“We Are Her Only Hope, and She Is Ours”
“Praise be to you, my Lord”. In the words of this beautiful canticle, Saint Francis of Assisi reminds us that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us. “Praise be to you, my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with colored flowers and herbs. This sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her. We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will. The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life. This is why the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor; she “groans in travail” (Rom 8:22). We have forgotten that we ourselves are dust of the earth (cf. Gen 2:7); our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters.” – Pope Francis I “Laudato Si”
Basic to all Buddhist teachings is the “interconnected and interdependent” nature of all of creation. Nothing happens in a vacuum. The threats of climate change and the increase of natural disasters across our globe are directly interconnected with the current state of consciousness of all sentient beings, especially the human family. Our Mother Earth is ill and crying out for healing, healing which can only come from us. As we become more and more polarized and alienated from each other, we can expect increased natural disasters and the Earth continuing to strive to survive the threat of total extinction. Her healing and renewal depends entirely on our willingness to heal the rift between us, to learn to live together with each other and the natural world, and commit wholeheartedly to global programs, not only here at home but everywhere, that guarantee not only the sustainability of life on Earth but also, insuring that all its inhabitants are guaranteed an opportunity to thrive equally.
Often you have heard me say, “Quiet Mind, Quiet Body; Quiet Body, Quiet Environment; Quiet Environment – Peace on Earth.” Both in theological and wisdom teachings we find the teachings that, “The Garden of Eden is everywhere.” Or as in Buddhism we say, “The Pure Land is everywhere.” However, if we do not see it within ourselves, if we do not see it where we dwell, we will not see it anywhere. Jesus said, “Though you may have eyes to see, you cannot see.” Furthermore we, human beings, are “co-creators,” what we create becomes a part of Nature, good and bad. Therefore as the Buddha taught, our thoughts, our words, and our actions not only make a difference but become a “reality” not only in our lives but also in the lives of all sentient beings. “What we think or dwell on, we become.” Not only “me” but everyone, the whole world. So when we look outward, what we see in the World is merely a reflection of the state of mind of the human family. We need to heal the World from within. Peace, friendship, equality, justice, the end of poverty and conflicts. Must begin with us, with “Me”.
“Ponlop Rinpoche said, “In the process of uncovering Buddha-Nature, in the process of uncovering our open, un-fixated quality of our mind, we have to be willing to get our hands dirty.” In other words, he was saying that we need to be willing to work with our disturbing emotions, the ones that feel entirely dark. But Ponlop Rinpoche added something really important to this statement. He said that without having a direct experience of our emotions, we can never touch the heart of Buddha-Nature. We can never actually hear the message of awakening.” If we are ever going to heal the Earth, if we are ever going to transform social consciousness, we need to stop pointing out the “darkness” we see in the world and see the darkness “within ourselves,” and begin the work of transformation there. And, this means, “getting our hands dirty”. We need to give up the false notion that spirituality is this kind of blissful ride into heaven. It never was for any one of the Great Masters, including Buddha or Moses, or Jesus; or for Gandhi or Martin Luther King Jr., and others. Only now have so many come short of full realization because they consider spirituality as an escape from the problems of the World, rather than the solution, which requires our full participation and engagement in, “getting our hands dirty”. (Actually, a lot of people have the misunderstanding that this is what meditation is about. They believe meditation includes everything except that which feels uncomfortable or takes us out of our bliss zone.)
Engaging Authentic Spirituality, in Buddhism particularly, emphasizes the importance of maintaining an holistic balance in life. While there is a history of personal salvation or liberation taking precedence in the Buddhist schools, the rise of the Mahayana (Zen) school particularly in the doctrine of The Bodhisattva Ideal, reaches past the individual to relate Buddhist soteriology to society as a whole. The Bodhisattva achieves his or her own salvation or liberation from suffering and its causes, only to Vow to return lifetime after lifetimes, to aid and assist other sentient beings to achieve theirs. As The Monks of Pine Wind recite regularly, “One for All, All for One,” and “Community is the Spirit, The Guiding Light” of everything we do and strive to achieve.
Albert Einstein, in his efforts to describe what he saw as the “real condition” of The Universe wrote, “A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” Our spiritual work or “task” is to free ourselves from this “optical delusion, a kind of prison” in order that we may then be able to, “widen our circle of compassion” and help to bring about the total transformation of the human family who in turn can then heal “the whole of nature and its beauty.”
Buddha-Nature includes opening to all of these things, beginning with the fundamental truth we so much strive to avoid, “Life is Suffering,” and our salvation or liberation is to be found in the midst of the many forms of suffering we have created in our world. We must not turn our hearts and our minds from the reality of the all pervasive suffering going on in our planet today. We must as Pema Chodrin writes in her book, “Dealing with Uncertainty,” that spiritual practice or way-of-being in the world begins with “cutting off all escape routes”. We must be willing to “get our hands dirty”.
As I began, allow me to finish by quoting Pope Francis I as he spoke years ago before the United Nations emphasizing that, “Ecological catastrophe under the effective explosion of industrial civilization…requires an urgent need for a radical change in the conduct of humanity, inasmuch as the most extraordinary scientific advances, the most amazing technical abilities, the most astonishing economic growth, unless they are accompanied by authentic social and moral progress, will definitively turn against man.”
I have a dear friend, who sadly whenever they speak about the future of the world, can only see an apocalyptic end quickly approaching. My response is always the same, “I do and I must remain hopeful in the power of goodness, in the power of love, in the power of compassion, and acts of kindness, which is inherent to all human beings. I do and I must continue to believe this.” I believe we hold the power to conquer all adversarial tendencies and behaviors we have learned along the way, that have consistently been proven to bring us closer and closer to my friends “apocalyptic vision,” but I also believe that at any moment we “choose to” humanity will meet evil with good, indifference with benevolence, war with peace. For as many examples of the opposite we can find in history, their exists proof of the true-nature of the human heart.
I believe in you. I invite you also – to believe! One for All, All for One.
I love you,