Hinduism is an incredibly diverse religion that expresses, through many of its texts the complex relationship between the environment and humanity. The base teaching that the earth is the physical body of the goddess Devi, and the idea of reincarnation, gives the Hindu a different perspective of what "life" is, and what respecting earth beneath us is accomplishing. Most importantly, they perceive that our treatment of the world directly affects our karma, the positive and negative forces that affect our future.
Hindu villages of the past did not see nature as disconnected from their everyday lives. Yet they actively protect it in keeping with an important Hindu concept, dharma, or as it is often translated, "duty" or "virtue". For example, Nelson (1998) explains that, “many Hindu villages have a sacred lake, and around it a grove of trees to catch rainfall and protect the banks from erosion. The lake and its grove store rainfall to irrigate surrounding fields and supply village wells with drinking water”. These villages are performing dharma, and are not making what we in the west would call an attempt at environmental preservation. They simply respect and care for the environment and believe that the environment will in return, respect and care for them.
Hindus respect the environment because they believe in rebirth and reincarnation. A human being can be reincarnated into any animal, plant, or any form of life. The idea of rebirth reinforces their choice of a vegetarian diet. Most Hindus are vegetarian because they do not like inflicting pain (the concept of ahimsa) on an animal. Hindus believe that all things have souls and that all things have a right to life. To kill another living species is to not respect their sacred life and in the process one could possibly kill a loved one reincarnated in that form. Some scriptures place a strong emphasis that Gods grace will not be received by killing or harming creatures and that the pain that is caused to another living creature will eventually be suffered by the inflictor in this life or during rebirth (Chapple, C.K., & Tucker, M.E., 2000).
Although most Hindus are vegetarians, some do eat meat; however the Laws of Manu state that “no sin is attached to eating flesh…but abstinence from these bears greater fruits” (Kittler, P. G., & Sucher, K.P,2000, p.56). If a Hindu decides to eat any type of meat, (beef and pork are usually avoided) he should offer it to the gods before consumption (Kittler &...