Dharma & Sustainability Initiative

“Earth provides enough to satisfy everyone’s need, but not everyone’s greed.”

― Mahatma Gandhi

Dharmic perspectives—embedded in doctrines and principles that posit living in symbiosis with the natural world as a spiritual and existential imperative—are indispensable to the quest for a viable planetary future.

The devastation of the ecosphere is inextricably linked to unsustainable economic, societal, racial, geopolitical, and cultural relationships. To enable the restoration and flourishing of the ecosystems of the biosphere, human societies need to be reimagined and reordered in terms of economic, cultural, religious, racial, and social equitability. The epistemic paradigms that have led to climate change and the ravaging of the earth, are not likely to lead the healing of the same. As such, ways of knowing that are embedded in religion, culture, and tradition are essential resources for the human transformation necessary for environmental regeneration and renewal.

Dharmic theologies, philosophies, texts, traditions, and ethics have much to offer the global endeavor to create a Sustainable Future for the biosphere. The Mira and Ajay Shingal Center initiative for Dharma & Sustainability sponsors Conferences, Specialized Symposia, Lectures, and Publications towards the fostering and development of the emerging area of Sustainability Studies in engagement with the ancient spiritual traditions of India.

"Can religion and faith combat eco-despair?"

CDS Director and Sustainability 360 Co-Chair Dr. Rita Sherma Interviewed in The Conversation

"Religions may disagree on many things, but each contains philosophical or theological orientations that can be interpreted and applied in ways that protect the Earth.

Some traditions such as Hindu, Yogic, Indigenous and others see the self as a microcosm of macrocosm, or a part of the greater whole. And, a profound sacred immanence, or integral divine presence, is woven through their philosophies. For these spiritual traditions, religious practice integrates trees, flowers, sacred groves, sanctified terrains, rivers, mountains and elements of the entire ecosphere into liturgical and personal practice."

Read Dr. Sherma's full interview "Can religion and faith combat eco-despair?" in The Conversation, and watch the video from the article below featuring Dr. Sherma:

From The Conversation: The "rights of nature" movement wants to give sacred rivers the same rights as people, and some religious groups are leading the way. It's part of many efforts around the world to preserve nature by drawing on faith traditions.

Religion and Sustainability: Interreligious Resources, Interdisciplinary Responses

Intersection of Sustainability Studies and Religion, Theology, Philosophy

This volume Religion and Sustainability: Interreligious Resources, Interdisciplinary Responses is one of the most recent publications of the Springer-Nature United Nations Sustainable Development Goals Book Series.

To enable the restoration and flourishing of the ecosystems of the biosphere, human societies need to be reimagined and reordered in terms of economic, cultural, religious, racial, and social equitability. This volume illustrates transformative paradigms to help foster such change. It introduces new principles, practices, ethics, and insights to the discourse. This work will appeal to students, scholars, and professionals researching the ethical, moral, social, cultural, psychological, developmental, and other social scientific impacts of religion on the key markers of sustainability. 

This volume brings sustainability studies into creative and constructive conversation with actions, practices, and worldviews from religion and theology supportive of the vision and work of the UN SDGs. It features more than 30 chapters from scholars across diverse disciplines, including economics, ethics, theology, sociology, ritual studies, and visual culture. This interdisciplinary content presents new insights for inhibiting ecospheric devastation, which is inextricably linked to unsustainable financial, societal, racial, geopolitical, and cultural relationships. The chapters show how humanistic elements can enable the establishment of sustainable ways of thinking, feeling, and acting. This includes the aesthetic and emotive dimensions of life. The contributors cover such topics as empowering women and girls to systemically reverse climate change; nurturing interreligious peace; decolonizing landscapes; and promoting horticulture, ecovillages, equity, and animal ethics. Coverage integrates a variety of religious and theological perspectives. These include Buddhism, Judaism, Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, and other traditions.

Aims of the volume:

  1. Adds principles that are beneficent from religions, theologies, and religious philosophies to the discourse of sustainability studies
  2. Brings together scholars on the much debated issue of social, economic, and environmental justice 
  3. Argues that humanistic elements can help enable sustainable ways of thinking, feeling, and acting 

Visions for a Viable Future: In a Time of Covid & Climate Calamity

Sustainable Societies Conference II - March 19, 2021

In March 2021, CDS along with the Sustainability 360 Initiative of the Graduate Theological Union hosted "Visions for a Viable Future: In a Time of Covid & Climate Calamity" - a virtual conference that served as a follow up to the 2017 conference "Towards Sustainable Societies: Interreligious, Interdisciplinary Responses." The conference asked the question: In the face of the global COVID-19 pandemic and climate calamity, when the linked injustices of economic, social, and environmental inequity are on the rise, what answers can our religious traditions provide?

Plenary speakers included Dr. John Grim of Yale University, Dr. Bron Taylor of the University of Florida, as well as conference co-conveners Dr. Rita Sherma and Dr. Devin Zuber. Events included panel discussions featuring experts from the GTU and beyond addressing the following themes:

  • Visions for a Viable Tomorrow: Imagining Planetary Vitality
  • Visions for a Viable Tomorrow: The Arc of Justice
  • Healing from a Pandemic: Ecopsychology & Ecospirituality
  • The Ethics & Justice of Ecological Consciousness: Local & Global Perspectives

For more info, please visit the conference event page or view the online conference program book.


Towards Sustainable Societies: Interreligious, Interdisciplinary Responses

Sustainable Societies Conference I - April 28-29, 2017

CDS hosted a two-day conference on 28th & 29th April, 2017 exploring interreligious and interdiscplinary approaches to building sustainable societies. The event featured panel conversations and presentations from a host of renowned educators, including more than twenty scholars from across the GTU and its member schools and centers. Plenary speakers included internationally known scholar of ecology and religion Dr. Mary-Evelyn Tucker of Yale University, and Dr. Anantantand Rambachan of St. Olaf College.

Events included panel discussions featuring experts from the GTU and beyond addressing the following themes:

  • Virtue Ethics for a Sustainable World
  • Ecovillages & Environmentally Conscious Living
  • Art, Literature, Ritual & Ecology
  • Religious & Ethnic Diversity: Empowerment and Emancipation
  • Conversations on Saturday with panels addressed: 
  • Theology, Sustainability, and the Natural Sciences
  • Dharma and Right Relationships

The closing portion of the conference focused on Hindu Ecophilosophy and Ecotheology, and featured a keynote by Dr. Anantanand Rambachan (who offered the GTU's 2015 Surjit Singh lecture), and panel conversations on Advaita Vedanta and Vaishnava Vedanta.



By His Grace Gauranga Dasa Prabhu


The GTU's Center for Dharma Studies hosted His Grace Gauranga Dasa Prabhu who spoke on sustainable living as showcased by the Govardhan Ecovillage in India. Response by Devin Zuber of the Center for Swedenborgian Studies.

On September 23rd 2016, His Grace Gauranga Dasa Prabhu offered a presentation on the internationally acclaimed Govardhan Ecovillage, of which he is the co-founder along with HH Shri Radhanath Swami. The presentation took place in the Doug Adams Gallery of Center for the Arts and Religion (CARe) of the GTU. The CARe Gallery is currently exhibiting a nature-oriented series of canvases: The Hermitage of Landscape: Works by Nicholas Coley, which made a perfect background for Gauranga Prabhu’s presentation on the preservation and protection of the natural world.

HG Gauranga Prabhu graduated from the Indian Institutes of Technology, Mumbai, in 1993. He is Vice-President of the Sri Sri Radha-Gopinath temple, Chowpatty, in Mumbai, India. HG Gauranga Prabhu is a senior disciple of H.H. Radhanath Swami Maharaj and a major contemporary exponent of the application of the teachings of Krishna Bhakti to the most demanding challenges of our time.  As a personal compelling interest in dedicated spiritual service became an undeniable calling, he moved in as a full time pastor at the ISKCON Center in Chowpatty in Mumbai. Today, he is a sought-after speaker on the many projects that he leads and manages--including the acclaimed Govardhan Ecovillage initiative.

In addition to conducting seminars widely across a large number of prominent Engineering colleges, medical colleges, and management institutes, he also counsels on stress management in several co-operative organizations for senior level managers. Featuring on the popular “Atma,” a daily spiritual discourse on the Star TV network, he ministers to millions in India and U.K. He lectures internationally on integrative approaches to a productive life lived in service to a more just and sustainable society.