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Advaita Vedānta and Its Implications for Deep Ecology


While it is sometimes characterized as a “world-denying” philosophy, Advaita, or non-dual Vedānta, with its vision of the ultimate oneness of all existence, bears within itself the capacity to form the conceptual basis not only for liberation as it traditionally understood in Hindu traditions—as mokṣa, or freedom from the cycle of rebirth—but also for a project of human emancipation in a more conventional, socio-political sense—as freedom from oppression and injustice. This paper will examine Advaita Vedānta, particularly as presented by Swami Vivekananda (1863–1902), in terms of its implications for deep ecology.

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  1. See, for example, Mohandas K. Gandhi, Hind Swaraj or Indian Home Rule (Ahmedabad: Navajivan Publishing House, 1909) and Anantanand Rambachan, A Hindu Theology of Liberation: Not-Two Is Not One (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2015).

  2. “Environmental Justice” (, accessed August 21, 2020).

  3. Though this attribution has been challenged by a number of scholars. John Grimes notes that “modern scholars tend to reject that Adi Shankara composed Vivekachudamani, while traditionalists tend to accept it.” See John Grimes, The Vivekacūḍāmani of Śaṅkarācārya and Bhagavatpāda: An Introduction and Translation (New Delhi: Dominant Publishers and Distributors, 2004), p. 23.

  4. Pravrajika Vrajaprana, Vedanta: A Simple Introduction (Hollywood: Vedanta Press, 1999), p. 7.

  5. Swami Tyagananda, Knowing the Knower: A Jñāna Yoga Manual (Gol Park, Kolkata: Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture, 2017), pp. 25–26.

  6. Swami Vivekananda, Complete Works, Volume 1 (Mayavati: Advaita Ashrama, 1979), p. 93.

  7. See, for example, the works in the SUNY Series on Religion and the Environment.

  8. A famous, or infamous, example is Genesis 1:26, “Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likenesss, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” (New International Version).

  9. See Mary Evelyn Tucker and Duncan Ryūken Williams, Buddhism and Ecology: The Interconnection of Dharma and Deeds (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1997) and Christopher Key Chapple, ed., Jainism and Ecology: Nonviolence in the Web of Life (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2006).

  10. Anil Agarwal, Can Hindu Beliefs and Values Help India Meet Its Ecological Crisis?, in Christopher Key Chapple and Mary Evelyn Tucker, eds., Hinduism and Ecology: The Intersection of Earth, Sky, and Water (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2000), pp. 177–178.

  11. Griffin, David Ray. Introduction to SUNY Series in Constructive Postmodern Thought, in Nicholas F. Gier, Spiritual Titanism: Indian, Chinese and Western Perspectives (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2000), pp. xxi-xxvi.

  12. Ibid.

  13. Vivekananda, Volume 1, p. 17.

  14. Ibid, p. Volume 3, p. 398.

  15. A very careful reviewer of an earlier draft of this article noted that, while Indra’s weapon is called a thunderbolt (or vajra), it is not literally a thunderbolt, but a solid weapon made out of the bones of sage, or rishi, Dadhichi. Dadhichi offered his bones for the making of this invincible weapon. See Swami Bodhasarananda, Stories from the Bhagavatam (Mayavati: Advaita Ashrama, 2014).

  16. For further discussion of the Vedic divinities as embodying natural forces, see Nanditha Krishna, Hinduism and Nature (New York: Penguin, 2017).

  17. Bhagavad Gita 7:7 Translation adapted from George Thompson, The Bhagavad Gītā: A New Translation (New York: North Point Press, 2008).

  18. Bhagavad Gita 6:30-31 Translation adapted from George Thompson, The Bhagavad Gītā: A New Translation (New York: North Point Press, 2008).

  19. Julius Lipner, The World as God’s ‘Body’: In Pursuit of Dialogue with Rāmānuja, in Roy Perrett, ed., Philosophy of Religion: Indian Philosophy (New York: Garland Publishing, 2001), p. 59.

  20. Vrajaprana, Pravrajika. Vedanta: A Simple Introduction (Hollywood, CA: Vedanta Press, 1999), p. 60.

  21. Vivekananda, Volume 7, pp. 111–112.

  22. Ibid, 14.

  23. Ibid, 39.

  24. Vivekananda, Volume 1, p. 394.

  25. Ibid, Volume Two, p. 146.

  26. Ibid, Volume Two, p. 297.


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Long, J.D. Advaita Vedānta and Its Implications for Deep Ecology. DHARM (2022).

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  • Advaita Vedānta
  • Deep ecology
  • Hinduism
  • Vivekananda, Swami
  • Indian philosophy