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Reading the Bhagavad Gita From an Eco-Humanistic Perspective on the Banks of the River Ganga in Rishikesh (North India).


· Johan Krieg Centre for Ethnology and Comparative Sociology (LESC, CNRS–UMR 7186) Paris West Nanterre La Defense (UPO) (Paris, France)


07/26 | 18:30-18:50 UTC+2/CEST


Parmarth Niketan, led from 1986 by Swami Chidanand Saraswati, has become today the largest ashram in Rishikesh and one of the most powerful religious institution in contemporary India. A growing number of disciples, pilgrims, domestic and international tourists go to this ashram to receive the teaching of Swami Chidanand Saraswati. The everyday life lived by Swami Chidanand Saraswati does not concur with the orientalist idea that ascetics live a life withdrawn, deeply absorbed into a silent contemplative gaze upon God and separate from the everyday lives of other Hindus. The environmental and Social welfare program established by Parmarth Niketan is rich in its diversity : tiger conservation, green building, reforestation, conservation of the river Ganga, disaster relief, promote collective social harmony and social stability, etc. Swami Chidanand Saraswati stressed the point that Hinduism is an intrinsically humanistic and eco-friendly religion. He reinterpreted Hindu philosophical and religious ideas, especially the Bhagavad Gıta, in order to face today’s global challenges. It should be noted that to offer ecological or humanist interpretations of Hindu beliefs is an interpretation of tradition rather than a traditional interpretation. It follows the patterns described by Hobsbawm and Ranger who speak about “the use of ancient materials to construct invented traditions of a novel type for quite novel purposes” (2003, p. 6). Understanding the mechanism by which the doctrines propounded in the Bhagavad Gıta are transformed into social and environmental ethics is a complex issue that will be discussed.