Roots of Sustainability in Ancient India


  • John J Kineman University of Colorado, Boulder
  • Deepak Anand Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning


sustainability, India, Vedic philosophy, R-theory, ancient holism


Archaeology of the ancient civilization discovered in the Indus Valley region (now including the re-discovered course of the river Saraswati) suggests similarities with Vedic philosophy pre-dating the classical Vedic period. Linking proto-Vedic origins with Harrapan and pre-Harrapan culture makes sense as the "Aryan Invasion Theory" is increasingly discredited from lack of evidence, and as evidence of a relatively undisturbed proto-Vedic cultural succession in the Indus-Saraswati region builds. A tentative link should thus be made between Vedic philosophy, for which no exogenous cultural origin as been found, with the Indus-Saraswati civilizations, which reveal clear evidence lending to Vedic interpretation. Textual, Geophysical, archaeological, philosophical, and genetic evidence are consistent with origin and sustainable practice of prototypical Vedic holism in the Indus/Saraswati region from at least 3000BC until decline and/or dispersion of the culture from 1900BC to 600BC, probably due to climate and hydrological changes. The new timeline suggests an early practice of Vedic holism that appears to have been sustainable for a surprising length of time.  We examine the possible basis of that holistic belief in terms of similarities between Vedic literature, images found on archaeological artefacts, and a recent systems theory of cyclical causation that also corresponds with Vedic thought.  The collapse of this highly productive, influential, and yet peaceful civilization, which was apparently a centre of holistic belief, corresponds with a dramatic rise of dualistic thinking that spread widely along with the development of Abrahamic religions, both having strong influences on Greek philosophy and the development of modern science.  Our present situation of proliferating technology in the absence of systemic comprehension of its impact on society and nature may thus be attributed to this dramatic pre-historical shift from holistic to dualistic thought. We conclude with recommending an international education and research agenda, applying modern system thinking to better understand the ancient concepts of holism. We also recommend much greater international attention to archaeology and other studies of the Indus/Saraswati region.

Author Biographies

John J Kineman, University of Colorado, Boulder

Dr. Kineman is a Senior Research Scientist at the Cooperative Institute for Research in the Environmental Sciences and Instructor in the Environmental Studies Program at the University of Colorado. His research is in relational theory and ecosystem ecology.

Deepak Anand, Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning

Dr. Anand is a Professor of Management Science at the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher learning. His research is into management systems and ethics of environmental management from a Vedic point of view.



How to Cite

Kineman, J. J., & Anand, D. (2015). Roots of Sustainability in Ancient India. Proceedings of the 58th Annual Meeting of the ISSS - 2014 United States, 1(1). Retrieved from