The proper Buddhist attitude to the planet?

Theravāda in the 21st century - modern applications of ancient wisdom
dhammapal
Posts: 720
Joined: Sun Nov 01, 2009 9:23 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 6
Location: Sydney, Australia

The proper Buddhist attitude to the planet?

Postby dhammapal » Tue Nov 20, 2012 11:17 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:The fact that the Unconditioned can be attained forces us to re-evaluate any other goals we may set for ourselves, whatever worlds we want to create, in our lives. On an obvious level, it points out the spiritual poverty of a life devoted to wealth, status, or sensual pursuits; but it also forces us to take a hard look at other more "worthwhile" goals that our culture and its sub-cultures tend to exalt, such as social acceptance, meaningful relationships, stewardship of the planet, etc. These, too, will inevitably lead to suffering. The interdependence of all things cannot be, for any truly sensitive mind, a source of security or comfort. If the Unconditioned is available, and it is the only trustworthy happiness around, it only makes sense that we invest our efforts and whatever mental and spiritual resources we have in its direction.
From: The Meaning of the Buddha's Awakening by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

As a celibate layperson, what would be a proper Buddhist attitude to developing powerful influence in the world in order to help save the planet's biodiversity, mediation during armed conflict (meditation too!) and generally nurturing nature for business-as-usual continuation of civilization?

Thanks / dhammapal.

User avatar
Ben
Site Admin
Posts: 16351
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 12:49 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 1001
Location: Land of the sleeping gods
Contact:

Re: The proper Buddhist attitude to the planet?

Postby Ben » Tue Nov 20, 2012 11:37 am

Live a Dhammic life, an exemplary life.
Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.

Taṃ nadīhi vijānātha:
sobbhesu padaresu ca,
saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

Sutta Nipata 3.725

Compassionate Hands Foundation (Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • Buddhist Global ReliefUNHCR
Buddhist Life Stories of Australia
e: ben.dhammawheel@gmail.com

User avatar
DAWN
Posts: 801
Joined: Thu Aug 16, 2012 5:22 pm
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 1006

Re: The proper Buddhist attitude to the planet?

Postby DAWN » Tue Nov 20, 2012 7:14 pm

Simplicity
Sabbe dhamma anatta
We are not concurents...
I'am sorry for my english

User avatar
Kim OHara
Posts: 3224
Joined: Wed Dec 09, 2009 5:47 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 6
Location: North Queensland, Australia

Re: The proper Buddhist attitude to the planet?

Postby Kim OHara » Wed Nov 21, 2012 2:49 am

With all due respect to Ven. Thanissaro, this quotation is a perfect example of the Theravadin mind-set which is so often (and rightly, IMO) criticised from outside our tradition and (too often, IMO) quietly accepted within our tradition.
Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:The fact that the Unconditioned can be attained forces us to re-evaluate any other goals we may set for ourselves, whatever worlds we want to create, in our lives. On an obvious level, it points out the spiritual poverty of a life devoted to wealth, status, or sensual pursuits; but it also forces us to take a hard look at other more "worthwhile" goals that our culture and its sub-cultures tend to exalt, such as social acceptance, meaningful relationships, stewardship of the planet, etc. These, too, will inevitably lead to suffering. The interdependence of all things cannot be, for any truly sensitive mind, a source of security or comfort. If the Unconditioned is available, and it is the only trustworthy happiness around, it only makes sense that we invest our efforts and whatever mental and spiritual resources we have in its direction.
From: The Meaning of the Buddha's Awakening by Thanissaro Bhikkhu


Look at that last sentence again. It is utterly, shamelessly selfish: "Make yourself happy and ignore everything else"!!
And it is utterly out of step with the eightfold noble path, the brahmaviharas and Buddha's own example (do you think that forty years of teaching the same things over and over again to an endless stream of different people was something he did for fun?).

Ben's response was a good one, but I would go a bit further with the idea of "exemplary". Right speech, Right action, Right livelihood? Yes. Compassion? Yes, but extending to the kinds of social action which my alleviate suffering of whole groups of people. For instance, if we live in a racist society, compassionate action on behalf of the victims includes speaking out (where appropriate) against racism, not just (e.g.) giving food the the victims of discrimination.
This kind of social engagement is ideally not a distraction from practice but an integral part of practice.

:namaste:
Kim

User avatar
Ben
Site Admin
Posts: 16351
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 12:49 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 1001
Location: Land of the sleeping gods
Contact:

Re: The proper Buddhist attitude to the planet?

Postby Ben » Wed Nov 21, 2012 5:53 am

Kim O'Hara wrote:Ben's response was a good one, but I would go a bit further with the idea of "exemplary".


I'm glad you did, Kim. I wanted to stop at 'exemplary' to see whether it inspired further discussion or criticism. Important aspects of my practice include generosity and self-less service. I'm also a great fan of Bhikkhu Bodhi and his views on Buddhists actively engaging with the world to enact positive change. Living sustainably, treating others with compassion and generosity, advocating for social justice, in my mind, is part of living an exemplary life.
kind regards,

Ben
Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.

Taṃ nadīhi vijānātha:
sobbhesu padaresu ca,
saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

Sutta Nipata 3.725

Compassionate Hands Foundation (Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • Buddhist Global ReliefUNHCR
Buddhist Life Stories of Australia
e: ben.dhammawheel@gmail.com

User avatar
mikenz66
Posts: 10801
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 1001
Location: New Zealand

Re: The proper Buddhist attitude to the planet?

Postby mikenz66 » Wed Nov 21, 2012 6:03 am

Surely looking after others (and the planet) is firmly in the Path under dana and right livelihood?

Actually, I thought I read Ven Thanissaro saying as much elsewhere... :thinking:

:anjali:
Mike

User avatar
James the Giant
Posts: 791
Joined: Sat Oct 17, 2009 6:41 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 6

Re: The proper Buddhist attitude to the planet?

Postby James the Giant » Wed Nov 21, 2012 1:18 pm

I've met more than a few monks who have scoffed at and poo-pooed the idea of an engaged Buddhism that is deeply concerned with the state of the world and our environment. I was quite shocked when they scoffed. (Western Thai-Forest-Tradition monks, in a couple of the Ajahn Chah branch monasteries. )

There are two books which I know about but have not read, which you may be interested in.
One is Dharma Rain: Sources of Buddhist Environmentalism, edited by Stephanie Kaza and Kenneth Kraft, Shambala, Boston & London, 2000, ISBN 1-57062-475-5
It's published by Shambala and has excellent reviews.

The other is...
Buddhism and Deep Ecology, by Dr Daniel H Henning. I've heard not much about this, so I don't know.
Then,
saturated with joy,
you will put an end to suffering and stress.
SN 9.11

User avatar
Monkey Mind
Posts: 538
Joined: Sat Dec 05, 2009 8:56 pm
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 6
Location: Pacific Northwest, USA

Re: The proper Buddhist attitude to the planet?

Postby Monkey Mind » Wed Nov 21, 2012 3:58 pm

Conversely, I've known many "engaged Buddhists" who run themselves ragged attending save-the-world committees; at the end of the day they have zero time for Dhamma study or practice. Seems to me the goal should be a "middle way".
"As I am, so are others;
as others are, so am I."
Having thus identified self and others,
harm no one nor have them harmed.

Sutta Nipāta 3.710

User avatar
Kim OHara
Posts: 3224
Joined: Wed Dec 09, 2009 5:47 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 6
Location: North Queensland, Australia

Re: The proper Buddhist attitude to the planet?

Postby Kim OHara » Wed Nov 21, 2012 9:31 pm

James the Giant wrote:I've met more than a few monks who have scoffed at and poo-pooed the idea of an engaged Buddhism that is deeply concerned with the state of the world and our environment. I was quite shocked when they scoffed. (Western Thai-Forest-Tradition monks, in a couple of the Ajahn Chah branch monasteries. )

Yes, very disappointing to say the least. What happened to sila as the pre-requisite for spiritual progress?

James the Giant wrote:There are two books which I know about but have not read, which you may be interested in.
One is Dharma Rain: Sources of Buddhist Environmentalism, edited by Stephanie Kaza and Kenneth Kraft, Shambala, Boston & London, 2000, ISBN 1-57062-475-5
It's published by Shambala and has excellent reviews.

The other is...
Buddhism and Deep Ecology, by Dr Daniel H Henning. I've heard not much about this, so I don't know.

Thanks for those references. I had heard of the first but not the second, and haven't read either of them ... yet. :smile:
Amazon't page about Henning's book http://www.amazon.com/Buddhism-Deep-Ecology-Daniel-Henning/dp/1403370060 suggests other related books, in typical Amazon style. It also presents his CV, which is pretty impressive, but there is only one 'review' and it's not a very good one.
The only substantial review I found online was 15 pages of pdf - http://www.icundv.com/vesak2011/panel3/12AKSinghFINAL.pdf. It looks worthwhile for its own sake but I haven't had time to read it all yet. It begins ...
Buddhism and Deep Ecology: An Appraisal
Dr. Arvind Kumar Singh Department of Buddhist Studies, University of Delhi

We are now in 21st Century, where the human community is in search of new and sustaining relationships to earth amidst an ecological crisis that threatens the very existence of all life forms on the planet. Here, Buddhism needs to be re-examined in the light of current ecological crisis and to generate world views and ethics which underline fundamental attitudes and values of different cultures and societies. Ultimately, deep ecology is manifestation of the spiritual realization of individual. It is born in the individual and comes to fruition through the individual’s religious understanding and practice. According to Daniel H. Henning, “Deep ecology can be considered as the spiritual dimension of the environmental movements. It is a holistic approach to facing environmental problems which brings together thinking, feeling, spirituality and action”.1 Moreover, deep ecology has become sheer necessity for the very survival of the human race2 which has become a menace to living creatures. It is said that the Buddha had foreseen such a crisis long ago by virtue of His deep insight.3 According to Buddhism, the solution to these problems calls for preservation of everything that is bestowed on man by nature and overcoming the obstacles created by nature. Although, Buddhism is a doctrine expounded with the air of spiritual emancipation, yet it contains a great deal of advice to make the worldly life comfortable and happy.4 Buddhism, in fact, was selected for the pilot project in new perspectives for ecological education because it is an ancient, enduring philosophy, embodying strongly themes of awareness and compassion for all life.5


:namaste:
Kim

Buckwheat
Posts: 937
Joined: Thu Nov 24, 2011 12:39 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 1006
Location: California USA

Re: The proper Buddhist attitude to the planet?

Postby Buckwheat » Wed Nov 21, 2012 9:53 pm

I think some context is necessary. It's not like Ven Thanissaro is against being healthy, environmentally friendly, kind, and a wonderful person in worldly terms. I think the point of this is that our personal resources are limited, and the highest good we can do is to become enlightened. The Buddha performed a lifetime of service, but this was only after he became the Buddha. Before that, he invested all of his personal energy into finding the highest possible, unconditioned happiness. I do not see this as selfish unless it is used as an argument against being a responsible person in worldly terms. Ven Thanissaro's teachings (and lifestyle) as a whole make it clear he is not in favor of completely destroying any worldly goodness, only to put a higher good as a higher priority.
Sotthī hontu nirantaraṃ - May you forever be well.

dhammapal
Posts: 720
Joined: Sun Nov 01, 2009 9:23 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 6
Location: Sydney, Australia

Re: The proper Buddhist attitude to the planet?

Postby dhammapal » Thu Nov 22, 2012 12:50 am

Thanks for the replies.

Another difficult passage:
Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:However, the actual practice enjoined by the Buddha does not place such a high value on altruism at all. In fact, he gave higher praise to those who work exclusively for their own spiritual welfare than to those who sacrifice their spiritual welfare for the welfare of others (Anguttara Nikaya, Book of Fours, Sutta 95) — a teaching that the mainstream, especially in Mahayana traditions, has tended to suppress. The true path of practice pursues happiness through social withdrawal, the goal being an undying happiness found exclusively within, totally transcending the world, and not necessarily expressed in any social function. People who have attained the goal may teach the path of practice to others, or they may not. Those who do are considered superior to those who don't, but those who don't are in turn said to be superior to those who teach without having attained the goal themselves. Thus individual attainment, rather than social function, is the true measure of a person's worth.
From: Upasika Kee Nanayon and the Social Dynamic of Theravadin Buddhist Practice by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

With metta / dhammapal.

User avatar
polarbuddha101
Posts: 818
Joined: Mon Apr 16, 2012 7:39 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 1006
Location: California

Re: The proper Buddhist attitude to the planet?

Postby polarbuddha101 » Thu Nov 22, 2012 2:12 am

dhammapal wrote:Thanks for the replies.

Another difficult passage:
Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:However, the actual practice enjoined by the Buddha does not place such a high value on altruism at all. In fact, he gave higher praise to those who work exclusively for their own spiritual welfare than to those who sacrifice their spiritual welfare for the welfare of others (Anguttara Nikaya, Book of Fours, Sutta 95) — a teaching that the mainstream, especially in Mahayana traditions, has tended to suppress. The true path of practice pursues happiness through social withdrawal, the goal being an undying happiness found exclusively within, totally transcending the world, and not necessarily expressed in any social function. People who have attained the goal may teach the path of practice to others, or they may not. Those who do are considered superior to those who don't, but those who don't are in turn said to be superior to those who teach without having attained the goal themselves. Thus individual attainment, rather than social function, is the true measure of a person's worth.
From: Upasika Kee Nanayon and the Social Dynamic of Theravadin Buddhist Practice by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

With metta / dhammapal.


Yeah, but this passage should really only be for monks not lay people in my opinion. Social withdrawal will never be complete unless one becomes a monk and goes off to live in the forest. I think people should definitely work to help the environment, save wildlife and wildlife habitat as well as help out the sick and the poor of those among our own species. Virtue isn't just avoiding what's unskillful, it's cultivating that which is skillful and I think personally that helping out people and animals is one of the greatest ways to cultivate the brahmaviharas and other virtues as well as a way to just do some plain old good in the world. Let's look at a passage from Thanissaro's teacher's teacher, Ajahn Lee:

V. Right Livelihood. In maintaining ourselves and supporting our families, expending our wealth for the various articles we use or consume, we must use our earnings — coming from our Right Actions — in ways that are in keeping with moral principles. Only then will they provide safety and security, fostering the freedom and peace in our life that will help lead to inner calm. For example, there are four ways of using our wealth rightly so as to foster our own livelihood and that of others, providing happiness for all —

A. Charity: expending our wealth so as to be of use to the poor, sick, needy, or helpless who merit the help of people who have wealth, both inner and outer, so that they may live in ease and comfort.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/thai ... peace.html


I would consider wildlife as needy and helpless against our destruction of their habitat and the poaching that humans undertake against them. But yeah, the ultimate goal for any buddhist is to attain awakening, extinguish passion, aversion, and delusion and never be reborn again. I would propose that lay buddhists should be proactively virtuous by helping animals and people. Stewardship of the earth is only important so that wildlife and humans can benefit from the gifts of the natural environment, thus stewardship of the planet should center around protecting wildlife habitat and keeping water and atmosphere unpolluted. One of the most overlooked things that should be gotten rid of ASAP is the fertilizer us humans use, it is so destructive to wildlife and water quality it's criminal. Once someone becomes a monk though they should study the dhamma and then go dwell somewhere remaining heedful, ardent and resolute until they reach the goal of the holy life.
"I don't envision a single thing that, when developed & cultivated, leads to such great benefit as the mind. The mind, when developed & cultivated, leads to great benefit."

"I don't envision a single thing that, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about such suffering & stress as the mind. The mind, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about suffering & stress."

Buckwheat
Posts: 937
Joined: Thu Nov 24, 2011 12:39 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 1006
Location: California USA

Re: The proper Buddhist attitude to the planet?

Postby Buckwheat » Thu Nov 22, 2012 6:37 am

dhammapal wrote:Thanks for the replies.

Another difficult passage:
Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:However, the actual practice enjoined by the Buddha does not place such a high value on altruism at all. In fact, he gave higher praise to those who work exclusively for their own spiritual welfare than to those who sacrifice their spiritual welfare for the welfare of others (Anguttara Nikaya, Book of Fours, Sutta 95) — a teaching that the mainstream, especially in Mahayana traditions, has tended to suppress. The true path of practice pursues happiness through social withdrawal, the goal being an undying happiness found exclusively within, totally transcending the world, and not necessarily expressed in any social function. People who have attained the goal may teach the path of practice to others, or they may not. Those who do are considered superior to those who don't, but those who don't are in turn said to be superior to those who teach without having attained the goal themselves. Thus individual attainment, rather than social function, is the true measure of a person's worth.
From: Upasika Kee Nanayon and the Social Dynamic of Theravadin Buddhist Practice by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

With metta / dhammapal.


I think an important phrase in this passage is "sacrifice their spiritual welfare for the welfare of others." It is one thing to help out other people, but it is another to create a whole new sense of self based on self sacrifice for the "greater good". There is nothing wrong with a lay person spending their extra energy deflating the sense of self that seeks "greater good".

How often does one sacrifice their spiritual welfare for the sake of another person's spiritual welfare, only to find out later it was only draining the spiritual welfare of both people? In my experience, it happens quite often. We should focus on our own spiritual development. Sometimes that means helping out another person. However, if we seek out helping others, and define our success by how we help others, then we are aiming at something other than the real goal of this life. Any step away from unbinding causes suffering for ourselves and others.
Sotthī hontu nirantaraṃ - May you forever be well.

User avatar
Kim OHara
Posts: 3224
Joined: Wed Dec 09, 2009 5:47 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 6
Location: North Queensland, Australia

Re: The proper Buddhist attitude to the planet?

Postby Kim OHara » Thu Nov 22, 2012 6:56 am

Buckwheat wrote:We should focus on our own spiritual development. Sometimes that means helping out another person. However, if we seek out helping others, and define our success by how we help others, then we are aiming at something other than the real goal of this life. Any step away from unbinding causes suffering for ourselves and others.

Hi, Buckwheat,
Here's a response to that:
Abou Ben Adhem

Abou Ben Adhem (may his tribe increase!)
Awoke one night from a deep dream of peace,
And saw, within the moonlight in his room,
Making it rich, and like a lily in bloom,
An angel writing in a book of gold:—
Exceeding peace had made Ben Adhem bold,
And to the Presence in the room he said
"What writest thou?"—The vision raised its head,
And with a look made of all sweet accord,
Answered "The names of those who love the Lord."
"And is mine one?" said Abou. "Nay, not so,"
Replied the angel. Abou spoke more low,
But cheerly still, and said "I pray thee, then,
Write me as one that loves his fellow men."

The angel wrote, and vanished. The next night
It came again with a great wakening light,
And showed the names whom love of God had blessed,
And lo! Ben Adhem's name led all the rest.

James Henry Leigh Hunt

It's obviously from a non-Buddhist tradition but I think the principle nevertheless holds true.
I have known it for as long as I can remember, and certainly far longer than I have known about Buddhism, so maybe some sentimental attachment to the poem is rose-tinting my response to it. I don't think so, though: I really can't see that always putting one's own welfare first is anything other than selfishness - therefore directly in opposition to both sila and the dissolution of ego which is a key to liberation.

Sometimes I think I'm emotionally a mahayanist and intellectually a theravadin. This could be one of those times.
:thinking:
Kim

User avatar
cooran
Posts: 7801
Joined: Tue Jan 06, 2009 11:32 pm
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 1
Location: Queensland, Australia

Re: The proper Buddhist attitude to the planet?

Postby cooran » Thu Nov 22, 2012 8:40 am

Hello Kim and all,

Don't despair, :group: there are lots of socially active buddhists in this world - theravada and otherwise:
Buddhism and Social Action An Exploration by Ken Jones
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... el285.html
Buddhist Contribution to Social Welfare in Australia By Patricia Sherwood
Lecturer in Social Anthropology Edith Cowan University
http://www.thezensite.com/ZenEssays/Cri ... elfare.pdf

with metta
Chris
---The trouble is that you think you have time---
---Worry is the Interest, paid in advance, on a debt you may never owe---
---It's not what happens to you in life that is important ~ it's what you do with it ---

User avatar
Kim OHara
Posts: 3224
Joined: Wed Dec 09, 2009 5:47 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 6
Location: North Queensland, Australia

Re: The proper Buddhist attitude to the planet?

Postby Kim OHara » Thu Nov 22, 2012 9:40 am

Thanks, Chris :smile:
Heading back in the general direction of the OP, I will add Ecobuddhism.org http://www.ecobuddhism.org/ to your list.

:namaste:
Kim

alan
Posts: 2624
Joined: Wed Sep 30, 2009 12:14 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 6
Location: Miramar beach, Fl.

Re: The proper Buddhist attitude to the planet?

Postby alan » Fri Nov 23, 2012 1:54 am

I think Thanissaro is at a point in his life where a real breakthrough is possible. He may be writing for himself, and his hardcore students. Most of us will never get to that level of commitment. But I'm glad it exists.

alan
Posts: 2624
Joined: Wed Sep 30, 2009 12:14 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 6
Location: Miramar beach, Fl.

Re: The proper Buddhist attitude to the planet?

Postby alan » Fri Nov 23, 2012 2:25 am

In response to the original question, I think it is proper for lay persons to bring the values of Buddhism to the world at large. But we'll be swimming upstream. Most people won't listen. I know, from trying to convince people on my facebook page, that the dumb people outnumber us a million to one. Hooray for organizations that work for change. It's up to you to decide where to spend your time.

User avatar
Kim OHara
Posts: 3224
Joined: Wed Dec 09, 2009 5:47 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 6
Location: North Queensland, Australia

Re: The proper Buddhist attitude to the planet?

Postby Kim OHara » Fri Nov 23, 2012 3:40 am

alan wrote:In response to the original question, I think it is proper for lay persons to bring the values of Buddhism to the world at large. But we'll be swimming upstream. Most people won't listen. I know, from trying to convince people on my facebook page, that the dumb people outnumber us a million to one. Hooray for organizations that work for change. It's up to you to decide where to spend your time.

Don't worry, Alan - the world is gradually attracting their attention:
111612.jpg
111612.jpg (88.3 KiB) Viewed 1344 times


:namaste:
Kim

Buckwheat
Posts: 937
Joined: Thu Nov 24, 2011 12:39 am
Which number is larger than 1000 and less than 1002: 1006
Location: California USA

Re: The proper Buddhist attitude to the planet?

Postby Buckwheat » Sun Nov 25, 2012 7:16 am

Kim O'Hara wrote:...I really can't see that always putting one's own welfare first is anything other than selfishness - therefore directly in opposition to both sila and the dissolution of ego which is a key to liberation.

Sometimes I think I'm emotionally a mahayanist and intellectually a theravadin. This could be one of those times.
:thinking:
Kim


Hi Kim,
I don't recommend thinking "me first" when it comes to worldly gains, only when it comes to spiritual development. There are times when spiritual development dictates we satisfy another person's material needs at the expense of our own material needs. This expression of generosity would have a spiritual benefit that would far outweigh any material loss. The thing I see Ven Thanissaro warning about is developing a sense of self around this idea of sacrifice, becoming attached to it, and then doing things to satisfy that craving that sacrifice both worldly and spiritual welfare. Examples include breaking precepts when "the ends justify the means" or simply running one's body ragged in an effort to achieve a small reduction in worldly suffering. A much higher goal may be to set an example of how to transcend worldly suffering all together, such as cultivating a spiritual well being that is less dependent on worldly well being. This enables worldly sacrifice without destroying the underlying sense of well being.

Of course, selfishness is such a dangerous drug that if one were to miss the mark, self-sacrifice is probably a less addictive and easier habit to break, but I would have to ask somebody with more wisdom to be sure about that.

I guess how this relates back to the OP: when dealing with worldly matters, one should certainly think first about the planet, conserving resources, protecting our health and well being. However, one would be advised to spend even more energy on cultivation of calming and insight into the Four Noble Truths. Such renunciation would probably be good for the environment anyway.

Finally, I would like to point out that if we look at the lifestyle of Ven Thanissaro, when I visited Wat Metta, there seemed to be a great deal of concern and effort put into protecting the environment and resources. Pointing out the spiritual limitations of worldly matters does not indicate he condones an attitude of reckless abandon in terms of worldly matters.
Sotthī hontu nirantaraṃ - May you forever be well.


Return to “Theravāda for the modern world”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 4 guests