October 6 through 13
Sanghas To Focus on EcoDharma
As an annual event, Earth Care Week is both a challenge and an invitation to address the suffering of ecological breakdown withing our sanghas, spiritual friends and sitting groups, and other mindfulness gatherings. We invite the One Earth Sangha community to participate in Earth Care Week each year on the first Sunday to Sunday in October, which in 2019 falls on October 6 through 13. Practitioners, teachers and group leaders are challenged to take up and explore any theme of EcoDharma. We offer some history and ideas below.
Earth Care Week was launched in 2013 by teachers gathered at the International Vipassana Teachers meeting at Spirit Rock. In proposing the annual observance, the teachers were responding to a request for teachings on climate change signed by more than 2,000 practitioners, including many members of the One Earth Sangha community. Following the meeting, the Dharma Teachers International Collaborative on Climate Change was formed that soon issued a statement on climate change and formally established Earth Care Week as a time in which Sanghas would be challenged to especially focus on climate breakdown and other ecological threats.
Earth Care Week offers a chance to support each other in breaking climate silence. Practicing together in local sanghas (no matter how small!) around the unprecedented threats to ecological health can uncover a path toward compassion, energy and even joy. The Dharma supports us in countering tendencies around blaming others, whether its for their outright denial or passive ambivalence, and shaming ourselves, either for our own contribution or not doing more to stop the crisis. We know from our own experience that meeting difficulty directly with wisdom and compassion naturally leads to skillful response.
Potential Themes for 2019
This website, the resources, tags (those words on the side bar), categories (under EcoDharma), statements (well, for that you’ll have to put “statements” in the search bar), can be considered a starting point for any number of EcoDharma explorations.
Alternatively, consider this recipe: take any aspect of the Dharma, bring it to the collective level and intersect it with ecological or ecological crisis. Wallah! EcoDharma.
With that in mind, we offer here three examples and potential ideas for your EcoDharma exploration, for Earth Care Week and beyond.
A Buddhist Take on Faith Amid Climate Crisis
Avoiding climate breakdown will require cathedral thinking. We must lay the foundation while we may not know exactly how to build the ceiling. Sometimes we just simply have to find a way … But the opportunity to do so will not last for long. We must start today. We have no more excuses.
Greta’s notion of “Cathedral Thinking” may be remarkably similar to the Buddhist notion of faith which is not so much about believing in something as it is a self-reinforcing process that, with our investment, unfolds over time. The Dharma offers inspiration and guidance. Upon receive this, we can simply invest our energy and attention in an experiment, a leap of faith. The practice is almost always unfamiliar, awkward and fraught with uncertainty. Escape routes abound. Yet with patience, the practice unfolds and we find that realized benefits as well as a growing trust and sense of possibility propel us onward.
How can we apply the Buddhist understanding of faith, wise-effort as well as the conditioned nature of reality to our response to climate crisis? What is our resistance to doing so? How does faith operate differently internally vs. externally, individually vs. collectively?
Ethical Precepts as Trainings
The Buddhist ethical framework, sila in Pali, is presented not as an outcome, commandment or moral test but rather a commitment to develop ethical behavior. So, for example, rather than “thou shalt not kill,” one pledges to “undertake the training to refrain from killing.” This approach allows us to develop qualities like self-regulation and restraint as an aspect of practice. Moreover, we are afforded a path to non-harming that is responsive to context and increasing understanding. We are supported in learning what forms of “harm” take place, harm that we might be contributing to, in the modern world and any given situation.
What does this mean for developing ethical relationships between humans and the rest of nature, between humans and other humans? When it comes to more complex forms of harm, say eating meat or racial microaggressions, might the commitment to “undertake the training” afford accountability, increasing wisdom and sensitivity, and ultimately less harm all while avoiding self-defeating shame?
Mindfulness and Climate Conversations
A theme to be further explored in the new EcoSattva Training, bringing willingness and careful attention to our conversations with others about climate crisis holds enormous potential to shift the dynamics of polarization.
Those of us deeply sensitized to the threats to the rest of nature are often challenged to effectively communicate our concerns beyond our converted circles. But our avoidance of the topic, which is pervasive, leaves the vast majority of the greater society, who are in fact concerned, to suffer in silence. Rather than this form of problematic silence, how might the Dharma guide us into these conversations as skillful encounters with that which is difficult? Might we take a very different approach then that which seems so obviously called for? Rather with an agenda of convincing might we aim for our own genuine interest and establishing authentic connection? What do notions of creating a container, patience, listening, inquiry, non-judgmental awareness have to offer? What internal challenges do we face when we go this route? How might the Dharma invite us to measure the “success” of such encounters and on what time-frame?
Your Ideas and Experience
These are just a few ideas that might be explored in the vast field and highly relevant field of EcoDharma. We invite your ideas below. What insights and practices have you discovered in classic Dharma that warrant exploration by teachers and Sanghas?
We invite you and your Sangha to join us with Earth Care Week. Please share your ideas for topics as well as challenges and flowerings below.