Dharma Zephyr’s Earth Care Group

Dharma Zephyr Earth Care Group

Green Tara, the bodhisattva of enlightened activity. Photo Kathy Schwerin

Why take care of the earth? Why try to live more lightly in the world, leaving room for other living beings? Isn’t global warming too big for us? Can anything we do as individuals make any difference? Can’t we just live our lives, meditate, try to make our own lives and the lives of people around us happier?

These are the questions the nine members of Dharma Zephyr’s Earth Care group brought with us to our first meeting – along with a lot of grief, despair, anger, and confusion.

The Earth Care group was formed as a response to an open letter from contemporary Dharma teachers, Earth as Witness: International Dharma Teachers’ Statement on Climate Change.  Some of us already were engaged in environmental and climate change work, some wanted to become engaged but didn’t know where to begin, one confessed she was there because she felt guilty.

We agreed that our Dharma practice is key to healthy engagement in the world, so that’s what we explored during the four times we met. Two ideas emerged: following the Noble Eightfold Path is as important to our engagement in the world as it is to our spiritual practice. And the idea of the bodhisattva, “she who hears the cries of the world” is at once a model for our work, a comfort, an impossible ideal, and an inspiration.

In this intensely individualistic culture we live in, we might think that anything we accomplish – or don’t accomplish – we accomplish as isolated individuals. The Noble Eightfold Path helps us see that view of the world is simply not true. The Sila (translated into English as moral discipline) aspects of the Noble Eightfold Path – skillful action, speech, and livelihood –are about how we live our life in relationship to others, including in relationship to the earth and all beings. We recognize our relationship to others by behaving in a way that does not damage them.

The Earth Care group explored Sila and the environment: how does skillful speech emerge in talking about an emotionally and politically fraught topic like global warming? How can we deal skillfully with the avalanche of news and opinion about climate change and other social and environmental challenges? What does the amount and type of goods we consume have to do with skillful action and livelihood?

In the last of our four meetings, we circled back to the ever-inspiring ideal of the bodhisattva, a being who devotes her life to the well-being of all other beings. We recognized that working for a healthy planet actually requires us to behave in real life as a bodhisattva would behave. This is scary, exhilarating and probably impossible. But “standing in the presence of all beings” we each devised our own bodhisattva vow.

Finally, sangha. We agreed that talking and working together, rather than attempting to work in isolation, on the emotionally challenging issues of global warming and the state of the earth was not only critical to our efforts, but – you might not believe this – it was also  fun. We enjoyed our time together so we decided to continue.

Next week many of our Dharma teachers, including some who signed the Dharma

Photo  - One Earth Sangha

Photo – One Earth Sangha

Teacher’s Statement on Climate Change, will pass through Reno on a Climate Train enroute to the People’s Climate March in New York City. The regularly scheduled Amtrak train – most seats filled by climate activists – will pass through Reno at 4 pm on Monday, September 15. The Earth Care group will join with other local climate activists in a “Whistle Stop” march from the Federal Building in downtown Reno to the Amtrak station – about a ten-minute walk. – to support the Climate Train riders.

We invite you to join us – you can register here, or contact me (Anne) through the Dharma Zephyr website.

The Earth Care group intends to continue meeting and anyone is welcome to join us. We’d welcome your energy, ideas, and wise companionship. Contact Anne through this website for the date and time of the next meeting.

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