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The Buddhist View of Environmental Catastrophe


On Wednesday, September 1st, Tibetan Buddhist master Ringu Tulku Rinpoche will be speaking at the Shambhala Meditation Center of New York. The topic? The Buddhist View of Environmental Catastrophe.

I'm looking forward to this talk because I would say that for myself and many Buddhists I talk to our view is grim. We want to remain optimistic but we realize we are, indeed, looking at a catastrophe.

Recently my good friend David Delcourt wrote an article on elephant about Why Buddhists Fail as Environmental Citizens. In the artile Mr. Delcourt espouses the idea that our pivotal downfall is that we are looking to apply our meditation practice to the situation rather than considering that, in his own words, "the Dharma is environmental awareness and action."

What do you think? Is environmental action really a part of the Dharma? Or are we Western Buddhists just trying to pin our spiritual believes on a very heart-breaking situation?

I imagine one place David and Ringu Tulku will likely agree is that if we don't develop a view other than helplessness or fear things certainly will not get any better.

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compasson is activism

Really intersting question Lodro and one I've thought about a lot. I've come to the conclusion (similiar to David's in his article) that as a Buddhist I bring the same attention, compassion, and service to my relationship with the environment as I do to any other relationship. It seems a natural flowering of my practice that something has evolved that I would call sacred activism, vs. the more "I'm gonna fix this" energy of my pre-Buddhist activism.

While my "activism" now that I practice may not always look like traditional "activism" (marching, letter-writing, etc) it sometimes encompasses those actions, and sometimes is something so private and intimate yet equally if not more profoundly effective.

I would say that, as David comes close to saying, compassion IS activism.  And that activism undertaken without compassion might have incredible surface effects, it's just fostering the seeds for further dissatisfaction.   That's why I like the idea of sacred activism as it apples to everything I encounter; it may not always look or feel like what "the script" says it's supposed to, but if I am truly coming from a place of active compassion, "activism" is essentially a result of my presence in the dharma, rather than a goal or discrete experience.

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