On 13 April 2014, twenty-five environmentally concerned Buddhists practicing in Thich Nhat Hanh’s Plum Village tradition gathered at Deer Park Monastery (Escondido, California) for the final conversation of the Engaged Buddhist Theme Weekend: Earth Holding and Protecting. Thay Phap Ho (Brother Protection) passed a basket of writing supplies and invited the group to create—in pictures and words—a “mandala of possibilities” for sustainable living and life-giving continuation. He urged us to consider our deepest aspirations, gifts and talents, realistic challenges, and skillful actions to bring about earth-healing in ourselves, our families, Sangha communities, and beyond. The room fell into silence as we put what was in our hearts to paper. This is a summary of our collective consciousness.
Our Earth Holding dream is a thriving global community of animal, vegetable, and mineral species. Clean air, land, and water, abundant and healthy food, and planetary peace nourish all beings. A Mindful Society—one collectively awake to humankind’s interbeing with nature—is at the root of this harmonious and sustainable world. Everywhere, people come together as a global Earth Holding Sangha to transform planetary suffering through small and large healing acts. (This Sangha includes an order of Earth-Keeping Monastics, a global network of Wake Up Gardeners, and residential communities founded upon mutual planetary respect.) As part of this effort, Earth Holders offer our lives to others as inspiring examples, Dharma doors.
Gifts and Talents
Mindfulness practice develops talents in us that support humanity’s awakening. Touching our Buddha Nature, we experience joy, confidence, faith, non-fear, and stability to follow the wisdom in our hearts. Looking deeply into the reality of interbeing, we awaken to our love of nature and stir with compassion and generosity toward all creatures. Through deep listening, we foster companionship, discover shared values, cultivate understanding around diverse points of view, and find opportunities for gentle encouragement. With loving speech and skillful teaching, facilitating, and sharing, we enter into transformational relationships around climate change, species extinction, and other forms of planetary suffering. Our tradition of engaged Buddhist practice moves us toward right action; right diligence helps us persist. The practice of being with those who suffer challenges us to expand both our compassion and our scientific understanding of what is happening around us, and learn more about the causes and conditions of planetary warming. Joining with the global Sangha, we link circles of influence and uncover fresh opportunities for collaboration.
Also, many Earth Holders benefit from good health, social or economic privilege, or abundant energy. Others bring creativity, flexibility, time, poetry, song, and story to earth-healing. Some offer advanced Sangha-building skills. Everyone gives their smile because absolutely nothing is lost; everything is in a process of change and continuation.
Obstacles blocking earth-healing are the same as those that generate individual and societal suffering. Anger, enemy-making, complexes of superiority, inferiority, and equality, impatience, frustration, despair, fear, self-doubt, guilt, tendencies toward individualism instead of collaboration, competition, disbursement of energy, undisciplined practice, confusion, ignorance, stress (financial, sensory, and social), business, and resistance to change all undermine our deepest personal aspirations. Other challenges stem from powerful interests in society that obfuscate and deny the changing climate reality; advocate consumption as a solution to suffering; tolerate suffering as they promise salvation in an afterlife; promote ideas of living beings, life span, and limited time and resources; and reward greed.
Earth Holders will continue to support the collective awakening by:
• Teaching planetary mindfulness and earth meditation practices
• Sharing earth-care project ideas with local Sanghas
• Promoting simple lifestyles that reduce, reuse, and recycle resources
• Offering ways to align personal choices with the ethics of the Mindfulness Trainings (paying special attention to decisions impacting food, energy, transportation and water usage)
To be strategic and make sure the work does not grow heavy, we will add our energy to efforts already underway and share responsibilities.
We will serve Mother Earth in ways that give us joy, including: promoting permaculture and community gardens, making how-to videos, writing and publishing stories and educational materials, teaching youth about human and planetary violence, adding climate change and our relationship with Earth in our talks and sharing, and organizing volunteer projects. We will take care of the environment by caring for environmentalists, practice self-care, and gather together at intervals to learn from one another, renew ourselves.
Finally, we Earth Holders aspire to:
• Grow more spiritually mature
• Spend more time experiencing our inter-being with animals, vegetables, and minerals
• Gain new friendships in this area
• Serve selflessly when called
• Stay informed