Earth Initiative Winter Update

· Earth Initiative, Sangha News

Upstate sangha traveled to Albany on Monday, January 28, to join forces in urging New York state legislators to fully fund the CLCPA (Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act) so it can fulfill its far reaching mandate to bring NYS’s carbon production and usage down to zero. Ten sangha members joined with hundreds from all over the state organized by NY Renews to visit with legislators and to rally at the legislative hearing on funding the CLCPA.

Clockwise from left: sangha members Alec, Mokudo, Tanner, Kusei, Jusan, Eisho, Shobon, Weston, Jess and Ien, at the Empire State Plaza

Downstate, the Earth Initiative sangha hosted a seminar at Fire Lotus Temple with author David Loy on his book Ecodharma.

If you’ve wondered how to respond to human-created ecological devastation and climate breakdown, so has David Loy in posing the question, “What does Buddhism have to offer?” Ecodharma: Buddhist Teachings for the Ecological Crisis does a deep exploration of how Buddhist principles can address the climate crisis and how Buddhist practice can help us grapple with the intense emotional impact of living on a planet whose systems are breaking down.

The lively discussion with Loy, attended by twenty sangha members, explored the depth of the environmental crisis itself and also into the human emotions and conditioning, as well as the economic forces, which drive what Loy calls the “lack projects”—the persistent feeling that we are not enough and need to chase after external objects in order to feel fulfilled. This is re-created on a global level, he asserted, in how we relate to the natural world, or in many ways fail to relate to it.

Loy traces the history of how humans gradually became disconnected from the natural world, and how this profound disconnection has led to a spiritual crisis which has in turn created the environmental crisis. “The Extinction Event which are are currently living through could more appropriately be called an Extermination Event,” he stated. “It is not something that is happening to us, it is something we are doing.” In our disconnection from the natural world and fascination with our own power and technology, we have become “self-created gods.” He quoted Israeli historian Yuval Norah Harrai: “Is there anything more dangerous than dissatisfied and irresponsible gods who don’t know what they want?” 

This is sobering stuff, to be sure. But Loy sees the possibility that Buddhism may offer a path out of this destructive cycle of lack-projects and disconnection. We are living at a time when the interest in addressing this crisis, including in the Buddhist community, has rapidly increased. He spoke of holding very small Ecodharma workshops a few years ago while in this past year such workshops have quickly reached capacity. With mass movements such as the global school strikes for the climate and the prominence of climate activist Greta Thunberg, and the rapid growth of the groups like Extinction Rebellion, it is as if there is a global immune system being activated in response to this sickness. However, he warned, immune systems can fail. He stressed that our practice needs to come off our cushions and into the world, while not becoming attached to any particular outcome. “Our task is to do the very best we can not knowing that anything we do makes any difference whatsoever,” he stated. Clearly, many Buddhists feel that Buddhism does have something to offer in this dire moment. Now is the time for us to make that offer.

Donna Dojaku Nicolino provided this story on David Loy’ and Ecodharma

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