Climate change is part of the ecological emergency: here’s what you can do

A GUIDE TO THE BODHISATTVA’S WAY

OF LIFE

by

ACHARYA SHANTIDEVA

Translated into English by Stephen Batchelor

LIBRARY OF TIBETAN WORKS & ARCHIVES

DHARAMSALA

1979

The Benefit of the Awakening Mind

There is nothing here that has not been explained before

And I have no skill in the art of rhetoric;

Therefore, lacking any intention to benefit others,

I write this in order to acquaint it to my mind.

The climate crisis, nature on the run, wild fires, mass extinctions, bees and other pollinators dying, pollution, clear felling, rainforest destruction, mass migration, land becoming desert, drought, famine, war, political extremism, and your own grief, rage, depression, sense of isolation and loneliness. All these are interconnected. 

Blame someone else: oil companies, other people, stupidity, ignorance, them over there, immigrants, poverty, disease, the Virus. This is not the answer. 

What can we do?

We can focus on our own lives. We can see three spheres of relationship. This may feel inadequate but that’s the rub, the trick is to recognise the trick. Them, over there, is an illusion. It is all happening NowHere. 

Look at what we are. We emerge into consciousness from the mesh of our existence as children unable to choose where we were born, who brought us up and how, where and whether we were schooled, what happened to us that shaped the next thing, and chance happenings that threw all plans into the air. 

The Bhagavad Gita says that we are like puppets, the strings pulled by our emotions (e – out of, from, motio – movement, to move from, or to be moved by), which are in turn shaped and stimulated by memories, fears, desires, we develop according to our personal pasts. 

The most powerful thing we can do is realise that this is happening. That very realisation does two things: it makes the gap between our reactions and our noting of our reactions broaden into a space of awareness. It makes space for awareness real. Secondly, realisation is awareness. What is awareness? If we are all a part of the universe (or multiverses, as seems more likely), and I don’t see any reason to believe we are not, then we are the universe, the multiverse, the system, aware of itself. We are existence that is aware of existing. 

Why is this important? Because now we are in space, aware of the reflective nature of awareness. It is like holding a mirror up to a mirror, but we can now choose at least one thing: we can choose how we look. We can choose the manner in which we become aware. This is vitally important because if we choose to notice with kindness, then we shift how we interact. Instead of allowing ourselves to become embroiled in hatred and blame and inflaming the situation, we can respond, lovingly. As we heat the planet, so the situation becomes more inflamed. Responding is not the same as reacting. It is considerate, and allows for more effective solutions to arise. Effective solutions exist. In Thompson and Norris’s brilliant book, Sustainability, there is a recognition of the importance of balancing one’s own books first. This is very like the biblical proverb about the plank and the splinter: first, sort out your own life. We have no idea how powerful this idea is. If we can, individually and through mutual support, sort out our own lives, then we can connect with others and create a movement that will change the trajectory of the human species. This is what we can do. The problem is, will we? Will I?

I will. I am doing exactly this. I need your support. You have mine.

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