Praised Be

Today, with the release of Pope Francis’s papal encyclical, there is much to celebrate for climate activists, which increasingly, is all of us. You can read the full version of the encyclical, called “Praised Be,” here. (Read a précis from Truthdig here)

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At the same time Dutch Shell sails forth to the Arctic to “pull the detonator in the climate bomb” good news is welcome. Both events, S-hell and Blessed Be, illustrate that spiritual and religious life calls us to engage a great battle. The higher the stakes, the stronger the opposing forces. Make no mistake about it, we have now entered a struggle for the collective survival of sustainable life on earth. The battle lines are getting very clear, and so for each of us, individually, as families, nation states, and as an interconnected global human family, it’s time to get behind the Pope and join forces for the sake of those who come after us.

In the spirit of ally-ship, I was happy to be invited to write a few words in support of Praised Be for Our Voices and One Earth Sangha on this auspicious day. My prayer is for us to see victory over the forces of delusion, greed, and hatred that would render our magnificent planet sterile. At such a time, may peace be with each of us, may all beings know well being, may all beings be protected.

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                                                         A Buddhist Perspective In Support of Pope Francis’s Call for Climate Action

Since climate change and the global economy now affect us all, we have to develop a sense of the oneness of humanity. The Dalai Lama

The release of the papal encyclical “Praised Be” urges us, as global citizens, to take climate change extremely seriously. It also asks us to look deeply at its causes and pick up the challenge to overcome them so we can leave a sustainable world for future generations. This timely communication from Pope Francis is deeply appreciated and welcomed by all informed people of faith, alongside secular and scientific communities, who understand that environmental degradation is the primary issue of our times.

In delivering this message with a clarity rooted in scientific truth, the Pope demonstrates the kind of leadership needed in these frightening times. Some may call the Pope “radical” but the fact is ensuring future generations suffer dire consequences due to our negligence constitutes radical ignorance. In truth, the Pope’s radicalism is wholly worthy of the Christ, and all great religious founders, who changed the course of humanity through the might of their spiritual power.

We have such an example in the Buddha, who also radically challenged inequities such as slavery, attachment to nationalism, privilege and caste, gender discrimination, violence and abuse of animals, all of which generate poverty, oppression, and systemic suffering. At a more intimate level, the Buddha pointed to the force of greed, hatred and delusion within the human mind as the leading cause of a burning world.

Fortunately, the Buddha also pointed to wholesome attributes within this very same mind, such as ethical discernment, wise reflection and investigative awareness. Buddhism teaches that we can overcome greed, hatred and delusion, the causes of climate change, by developing these attributes alongside a variety of ethical and spiritual capacities such as generosity, virtue, renunciation, mindfulness, wisdom, effort, compassion, truth, determination, loving kindness and peace.

While our cosmos is mysterious, what is clear is that for the first time four and a half billion years of evolutionary history, humans now shape the Earth’s destiny. It is a terrible and poignant moment to realize that due to our apathy, aggression and craving we are on the cusp of rendering the planet unlivable for all forms of life. To absorb this reality is to have one’s heart shattered. The devastation we feel, however, opens us to understanding that we have to change.

Firstly we need the humility to see that our hubris has divorced us from an alliance with nature and the knowledge of our interconnectedness with all life. This truth is deeply understood by First Nation Peoples. Instead of respecting their wisdom, they have suffered genocide and severe oppression through the ravenous staking of colonial acquisition. The current corporate control of our shared resources, for gross monetary gain, continues these same cycles of exploitation and poverty.

This now has to stop. We need to patently reject the myth of endless growth and instead return to the example of wise elders who live within the natural limitations of the Earth’s capacity. Buddhism teaches that we find the unlimited through inner realization not through endless consumption. To transform our selves through this realization is to transform the world. While Buddhism focuses on inner development, this does not preclude outer activism as demonstrated by the Buddha who worked to uplift humanity while advocating love of all beings and service to the Dharma, or truth.

Together in service, as encouraged by Pope Francis, we are called to undertake a profoundly transformative task. We should do this for the welfare of all. For this we need to end reliance of fossil fuels, sequester current carbon emissions, invest in massive renewable energy, and shift toward plant based diets and local agriculture.

We do not have a moment to loose. Pope Francis said, “The time to find global solutions is running out. There is therefore a clear, definite and urgent ethical imperative to act.” This message is addressed to “every person who inhabits this planet.” Lets join together and start by insisting politicians and world leaders commit to a strong climate agreement. Alone we are vulnerable, but together we are unstoppable; together we can bend the course of history.

Thanissara, KwaZulu Natal, South Africa, Thursday 18th June 2015

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5 thoughts on “Praised Be”

  1. Thank you Thanissara, your call to wake up! You have said that it is the religiously committed base in the world who can create the tidal wave necessary for change to save the earth. It is great we can come together behind the pope for the sake of the earth. I can’t wait for your book, “Time to Stand Up” to come out.

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  2. Dear Thanissara,
    Thank you for your eloquent, response to Pope Francis’ encyclical. You beautifully weave together how the Buddhist tradition is directly relevant and in fact a powerful resource to responding to this unprecedented challenge. I wonder about the time needed for transformation through Buddhist practices vs the urgency of the problem which you helpfully state loud and clear. The timescales of patiently working with personal and collective karma and the speed with which we need to act feel so different. I wondered if you have any comments on this?

    I also resonated strongly with your reference to the wisdom and exploitation of 1st nations peoples, which feels a very important aspect of all this.

    I would like to ask your permission if we could reproduce this piece for our Insight Meditation Group newsletter?

    Thank you for your dedicated work in helping us wake up .

    Julia

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    1. Dear Julia, Thanks very much for your thoughtful comments and reflections. First I agree, there are two different time lines, inner work is a long, careful process, and in reality transformation takes years to mature and integrate. The imperative to engage outer action, informed by inner work, is immediate really. We need to engage now. While they are different paces, processes, I don’t see them as mutually exclusive.

      We just don’t really have the luxury of years of inner introspection that is divorced for engagement, like the model of traditional contemplative Buddhist monasticism and retreat going. While I would not advocate dropping lengthy times of retreat and psycho-spiritual work, we now need bring into our Dharma practice individual and collective ways of engaging climate crisis.

      I write quite a lot about this in my forth coming book, “Time To Stand Up, An Engaged Buddhist Manifesto for the Earth, The Buddhha’s Life from a Feminine View“, which is due out this August.
      From Oct to Nov, we have the online Ecosattva Training, hosted by One Earth Sangha, which will also explore the dimensions of inner and outer practice and how to engage both. I think the primary theme is that we need to pull together as Buddhist practitioners so we can represent a strong lobby.

      You are very welcome to use whatever I write for your group, or in anyway you find helpful in support of engaging our current frightening situation. May we continue to work together to support each other in these times.
      Much love.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you very much for your reply Thanissara and permission to use your writing.

        I had an inkling of how practice can help action, even in this moment, from a retreat day today on equanimity practice- and felt how even a pause and a phrase can help allow a space from habitual reactivity to something more heartful and more free, more at ease. It brought to mind the image of Kuan Yin that I have heard you teach before, who listens to the cries of the world, in that posture of ease. I catch a sense that ease may not be exclusive to strong emotion, and I am keen to explore how it can support deeper resonance, and I hope support wiser action.

        I really value these conversations and hope that collectively we can, as you say, pull together to contribute to these times.

        I look forward to your book, and I will look again into the Ecosattva training in October (thankyou for reminding me about it). It is a wonderful opportunity.

        Thank you for your support,
        Love Julia

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