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Lions Roar : March 2007
SHAMBHALA SUN MARCH 2007 48 actively choose to take up environmental work with a clear in- tention and joyful heart. Sensory contact with the natural world or quiet meditative practices renew the heart and establish an internal reference point of joy that is independent of chang- ing circumstances. With this stabilized intention, the spiritually grounded environmentalist can be prepared for the long haul. In the ancient tradition of gathas, or meditation poems, Zen teach- er Robert Aitken models such intention: Hearing the crickets at night I vow with all beings to find my place in the harmony crickets enjoy with the stars. If you recite your own vow of intention, it can be an actual force of renewal in the universe, opening up new possibilities for peaceful relations. His Holiness the Dalai Lama advocates a policy of kindness no matter how troubling the situation. This is practicing Buddhism with a small “b,” taking up the everyday challenge of getting along peacefully with the environment. A policy of kindness toward trees, rivers, sky, and mountains means paying caring attention to all the relations that make up Indra’s Net. As the Dalai Lama says, “When we talk about preservation of the environment, it is related to many other things. Ultimately, the decision must come from the human heart. The key point is to have a genuine sense of universal responsibility, based on love and compassion, and clear awareness.” Engaging environmental problems is not easy work. But if you work with these Buddhist principles—being with the suffer- ing, cultivating systems thinking, reducing harm, and generating peace—the task seems more possible. I haven’t told you whether to get involved with climate pro- tection or waste reduction. I haven’t said whether population or consumption is causing more damage to the earth. There are many fine resources in print and online that take up just these questions. What I hope is that anyone working at any level, as a citizen or professional, as a parent or student, can take up these Buddhist approaches and put them to good use. The Buddha felt the true test of his teachings was whether they were actually helpful in everyday life. Those I’ve offered here are core to my environmental work. I hope they may be of good use to you in whatever piece of the caregiving you take on. ♦ Above: Glass, Seattle, 2004. Opposite: Circuit boards #2, New Orleans, 2005.