The Awakening That Is Possible – Vipassana Teachers Confront Climate Change

On June 11th, the International Vipassana Teachers gathered at Spirit Rock for their triennial meeting. The teachers dedicated time for deeper engagement with a few topics, including how the Insight meditation community might support a wise response to climate change.  The teachers have heard you. In contemplating climate change, the teachers were responding to a Request for Teachings, signed in just a few weeks by over 2,000 members of the global sangha including 1,300 signatures given here at One Earth Sangha.  At the outset of the dedicated period on climate change, the letter to the teachers along with a scroll of the 2,000 signatures was placed ritualistically by one of the nuns in the center of the meditation hall at the base of a Buddha figure in the “earth touching” mudra.  The letter and scroll remained a fixture and inspiration at the center of the hall throughout the rest of the meeting.

Buddha Touching Earth Signatures

Catherine McGee, a regular teacher at Gaia House in the UK ( a sister center of IMS and Spirit Rock) who helped organize the climate discussion, spoke with us after the meeting and shared numerous inspiring outcomes.  Your signatures set the stage for a discussion that included an update on the science from climate expert and behavioral scientist, Bob Doppelt.  The teachers then engaged in a set of contemplations and practices to explore their own responses to climate change, habitual as well as fresh, with all that might arise completely welcome.  As Catherine described it:

One result from the meeting is that this topic is now clearly in the zeitgeist of this particular teacher body, and so how do we look at this together? What can we bring from the beauty and richness of the Dharma to this current global crisis? One way we can look at [Climate Change] is in terms of the awakening that is possible. The awakening from the delusion of “I,” “me,” and “mine” which is what we could say got us into this crisis. The locking into the separate self through the lenses of greed hatred and delusion. Because its so clear isn’t it, that we’re all in this one together? It is the awakening from this delusion that is our work together. It is here that this climate crisis is pushing us to look. And as our heart awakens, we are more available for responding.

In this follow-up post, Catherine gives her full personal account of what transpired.  We’ll offer here that this group of teachers took your message to heart and there were a number of inspiring outcomes.  According to Catherine,

Clearly teachers don’t have all the answers, and it may not be every teacher’s calling to pick this up. And yet there are many who feel that it is a sacred duty, to keep exploring within themselves and their sangha’s, and for some beyond their sanghas, the ways the mind and the world co-arise, to see the ways climate suffering arises, that the causes for this lay in our human heart, to realise the end of perpetuating the cyclic chain of harmful causes and effects, and to walk that path together.

The teachers formed specific subgroups to follow through on the meeting and have asked our community to support these efforts:

  • Sharing the Dharma of Climate Change
    Already there are teachers engaging their sanghas on the topic of climate change who have not before with an accompanying interest in supporting one another in this effort.  One Earth Sangha, as a website and a community, will be a place teachers and sanghas can share and find this Dharma.
  • Developing a new cultural narrative
    This initiative builds on the concept that the resolution of our pressing problems, not just climate change, requires a shift in focus from ‘me’ to ‘we,’ “the larger ‘we’ that makes our lives possible and worthwhile: other people, here and abroad, and the Earth’s climate and ecological systems.” Several teachers will be working together to contribute to shifting this larger public narrative.  We’ll share more about this initiative as it matures.
  • Earth Care Week
    Many teachers committed to dedicate the first week of October to the Dharma of climate change.  They will engage their sanghas on the topic, teach, take actions and host events.   According to Catherine, “how we do this is in everyone’s hands, all who are interested can contribute and we’ll do this all together.” In the coming weeks, we’ll provide more information as this initiative rapidly takes form.

We’re very excited that One Earth Sangha is supporting the Vipisanna community in cultivating the many seeds sown at this meeting.  Look for regular postings on climate and earth Dharma gathered from teachers and sanghas as well as you, our online community, that we all can all use in our own practice and share in our local sanghas. We will host an online conversation about how we can ensure that Earth Care Week in October serves a greater awakening around climate change.  And finally, we’ll be looking for more ideas from you about how to support not just the Vipasanna but all Buddhist and secular mindfulness communities.  What steps should we take?  How would you like to be involved? How can we support one another in deepening our practice around climate change and responding to the call of our home? Please share. We look forward to hearing from you and being in sangha with you.

May you rest in natural great peace.

5 Comments on “The Awakening That Is Possible – Vipassana Teachers Confront Climate Change

  1. Thank-you, dear Vipassana teachers and 1 Earth Sangha. I would recommend a new book Spiritual Ecology; Cry of the Earth. I hope we can all support each other in our deep grief & may our suffering inspire us in appropriate action.

    • Hi Jane
      your use of the word “grief” really touched me, so far I have ignored my grief and allowed myself to feel only anger and despair. Grief gives me a sense of stability and calmess, an ability to look at things as they are. Thank you!

  2. Thank you. This is so important to me and to all of us. I would love to see Joanna Macy’s work incorporated.

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