Sangha Members marching for climate protection
“We have all known the long loneliness, and we have found that the answer is community.” ~Dorothy Day
“What do most people say on their deathbed? They don’t say, ‘I wish I’d made more money.’ What they say is, ‘I wish I’d spent more time with my family and done more for society or my community.’” ~David Rubenstein
“We say, ‘I take refuge in sangha,’ but sangha is made of individual practitioners. So you have to take care of yourself. Otherwise you don’t have much to contribute to the community because you do not have enough calm, peace, solidity, and freedom in your heart. That is why in order to build a community, you have to build yourself at the same time. The community is in you and you are in the community. You interpenetrate each other. That is why I emphasize sangha-building. That doesn’t mean that you neglect your own practice. It is by taking good care of your breath, of your body, of your feelings, that you can build a good community.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh
I just returned from the People’s Climate March in Washington D. C. I rode on the bus, round trip from New York City to Washington with One Earth Sangha.
The founder, the Venerable Bhikkhu Bhodi, gave a talk as we rode to D.C. He repeated the Reverend Martin Luther King’s words, invoking “The fierce urgency of now.” He spoke passionately about what is at stake if we who live in industrialized nations continue to consume resources at our current rate: the loss of lives, new strains of pathogens and epidemics that spring from the alteration in climate, food shortages, geographically specific trauma for the poorest and most vulnerable populations, political instability, and the rise of tyranny that threatens society. He encouraged us as practitioners to act both personally and communally to dispel the combination of greed and delusion that surrounds the world’s response to this threat.
Personally, we can practice purifying our minds to promote contentment and simplicity. We are taught that the key to happiness is through consumption. Experience proves this wrong, but we may be unwilling to let go of our ideas of success and status regarding what we own, drive, and where we vacation. If we devote our lives to work and money there is little time for relationships, family and developing communication with nature. Paying attention to how satisfying our cravings impact the world’s well being is part of cultivating a heart of compassion. We can develop wisdom to understand the long-term consequences of our actions. We can increase the capacity of our heart and look at the suffering of those around the world in Somalia, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Yemen, Bangladesh and the Marshall Islands who are already suffering from drought, floods, food shortages and epidemics related to climate. We can reduce our meat consumption and shift towards a plant based diet. Even one meat free day a week helps reduce our carbon footprint. We can grow vegetables or buy from small producers. Currently, conventional agriculture uses petroleum based soil inputs, this combined with the use of machinery and transportation accounts for 32% of the nation’s carbon emissions.
In our outreach, we can support political candidates who value the earth and believe climate change is real. We can sign online petitions, write letters to our representatives and let them know we vote with attention to climate protection. We can put our money where our heart is and move investments from fossil fuel to clean energy alternatives. We can lobby congress for a carbon tax on polluters and to end the 37.5 billion dollars of annual subsidy the U.S. government pays to fossil fuel companies. We can become activist and take direct action to block climate destroying projects, like mega-pipelines, Dakota Access and the Keystone XL. Bhikkhu Bhodi ended his talk by urging us all to become involved with a larger climate change action groups, such as 350.org or the Sierra Club.
What is clear to me as I listened to these powerful words and walked in solidarity with other Buddhists and climate protectors, was that we need sangha to help us act in both small ways and large. The sangha made my being at the march possible. Traveling with my sangha siblings, the journey became peaceful and the anxiety of logistics and schedules melted away. We enjoyed our steps and our peaceful presence. We took comfort in the fact that there are so many people working with “fierce urgency.” The sangha gives us inspiration; it nourishes our commitment to do what is often difficult and unpleasant. Taking a stand against injustice can feel frightening, or hopeless, especially when we act alone, but in the company of sangha we are supported and support each other. Knowing that we have friends who understand that every action we do contains compassion and peace, gives us solidity to continue our daily practice of caring for the earth. The Buddha urged his followers to keep the company of the wise ones. Nourished by the sangha, we have the energy to act in our own lives. Bringing our presence and voice to the sangha we support each other and create a change that moves beyond our small worlds into shifting the global veil of greed and delusion that threaten all sentient life on the earth, our only home.
With gratitude for sharing our planet,