, whole and holistic all have the same root.

We find that all spiritual systems refer to the need to connect to the “Whole”, to own up the reality of the whole picture, if not attempt to see it.

‘Vasudaiva Kutumbhakam’ which means that the whole world is our family are guidelines from our age old Vedas, pointers to living with wellbeing for all. ‘Aham Brahmasmi’ is another Mahavakya from the Vedas which essentially means that we are connected to the whole universe.

Wholeness and Oneness are two sides of the same coin.

These are ways to intuitively include the “Whole” and the “holy” into our lives. To deeply accept that we are a strand in the grand tapestry of life. The more we soak in this reality, the easier it becomes for us to live with mindfulness and not trash the earth; it also becomes easier for us to find joyousness in everything we do and question aspirations of positions and posessions in a commercial world – which after a point only add to our stress and nonwellbeing.

India is known for its innumerable spiritual systems and gurus to help us get back to a “base” of a recognition of wholeness and oneness, which are seen as two sides of the same coin. Yoga means “union”, and the breath is considered what connects the mind with the body. Being in Nature too, if we surrender to her as only a part of her, helps us feel a sense of embeddedness, stillness and wholeness. No amount of intellectual search will get us anywhere to think through and understand this sense of wholeness. Listening and reading may point the way but we need to embark on our own experiential spiritual journey.

But we live in a world that has become hyper-rational and focused on the physical world! How do we see the whole picture of this physical world? No one, not even the greatest rishi or scientists can “see everything” physically. But it helps to not only spiritually and intuitively but also understand the physical reality – even if we cannot see it - of what is happening to the world we live in. Today, that is a responsibility that we owe to our habitat, to humankind.

So we are only talking about a broad idea, a broad perception of the larger picture, not only of Nature and our Living Earth, but also about the man-made world which is pushing us to the brink of disaster.

Perceiving the World of Nature

Humans are hardwired to be more acutely aware of their immediate surroundings – Nature designed our minds to first protect ourselves and survive by looking for food.

Gradually as we moved from agriculture to civilisations to the modern industrial and information age, we have an illusion of knowing many things in a global sense… but we have ended up extremely ignorant about the world of Nature. Our preoccupation with objects and material for our use has made us overlook the countless processes, relationships, interdependence and the miracle of Nature. We have forgotten the reality of our lives which is embedded in our Earth ecosystem and gotten into a fallacy of being anthropocentric – that we are the centre of the Universe.

Do we know that the Earth has over 10 million species of plants and animals – that most of them will survive even if our civilization collapses as many other civilisations have collapsed in the past?

We also need to realize that “Gaia” – a concept of the Earth as a living organism – is a way to understand the incredible miracle of our world in a physical sense. Children need to learn about the Earth in this ecologically wise way, rather than in a Newtonian perspective of Earth as a machine that is (possibly subconsciously) embedded in our text books.

It is worth reading the book “Gaia” by James Lovelock who originated and elaborated on this idea – which can make us more reality oriented and therefore sane.

I believe that understanding the “Whole” of the Earth as well as of our own bodies is a valuable way to find well being to lead to a more expanded and holistic sense of wholeness.

Click here for the article “We are Gaia” which gives a brief introduction to this book by James Lovelock.

Perceiving the Man-made world

It is also well accepted amongst scientists and thinkers on sustainability that the many manmade systems – the economic and political systems, the education, medical, transport, energy systems are all interconnected; and they are all linked with the many crises we face – climate change, water famines, food security, pollution of land, air and water and so on. The whole earth system including all human systems are interdependent and hence need what are called “systemic” solutions. Piece meal solutions simply do not work.

What is the role of individuals here? How will seeing the whole picture help?

Well, all of us are part of the problem since we all are connected, benefit from or contribute to the economic and education and other systems. We need to be part of the solution as well!

If you have no interest in understanding the details of those aspects of the man-made world which have created so many problems but intuitively know that you want to be part of the solution – that works very well too. Innumerable people in the world are taking to organic gardening at home or in farms, to helping children connect with Nature, engaging in crafts and other activities which are low carbon or zero carbon, slow food, slow travel – or simply by dropping out of the consumerist rat race.

In Indian Philosophy ‘Bindu’ is a point from which creation begins, or a transition point to consciousness of wholeness and oneness. In a physical sense one can say the only way we can live with ecological sanity in our ‘globalized’ world is for all of us, all human communities, to move to deep local involvement rather than global conquest by a few.

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