Time to Stand Up
Inspired by online course EcoSattva 2016, offered by One Earth Sangha, which is still available and strongly recommended by the author. Thanissara is one of the principle teachers of the course. The title and final paragraph are paraphrased from her book Time to Stand Up.
by Camilo Marquez
How do we bring our individual consciousness and journey into community? How does sangha support the effort to create enlightened society? How do right thought and right action resonate, reverberate, and reflect through social engagement?
To answer these questions, some knowledge, understanding and attitudinal reflection are necessary. Buddhist cosmology is timeless, seamless, and interrelated in history across boundaries, species, and systems. It can speak directly to the way these connections have been ignored and denied in order to foster the separateness that facilitated the exploitation of the earth and its different peoples, leaving us divided and degraded.
With the presidential election, we are witnessing the emplacement and empowerment of anti-nature, anti-universal, nativist values and policies. They will further hasten and advance the deterioration and degradation of the planet, and affect hope for its citizens to thrive in global harmony. The once sacred places, practices, and people are being exploited and sacrificed for the enrichment and power of the neoliberal and neoconservative establishments. We must comprehend how this has occurred, and how we can keep it from destroying us or hastening our destruction.
The prospect of the new administration arouses anxieties, dread, active resistance, and discussion about what actions to take. Initial fears and uncertainty have been followed by the outrageous nominations to the cabinet–each worse than the last–which appear to guarantee the rejection of climate change measures and to advance a greedy corporate, anti-worker agenda. Many rallies, gatherings, resistance events, and marches are in the works. Some are discussing efforts to reach out to the people who voted for the president-elect, to try to effect some understanding and communication.
What comfort, inspiration, and guidance can we draw from the Dharma and from our teachers? I think the first two things that the Dharma recommends are not to be reactive and not to conceptualize problems along a dualistic frame. To not be reactive means to not flee from the distress, sadness, and confusion the election caused. It means to embrace those emotions, know their contours, before rushing into acting on emotion. Avoiding the trap of dualistic thinking means developing understanding of the historical, systemic complexities of current conditions and creating positive alternatives rather than just rejecting the specter of the transition of power. It means reflecting on our personal responses and focusing on our spiritual practice to identify skillful means of addressing the circumstances. It means finding support in the community of the sangha, sharing our struggles and inspiring one another to remain enthusiastic and steadfast. For this, look to the Mahayana tradition, and in particular chapter seven of The Way of the Bodhisattva, which instructs on the paramita of enthusiasm and commitment.
I believe that practice dedicated to consciousness of the devastation of Gaia and devoted to protecting her from further degradation serves us by being grounded in the Four Noble Truths. Recognizing that inspires us to come to terms with centuries of injustices that perpetuate systemic suffering and need to be addressed systemically and collectively, moving Dharma practice beyond personal introversion and equanimity. Let us together explore what Buddhists have to offer from our practice to a world in crisis. We look at ourselves, our intention and what our current existence is built upon. We revisit the Dharma, how we have interpreted and embodied it to see whether Buddhism is truly and authentically responsive to the times. Our awakening journey cannot be a solo, privileged occupation. Instead, we must align across all boundaries created by inequality, prejudice, and ignorance. We must embrace the beloved community of faith and activists, those who seek a creative response that heals divided consciousness and resists continuing degradation of our global communities, and of the planet which sustains us.
Interested in mindful climate practice and action? Find out more about the Portland Shambhala Climate Practice / Action Group by following this link.