On Planetary Hospice and “Too Late”

Lion’s Roar recently posted this short commentary from Zen priest, climate scientist, and friend of One Earth Sangha, Kritee.

You can view the transcript of Kritee’s remarks on Lion’s Roar’s website.

Growing the Ecological Sangha

Ice Stupa in Ladakh. From climatechangenews.com.

Without you, we can’t do this work. We invite you to support One Earth Sangha.

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Over this past year, as we encounter increasingly alarming reports about wildfires, biodiversity loss, climate-induced warfare, and other calamities, we must also grapple with the mysterious and perhaps equally frightening lack of collective response. Research reveals that the vast majority of us not only acknowledge the reality of the climate breakdown but are deeply concerned. Why then do so many feel somehow powerless, unable to find the footing to stand against this stream? This crisis is revealing, teaching so much about this world but even more about ourselves: how we cling and rationalize,and avoid; how we inspire, discover courage and refrain; how we wrestle with fear and find new ways to hope. And it points to profound questions about ourselves: what do we value, how we do we really function, even deeper, who are we, where is meaning found, and what matters in this life?

The founding premise of One Earth Sangha is that the Buddhist tradition offers significant and largely untapped resources that can support us in bringing clarity and a steady resolve to our inter-related ecological, social, and spiritual crises.  We submit that Buddhist teachings and practices were never more needed. What was once the province of mystics may be to some degree required for remaining whole, connected and consistently helpful. Through our online presence and working in partnership with Dharma teachers and local communities around the world, diverse in tradition and racial makeup, our mission is to bring these considerable and much-needed resources to bear, to cultivate together an appropriate response to this unprecedented challenge.

Double the impact.
Donate before midnight, December 31
to have your contribution matched by one of our generous supporters.

The work doesn’t stop there; more is on offer. Thanks to our awesome team and a growing network of participating communities, we have the opportunity to provide the means for you, our members, to find one another and then to build strong local connections. We hope to support you in supporting one another in not just one but many forms of engaged response, acting from a place that is rooted in dharma and authentic community.

But there is even farther to go. With our partners in the Dharma and this Sangha, we want to explore in specific terms how Buddhism itself must evolve (for it has always done so). After receiving so much validation from modern science, how must its practices and teachings be modified to support not just a few but peoples in huge numbers in letting go of all in this world that must be relinquished and guiding us into mutual well-being, even amid unfolding ecological breakdown? If activist author Naomi Klein is right when she observes, This Changes Everything, then it’s not a question of whether but rather how Buddhism needs to change. We are excited to explore a conscious evolution of Buddhism with you over the coming year.

Yet without you, we can’t do this work. We invite you to support One Earth Sangha.

Support Our Work

One Earth Sangha has established itself as a virtual Dharma center: a source, curator, and amplifier of EcoDharma writing, a community for those who wish to take a mindfulness/dharma approach to their holding of ecological crisis, and a training ground for budding EcoSattvas all over the world. All of this is made possible by the dana (generosity) of sangha members like you. With your support, we can continue to offer resources for meeting this ecological and spiritual crisis with kindness, courage, creativity and equanimity. It is never too late to lean into the uncertainty and embody an appropriate response.

While often painful and sometimes heartbreaking, we are grateful that we are not alone on this journey; we are in Sangha. We hope you will support us and deeply appreciate whatever you can offer. May your generosity serve this collective awakening.


Dedication of Merit

Our prayer that any goodness generated here be extended out into the world:

May all places be held sacred.
May all beings be cherished.

May all injustices of oppression and devaluation
     be fully righted, remedied and healed.
May all wounds to forests, rivers, deserts, oceans,
     all wounds to Mother Earth be lovingly restored to bountiful health.

May all beings everywhere delight in whale song, birdsong and blue sky.
May all beings abide in peace and well-being, awaken and be free.

Online Course: Mindfully Facing Climate Change

From the organizer:

In this freely-offered, four week online program, Bhikkhu Anālayo presents a practical approach to the diverse challenges of climate change that is grounded in the teachings of early Buddhism.

In four, weekly video lectures in January 2020, Bhikkhu Anālayo provides an analysis of our climate crisis and offers suggestions for mindfully and skillfully working to mitigate and adapt to catastrophic unraveling. Each video is accompanied by a guided meditation as well as an installment of a four-part special issue he has written for the Insight Journal.

This online lecture series presented by Bhikkhu Anālayo also features guided meditations, supplemental readings, and an online forum moderated by James Baraz, Thanissara, Donald Rothberg, and One Earth Sangha director and co-founder Kristin Barker.

Green Himalayas and an Eco-Spiritual Future

In response to impending climate crisis, a growing number of Buddhist communities are moving beyond exclusively inward-focused practices to incorporate community-based action. Having traditionally taken the perspective that to heal ourselves is to heal the world, Raymond Lam, senior writer at Buddhist Door and collaborator with One Earth Sangha on initiatives such as the Global Buddhist Climate Change Collective, argues that explicit projects like those described here evidence a different path: to heal the world is to heal ourselves. While the traditional activist might be served by an inside-out approach, this trend points to the possibility that contemplatives move forward by turning outside-in.

Green Himalayas:
We need to envision an eco-spiritual future

By Raymond Lam

For decades, many Buddhist writers and leaders have argued that our outer world is a reflection of our inner state of being, and we cannot presume to fix the exterior before transforming our interior. This exhortation is often interpreted by the more activist-minded among us—perhaps a certain crowd of Buddhists who admire the participation of monastics like Bhikkhu Bodhi in protests and rallies, advocate social justice causes as diverse as legalizing marijuana to fully ordaining women in Theravada and Vajrayana, and feel aligned with left-wing politicians—as a rebuke, a warning to not sanctify political ideology with religious doctrine. This is a fair warning and should not be dismissed. Certainly, the crop of leaders that we see in many countries and societies is proof that the Three Poisons of greed, hatred, and delusion remain humanity and Planet Earth’s worst enemy. In other words, our mind remains simultaneously our prison and the key to our liberation.

If we accept that the human heart reflects the world around us, then we must also acknowledge that the world reciprocates and reflects the state of our inner being.

Yet it is also equally fair to consider an inverse interpretation. With the world now engulfed in the literal flames of a global ecocide, climate crisis, and human-triggered and exacerbated mass extinction, does it not reflect something rather destructive within ourselves that we have perhaps not truly grappled with in good faith? If we accept that the human heart reflects the world around us, then we must also acknowledge that the world reciprocates and reflects the state of our inner being. If we do not like what we see, then it serves as a mirror of something quite ugly within us. Regardless of how activist we feel at an individual level, the lesson of this inner-outer interconnectedness is not simply that we must heal ourselves to heal the world—to heal the world is to heal ourselves. Form is emptiness, emptiness is form. Samsara is no different to nirvana.

Green Himalayas: a Template for Resilience

On 25 September, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published a 1,200-page report titled: IPCC Special Report On The Ocean And Cryosphere In A Changing Climate (SROCC). It warned of a future unrecognizable to our present generations—”a world of multi-metre sea-level rise, vanished Himalayan glaciers, a Greenland denuded of permafrost and the collapse of the Antarctic ice sheet. It was a world of dead zones in the oceans, of category 5 cyclones hitting multiple times a year, and coastal cities and populations devastated by extreme weather events.”

This is a project with eco-spiritual values, which unite religious concerns with environmental ones. They are not separate from each other.

In October, two India-based NGOs launched “Green Himalayas,” a sustainability project based in Phobrang, Ladakh. According to The Times of India, the project’s aim is to prepare the Union Territory’s unique environment and communities for the challenges of climate change through multiple adaptation measures, along with “rejuvenating fragile ecosystems by creating a green cover in the Himalayan foothills and create a model site” at Phobrang. The site covers 250 acres and will be developed according to principles of sustainable employment for the local communities, particularly youth and women.

The target is to build a site sustained by renewable energy, and then replicate the sustainable model across the Himalayas. A key component of the initiative is the Trillion Tree Campaign (previously the Billion Tree Campaign until 2017), which has been supported by Buddhist leaders across Himalayan regions as diverse as India, Nepal, and Bhutan. 25,000 trees have already been planted in Phobrang with the help of local communities, with the ultimate aim being for the trees to span the entirety of the Himalayan foothills, from Ladakh to Arunachal Pradesh.

A Critical Convergence

Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang, lineage holder of the Drikung Kagyu Order. © Rinchen Ling, Nepal. CC-BY-SA-3.0

Across the world, we are seeing a convergence of environmental and spiritual values (most Catholics, Vatican watchers, and journalists will be familiar with the encyclicals and speeches given by Pope Francis over the years about climate change). Green Himalayas is a project with a similar character because it has the backing of the 37th throne holder of the Drikung Kagyu Order, His Holiness the Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang. He is also founder of one of the steering NGOs of the project, Go Green Go Organic (which is itself focused on environmental education initiatives and encouraging organic practices throughout Ladakh). In other words, this is a project with eco-spiritual values, which unite religious concerns with environmental ones. They are not separate from each other. The principle of eco-spirituality is itself importable across faith traditions, industries, cultures, and nations.

The overall picture is complex and perhaps riddled with paradoxes, but there can be no denying that forces in the corridors of power across Asia as well as the West value eco-spirituality.

This urgency crosses political divides in a way that other issues might not. Ladakh itself is a major flashpoint of the climate crisis, with several sustainable ecology initiatives already run by diverse NGOs, among them Go Green Go Organic and Goldenmile Learning. A gradual surge in summer rainfall from melting ice is threatening Ladakhi homes, which are made of stones, mud, and wood. Traditional farming practices in the mountainous region are also being disrupted. Ladakh is also feeling pressure from increased tourism, which has led to rising water consumption and water shortages.

Ladakh’s MP is Jamyang Tsering Namgyal, a member of the BJP—a political party that the West is at best ambivalent about due to its problematic relationship with Islam and its economic philosophy of deregulation and tax cuts. However, in my own experience covering Indian PM and BJP leader Narendra Modi’s Buddhist diplomacy since 2015, I have discovered that the environmental factor promoted in the corridors of religious diplomacy is far from an accidental throwaway. The overall picture is complex and perhaps riddled with paradoxes, but there can be no denying that forces in the corridors of power across Asia as well as the West value eco-spirituality, even if it is not articulated as such. Such trends should be encouraged.

Beyond politics, policymaking, and lobbying, it is critical for all of us that our “outer” work becomes as much part of our “inner” spiritual development as much as our “personal” cultivation nourishes “the world.” Time is short. It is time to shift the usual framing.

This article is based on Raymond’s piece in Buddhistdoor, Green Himalayas: Ladakh Launches Ambitious Climate Change Project.

Raymond LamRaymond is senior writer at Buddhistdoor Global and editor of its “Buddhism in the People’s Republic” project. Born in Hong Kong, he grew up in Brisbane and read religion at The University of Queensland, Buddhist Studies at The School of Oriental and African Studies, and Christianity and Interreligious Relations at Heythrop College. A Mahayana Buddhist layman since 2008, he entered religion journalism and began working for the Buddhistdoor organisation in 2010.

Giving Tuesday

As part of “Giving Tuesday,” we at One Earth Sangha are honored and excited to receive your support. The practice of generosity comes as an especially powerful antidote in a season increasingly defined by consumerism with its associated but hidden costs to people and planet. We are therefore feel a profound sense of obligation to ensure that your support goes to support our programs and operations in the most efficient way possible.

Between now and December 3, your donation will be matched by one of our generous supporters up to $2,000. We hope you’ll help us build momentum by offering your donation here and thereby encouraging others to do the same.

Whatever amount you can offer is deeply appreciated! May your generosity benefit all beings.

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We look forward to being in ever more engaged practice with you.