BEL is an opportunity to share ideas and information on the connections between Buddhist practice and ecological awareness and related actions.
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BEL ( at ) gaiapartnership (dot) org
You can read newsletters to 1 - 6 under 'previous issues'.
they are also posted on the NBO website
If you have ideas, or would like to recommend a short excerpt from a book or article on the subject, please email us.
Elaine Brook, David Midgley, Gordon Ellis, Claire Isitt, John Newson
BEL News 9
Three more contributions to the 'flying' debate;
1. from Ernest JP Muhly, Maryland;
Open any mainstream Buddhist publication today and one will find more adds for must-have trinkets and must-read books than writings of substance about what Buddhism has to offer the world today. I don't blame the lamas and other practitioners who write because the reality of our times is that that is part of how they manage to survive. But over the years I have been with too many people who study the dharma and participate in all the empowerment teachings they can -- sometimes flying great distances to do so -- without being concerned about their impact on other cultures or the environment, and many times expressing justification for their behavior in order to move toward enlightenment. There seems to me to be a great oxymoron here!
Part of the dilemma I feel is because Buddhism has accepted the separation of science from spirituality by being content to talk about environmental ethics and morality as though they were separate areas of concern and practice. This division, which has a several thousand-year tradition in Abrahamic and Western cultures, has allowed societies to take from science and technology what is useful for financial gain without being concerned about its cultural, environmental or social impacts. Easy to do if acceptance and salvation -- and accountability -- is put-off until one arrives in some heavenly realm!
Sadly though, there are many scientifically-valid Buddhist approaches to co-creating and co-existing with ones' environment mirrored in approaches such as agroecology and permaculture, which are being increasingly looked upon in both the over-developed and under-developed worlds as sustainable directions to emulate. There also exist within the Tibetan community the teachings of the rGyud-bzhi -- the basis of Tibetan Medicine, which begins with an understanding of what wellness is all about, and then proceeds to talk about how to move from a state of being out of balance toward one of being more centered.
The rGyud-bzhi is as valid and comprehensive a piece scientific a work as anything reductionist-science has to offer, and may very well be the only comprehensive example of what body-mind ecology is all about. As the Dalai Lama points out quite well in his recent book The Universe in a Single Atom, science too is grounded in metaphors and mythology, and the workings of one realm may be little different from the workings of another. Human ecology is a mirror of universal ecology, and I feel it would be beneficial if the Buddhist community which wants to be engaged with the rest of the world, would highlight and promote environmental science that exist within its dharma as much as it does other teaching which might be more religious in nature.
Ernest J.P. Muhly
2. From Sonja
This thought occurred to me after reading the short discussion
about whether Buddhists should use aeroplanes while this way
of travelling is causing so much damage to the environment:
Although there are truths which nobody would contradict -
like: it's good not to harm other sentient beings
in order to make this statement come true, one must find
ways to do so, and trying to do that, one would probably
find that every matter and every person and every moment has
its own truth, so there may be different decisions according
to every moment, every issue, every person. In one moment
it may be more beneficial to use an aeroplane (to get more
quickly to another place in order to help for instance) and
in another it would be more beneficial not to use an aeroplane
(as there could be enough time). And there are as many different
decisions as there are different conditions, while the one thing
might always be valid no matter what conditions: not to harm other
sentient beings, but to benefit them.
3. from David Evans, UK
Two of the people overheard by Elaine Brook merely confirm my impression
that Buddhism in this country is still in a very immature state, though
given the short time it's been around that's not surprising. However they
might usefully consider what sort of Buddhism (if any) they'd be practising
if they were living in Iraq or Darfur. Either Buddhism is a whole way of
life or it's little better than a sanctified ego trip dressed up in
conventional piety and the lionising of some guru or other. Environmentalism
trumps Buddhism because, without a habitable planet, no religion has any
Sincerely David Evans
(Anyone wishing to join the debate - get your thoughts in the next issue! )