Engaging Mindfully in the Healing of Our World
In conjunction with the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco, on Saturday, September 15 from 9:30 am to 5:00 pm, Spirit Rock Meditation Center and One Earth Sangha will host an exploration of the power of mindful presence to meet global ecological crises with active compassion. This special day of inspired teaching, music and conversation will feature Julia Butterfly Hill, Jack Kornfield, Joanna Macy, Anam Thubten, Verlinda Montoya, James Baraz, Naomi Newman and more. This event will be live-streamed so we encourage you to gather with others in your community to join all day or the sessions that work with your schedule.
We’re delighted to report that we’ll be joined by Christiana Figueres, the architect of the United Nations Paris Climate Agreement and co-coordinator with Governor Jerry Brown of the Global Climate Action Summit. Christiana is a practitioner in the Plum Village tradition and has spoken publicly about the role that her teacher, Thich Naht Hanh, and her practice played in supporting the forging of the Paris accords. The program will feature Christiana in conversation with Spirit Rock founder, Jack Kornfield, and One Earth Sangha co-founder, Lou Leonard.
Live the Change
This event is part of One Earth Sangha’s collaboration with partners in the faith traditions to bring fully embodied and spiritual grounded, response to ecological crises. Learn more about Living the Change here.
Join Us on September 15th
Whether you’re brand new to meditation or sitting at the precipice of enlightenment, we hope you’ll join us for this unique opportunity to meet this historic moment with a wise and responsive heart.
Generosity is a powerful force,
one that has a way of multiplying.
Between now and year’s end, the multiplication is immediate.
Thanks to one of our generous supporters, if you donate by midnight on December 31,
your contribution to One Earth Sangha be matched, dollar for dollar.
It has been an extraordinary year. Global environmental change is now manifesting in losses, sometimes devastating, for millions of people around the world. In this year alone, we bear witness to the large-scale suffering caused by climate-charged fires, hurricanes and floods. The world continues to lose the great wealth that is our natural biodiversity and every day, millions of individual animals are treated as units of production instead of dignified, sentient beings.
Meanwhile, empowered political leaders seek to distract our attention and divide social cohesion all while granting more advantage to the already advantaged. We face ever-accumulating and simultaneous environmental and social justice crises, evidenced most recently in Puerto Rico, a perfect storm of climate-charged weather, political callousness, and aggressive racial bias resting on a deep history of the objectification of people and planet.
As you look forward to the coming year, knowing our challenges will continue, what will guide you? What connections, practices and wisdom will help you respond in a way that affirms, nourishes and protects basic goodness?
We at One Earth Sangha have never been more honored to collaborate with all of you to bring the wisdom and practices of the Dharma to this global moment. We support a vision of spiritual engagement on collective issues that includes but is not limited to resistance, that sees and counters harm but is not defined by it. Indeed, we find our own freedom not despite our conditions but through them.
We look forward to continuing this collaboration with you in 2018, exploring new projects and partnerships. But we cannot move forward without your support. With gratitude and humility, we invite you to include One Earth Sangha in your year-end giving.
Now is the time! A generous donor has agreed to pledge up to $5,000 in matching funds if you donate between now and midnight, December 31.
A recent article on the Dharma Voice for Animals website points out that the common invocation of the metta meditation, “May all being be happy…may all being be free from suffering” refers to ALL beings. The DVA piece goes on to note, “We are taught that suffering is suffering, regardless of its manifestation.” In his plea for animals, Matthieu Ricard is quick to point out that asking us to extend our compassion is not to offer a rebuke; views about animals embedded in many cultures can make it hard to shift our perspective. In focusing on our interdependence with all beings, Ricard taps into the eco-dharma foundation for making that shift.
Some people are born with a natural tendency to be compassionate. From an early age, they show spontaneous kindness toward those around them, including animals. This was not the case for me. I was born into a Breton family, and until I was fourteen years old I often used to go fishing. I also remember when I was very young my friends from the local school and I once grilled ants by focusing the sun’s rays on them with a magnifying glass. Looking back, I am ashamed of this, but it upsets me even more that such behavior struck me as normal.
When I was five, my father took me to see the bullfights in Mexico. It was a celebration. The music was exciting. Everybody seemed to feel this was a great occasion, that all of this was wonderful. Why didn’t I leave in tears? Was it a lack of compassion, of education, of imagination?
We live in an essentially interdependent world where the fate of each being, of whatever kind, is intimately linked to that of all the others. So what I am suggesting here is not concern for animals only but concern for animals also.
At the age of twenty I had the great good fortune of meeting Tibetan spiritual masters, who from that time on have inspired every moment of my existence. The central point of their teachings has been the royal way of love and universal compassion. Although for a long time I had not been able to put myself in others’ places, by training with the masters, I learned altruistic love, doing the best I could to open my mind and heart to the plights of others. I trained myself in compassion, and I reflected on the human condition and the condition of animals as well.
It is far from my intention to rebuke people who in one way or another cause animals to suffer. They often do it without thinking, as I myself used to do. It truly is difficult to make the connection between the latest consumer items, including food and medicines that sometimes save our lives, and the suffering that is usually involved in their fabrication. Cultural traditions also play a major role in our perceptions of animals, our companions on this planet. Some societies have developed collective patterns of thought that encourage the view that animals exist to serve humans, although the outlook of other traditions has long been that every being, human or nonhuman, must be respected.
Certainly there is so much suffering among human beings that one could spend one’s whole life just alleviating a tiny fraction of it. Despite that, however, concern for the fate of the 7.7 million other species of animals that inhabit this planet is neither unrealistic nor misguided, because most of the time there is no need to choose between the well-being of humans and the well-being of animals. We live in an essentially interdependent world where the fate of each being, of whatever kind, is intimately linked to that of all the others. So what I am suggesting here is not concern for animals only but concern for animals also.
In spite of the sense of wonder the animal kingdom inspires in us, we are responsible for an ongoing massacre of animals on a scale unequaled in the history of humankind.
Such an approach does not involve humanizing animals or animalizing humans; rather, it is a matter of extending benevolence and kindness to all. Reaching out in this way is more about taking a responsible attitude toward all that is around us than about making choices concerning what we should do with the limited resources we possess for action in the world.
In spite of the sense of wonder the animal kingdom inspires in us, we are responsible for an ongoing massacre of animals on a scale unequaled in the history of humankind. Every year, sixty billion land animals and a thousand billion marine animals are killed for our consumption. Moreover, this mass killing and its corollary—the excessive consumption of meat in the wealthy countries—is madness on a global scale. It perpetuates hunger in the world, increases the world’s ecological imbalances, and is even harmful to human health.
We continue to live in ignorance concerning the harm we inflict on animals—very few of us have ever visited an industrial breeding site or a slaughterhouse. We maintain a kind of moral schizophrenia that has us lavishly pampering our pets and at the same time planting our forks in the pigs that have been sent to the slaughter by the millions, even though they are in no way less conscious, less sensitive to pain, or less intelligent than our cats and dogs.
Starting with the era of the ancestors we share with other animal species, little by little, by a long series of steps and minimal changes, we arrived at the stage of Homo sapiens. In the course of this slow evolution, there was no “magical moment” that would justify our conferring on ourselves a special nature that makes us fundamentally different from the many species of hominids that preceded us. Nothing occurred in the evolutionary process that would justify our claim to a right of total supremacy over the animals.
The most striking quality that humans and animals have in common is the capacity to experience suffering. Why do we still blind ourselves, now at the beginning of the twenty-first century, to the immeasurable suffering that we inflict on animals, knowing that a great part of the pain that we cause them is neither necessary nor unavoidable? Certainly we should know that there is no moral justification for inflicting needless pain and death on any being.
Matthieu Ricard is a Buddhist monk who had a promising career in cellular genetics before leaving France thirty-five years ago to study Buddhism in the Himalayas. He is an author, translator, and has been a participant in scientific research on the effects that meditation has on the brain. Ricard’s work is held high regard in intellectual circles in Europe, and two books he co-authored, The Monk and the Philosopher and The Quantum and the Lotus, are best-sellers in France. He lives in Tibet and Nepal.