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Posts Tagged ‘Eco-Theology’

Why the Buddha Touched the Earth

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on August 23, 2011

By John Stanley and David Loy

“The entire cosmos is a cooperative. The sun, the moon, and the stars live together as a cooperative. The same is true for humans and animals, trees, and the Earth. When we realize that the world is a mutual, interdependent, cooperative enterprise — then we can build a noble environment. If our lives are not based on this truth, then we shall perish.” –Buddhadasa Bhikkhu

“The term ‘engaged Buddhism’ was created to restore the true meaning of Buddhism. Engaged Buddhism is simply Buddhism applied in our daily lives. If it’s not engaged, it can’t be called Buddhism. Buddhist practice takes place not only in monasteries, meditation halls and Buddhist institutes, but in whatever situation we find ourselves. Engaged Buddhism means the activities of daily life combined with the practice of mindfulness. –Thich Nhat Hanh

In one of Buddhism’s iconic images, Gautama Buddha sits in meditation with his left palm upright on his lap, while his right hand touches the earth. Demonic forces have tried to unseat him, because their king, Mara, claims that place under the bodhi tree. As they proclaim their leader’s powers, Mara demands that Gautama produce a witness to confirm his spiritual awakening. The Buddha simply touches the earth with his right hand, and the Earth itself immediately responds: “I am your witness.” Mara and his minions vanish. The morning star appears in the sky. This moment of supreme enlightenment is the central experience from which the whole of the Buddhist tradition unfolds.

The great 20th-century Vedantin, Ramana Maharshi said that the Earth is in a constant state ofdhyana. The Buddha’s earth-witness mudra (hand position) is a beautiful example of “embodied cognition.” His posture and gesture embody unshakeable self-realization. He does not ask heavenly beings for assistance. Instead, without using any words, the Buddha calls on the Earth to bear witness.

The Earth has observed much more than the Buddha’s awakening. For the last 3 billion years the Earth has borne witness to the evolution of its innumerable life-forms, from unicellular creatures to the extraordinary diversity and complexity of plant and animal life that flourishes today. We not only observe this multiplicity, we are part of it — even as our species continues to damage it. Many biologists predict that half the Earth’s plant and animal species could disappear by the end of this century, on the current growth trajectories of human population, economy and pollution. This sobering fact reminds us that global warming is the primary, but not the only, extraordinary ecological crisis confronting us today. Read the rest of this entry »

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Eco-Buddhism: A Sustainable Enlightenment

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on April 23, 2011

By John Stanley and David Loy

It may seem impossible to imagine that a technologically advanced society could choose, in essence, to destroy itself, but that is what we are now in the process of doing. –Elizabeth Kolbert, Field Notes from a Catastrophe

Looking again and again at that which cannot be looked at,
Unseeable reality is seen just as it is.
–Karmapa Rangjung Dorje, Mahamudra Aspiration Prayer

The first of these statements describes the apparent death wish of industrial civilization, while the second describes the deep meditative experience of a 13th century Buddhist master. We in theEcobuddhism project understand the present as an historical period of existential and spiritual crisis, when such apparent opposites have something crucial to say to each other.

The Rise and Fall of Western Enlightenment

The “enlightenment” recognized by mainstream Western culture was a cultural shift in the 17th century — from religious belief to trust in mechanistic science and secular humanism. Since then we have understood nature and ourselves to be machine-like. The industrial growth society is a product of that Cartesian worldview. Over the last 60 years, the fetish of limitless economic growth has driven us faster and further than ever before. This is a society that cannot stop to ask sincerely where it is going.

At the end of the hottest decade on record, we are surrounded by unprecedented droughts, floods, crop losses and technological accidents. The mainstream media, still peddling “classical” economics, ignores either climate science or clean energy as legitimate subjects of interest. It fails to join up the dots for people on the most important issue of our time: the survival of life on Earth.Scientific findings and warnings are relentlessly subverted by fossil fuel corporations, who spend many millions of dollars to manufacture doubt about global warming, distort the democratic process and safeguard the very energy infrastructure that caused the crisis. It is beginning to look as if western enlightenment has run its course — that it will fail to prevent the collapse of civilization. Read the rest of this entry »

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