A Daring Compassion

· Earth Initiative, Editorial, Essays · ,

by Suzanne Taikyo Gilman, Mountain Record Editor

The news on environmental activism rarely makes headlines, despite some prominent demonstrations and the groundswell of change they can lead to. Occasionally there are clashes or even violence against those who continue working, courageously, to protect and defend. Communities are torn apart, resources are depleted, our human greed and destruction takes its toll. I feel anger, a familiar despair. When facing these feelings of discouragement, or simply not knowing what to do, how is it that being on the path and having a spiritual practice can sustain us?

We don’t have the luxury of time to turn around the ravages of climate change. My pain reminds me of the power of selfless activity, of the reliability of the dharma for guidance, and the healing of our lives that is possible when we face suffering and act from our true connection for the benefit of all beings.

This is the spirit of “Earth Medicine,” the third in our Earth Awareness trilogy. In this issue, we explore how as spiritual practitioners facing climate change and injustice we can reach for the right medicine. How can we reconstitute our wholeness, soothe our wounds, and redouble our intention when facing greed, violence, and indifference? Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche points to cultivation of bodhicitta, the wish to attain enlightenment for the sake of all beings. Shugen Sensei describes spiritual practice as medicine that begins to take effect the moment we no longer accept the suffering of samsara and resolve to free ourselves and all beings, sentient and insentient.

Common themes in this issue include many familiar in the context of spiritual practice: having courage, trusting what is good, and speaking up. Alice Walker writes that “what is human is linked, by a daring compassion, to what is divine.” Thanissara explores this “daring compassion” in the Buddha’s teachings as a path of engagement. Robin Wall Kimmerer looks at how—just as the earth gives to us—reciprocity of gifts between people and between people and the earth can be the fulcrum of a future economy. Paul Hawken draws the comparison between the environmental justice movement and the abolition of slavery a century before: slow to gain momentum but unstoppable over time.

To do something good, and deeply trust in its momentum, is Earth Medicine. This daring compassion is the inspiration we receive from those who came before us—sincere intentions combined with clear thinking and connection to community—to heal our shared future. We hope this issue of Mountain Record will nourish your practice and inspire your courage and compassion. Let’s work together with what is at hand, using it as the spiritual medicine that can ease the suffering of our world.


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