lunes, 16 de enero de 2012

The 17th Karmapa on Environmental Buddhism

Back to the "starting point". Back to Child. Back to Animal. Back to God.

The 17th Karmapa on Environmental Buddhism

by Haze

“The question that remains is when will the intolerable moment occur for all of us? Will we allow the sea to rise and cover the Pacific islands and the Himalayas to be reduced to bare rock? Will we let amazing wildlife species become extinct and simply fade to a story that is told in future generations? Should thriving forests be turned into farmlands to meet our unending demands? Should we live with ever-growing mountains of garbage because we are unable to manage the effects of consumerism?”
I found this article that the Karma Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism’s spiritual leader, His Holiness The 17th Gyalwang Karmapa, wrote for “Conservation Biology” December issue to be very enlightening in explaining the relationship between Buddhist philosophy and environmental ideology.
I have inserted some excerpts from the article here and provided a link to the full article in its title below-
Ultimately, a call to action.
“As I grew up and began studying Buddhist philosophy and teachings, I discovered great harmony between Buddhism and the environmental movement. The emphasis on biological diversity, including ecosystems—in particular, the understanding that animate and inanimate beings are parts of a whole—resonates closely with Buddhism’s emphasis on interdependence. The essence of Buddhism lies in the union of compassion and emptiness: the deeply felt dedication to alleviate the suffering of all living beings and the understanding that everything is devoid of self-nature. These two halves of a philosophical whole speak particularly to the goals of the environmental movement. Let me explain what I mean.
The most exalted example Buddhists use to explain compassion is motherhood. Consider all that your mother probably has done for you since the time you were conceived—carrying you for 9 months, experiencing the hardship of labor and birth, feeding and clothing you, taking care of all your needs, and worrying about you long after you reach adulthood. Most mothers never stop caring unconditionally for their children. Regardless of whether one believes in reincarnation or not, one can suppose that all living beings are like mothers to us. The food that appears in front of us at dinner was grown, packaged, and prepared by people we probably do not know. The clothes we are wearing were produced by people we probably will never meet. Yet we are benefiting from their hopes, dreams, and labor. Plants, animals, and raw materials have all been used to provide us these things. This is the interdependence that characterizes life—no one thing exists by itself alone, or can survive alone. We are all part of one world ecology and the world is extremely compassionate to us.
Emptiness, in contrast, can be best explained by using the example of the self. What do we imagine when we think of the self? Exactly where does the self reside? Is it in the heart or the brain? In the incoming breath or the outgoing breath? In the movement of our limbs? In our interaction or relationship with others? The self differs greatly at ages 15 and 25. Because it is impermanent and intangible, the self is empty of any inherent self-nature. And, because this is so, our happiness, our sadness, our successes, and our failures are also empty by nature. This does not mean that we are nothing, but that we are constantly moving, absorbing, and shedding. Consequently, we need not experience great attachment to our experiences and can develop equanimity regarding all phenomena. To experience this freedom from the conviction of a self and the self-importance it creates means that we can dispense with the artificial distinction between self and other and can be part of all phenomena everywhere.
How does this relate to the environment? According to Buddhism, ignorance of the empty nature of self and the rejection of compassion is the root cause of egotism, anger, attachment, and greed. Ignorance is why human beings have degraded the environment and are driving so many species to extinction. Ignorance causes us to place an excessive worth upon the self and anything related to it; my family, my possessions, my country, and even my race. Perceiving the diversity of the world through the limited lens of self means we can impose grave harm upon Earth without concern, because Earth has become “other.”” …
“During the last 100 years, over 95% of the world’s wild tigers (Panthera tigris) have vanished. As human needs have continued to expand, we have taken more and more from nature and left less and less for other animals. However, the magnificent tiger has almost completely disappeared due to consumer demand for its skin and body parts. We are driving a species to extinction simply because we believe wearing its skin makes us look wealthy or that consuming tiger parts will make us healthier. Doing such a thing is essentially non-Buddhist and uncompassionate—not only for the tiger, but also for ourselves, because this act is bound to have negative karmic consequences for us.
Compassion for the “other,” whether people, animal species, trees, or other plants, and for Earth itself, is the only thing that will ultimately save us human beings. Most people are primarily concerned about their work, wealth, health, or family. On a daily basis, they probably feel they have more urgent things to worry about than their environmental footprint. Of course, paying attention to this issue would mean having to make inconvenient choices and changes in their lives. I am not so different. Although I had considered giving up eating meat for many years, I became a complete vegetarian only a few years ago. Somebody presented a short documentary that showed how animals suffer before and during the act of killing. Watching it, I could feel the fear felt by the animals. Like a thunderclap, I became aware that these living beings were suffering so greatly simply to satisfy my habitual preferences. Eating meat became intolerable for me at that moment, and so I stopped.” …
“Finally, I believe that the very future of life on Earth depends on those of us who are privileged to live more simply. To live simply is to be compassionate to yourself and to the world. A life full of material goods and barren of compassion is quite unsustainable from an ecological and karmic point of view. Of course, advertisements are always telling us that the path to happiness lies in purchasing the goods they sell. How is it that the advertising convinces us even when we are skeptical of its message? Our attachment to our own happiness, possessions, family, and self creates a lack of perspective that makes us susceptible. However, if we can be mindful of the emptiness of self, we can create a space for choice rather than habitual consumerism. We don’t have to live a life that is sold to us—we can make the brave choice to live simply.”

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