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One Earth Sangha is one of the platforms you really need to be hooked into as part of your vital support for living the Dharma within our planetary emergency. You will find many important resources, updates, and a lovely community there. Its work and contribution are peerless.” – Thanissara
As a “wicked” problem representing a self-induced, world-wide threat to nature as we know it as well as our own viability, climate change places unprecedented demands on human psychological and sociological capacity. Individually and collectively, we are repeatedly challenged to choose whether and how to face this slowly unfolding catastrophe.
A monk once asked the Zen master Yun Men, “What is the work of the Buddha’s whole life?”
Yun Men replied, “An appropriate response.” 1This koan is from The Blue Cliff Record, case fourteen; translators Thomas Cleary and J. C. Cleary. Note that while Cleary & Cleary translate the last line as “an appropriate statement,” we’re using the common variant “an appropriate response,” which is well-suited to our context yet not as implicitly deep.
The founding premise of One Earth Sangha is that the Buddhist tradition offers significant, largely untapped resources that can support us in bringing wisdom, compassion, courage, creativity, flexibility, and a steady resolve to our inter-related ecological and social crises. We suggest that the 2500-year old tradition that still actively contributes to and in many ways presaged modern psychology has similar potential to inform response to the climate crisis. Our mission is to support mindfulness practitioners, in the vital context of Sangha, or spiritual community, to bring these considerable gifts to bear, to cultivate together an appropriate response that addresses this collective suffering.
Unlike most spiritual traditions, mindfulness practitioners can identify as Buddhists or use the teachings as a secular complement to other beliefs or humanist approaches. This provides multiple entry points for Buddhist-based wisdom traditions to influence climate action and catalyze a transformation of the sustainability movement. The growing western Buddhist and secular mindfulness communities can be activated, while also building greater resilience among current climate activists. In short, practices from the Buddhist tradition can not only add numbers to the movement for responsible environmental action, but, more importantly, increase its efficacy and resilience.
One Earth Sangha brings the essential wisdom and practices from the Buddhist tradition to collective engagement on critical ecological crises. We assert that activism is more effective and sustainable when grounded in mindfulness and compassion and that social engagement is an essential part of the spiritual path. We bring these two forces, and their corresponding communities, together through teachings, community building and mindful action.
Our accomplishments to-date reflect our strategy with layers of offerings that build upon and inform each other.
Wisdom and Practices
Supported by a guiding council of teachers and leaders within many branches of Buddhism in the West, One Earth Sangha is well-recognized as a primary source of “EcoDharma” – the application of Buddhist wisdom to our ecological crisis. Our voice embodies an engaged compassionate perspective. Instead of battling specific individuals or groups, reduced and fixed as them as “the enemy,” we challenge their actions as expressions of greed, hatred and disconnection, patterns that all humans are vulnerable to. We take the long view, endeavoring to be courageous, even fierce and yet without bias, unshakable in our commitment to the welfare of all beings. Our offerings regularly integrate an understanding of how other social movements including racial and economic justice inform, support and compliment ecological concerns. Through a steady flow of insights, reflections, practices and fresh perspectives, our audience receives support for developing a stable, rational and compassionate response to our collective challenges.
At the center of our strategy is spiritual community or “Sangha.” Research shows that a sense of community provides critical support to individuals in facing and responding effectively to the problems facing our world. Local groups, or “EcoSanghas,” gather individuals from within one tradition, across many or affiliated with no tradition at all. These groups explore teachings, practice together and organize engagement activities. EcoSanghas are a natural complement to our EcoDharma offerings, in many cases emerging organically around our online trainings. We provide critical support to these groups by helping them connect, inspire and collaborate with one another.
In the Buddhist understanding, the unfettered heart naturally responds with wisdom and compassion. We provide the teachings and inspiration for response that is deeply grounded in individuals’ skills, passions and circumstances. Members are supported to explore a diversity of responses from developing healthy and sustainable solutions, to interrupting forms of destruction, advocating for environmental justice and supporting the transformation of consciousness to help heal the human/ earth relationship. We provide encouragement for local EcoSanghas to initiate their own actions, and help them to network regionally. In our partnerships with interfaith groups such as GreenFaith and Interfaith Power and Light, we act as an organizing point to bring the Buddhist/mindfulness communities and perspective to broader interfaith initiatives. We foster a form of heart-based, collaborative and unshakable activism, not driven by fear, anger, independent of outcomes and grounded in continuous spiritual practice.
Since our founding in 2013 as an engaged project with the Insight Meditation Community of Washington, One Earth Sangha has been a key player in the emergence the Buddhist response to climate change, providing a hub for information, connection and organizing. Early in its formation, our co-founders were invited to provide core leadership with Natural Dharma Fellowship in the breakout “EcoDharma Conference” at Wonderwell Mountain Refuge in the summer of 2014. The “Mindfulness and Climate Action” series mentioned above catalyzed strategic discussions that led to the formation of the Buddhist Climate Action Network, which remains our close partnership. As a founding member of the Global Buddhist Climate Change Collective, we assisted with and promoted the delivery of the Buddhist Declaration on Climate Change, presented to the UN Climate Negotiators at COP21 in Paris on November 28, 2015. We provide support for the development of tradition-specific responses such as the Earth Holders Sangha which is emerging out of the Thích Nhất Hạnh / Zen tradition. Finally, we collaborate with leading interfaith groups such as GreenFaith and Interfaith Power & Light. In particular, we worked with GreenFaith to the Buddhist-mindfulness contingent of the “People’s Climate March and other multi-faith initiatives. You can learn more about our partnerships here.
As an online Sangha that promotes and supports local practice, local Sanghas, and local engagement, we strive to model sustainability in our operations. Still, our digital platform contributes to the carbon footprint of our hosting data centers. In 2015, we migrated from our website operations away from a hosting service that used carbon offsets to compensate for relatively dirty energy sources. Thanks to our amazing volunteer tech staff, we are now self-hosted on Google Cloud services, ranked highest among all cloud computing services by GreenPeace’s Clicking Green report. Google data centers are on track to run on 100% renewable sources by the end of 2017.
A Place to Practice
What does it mean to live in accordance with Buddhist principles in the context of global climate change? What would our lives look like if we were to respond to the environmental crisis as an expression of our Buddhist path? How can Buddhism, with its understanding of greed, hatred and delusion, as well as its deep exploration of our connectedness and inter-being, contribute to a conversation about broad-scale transformation? How do we actualize the Bodhisattva vow and help ourselves and others fully awaken to the truth of a warming world?
One Earth Sangha will offer a place to live our way into the answers to these and other questions. As the founders and staff of One Earth Sangha. we feel privileged and honored to hold this space. We are an all-volunteer organization and so always looking for help. See how you can get involved.
|↩1||This koan is from The Blue Cliff Record, case fourteen; translators Thomas Cleary and J. C. Cleary. Note that while Cleary & Cleary translate the last line as “an appropriate statement,” we’re using the common variant “an appropriate response,” which is well-suited to our context yet not as implicitly deep.|