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Buddhism in the News


Thursday, September 30, 2010

Environmental Global Reset Button.

Recently Cambodian Buddhist monk Bun Saluth was honored by the United Nations for his environmental preservation work in preserving 18,000 acres of forest land in Cambodia. When asked about his monumental efforts he didn't hesitate to say that he was simply following Buddha's example (not just his words); When Buddha was still alive, he used trees and caves as lodging to obtain enlightenment. In this way, he has taught us to love the natural resources and wild animals.

Additionally, I would add that one of the most prominent reasons that Buddhists are often advocates for nature and animals is because of the core teachings upon interdependence. It's not so much protecting the trees out of a sense of moral superiority but rather a normal extension of being awake to the multi-layered essence of life on Earth. When we awaken to the reality that our very existence is dependent upon a healthy planet then it becomes obvious that protecting the trees (and the rest of nature) is an extension of being alive. It is also true that when we cultivate compassion for others we understand how balancing nature is integral in helping to reduce their suffering.

Thich Nhat Hanh says in his new book, "The World We Have" that, The situation the Earth is in today has been created by unmindful production and unmindful consumption. We consume to forget our worries and our anxieties. Tranquilising ourselves with over-consumption is not the way. Just like eating a bunch of sugar instead of a meal will give you a rush of artificially inflated energy followed quickly by a depressing physical crash; so to will trashing out planet lead to a crash of the "good times" followed by a deep and painful awakening to a very different world.

I've never been much of a doomsday alarmist but the over-consumption of just about everything by humanity is really starting to show and take its toll. Our greed has over-fished our oceans, poisoned our air, desecrated our forests and swollen our Earth with over-population. It is an unsustainable lifestyle and that centuries long, unskillful behavior is harvesting some sobering karma. I'm not the kind of person who stands on the corner of a busy street, ringing a bell and warning of the "end of the world" but I do see a radical change coming, and I believe awareness is the best tool to adapting.

I can see a time in the near future when our instant, electronic world will crash and fail like an old car in the Mohave desert. This will return us to a simpler way of life where the grocery store is a garden, where the animals are more valuable than cars and where being able to work with others in co-operation will mean the difference between survival and calamity. It won't destroy all of humanity but we'll have to relearn how to live a life similar to that before the industrial revolution, which will be a tough transition for some who lived the delusion that the party would go on forever. We lived through the ugly days of the "Dark Ages" when life was bleak and people died in droves and currently we're living a life of excess that is the exact opposite.

And interestingly, I think it might be a good thing for humanity to get this wake up call because it'll force us to hit the reset button on how we see the world and our resources. It will also mean that we don't have to live again in the "Dark Ages" but we also can't live the life of never-ending consumption either. We'll have to find that sweet spot, or the middle ground where life is the most sustainable. It'll be a shock at first but in the end I think we'll see that living the "hungry ghost" life of over-consumption was never really realistic in the first place.

~Peace to all beings~

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Chana said...

I do not think your the only one who is becoming alarmingly aware that we have got to change our lifestyles or the earth will not be able to sustain 7 billion people in
the future. Over consumption and the we are "entitled" to do as we want attitude must change if we are to survive. I have had an idea for many years to assist mother
earth in doing just that. find a small group of like minded people, preferably Buddhist practitioners, pool your money and buy a small parcel of land outside the city
limits. Form a church/non-profit organization complying with your states laws and begin the journey of self-sufficiency. For an example of doing this go to our web
site at . We have been in existence since 1975. We have vows of poverty and each "monk" makes less than $6000 a year,
which keeps us below the poverty line. We have chickens, goats, and hogs we raise and butcher. We get milk from the goats and make cheese and yogurt. We
garden extensively, and heat almost entirely with wood heat we cut and prepare on the grounds. This is possibly the future of what we must do to survive the current
and future depression in America. Might as well start now. :)

Dave Gardner said...

Thanks for this commentary. I agree with the need to hit the reset button. That's exactly what I'm trying to encourage the world to do with my non-profit documentary project, GrowthBusters: Hooked on Growth.

Dave Gardner
Producing the documentary
GrowthBusters: Hooked on Growth

Chandra said...

buddhisme is logic religion...

Arhat Ariyashakya said...

All has life in Nature, immortal life embraces Nature in oneness, only the religions that kill lives are blind to life, are deaf to to the Voice of Nature, i.e., the Ariyan Silence.


Dean Crabb said...

I agree. Nice post. This is why I moved out into the country about 5 months ago. I just found the way of life in the city all wrong. Even after 2 months here my wife and I drove back for a friends party and we got caught in horrible traffic. I became so obvious to us that "This is crazy living!", it just made it SO obvious. Yet over time we've come to accept it and so absorb in this crazy lifestyle we have no perspective on it any

Definitely time to reset!


They call him James Ure said...

@Chana. Indeed. Entitlement to mass, endless consumption without paying back to the Earth is going to ruin human civilization.

I have also had a similar idea of a Buddhist community for awhile. There are some nice, quiet, mountains properties here where I live in Colorado. Fresh air, fresh water, and plenty of space.

It sounds like you have a great set-up. I might have to visit and check it out someday. I agree. Might as well start now.

@Dave. It sounds like a great documentary that you've got going. We need to radical change our way of life for the betterment of not just humans but all forms of life. Including our living planet. The Buddha's call for compassion calls for it.

@Chandra. Agreed. It's very logical, sustainable and open.

@Arhat. We are nature and nature is us.

@Dean. Thanks. I'd love to be able to move out of the city. I know a couple who live up in the mountains are are fully off the grid with solar panels and wind turbines.

Every time we come back from backpacking up in the mountains for a week; or come back from their property camping I get back into the city and have a difficult time re-adjusting at first.

Dean Crabb said...

Yeah, the move for us to the country kind of happened quickly. We'd talked for a while about being tired of the rat race and we got our deposit for a house together and we thought "Where can we afford that is near the beach, out of the city but still accessible for work?" We went for a drive down to this town about hour and a bit south of the city right on the train line and just loved it. 5 minutes to the beach, a few hundred metres in any direction and its National Park bushland. Within about 3 weeks we found a place and bought it. I catch the train to the city every day and the difference in people is like chalk and cheese. I see this contrast so much every day its very evident to me that city life changes people. I even notice in myself and my wife when we first move out there a weird resistance when someone said hello. Now we've settled in and we stop and chat and just get caught in a nice dialogue with a stranger.

In the country people actually care, say hello, stop for a chat, take care of your child if you are in need, offer support and help. I catch the train into the city and people don't talk, don't even look at each other, don't apologize if they bump into you, don't care if the shove past you. The city life definitely breads self-attachment and anger and a lack of compassion

If you can, its definitely worth the pursuit to move out of the city. It's just a better lifestyle.


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