Allow me to rant a little...
So it's been almost three months since I've started this blog, and I've really come to appreciate this space that allows me to put quotes up that solidify my meditations on them and will hopefully inspire others along the way.
This searching, learning, spiritual process is my focus since it holds such beauty, mystery and transformative potential that it's just the realest thing to me in this world. Nothing else can hit me or soothe me to such an extent. It realigns my steps and leads me to more lessons, understanding and beauty.
I've been fortunate to live in a country where I have such leisure, freedom and accommodations to fulfil such a journey with so little opposition and distraction. I've also had two full months to read more, meditate longer, and expand this journey at a compressed and catalyzed rate.
But next week, gasp!, I'll be going back to school, where I'll be sitting in my final year of health science classes. I'm...ready I guess to go back to school.
The ups are listening to the profs rant, seeing my friends daily, editing an ongoing zine that a group of us started last year, contributing articles to a uni newspaper that I have yet to compose, taking a full year creative writing class, starting a job at a used bookstore, taking 'body as illumination' (a class within my major that a prof has just introduced this year that focuses on meditation practices from the beginning of recorded history til now), taking mandatory yoga, volleyball, badminton and African and Caribbean dance classes to fulfil my major requirements (great hey?) and well who knows what other gems await??
But I still have a few more days of late mornings, slow thinking days and late nights to relish.
So as a way to embrace the upcoming school year, I'm posting my last essay that I put together for an "Outdoor and Experiential Education" class that I took in the summer...boo.
But it did teach me a bit, so I would like to share it with all you seekers and nature lovers.
It's a very idealistic view of how ecology and Buddhism and Taoism are connected in respect to compassion, humility and interconnectedness.
The overall aim to which both deep ecology and such Eastern philosophies as Buddhism and Taoism strive towards benefits humans as well as their environment. By means of compassion, humility and interconnectedness, a person, through their active effort, is able to realize one’s intrinsic value and responsibility towards oneself, the environment, and one’s fellow human being. This process is achieved through expanding one’s consciousness by embracing characteristics that are fundamental to both Eastern philosophy as well as deep ecology, and finally putting these values into fruition through action.
Deep ecology is a movement that involves an expanded consciousness to include all of one’s surroundings and the ultimate goal for individuals and societies is self-realization (Henderson & Sylvan and Bennett). Similarly Buddhism, according to Einstein, is based on aspiring to the experience of all things, natural and spiritual, as a meaningful unity and its goal is attaining enlightenment (net & Sylvan and Bennett). Taoism is a Chinese philosophy that encourages a natural lifestyle by living according to the Tao, or the energy that permeates the entire universe, by which man is also able to join, simply by realizing the subtleties of the Tao or the Way (Ni, 1979). Conversely, our Western society’s approach traditionally emphasizes the individual who is superior to nature, which in other words correlates to the lack of the expanded consciousness to which deep ecology and Buddhism as well as Taoism strive towards (Naess) Therefore the development of these countercultural views is an active process undertaken by the individual through personal effort and hard work, since these views oppose the current Western model. Reitain believes that all humans have the potential for such an expanded consciousness, however the process is highly based on a person’s own will, need and maturity level.
I believe that deep ecology’s main goal is called self-realization for a reason. To realize something means that it has already existed, but one must only open one’s eyes to the fact. Similarly, Buddhism believes that enlightenment is something that each person can achieve, but people need to realize their Buddha-nature through their own personal effort. So people must have an impetus to change and strive for these goals. I believe that once someone realizes the deficiency within themselves and their culture concerning their relationship with the natural environment then they will strive towards this expanded consciousness. One can simply look at our current environmental situation to see how neglected our relationship is.
Naess believes that the outcome of self-realization is a state of perfect happiness by fulfilling one’s potential. (Reitain) Buddhism claims by achieving enlightenment one is able to alleviate all forms of suffering in life and bring
liberation to one’s self as well as to society. Who could ask for anything more?
Compassion arises by self-realization and enlightenment, in both Buddhism as well as in deep ecology, respectively. Compassion, as expressed by Reitain, is an extreme feeling of empathy. Reitain believes that once a person experiences self-realization, then one starts to identify with the entire ecosystem, which includes all living things and nonliving things. Such a person would treat animals, plants, insects, trees, and the rest of the natural environment which the living beings interact with as an extension of oneself (Lal). This stance will hopefully refrain humans from being destructive towards their surroundings and its inhabitants. Environmental responsibility would then come naturally, because by taking care of the environment, a person is simply taking care of themselves.
This process, Curtin believes, can be achieved through mindfulness concerning everyday practices. Similarly in Buddhism, enlightenment is achieved through daily meditation which increases one’s mindfulness. Within Buddhism, Dogen believes that individual’s should “awaken” their minds to include themselves as well as others. He stresses the ordinariness of life, whereby one is mindful of one’s food, hygiene and care for others. When one identifies with one’s food, one identifies with the universe, and all other creatures who share the basic need for food (Dogen).
Sylvan and Bennett believes that an individual person gains courage from this compassionate stance. I believe there are global benefits from being compassionate to one’s surroundings. Issues as racism, ethnic wars, animal cruelty and deforestation would be irrelevant because one would not want to harm other beings because that would in effect be harming oneself.
I believe that if people would spend an equal amount of energy caring for their environment as they do for themselves, then the environmental crisis that we are currently facing would not be so advanced. Dogen believes that through this practice humans are able to achieve liberation and illumination for all humanity (Dogen). This in my opinion is because an individuals own wishes are now the societies wishes. People would all work together as a group, instead of being in a competition against one another. I believe that if people all work together as a mass group, in order to achieve one common goal then the attempt is easier for each individual, because one has more sources and support through caring for everything or taking on a compassionate approach to life.
Humility arises when one embraces self-realization, both in Eastern philosophies, as well as in deep ecology. Deeper ecology and Taoism reject the Western thought that humans have power over the environment and all of its creatures. (Sylvan and Bennett) Taoism believes that humans should follow nature and therefore refrain from dominating it. (Sylvan and Bennett) Similarly, deep ecologists believe that nature is to be respected, and left to take its own course, without any human interference (Sylvan and Bennett) Deep ecology treats the environment with respect because it recognizes the inherent value of the nonhuman world. (Lal) Buddhism sees objects marked with perfection, integrity and independence and therefore humans need not interfere with this value (James) Deep ecology encourages people to develop humility and realize their insignificance within the world (Henderson). The person is simply present in the environment and accepts the surroundings without wishing to change them. The environment exists for it’s own sake, and a person needs to be in the present moment and take a humble stance because nature’s great scheme does not rely on human’s meticulous controlling of it (James) Forest fires can occur, for example, and destroy large amounts of human property, however, through the destruction, new forests are able to grow. I believe that nature has its own agenda, which man’s attempts are not always able to control. Humans are viewed as being in the environment, but it is the place from which they came and therefore I believe nature is superior to humans. I view the environment like a mother taking care of her child. It provides humans with all their needs, but it is human’s responsibility to uphold nature’s needs as well, by simply respecting it by only taking one’s share. Gandhi said it well, “the earth has enough to satisfy everyone’s needs but not everyone’s greed.”
Interconnectedness is another arising factor within self-realization and enlightenment. By definition, Naess and Fox, agree that the expanded consciousness identifies with the environment (Curtin) The deep ecologist realizes the subtle connection between everything. (James) The fundamental truth within Buddhism is that reality is “a holistic net of dependencies” (James) Buddhism believes that, despite one’s being aware of it or not, whatever one does will involve everyone and everything else at some level. (Dogen) This expanded identification places humans in a global community and shows that human’s needs, goals, and desires are not just individual. (Sylvan and Bennett) This idea has social implications since such ideas as racism, sexism, and wars seem to be insignificant since they attempt to separate humans into groups and claim opposing views on life. By the mere fact that we’re all human, we should act as a collective to achieve our basic needs, and not segregate ourselves within class, gender, social and racial groups. Dogen believes that human suffering will continue until we experience ourselves in the “cosmological dimension” of all beings. If we all realize our similarities, rather than picking at our differences than perhaps we could take responsible steps towards achieving our common goal of survival.
Curtin believes that the expanded Self is one of practice and not simply one of ideas or theories. These practices result in positive change such as environmental responsibility. One acquires the virtues that constitute a self-realized or enlightened being “through like activities.” One must practice being humble to achieve humility. Therefore, it is through a deconditioning of one’s habitual patterns and a reinstalling of new forms of thinking by which one can learn to internalize the disposition to perform such acts and begin to do them out of inclination. This expanded self benefits society, man, and the surrounding environment at large (Reitain). Vegetarianism, the act of limiting one’s diet, is a practice that is integral to Buddhist societies, whereas it is not so prominent in the Western world (Curtin). Gandhi, the practitioner of self-control, compassion, humility and interconnectedness has been said to be a “deep ecological yogi” who strove towards sustainable development (Lal). Perhaps if humans take on such views, they too will wish to better each other’s lives through practicing more activities that reflect such views.
It is through compassion, humility and interconnectedness that one is able to achieve self-realization or enlightenment, whereby one helps oneself, the environment and the society at large. Buddhism, Taoism and deep ecology share similar views by which humans can achieve such states. If some people start now then more and more people perhaps may follow, since people can see the positive factors that are a result of such views, and go about to practice these concepts in order to put forth more positive change within the world that is here for everyone and everything that is one in it.