Urban Dharma Newsletter - June 29, 2004
This Issue: Buddhism & Ecology
1. What do Buddhists teach about ecology?
2. Pratitya Samutpada: the foundation for a Buddhist environmentalism
3. Temple/Center/Website: TibetanSpirit.com
4. Book/CD/Movie: Buddhism and Deep Ecology - DANIEL H.
are here on Earth to do good to others. What the others are
here for, I don't know. - W. H. Auden (1907 - 1973)
Fuel Found in Moo Juice - Associated
Press - Jun. 22, 2004
FRANCISCO -- Young children and pregnant women who drink milk
from California cows may be exposed to unsafe levels of a toxic
chemical used in rocket fuel, according to a new study by an
study released Tuesday by the Environmental Working Group comes
as state and federal regulators consider setting new standards
to regulate perchlorate -- the explosive ingredient in missile
fuel that has been linked to thyroid damage.
exposure is more widespread than we have been led to believe,"
said Bill Walker, vice president for the West Coast office of
the EWG, a research and advocacy organization based in Washington,
EWG did not call for Californians to stop drinking milk or giving
it to their children, but said it does advocate tougher standards
has been found in drinking water in more than 20 states, including
California, which has extensive ties to the military, defense
industry and the space program. The chemical has been detected
in the Colorado River, the major source of drinking water and
irrigation in Southern California and Arizona.
are divided about the effects of perchlorate on mental development
and what exposure levels are safe.
March, California health officials concluded that perchlorate
could be dangerous at levels above 6 parts per billion in drinking
water -- a level that could be used later this year to set the
nation's first state standard.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials, and some environmental
groups, say that standard would be too weak. The EPA advocates
a standard of just 1 part per billion.
new study on milk was based on laboratory tests the EWG commissioned
as well as unreleased tests by the California Department of
Food and Agriculture.
EWG tests, conducted by researchers at Texas Tech University,
found the chemical in 31 of 32 samples from milk purchased at
grocery stores in Los Angeles and Orange counties. The average
level of the chemical was 1.3 parts per billion.
EWG said the Food and Agriculture Department tests found an
average level of 5.8 parts per billion of perchlorate in 34
samples it tested from milk silos in Alameda, Sacramento and
San Joaquin counties.
officials confirmed those results, but spokesman Steve Lyle
said the findings didn't show any need for consumers to drink
this point, there is not enough information to suggest that
eating foods with low levels of perchlorate poses a significant
health concern," Lyle said.
EWG study didn't determine how the chemical ended up in cows'
milk, but perchlorate has been found in many of the state's
water sources, which are used to irrigate farmland and grow
crops fed to cows.
dairy industry will work with state and federal officials to
find out how perchlorate is getting into milk and how to remove
the chemical, said Michael Marsh, CEO of the Western United
Dairymen, which represents the state's $4.5 billion dairy industry.
But Marsh said there is a "paucity of science" showing
perchlorate's harmful effects on human health.
recent study by the University of California at Irvine found
that healthy adults were not harmed by levels as high as 100
parts per billion of perchlorate. But the study did not draw
conclusions about perchlorate's impact on pregnant women, children
What do Buddhists teach about ecology?
beings are connected
teaches that the idea of separateness is an illusion. The health
of the whole is inseparably linked to the health of the parts,
and the health of the parts is inseparably linked to the health
of the whole. This means that caring for the environment begins
with caring for oneself: ‘When our hearts are good, the
sky will be good to us,’ says Venerable Maha Ghosananda
of Cambodia, a founding patron of ARC.
practice makes one feel one’s existence is no more important
than anyone else’s. If one treats nature as a friend and
teacher, one can be in harmony with other creatures and appreciate
the interconnectedness of all that lives.
taught people to live simply and appreciate the natural cycle
of life. Craving and greed only bring unhappiness, since demands
for material possessions can never be satisfied and people will
always demand more, so threatening the environment. This is
why the real solution to the environmental crisis begins with
in Japan tell a story. The Buddha once received a donation of
500 new robes for his followers. So he considered what to do
with the old ones. They would be used for bed-sheets, he decided.
And the old sheets would become towels. And the old towels would
be used as cleaning rags. Everything should be used and reused.
to Buddhism, the way you earn your livelihood – not killing,
not stealing, not taking more than you need – all these
are part of the Buddhist way of life. A livelihood that avoids
harming others, such as trading in weapons, meat, alcohol or
poisons – is in harmony with nature.
Pratitya Samutpada: the foundation for a Buddhist environmentalism
- Lokabandhu, December 2001, Bor Dharan retreat centre,
Buddhists, we are committed to transforming all aspects of our
lives in accordance with our ideals. We aspire that all aspects
of our lives may come to embody our commitment to the path of
Buddhism and to the many qualities of Enlightenment: among others,
love, wisdom, contentment, creativity, and a living experience
of non-duality. We are therefore committed to the relief of
suffering wherever we may find it and to encouraging the spiritual
efforts of all others who also wish to make them. To ignore
the sufferings and aspirations of others around us is to fail
to see that 'self' and 'other' are in fact indivisible, or at
least profoundly interconnected, and therefore to cut ourselves
off from the very ideals we profess to pursue. To be a Buddhist
is to be responsive to the world around us and to the issues
it faces. We seek to apply the timeless principles of the Dharma
to the ever-changing complexity of the world we and so many
other beings inhabit.
days, few would argue that the environment is not in crisis.
It has become clearer and clearer that human activity is having
profound consequences for many aspects of the planet, from climate
change to the extinction of species. Because everything is inter-connected,
like it or not, we are caught up in this process, and we therefore
play our part in it for good or ill. Both for our sake and the
sake of the all beings, it is therefore necessary that we take
a long hard and clear look at our place in the environment and
the consequences of our actions upon it. Therefore, we need
a Buddhist environmentalism.
the Buddha's time, care for the environment was not really an
issue. Human civilisation existed in fragile pockets dotted
amidst vast tracts of jungle. Today the situation is reversed,
and the jungle exists, if at all, in fragile pockets dotted
amidst vast tracts of human civilisation. There is therefore
little explicit guidance in the Buddhist scriptures that help
us formulate a Buddhist response to the environmental crisis
we are participating in. This can lead either to a feeling that
Buddhism is not really interested in the environment - after
all, there are so many other recommended practices - or to confusion
and uncertainty about what we as Buddhists should be doing.
is certainly not the case that Buddhism is indifferent to the
state of the environment: there is no doubt that great suffering
is being caused as a direct consequence of environmental damage,
and Buddhism seeks to alleviate all suffering and all causes
of suffering. Furthermore, Buddhism has always been a dynamic
tradition, responding creatively to whatever new circumstances
it finds itself in. What we therefore need to do is to return
to the underlying and invariant principles behind the Dharma
and from them begin to articulate a response to today's unprecedented
circumstances. This response will be both theoretical and practical,
shaping both our views and our actions so they are more effective
and better express the insights of Buddhism.
Buddha's Enlightenment and Insight
the Buddha-to-be sat under the Bodhi Tree and uttered his great
Vow to attain Enlightenment "Flesh may wither away, blood
may dry up, but until I gain Enlightenment I shall not move
from this seat" he did not know what he was going to discover,
if anything, about reality. His insight, when it came, was all-encompassing
and profound, indeed, beyond conceptual formulation at all.
As he himself said, at first inclined not to teach:
monks, I thought, "Now I have gained the Dharma, profound,
hard to perceive, hard to know, tranquil, transcendent, beyond
the sphere of reasoning, subtle, to be known only by the wise.
Mankind is intent on its attachments, and takes delight and
pleasure in them. For mankind intent on its attachments it is
hard to see this principle, namely conditionedness, origination
by way of cause, Paticca-Samuppada."' - [Ariyapariesana
Sutta, Majjhima-Nikaya 26]
he did decide to communicate what he had discovered to beings
who had "but little dust on their eyes", and the central
and most distinctive formulation of his Insight became known
as Pratitya Samutpada (Sanskrit) or Paticca-Samuppada (Pali),
the 'principle of conditioned co-production'. To quote from
the 'Survey of Buddhism' by Sangharakshita,
may state that the knowledge and insight attained by the Buddha
beneath the bodhi tree at Bodh Gaya consisted in what, by way
of an accommodation to the `normal' conceptual mode of human
thought, he described as the truth that all phenomena arise
in dependence on conditions. In the original Pali, all dhamma
are paticca-samuppanna. This is the great Buddhist doctrine
of paticca-samuppada (Sanskrit pratitya-samutpada), a term variously
rendered by scholars. Conze translates it as conditioned co-production,
an equivalent more accurate and euphonious than many others.
As the primary formulation of the Buddha's Enlightenment on
the intellectual plane, it is the historical and logical basis
of all later developments in Buddhist philosophy. ... It has
been equated with the Dharma itself.
general formula of the doctrine occurs a number of times in
the Pali Canon, where it is repeated in a set form of words
that appears to have been recognised from the earliest times
as a standard expression of the Buddha's insight. We quote this
formula in Pali not only because of its intrinsic sacredness,
but also in order that the reader may be afforded an opportunity
of acquiring merit by reading and reciting it in the original
sati, idamhoti; imass' uppada, idam uppajjati; imasmim asati,
idam na hoti; imassa nirodha, idam nirujjhati. - (This being,
that becomes; from the arising of this, that arises; this not
being, that does not become; from the ceasing of this, that
ceases.) - [Majjhima-Nikaya ii.32; Samyutta-Nikaya ii.28; etc.]
all universal and as it were abstract formulae, the implications
will not all immediately apparent to the casual reader. In particular
it may not be apparent that this is indeed the appropriate starting-point
for a modern Buddhist response to the environmental issues of
our time. We therefore need to draw out some of its many ramifications.
image of a vast tree may be helpful here: the roots, mysterious,
hidden beneath the surface, but supporting and nourishing all
above, is the Buddha's actual experience of Enlightenment, beyond
our reach until we realise it for ourselves. The trunk is his
core insight into Pratitya Samutpada, the foundation for all
his teaching and the basis for all future developments in the
Buddhist tradition. The many spreading branches represent the
different branches of Buddhist thought and practice as it spread
throughout the world and responded in many different ways to
different circumstances. And finally the leaves, fluttering
in the winds, are ourselves, living our lives exposed to the
harsh realities of the world yet connected to the whole Buddhist
tradition beneath us.
laws of Pratitya Samutpada
first point is that Pratitya Samutpada applies to ALL phenomena
whatsoever. As Sangharakshita says,
you really think about the principle of pratitya-samutpada -
in whatever form it is put - when you meditate on it, when you
really follow through its implications, you begin to understand
the extraordinary impact it has had on the world. Whatever comes
into existence on whatever level, does so in dependence on conditions,
and in the absence of those conditions, ceases to exist. This
is all it says. But if anything is Buddhism, this is Buddhism.
it is saying is that, from the viewpoint of the Enlightened
mind, the outstanding feature of all phenomena, whether physical
or psychical, is that they are conditioned. The unceasing flux
of things, both material events and states of mind, is a process
of interdependent stages, each of which comes about through
the presence of conditions and, in its turn, conditions the
stages succeeding it. Rainfall, sunshine, and the nourishing
earth are the conditions from which arises the oak tree, whose
fallen leaves rot and form the rich humus from which the bluebell
grows. A jealous attachment will have consequences which may
lead to murder. Nothing phenomenal is spontaneously produced
without preceding conditions, or itself fails to have consequences.
And it is the process of becoming aware of this law of conditionality
that gradually liberates us from all conditions, leading to
the freely functioning, spontaneous creativity of Enlightenment."
- [Sangharakshita, 'What is the Dharma']
means that the implications of Pratitya Samutpada can be confidently
applied in any situation, in that all phenomena fall under its
sweep. In different spheres of life this principle of Pratitya
Samutpada will be played out according to different natural
laws, known in Buddhism as the 'Five Niyamas. Quoting Sangharakshita
five niyamas are a very useful formulation because… they
draw together strands which are otherwise rather loose and disconnected
as we find them in the original suttas. The word niyama is a
term common to Pali and Sanskrit meaning a natural law, a cosmic
order. According to this teaching there are five of them, showing
the law of cause and effect at work on five different levels.
The first three are straightforward enough, as they can be related
to Western sciences.
there's utu-niyama. Utu means non-living matter. Nowadays people
are beginning to doubt whether there is any such thing as non-living
matter, but let's call it that for the time being. In other
words, this is the physical, inorganic order of existence. Utu-niyama
is therefore the law of cause and effect as operative on the
level of inorganic matter. It very roughly embraces the laws
of physics and chemistry and associated disciplines.
second niyama is bija-niyama. Bija means `seed', so bija-niyama
deals with the world of living matter, the physical organic
order whose laws constitute the science of biology.
there is chitta-niyama. Chitta is `mind', so chitta-niyama is
conditionality as operative in the world of mind. The existence
of this third niyama, therefore, implies that mental activity
and development are not haphazard, but governed by laws. And
it is important that we understand what this means. We are used
to the idea of laws operating on the level of physics, chemistry,
and biology, but we are not so used to the idea that similar
laws might govern mental events. We are more inclined, in the
West, to the view that mental events just happen, without any
particular causation. To some extent and in some quarters, the
influence of Freud has begun to shift this assumption, but the
idea that mental phenomena arise in dependence on conditions
is not one that has yet penetrated deeply into popular thinking.
It is there in Buddhism, however, in this teaching of chitta-niyama,
the law of cause and effect as operative in the world of mind
- and we may say that it is a concept which corresponds to the
modern science of psychology.
kamma-niyama. Kamma (Pali) is of course more popularly known
in its Sanskrit form, karma, and it means `action', but in the
sense of deliberately willed action. So it is traditionally,
and paradoxically, said sometimes that karma is equivalent to
chetana (volitional consciousness), that is that action equals
volition: `for as soon as volition arises, one does the action,
whether by body, speech, or mind.' Kamma-niyama therefore pertains
to the world of ethical responsibility; it is the principle
of conditionality operative on the moral plane.
Buddhism there is a [moral] law but no lawgiver, and no one
who administers the law. I have heard Christian missionaries
arguing with Buddhists and insisting that if you believe in
a law, there must be a lawgiver - but of course this is quite
specious. After all, there is a law of gravity, but there isn't
a god of gravity pushing and pulling things. The law of gravity
is just a generalised description of what happens when objects
fall. In the same way we don't have a god of heredity, or a
god of sexual selection. These things just happen; they work
is much the same on the moral plane, according to Buddhism.
The law administers itself, so to speak. Good karma naturally
results in happiness, and bad karma naturally results in misery.
There is no need for anybody else to come along, look at what
you've done, and then fit the punishment or the reward to the
deed. It happens of its own accord. `Good' and `bad' are built
into the structure of the universe. This might sound dreadfully
anthropomorphic - and we are putting it rather crudely here
- but what it really means is that from the Buddhist point of
view the universe is an ethical universe. Putting it more precisely,
the universe functions according to conditionality, and this
operates at the karmic level in a way which we could describe
as ethical, in that it conserves ethical values. This is kamma-niyama.
fifth and last niyama is dhamma-niyama. Dhamma (dharma in Sanskrit),
which is a word with a number of different possible applications,
here means simply spiritual or transcendental as opposed to
mundane. So the principle of conditionality operates on this
level too… The first four niyamas, including kamma-niyama,
are all types of conditionality in the cyclical sense, in the
sense of action and reaction between pairs of opposites. But
dhamma-niyama corresponds to the spiral type of conditionality.
As such it constitutes the sum total of the spiritual laws which
govern progress through the stages of the Buddhist path.
happens to us may be a result of physical, biological, psychological,
ethical, or spiritual factors. In all likelihood, it will involve
a complex combination of factors, bringing several of the niyamas
into play. - [Sangharakshita, 'Who is the Buddha?']
teachings deriving from Pratitya Samutpada
we can begin to see the far-reaching application of the Buddha's
insight into Pratitya Samutpada. But before we go on to consider
how it may be applied to the environmental issues of our time,
we must see how many of the better-known teachings of Buddhism
are directly derived from it.
insubstantiality, and emptiness - and unsatisfactoriness
all things arise in dependence upon conditions, they exist only
so long as the conditions which support them exist. When the
conditions change, they change. Thus all things are impermanent.
Further, we may ask "what - actually - IS a 'thing' anyway?"
and quickly realise that in truth, because of Pratitya Samutpada,
nothing exists which we may call a solid, stable, and unchanging
'thing'. What may look solid, stable, and unchanging is simply
a temporary nexus of conditions, fluid and ephemeral, a phenomena
rather than an object. Thus we are led to the great Buddhist
teaching of the insubstantiality of all phenomena. Later Buddhist
traditions spoke of the emptiness of all phenomena, likening
them to such things as a dream. As the Diamond Sutra declares:
stars, a fault of vision, as a lamp
A mock show, dew drops, or a bubble,
A dream, a lightening flash, or a cloud,
we should view what is conditioned.
is the perspective of Sunyata, or emptiness. Although things
certainly do exist in some sense, and their interactions certainly
produce tangible consequences in the world around us, it is
a grave mistake to see things as solid, stable, and unchanging.
Thus they cannot be reliable and lasting sources of support
or pleasure for us: everything is, at least in the deepest sense,
unsatisfactory. These three qualities - impermanence, insubstantiality,
and unsatisfactoriness - are known as the Three Laksanas, or
the Three Marks of conditioned existence. Thus all the central
and best-known teachings of Buddhism emerge directly from Pratitya
Samutpada. Pratitya Samutpada can be seen as the most concise
and penetrating description possible of the way things actually
are: this is how the universe and everything in it actually
works: everything arises in dependence upon conditions, and
ceases when the conditions that support it cease to be.
above insights have been taken by some as constituting a pessimistic
perspective on the world. Indeed in its early years in the West
Buddhism acquired something of a reputation for being world-denying.
In fact they are deeply liberating. After all, if nothing truly
exists, what is there to be afraid of? If one truly knows that
all things are impermanent and subject to change, one is free
- as Blake says, to "kiss the joy as it flies" yet
not suffer the pains of attachment. Knowledge of our own mortality
frees us to live life to the full, in the precious moment of
the present, free from fear, free from greed, and free from
hate. Pratitya Samutpada is neither optimistic nor pessimistic,
it is simply true, 'that which is the case'. Buddhism's true
perspective is one of engaging whole-heartedly with the world
and with all living beings.
'Middle Way' of Buddhism
Pratitya Samutpada enables Buddhism to steer its famous 'middle
way' between the extremes of eternalism and nihilism. It is
not that things exist, nor that they do not: it is simply that
all phenomena are perpetually in a process of becoming. A traditional
analogy for this is the form that appears from the water at
the top of a fountain.
ALL phenomena whatsoever fall under the sway of Pratitya Samutpada,
the spiritual path does not consist in seeking some escape from
the world around us into some divine and eternal heaven-world.
In a very real sense there is nowhere else to go; true happiness,
or Enlightenment, if it is to be found anywhere, must be sought
and found in the here and now. Chinese and Japanese Buddhist-inspired
poetry makes this point again and again. As the Zenrin says:
whatever is hidden;
of old, all is clear as daylight.
old pine tree speaks divine wisdom;
secret bird manifests eternal truth.
and rivers, the whole earth, -
manifest forth the essence of being.
voice of the mountain torrent is from one great tongue;
lines of the hills, are they not the Pure Body of Buddha?
Buddhism, the world with all its impermanence and unsatisfactoriness
is called the ocean of Samsara, and it is sometimes said that
Samsara is Nirvana; the difference between the two being essentially
in the quality and accuracy of our perceptions rather than any
physical location. If our minds are clouded by greed, hate,
and delusion, we are caught in Samsara and suffer, if we are
not, and instead are full of love, generosity, and wisdom, we
may inhabit the same physical universe and yet be blissfully
around us manifests Pratitya Samutpada; everything can become
our teacher. Quoting the Zenrin again,
up one blade of grass,
it as a sixteen-foot golden Buddha.
we can take our experiences of unsatisfactoriness as teachings:
they are sure signs that we are in some way out of harmony with
the truth of Pratitya Samutpada.
all phenomena arise in dependence upon conditions, in other
words upon influences 'outside' of them, and they in turn upon
other conditions, we can see that all things are inextricably
interconnected. Our lives and those of all beings are connected
as in a giant web spread right across the planet and indeed
beyond. Not only that, it is impossible to have a notion of
us as being ultimately 'different' or separate from anything
else. We are all made of the same stuff, all subject to the
same natural processes, all in the same 'existential boat',
and realising this, we will naturally feel compassion towards
all other life and forms of life. As the Buddha sings in the
Karaniya Metta Sutta:
everything that lives be well!
weak or strong, large or small,
seen or unseen, here or elsewhere,
present or to come, in heights or depths,
all be well!
that mind for all the world,
get rid of lies and pride,
a mother's mind for her baby,
love, but now unbounded.
may be relatively easy to assent intellectually to this, but
it is really SEEING it that gives birth to compassion and a
realisation that one cannot live for oneself alone. The Buddha
sought enlightenment for the sake of all beings - as do we.
The spiritual life is not an escape, but a deeper and deeper
connectedness with others. This process culminates in the vow
of the Bodhisattva to pursue the spiritual path and attain enlightenment
"for the sake of all beings".
as earth and the other elements
profitable in many ways
To the immeasurable beings throughout space,
So may I
Be sustenance of many kinds
For the realm of beings throughout space,
Until all have attained release.
faith, and the spiritual path
perspective is a deeply optimistic one. Because nothing whatever
is ultimately fixed, change is possible. Everything is open,
unbounded, within our grasp - and within the grasp of anyone
who chooses to make the necessary efforts. If the appropriate
conditions are put in place, anything can happen. Looked at
from one point of view, the truth of impermanence spells the
end of all we love: looked at from another, the possible fulfilment
of our highest ideals and deepest dreams. The responsibility
is ours alone. In particular, there is no God, no supreme being
above us and immune to this law. We are so to speak alone and
fully responsible for our destiny. There is no-one up there
to save us or to damn us. We save or damn ourselves.
things do not arise at random: the universe obeys certain specific
natural laws, familiar to us from the disciplines of physics,
astronomy, biology, psychology, and so on - and, of course,
the spiritual life itself. These have already been described
as the Niyamas. If we want good to come of our actions we need
as far as possible to educate ourselves in the details of these
laws. There is no place in Buddhism for sentimental but misguided
good intentions. Buddhism speaks of skilful action rather than
good intentions. The spiritual and ethical life is underpinned
because things do not arise at random: faith in the spiritual
path comes from faith in Pratitya Samutpada and from our personal
observation and experience of this. The Buddha taught that "actions
have consequences" and more specifically, that "skilful
actions have skilful consequences, unskilful actions, unskilful
consequences". Thus it can be said that we live in an ethical
universe, in that the eventual efficacy of ethical action is
guaranteed by Pratitya Samutpada. The consequences of actions
are inescapable, and hence there is no room in Buddhism for
inaction: non-action is itself an action, and consequences will
flow from it as much as from an action. Buddhism therefore invites
us to reflect upon the urgency of our situation and to generate
great energy for our practice. Actions have consequences, and
appropriate consequences at that. If we wish to live well we
have to learn how to act well. Our actions must be skilful actions:
actions born of mastery and competence, and Buddhism teaches
that rather than attempt to follow commandments of right and
wrong we should become skilled, whereupon we will be able to
make our own wise decisions in the complex affairs of life.
This applies in all spheres of life: ethical, psychological,
scientific, medical. Buddhism is about becoming more conscious,
becoming clearer and clearer about WHAT actions will have WHAT
consequences: and having the strength to choose the Good. It
is a path of discipline and practice with no room for superstition
we do this by consciously acquiring new good habits - then,
slowly, trusting them as they come more and more naturally,
more easily. Like a dancer, we are awkward and self-conscious
at first, painfully applying what seem unnatural discipline
to our unruly natures, but ultimately, after the years of training
are over and we have mastered our art, free, spontaneous, and
recognises that the world is so complex that we cannot possibly
predict the precise outcomes of our actions in any quasi-scientific
way: we cannot foresee the future. The Buddha therefore recommended
a set of basic ethical precepts for his followers, the foremost
of these being the principle of non-violence or ahimsa. Violence
is, after all, the ultimate denial of our interconnectedness,
the furthest remove from acting in harmony with reality. These
give us as it were our best chance for our actions to have good
consequences given the infinite complexity of the real world.
In environmental discourse they could be extended to such notions
as the precautionary principle. They are not rules or commandments
but guiding principles, and we retain the responsibility for
deciding how best to put them into practice in the many dilemmas
of everyday life. However without awareness we will have no
chance of acting skilfully, and Buddhism asks us again and again
to be aware at all times. Many Buddhist meditations, such as
the Mindfulness of Breathing (Anapanasati) are directly designed
to train us in constant awareness. At the same time our awareness
must be motivated by a friendly interest and concern for ours
and others well-being; this is the Buddhist practice of loving-kindness,
perhaps a prefiguration of compassion and more immediately within
Buddhism properly teaches an engagement with the everyday world.
Through our actions we create the world in which we live, through
our actions we may purify ourselves, free ourselves of our delusions
and make ourselves able to truly act for the welfare of all
beings. Indeed Buddhism speaks of our duty to do so, and of
duties in general rather than rights. As Sangharakshita eloquently
being based upon the realisation of emptiness, upon egolessness,
upon unselfishness, teaches the doctrine of the mutual interpenetration
of all things, inculcates the practice of love and compassion,
exhorts men and women to perform their duties in every walk
of life, and therefore tends naturally towards the ultimate
establishment of peace, both in the hearts and minds of men
and in the world of events outside us. Western political systems,
on the contrary, however different or even antagonistic they
may outwardly seem, are all based upon the concept, ultimately
of dogmatic Christian origin, of the existence of separate,
mutually exclusive ego-entities which are socially, politically,
and even spiritually valuable and significant in themselves.
All such systems therefore justify hatred and excuse violence,
all insist on the intrinsic reasonableness of clamorous agitation
for rights, and all therefore, without exception - despite emphatic
protestations to the contrary - result in the eventual outbreak
of war, both in the individual psyche and in the life of societies
and nations. Emptiness, egolessness, the performance of duties,
and internal and external peace and harmony, are members of
the same Nirvanic series, just as egotism, individualism, the
claiming of rights, and external violence and warfare are the
indissoluble links of the same Samsaric chain. - [Sangharakshita,
'Crossing the Stream]
implications of Pratitya Samutpada
have covered a lot of ground, and are now ready to explore how
Pratitya Samutpada might be applied to the environmental issues
of our day. We have seen that Pratitya Samutpada constituted
the definitive insight of the Buddha and the foundation for
all subsequent Buddhist teaching and practice. We have seen
that from it come the perspectives of impermanence, insubstantiality,
emptiness, unsatisfactoriness, inner freedom and outer engagement,
compassion, inter-connectedness, the Middle Way, and faith -
among others!; and Buddhism's practices of awareness, loving-kindness,
ethical precepts, and a recognition of the need to consciously
train and educate ourselves in skilful action.
of the above has immediate value for an environmentalist. If
we and others were able to imbibe and embody an insight into
Pratitya Samutpada, our lives and works would naturally, even
spontaneously, become far more sensitive, far more concerned
to act skilfully and to mitigate the suffering of others. We
would also become far humbler, more aware of the infinite complexity
of the interconnected web of cause and effect that is the biosphere.
In everyday life, vegetarianism and the leading of a materially
simpler life are two immediate changes that might be expected.
We would also see the need to train ourselves to become aware,
to know that actions have consequences and specifically to know
what actions may have what consequences. In today's global village
so many consequences of our actions are far away and out of
sight: but we need to become aware of them nonetheless. Things
are not just packets on supermarket shelves: purchasing different
brands of coffee, or choosing herbal tea instead, will set off
trains of consequences that may spread out in quite different
directions across the world, encouraging as they do so in one
case benign, in another destructive, patterns of action.
will also recognise that it is impossible to separate self and
other, and therefore, that our work must include work upon ourselves
as much as upon the world. If we do not do this we run the danger
of 'burnout' and relapse into frustration and cynicism, not
to mention all the harm we can do while attempting to help from
a standpoint of confusion. The Buddhist may leave the world
for a while, but only to return to it once purified. Our life
and work needs to be based upon personal spiritual insight and
practice, and needs to be sustainable, requiring us to judiciously
balance the needs of self and other.
may sound callous, but an awareness of the ultimate impermanence
and insubstantiality of all beings brings great equanimity.
It is a bigger picture in which we may act whole-heartedly and
with great compassion for the sake of all beings, yet remain
ultimately unaffected by success or failure, knowing that all
that lives will die eventually, including ourselves, knowing
that the Wheel of Samsara revolves eternally, that whole universes
are perpetually coming into existence and going out of existence
- and that in this vast panorama,
Bodhisattvas, coursing thus, reflect on non-production,
And yet, while doing so, engender in themselves the great compassion,
is however free from any notion of a being.
they practise wisdom, the highest perfection.
when the notion of suffering and beings leads them to think:
I shall remove, the weal of the world I shall work!'
are then imagined, a self is imagined, -
practice of wisdom, the highest perfection, is lacking.
is sometimes said that the Bodhisattva, the being 'bent upon
Enlightenment', "vows to save all beings while knowing
there are no beings to save". From a common-sense viewpoint
this is nonsense, from an Enlightened one, liberation into total
conclusion, many pointers have been given above as to the attitudes
we may adopt in seeking to live in harmony with Pratitya Samutpada.
More specifically, perhaps we will want to know how to go about
deciding exactly what to do in any situation. This must be a
mixture of educating ourselves so that we can make informed
choices, purifying ourselves so that we are not swept blindly
along by our appetites, and adopting for the time being appropriate
and wise precepts, in the absence of our own insight or specific
knowledge. Difficult decisions will always be there; and painful
choices to make: but if we can cultivate awareness, deep loving-kindness,
specific knowledge, and the self-discipline to follow a regular
path of practice and action, we will surely change this world
and ourselves for the better.
Spirit is celebrating seven years of offering the Buddhist community
quality Tibetan dharma and gift items at very reasonable prices.
Under new ownership, Tibetan Spirit will continue to offer a
great selection of fine products, low prices and customer service.
traveled through various Buddhist cultures of the Himalayas
since 1980, I have been impressed with the warmth, generosity
and beauty generated in settings that would be deemed poor by
casual observers. The lasting strength and commitment of Buddhist
societies are exhibited in the devotion and artistry of time-honored
skills used to create statutes, thangkas, rugs, singing bowls
and other items of daily and ritual use. Now more than ever
the political and economic situation in Nepal and Tibet demands
attention. The commitment of this business to support the artisans
who create traditional works will continue without interruption.
addition to support of artisans, I will continue to donate to
the Achi Fund, whose current projects include nun and monk support
in India, Nepal and Tibet; purchase of books for a Tibetan Buddhist
cultural center and library outside of Dehra Dun, India; and
construction of a large stupa in Lumbini, birthplace of the
a practitioner, I hope to share with you the grandeur of the
Tibetan and Buddhist religious cultures while returning to those
cultures financial resources needed to maintain their traditions.
I hope you will enhance your practice, shrine room, altar or
meditative space- or simply find a special gift for a loved
one- here at Tibetan Spirit.
the benefit of all sentient beings. - Julie Blair
Buddhism and Deep Ecology - DANIEL H. HENNING, PH.D.
volume involves Buddhism and Deep Ecology (the latter can be
considered the spiritual dimensions of the environmental movement)
on a holistic, consciousness, and value basis. It presents some
basic ideas, experiences, and examples on how Buddhism and Deep
Ecology relate to each other and to protecting natural forests
and the environment, including public participation aspects.
Much of these interrelationships are based on the essential
teachings of Buddha as they relate to Deep Ecology and visa
versa, especially Oneness, ecocentric, and spiritual orientations.
and integrated, these two areas present a unique, spiritual
bridge of understanding, cross fertilization, and consciousness
for ideas, values, and approaches which encompass compassion,
loving-kindness, and care for all living beings for a wide spectrum
of readers, both Buddhist and non-Buddhists with interests in
ecological and environmental affairs.
of the book contain: (l) Buddhism and Values, (2) Dhamma, Deep
Ecology, and Environment, (3) Dhamma, Deep Ecology, Ecology,
and Tropical Forests, (4) Dhamma/Deep Ecology Experiential exercises,
(5) Public Participation (with a case study), and (6) Dhamma
and Ecology Glossary.
readers for these unique, combined subjects would, obviously,
include Buddhists, especially with their growing interests in
environmental and ecological concerns. Deep Ecologists, Environmentalists,
and Conservationists and people with spiritual concerns would
also have a strong interest in this area, especially with more
and more attention being paid to the spiritual/consciousness
dimensions of the environment in recent years. David Brower,
John Muir, and other American conservationists subscribed to
the Buddhist approach. Many potential readers from the public
may be attracted to the unique orientation and correlation of
this unusual combination of Buddhism and Deep Ecology.
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