Caring for the Earth

1 of 7

A third of the world’s people do not have an adequate supply of clean water. Fifty thousand plant and animal species a year are lost to human predation, the greatest mass extinction in several hundred millennia. Forests continue to disappear around the globe. Most of us are aware that the planet is in serious trouble, and we search for meaningful ways to act in response.

In the next field of engagement in the second ring of the Wheel, we focus on human-nature relations. This topic encompasses politics, ecology, and personal behavior. The path of caring for the Earth draws upon the resources of traditional Buddhism but also takes the tradition in new directions.

The Zen master says to the student: "See that boat moving way out there on the water? How do you stop it?"  Zen koan

To give a proper answer to this koan the student must be able to demonstrate that he has "become one" with the boat. Just as one must penetrate deeply into a koan to solve it, Buddhists around the world have begun to immerse themselves in environmental issues, attempting to approach urgent problems from the inside as well as the outside. An increasing number of practitioner-activists believe that the only way to stop the boat of ecological disaster is to deepen our relationship to the planet and all life within it.

In this lesson we look briefly at individual and group practices that support moving in this field of engagement, as well as some of the ways in which Buddhists are actively responding to the environmental issues faced by so many countries today.