There are many ways to engage in wise action in a time of increasing climate change and other environmental crises. An important step can be simply sitting with the difficult emotions that arise and noticing how these can affect our response. Many of us experience, feelings of disempowerment or overwhelm in the face of problems that are so broad and complex. Sometimes there is an urge to find some way check out.
Taking action that contributes to solving the problem can be part of a wise response. We can gather with others, listen to each other’s experiences, express our caring through words or song. We can take steps to make our lives and organizations more sustainable. And, when the opportunity arises, we can join with others to speak and act in the public conversation about climate change.
Whatever steps we take, we can see them as taken in solidarity with the whole human family, all species and the Earth itself. With mindful awareness, we can experience these actions as a direct expression of our practice and of the Dharma itself, particularly: the experience of interdependence of all beings, a sense of global kindness, the sincere wish to refrain from harm, a deep compassion for all suffering, appreciation for the privileges we have to take action and the recognition that many are not so fortunate. We might sense that each action we take, no matter how seemingly small, is a jewel in the larger web.
One Earth Sangha is a home for all expressions of wise response to climate change. We are here to cultivate sangha – a sense of community – in these responses. As a Buddhist community devoted to teachings of wisdom and compassion we have an important contribution to make to the public conversation, one that draws on the compassion and wisdom in every human heart and makes enemies of none.
In that spirit, we offer here an opportunity to join with other Buddhists in asking U.S. President Barack Obama to reject the Keystone XL pipeline. If this action resonates with you and you chose to add your name to the petition, we invite you to do so as a practice in mindfulness, noticing what arises along the way. . What motivates you to sign? Do conflicting feelings also arise? Can you cultivate a sense of gratitude toward yourself for acting in the interests of people known and unknown, the not-yet-born and indeed all life on Planet Earth?
Letter to President Obama:
To: President Obama, President of the United States of America
Dear President Obama,
As leaders of the Buddhist/ Mindfulness/ Dharma/ Yoga Communities, we join the call requesting you to act courageously and reject the Keystone pipeline.
We appeal to your wisdom, compassion and courage – the wisdom to see that this project, and projects like it, lead us on a path of destruction; and the compassion and courage to set a new course for our planet – one embracing renewable energy – at this crucial hour in humanity’s history.
We ask you to embrace intelligent solutions and bypass what “business as usual” calls pragmatism. We remind you of a message of hope you offered the world 6 years ago.
Together, with your active support, we can work towards a sustainable future for the generations to come. We thank you for your attention to this pressing issue. We thank you for your wise guidance towards decreasing dependence on fossil fuels while generating innovative investment in sustainable energy.
You can sign the petition here:
Petition to U.S. President Obama: Reject the XL Pipeline
Some of the Buddhist Leaders who have signed:
Bhikkhu Bodhi-Translator, Teacher, Activist, New Jersey
Joanna Macy-The Work That Reconnects, Berkeley CA
Bhikkhu Sucitto-Chithurst Monastery, W.Sussex, UK
Dr.Jack Kornfield-Spirit Rock Meditation Center, CA
Joseph Goldstein – Barre MA
Tara Brach-Insight Meditation Community of Washington DC
James Baraz – Spirit Rock Meditation Center, Berkeley CA
Andrew Harvey – Institute for Sacred Activism, AR
Roshi Joan Halifax -Upaya Zen Center, NM
Amma Thanasanti Bhikkhuni – Awakening Truth, Colorado
Ayya Santacitta Bhikkhuni – Aloka Vihara, San Francisco CA
Ayya Anandabodhi Bhikkhuni-Aloka Vihara, San Francisco CA
Eugene Cash – Spirit Rock & San Francisco Insight
Rev.Gil Fronsdal-Insight Meditation Center,Redwood City CA
Bhante Bodhidhamma – Satipanya Retreat, Minsterley UK
Sarah Powers – Insight Yoga Institute, New York
Ty Powers – Insight Yoga Institute, New York
Christopher Titmuss – Teacher, Activist UK
Gregory Kramer – Insight Dialog, Orcas WA
Noah Levine – Dharma Punx, LA
Catherine McGee – Gaia House, Devon UK
Santusssika Bhikkhuni – Karuna Vihara, Millbrae CA
Bob Doppelt – Mindfulness & Climate Teacher, Eugene Oregon
Kristin Barker – One Earth Sangha, Washington DC
Trudy Goodman – LA Insight
Kittisaro – Chattanooga Insight & Dharmagiri S.Africa
Chris Cullen – Oxford Insight & Gaia House UK
Karma Lekshe Tsomo – Sakyadhita, San Diego
Ashin Sopaka – Penang Malaysia
Adrianne Ross – Vancouver Insight, Canada
Kathryn Turnipseed – Albuquerque Vipassana Sangha, NM
Chas DiCapua – Insight Meditation Society, Barre, MA
Martin Aylward – Moulin de Chaves Center, France
Pascal Auclair – Montreal Insight, Canada
Stefan Lang – Beatenberg Meditation Center, Switzerland
Grove Burnett – Vallecitos Mountain Center, Taos NM
Tina Rasmussen Ph.D – Awakening Dharma, CA
Stephen Snyder – Awakening Dharma, CA
Michael Grady – Cambridge Insight Meditation Center, MA
Pamela Weiss – San Francisco Insight
Dr Itamar Bashan – Bhavana House, Tel Aviv Israel
Norman Feldman – Insight Retreats, Ontario Canada
Fred Von Allmen-Beatenberg Meditation Center, Switzerland
Anna Douglas – Spirit Rock Meditation Center, CA
Donald Rothberg – Spirit Rock Meditation Center, CA
Spring Washam – Spirit Rock Meditation Center, CA
Sylvia Boorstein – Spirit Rock Meditation Center, CA
Sally Armstrong, Co-guiding Teacher SRMC, CA
Arinna Weisman – Bay Area Queer Sangha, Oakland, CA
Nolitha Tsengiwe-Johannesburg Insight, Dharmagiri S.Africa
Nobantu Mpotulo – Pretoria Meditation, Dharmagiri S.Africa
Judy Tobler – Cape Town Meditation & Dharmagiri, S. Africa
Sue Cooper – Dharmagiri, Cape Town S.Africa
Bhikkhu Khemasiri – Kandersteg Monastery, Switzerland
Sally Armstrong – Spirit Rock Meditation Center, CA
Guy Armstrong – Spirit Rock Meditation Center, CA
Tempel Smith – East Bay Sangha, Oakland
Sujato Bhikkhu – Santi Forest Monastery, Australia
Ralph Steele – Life Transition Therapy, Santa Fe NM
Molly Swan – True North Insight, Ontario Canada
Ilan Lutenberg – Tovana Insight Meditation, Israel
Rob Burbea – Gaia House, Devon UK
Sister Kovida – Forest Sangha, Glastonbury UK
La Sarmiento – Inward Bound Mindfulness Education, DC
Stephen Fulder – Tovana Insight Meditation, Israel
Sebene Selassie – New York Insight.
Kirsten Kratz – Sangha Seva, Devon UK
Wes Nisker – Berkeley, CA
Mary Grace Orr – Spirit Rock Center, Volcano HI
Larry Yang – Spirit Rock Meditation Center CA
Noon Baldwin – Ekuthuleni Retreat Place, France
Sumedha – Ekuthuleni Retreat Place, France
Eva Bruha – Kalyana Centre for Mindfulness, Ireland
Howard Cohn-Spirit Rock & Mission Dharma San Francisco
Dechen Rochard – Cambridge University, UK
Mark Coleman – Awake in the Wild, CA
Diana Winston – Awareness Research Center UCLA
Thubten Chödrön – Sravasti Abbey, WA
Elizabeth West – Buddhist, Christian, Vedanta Network, UK
Rory Singer – New Road Consultancy, UK
Dokjang Sunim – Czech Republic & Korea
Andrea Fella – Insight Meditation Center, Redwood City CA
Carol Wilson – Insight Meditation Society, MA
Sharda Rogell – Spirit Rock Meditation Center, CA
Sister Upekkha – Forest Sangha, India
Ursula Flueckiger-Beatenberg Meditation Centre,Switzerland
Gavin Harrison-Hawaii Island Insight Meditation Community
Anne Cushman – Spirit Rock Meditation Center, CA
Ven Pannavati Bhikkhuni – Sisters of Compassion, NC
Debra Chamberlin-Taylor – Bay Area Sanghas, CA
Bernie Clark – Yin Yoga, Vancouver Canada
Shell Fischer – Winchester Insight Group, Virginia
Trisha Stotler-Insight Meditation Community of Washington
Ruth King – Mindful Community of Charlotte, NC
Hugh Byrne – Mindfulness for Everyday Life, MD
Ven. Dr. Cintita Dinsmore – Austin, TX
Ven. Samten Palmo – Sebastopol, CA
Lama Döndrup Jennifer Grant, CA
Amaranatho Samanera – Australia
Dhammadarsa Bhikkhu – Australia
Suvaco – Devon Vihara UK
Mahesi Caplan – Golden Buddha – Totnes UK
Moyra Keane-Jo’burg Meditation & Dharmagiri, S.Africa
Simon Whitesman-Institute of Mindfulness-S.Africa
Marjo Oosterhoff – Irish Theravada Sangha
Greg Scharf – IMS/Spirit Rock Teacher Sangha
Noliwe Alexander-East Bay Meditation Community Oakland
Yanai Postelnik-Gaia House UK
Rodney Smith-Seattle Insight
Dana DePalma-Spirit Rock, Marin CA
Sandy Boucher – Author, Oakland CA
Gina Sharpe – New York Insight
Thanissara – Chattanooga Insight & Dharmagiri S.Africa
In observance of the first annual Earth Care Week, our dear friends at the Aloka Vihara community in San Francisco, California, USA have put together a beautiful itinerary, open to the public. Consistent with the spirit of cooperation we wanted to inspire, some of their events are coordinated with the Dhammadharini Bhikkhuni nuns sangha and Karuna Buddhist Vihara (Compassion Monastery). Their week also features a direct act of service and compassion with a Walk to Feed the Hungry.
Oct 1, Opening Evening for Earth Care Week at the Vihara
- Video showing ‘Story of Stuff’ followed by tea with the commmunity
- Video showing ‘Happy’ followed by sharing & discussion
- Puja (expressions of honour, worship and devotional attention) & Individual Determinations & Protection Chanting for the Earth
Oct 3, At your home: A Day Without Electricity
- Remembering the Buddha’s last words: “Be a light unto yourself”, we will not use any lights or appliances (except fridge & freezer) for the whole day. An investigation of our dependency on electricity to illuminate the heart and mind – please join us for an electricity-free day in your own home if you can.
Oct 4, Lunar (New Moon) Observance at the Vihara with the Dhammadharini Bhikkhuni Sangha
- Meal with Dhammadharini Nuns Sangha followed by the Patimokkha Recitation and then tea
- Puja and Dhamma Sharing on Earth Care and Climate Change
Oct 5, Honoring Earth Care Week at Karuna Buddhist Vihara, Milbrae
- Tea with guests
- Puja (expressions of “honour, worship and devotional attention) & Panel Discussion
Oct 6, Buddhist Global Relief Walk in San Jose
Oct 7, Closing Evening for Earth Care Week at the vihara
- Sutta Discussion related to Climate Change (AN 7:66)
- Puja & Protection Chanting for the Earth
Wise action in the face of climate change can be an important and satisfying part of our practice. During the first week of October (1-7 October 2013), Earth Care Week will unfold. We invite you to join the global sangha in this annual expression of brave presence with the natural world in this time of great change. With support from One Earth Sangha, you can bring Earth Care Week to your own community and your daily practice.
At the recent International Vipassana Teachers’ meeting, the idea of “Earth-Care Week” was born. Each year, during the first week of October, Earth Care Week will bring teachers and members of the greater sangha together to both celebrate our natural world and address the major environmental issues of our time, including climate change. Through various events during Earth Care Week, the community will explore ways to bring care for our planet into our practice and engagement with the world. One Earth Sangha will contribute to Earth Care Week by hosting online conversations, sharing resources and engaging sangha members from all traditions to join the conversation. Already teachers and sanghas from other traditions have decided to join in this event. Everyone is welcome!
You can make Earth Care Week an authentic expression of your own and your community’s connection to our changing planet. We’re offering here some possible themes with ideas to get you going and we’re inviting you, our community, to add your own:
Care for the earth is deeply woven into Buddhist wisdom teachings. Consider exploring the relationship between various Buddhist traditions and care for the earth. What mindfulness practices can enhance our understanding of right relationship with the earth? How can Buddhist teachings and practices provide a compassionate container for all that arises within us? What is the support in Buddhist tradition for engaging on social issues in the public sphere?
- Idea: Offer and solicit Dharma talks on nature, caring for our natural world, and practicing with our responses to climate change.
- Idea: Explore Socially Engaged Buddhism with your sangha. Learn from sangha members and other sanghas what it means to manifest active compassion in the world.
- Idea: Offer an environmental film night or evening of poetry readings with discussion afterwards on a wise response to the climate crisis (and share your film ideas here!)
- Idea: Offer an all-night sitting in solidarity with the humans and other species suffering from climate disruption.
What is the significance of and what are strategies for living and working sustainability? What does mindful consumption look like as a practice? How can we support each other as individuals, spiritual communities, neighborhoods and businesses to accelerate the transition away from fossil fuel-based energy and toward carbon-free power?
- Idea: Share commitments to and resources for personal energy audits.
- Idea: If your sangha manages one or more buildings, create a solar panel project as community practice.
Learning: Climate and Justice Education
What is the social impact of climate change and other environmental threats and how are they distributed across humanity? What are the local efforts to address environmental justice?
- Idea: Take some time as a community to learn about how climate change is and will continue to affect your community. Share what you learn with your sangha and notice what arises — both within you and the group. Brainstorm actions to prepare for the impacts of climate change in your own backyard.
- Idea: Reach out to a sangha in a nearby community with different demographics than your own. Exchange ideas about what climate disruption and suffering means to each. Listen to each other’s history and get to know common as well as different challenges.
- Idea: As a sangha, explore how climate change is already affecting communities all over the world. Look as well at the impact on the non-human world.
What wisdom can the various Buddhist lineages, faith traditions and secular movements bring to our understanding of the spiritual and moral dimensions of climate change? Can we join together on existing initiatives or create new ones that enable us to act on these shared understandings?
- Idea: Reach out to the “green groups” of local Buddhist sanghas or other faith traditions to create new relationships, learn from each other’s experience and support each other’s efforts.
- Idea: Create conversations with environmental justice groups. Add numbers to their events and support their leadership.
- Idea: Create or join local cooperatives that organize buying power of sustainable products and services.
Climate change is usually approached as a looming crisis. And from this vantage point, many people shutdown, unable to move further to action. Can we face this great challenge of our time as a joyful expression of our love of this life? Can we help our communities see the wonders of a better future as we move beyond dirty energy and into a safer world?
- Idea: Take a field trip to your local park or wilderness area. Reconnect with the natural world to which you are so intimately connected. Hold the feelings of joy and sorrow together as you cultivate energy and inspiration.
- Idea: Start a community Solar Coop, where individuals join together to take power into their own hands and build the clean energy world of tomorrow.
- Idea: Hold a community workshop based on Joanna Macy’s “Work That Reconnects” and support each other on the path to forgiveness and joy as part of the Great Turning.
Everyone is invited! Whatever it is that lights your heart and is your Dharma doorway into Earth-Care Week is welcome. Given that the week is just around the corner, there isn’t a lot of time to plan. So let this first year’s event be about planting seeds. Let this be a beginning for integrating environmental and social justice practices into your sangha throughout the year.
Last but not least, we invite you to share it all with the One Earth Sangha community. Inspire one another! Share what you’re planning, ideas and resources, strategies and how it’s all going. You can add to this post with a comment below, share a resource using our resources form or send us an email. Whatever works for you, please join the conversation on Earth Care Week here at One Earth Sangha.
Catherine McGee, a regular dharma teacher at Gaia House in the UK, offers an earth-dharma perspective on the first foundation of mindfulness and our larger body.
It is here we awaken: knowing body as body, knowing earth as earth.
“In this way she abides contemplating the body as a body internally, externally, and both internally and externally.”
– Satipatthana sutta: The Foundations of Mindfulness
Practicing the first foundation of mindfulness, knowing body internally and externally, we can come to know we are of this earth. When we sit and feel the solidity of our bones, the firmness of the flesh, the density and weightiness of our human presence, we can come to know what it is to sit ‘as earth sitting on earth’. This is part of knowing our basic elemental nature and something we share with everyone and everything. As we come more into body, we gain direct insight that our intimacy with earth is more primary than anything our mind can tell us. This intimacy is breath-takingly immediate; unmediated by anything. It is an undeniable aspect of being human. We are literally ‘in our element’ as embodied creatures. Whether we are happy about this or not is another story. But for now, this earthly body IS home base.
It takes a path of practice for many of us to heal the ways we have lost contact with our body and taken refuge in abstraction. Abstracting ourselves as separate leads to all kinds of dukkha: personal; national; global). When we see a thing as separate we come out of real relationship with it, whether it be our body, other bodies or the great body of this earth. Then we treat it in ways distorted by delusion.
We abstract into separation because it is not always easy to tolerate the sensitivity of our animal body, impinged upon by (6-fold) contact and comfortable only within a narrow range of temperatures and other conditions, and subject to insecurity, sickness and death.
Healing this separation, and coming into a wise relationship with body is imperative for waking up and responding to the reality of the times we live in. And through practice we can realize that this body is not a separate stand alone phenomena. That view is a mind made story.
Through the body we cultivate the stable presence of Samadhi, a ground from which to see deeply and not be unseated by our programming. With body as a firm basis we can begin to heal the duality of being lost in mind made worlds, and come into the profound and sensitive immediacy of the human realm. It is here, not someplace else, that we can sense directly that we are from the earth, the fertile material substance- the humus. This is where our humanness is grounded and where we have the choice to act with appropriate humility. And it is here in this body that we can make our insights real, live them through our actions of body speech and mind. We may have many realizations, but only through action do they become transformative.
And it is here, on this earth, that we take our place as human beings – these marvelous human animals that can respond and act: who can join hands, who can stand up for what is wholesome, who can speak up for those yet to be born, who can say ‘no’ when justice and respect for life is undermined. And it is us, through love and humility, who have the capacity to let go of physical comfort and convenience and psychological security, for the benefit of the whole. It is here, on this earth, not someplace else, that we awaken. Here and now, on this planet, in these conditions, amidst this instability. In this very body, however you define it- your body, our bodies, the vast body of this planet. The wider the definition, the more we expand and can live the ennobling life. Awakening and appropriate response, in this very body, in this very life.
What would it mean for you to live your life as if you really knew, in the depth of your heart and your cells, that you were not separate from this earth and all the earth’s beings?
The Zen Master Thích Nhất Hạnh was asked what we need to do to save our world. “What we most need to do,” he replied, “is to hear within us the sound of the earth crying.”
Representing a diverse set of spiritual traditions, Spiritual Ecology is a spiritual response to our present ecological crisis. The physical reality of climate change, the biodiversity reality of species loss, the ecological reality of a life systems under siege are not by accident; they are the effects of how we chose to live on this earth. Thich Nhat Hanh reminds us that
(These are) the bells of mindfulness,” calling us to be attentive, to wake up and listen. The earth needs our attention. It needs us to help heal its body, damaged by our exploitation, and also its soul, wounded by our desecration, our forgetfulness of its sacred nature. We need to act from a place of real awareness, attentive to the outer and inner need of the earth.
This collection of essays implores us to move through the barriers to this recognition and return, as a matter of spiritual and physical survival, to our natural reverence for life.
“There is hope if people will begin to awaken that spiritual part of themselves, that heartfelt knowledge that we are caretakers of this planet.”
— Brooke Medicine Eagle