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Zen and the art of protecting the planet

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default Zen and the art of protecting the planet

Post by Adrian on 26th August 2010, 10:42 pm

http://www.guardian.co.uk/sustainability/environment-zen-buddhism-sustainability

It is not exactly a traditional Sunday stroll in the English countryside as 84-year-old Vietnamese zen master Thich Nhat Hanh leads nearly a thousand people through the rolling Nottinghamshire hills in walking meditation.

The silent procession takes on the shape of a snake as it wends its way extremely slowly through a forest glade and an apple orchard. The assembled throng are asked to deeply experience each step they take on the earth in order to be mindful in the present moment.

Thay, as he is known, steps off the path into a field of tall grass and sits quietly in meditation. He exudes a sense of serenity, born of his 68 years practice as a monk.

Despite having hundreds of thousands of followers around the world and being viewed with the same reverence as the Dalai Lama, Thay is little known to the general public. He has chosen to shun the limelight and avoid the shimmer of celebrity endorsement in order to focus on building communities around the world that can demonstrate his ethical approach to life. There are monasteries currently in Germany, Australia, Thailand, Indonesia and Hong Kong.

He is seeking to create a spiritual revival that replaces our consumption-based lives with a return to a simpler, kinder world based on deep respect for each other and the environment.

He rarely gives interviews but recognises that the enormous challenges facing the world, combined with his own increasing age and frailty, means it is important to use what time and energy he has left to contribute what he can to re-energising society and protecting the planet.

For a man of his age, Thay keeps to a punishing schedule. After having lectured to thousands at London's Hammersmith Apollo, Thay has come to Nottingham for a five day retreat, then goes on to a three month tour of Asia, before returning for a winter retreat at his Plum Village community in France, where he has lived in exile for more than 40 years.

Thay, a prolific author with more than 85 titles under his belt, has taken a particular interest in climate change and recently published the best-selling book 'The World We Have – A Buddhist approach to peace and ecology.'

Tranquilising ourselves with over-consumption

In it, he writes: "The situation the Earth is in today has been created by unmindful production and unmindful consumption. We consume to forget our worries and our anxieties. Tranquilising ourselves with over-consumption is not the way."

In his only interview in the UK, Thay calls on journalists to play their part in preventing the destruction of our civilisation and calls on corporations to move away from their focus on profits to the wellbeing of society.

He says that it is an ill-conceived idea that the solution to global warming lies in technological advances. While science is important, even more so is dealing with the root cause of our destructive behaviour: "The spiritual crisis of the West is the cause for the many sufferings we encounter. Because of our dualistic thinking that god and the kingdom of god is outside of us and in the future - we don't know that god's true nature is in every one of us. So we need to put god back into the right place, within ourselves. It is like when the wave knows that water is not outside of her.

"Everything we touch in our daily lives, including our body, is a miracle. By putting the kingdom of god in the right place, it shows us it is possible to live happily right here, right now. If we wake up to this, we do not have to run after the things we believe are crucial to our happiness like fame, power and sex. If we stop creating despair and anger, we make the atmosphere healthy again.

"Maybe we have enough technology to save the planet but it is not enough because the people are not ready. This is why we need to focus on the other side of the problem, the pollution of the environment not in terms of carbon dioxide but the toxic atmosphere in which we live; so many people getting sick, many children facing violence and despair and committing suicide.

Spiritual pollution

"We should speak more of spiritual pollution. When we sit together and listen to the sound of the [meditation] bell at this retreat, we calm our body and mind. We produce a very powerful and peaceful energy that can penetrate in every one of us. So, conversely, the same thing is true with the collective energy of fear, anger and despair. We create an atmosphere and environment that is destructive to all of us. We don't think enough about that, we only think about the physical environment.

"Our way of life, our style of living, is the cause of it. We are looking for happiness and running after it in such a way that creates anger, fear and discrimination. So when you attend a retreat you have a chance to look at the deep roots of this pollution of the collective energy that is unwholesome.

"How can we change the atmosphere to get the energy of healing and transformation for us and our children? When the children come to the retreat, they can relax because the adults are relaxed. Here together we create a good environment and that is a collective energy."

Capitalism as a disease


Thay talks about capitalism as a disease that has now spread throughout the world, carried on the winds of globalisation: "We have constructed a system we cannot control. It imposes itself on us, and we become its slaves and victims."

He sees those countries that are home to Buddhism, such as India, China, Thailand and Vietnam, seeking to go even beyond the consumerism of the West: "There is an attractiveness around science and technology so they have abandoned their values that have been the foundation of their spiritual life in the past," he says. "Because they follow western countries, they have already begun to suffer the same kind of suffering. The whole world crisis increases and globalisation is the seed of everything. They too have lost their non-dualistic view. There are Buddhists who think that Buddha is outside of them and available to them only after they die.

"In the past there were people who were not rich but contented with their living style, laughing and happy all day. But when the new rich people appear, people look at them and ask why don't I have a life like that too, a beautiful house, car and garden and they abandon their values."

While Thay believes that change is possible, he has also come to accept the possibility that this civilisation may collapse. He refers to the spiritual principle that by truly letting go of the 'need' to save the planet from climate change, it can paradoxically help do just that.

The catastrophe to come

"Without collective awakening the catastrophe will come," he warns. "Civilisations have been destroyed many times and this civilisation is no different. It can be destroyed. We can think of time in terms of millions of years and life will resume little by little. The cosmos operates for us very urgently, but geological time is different.

"If you meditate on that, you will not go crazy. You accept that this civilisation could be abolished and life will begin later on after a few thousand years because that is something that has happened in the history of this planet. When you have peace in yourself and accept, then you are calm enough to do something, but if you are carried by despair there is no hope.

"It's like the person who is struck with cancer or Aids and they learn they have been given one year or six months to live. They suffer very much and fight. But if they come to accept that they will die and they prepare to live every day peacefully and they enjoy every moment, the situation may change and the illness may go away. That has happened to many people."
One Buddha is not enough
Thay says that the communities his Order of Interbeing is building around the world are intended to show that it is possible to "live simply and happily, having the time to love and help other people. That is why we believe that if there are communities of people like that in the world, we will demonstrate to the people and bring about an awakening so that people will abandon their course of comforts. If we can produce a collective awakening we can solve the problem of global warming. Together we have to provoke that type of awakening."

One Buddha is not enough


He stops for a moment and goes quiet: "One Buddha is not enough, we need to have many Buddhas."

Thay has lived an extraordinary life. During the Vietnam War he was nearly killed several times helping villagers suffering from the effects of bombing. When visiting America, he persuaded Martin Luther King to oppose the war publicly, and so helped to galvanize the peace movement. In fact King nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1968.

In the following decade Thay spent months on the South China Sea seeking to save Vietnamese and Cambodian refugees from overcrowded boats and
in more recent years, he led members of the US Congress through a two-day retreat and continues to hold reconciliation retreats for Israelis and Palestinians at Plum Village.

His whole philosophy is based on watching the breath and walking meditation to stay in the present moment rather than dwelling on the past or worrying about the future.

He says that within every person are the seeds of love, compassion and understanding as well as the seeds of anger, hatred and discrimination. Our experience of life depends on which seeds we choose to water.

To help the creation of a new global ethic and sustain those positive seeds, Thay's Order of Interbeing has distilled the Buddha's teachings on the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path into five core principles.

The Five Mindfulness Trainings, updated in the last year to make them relevant to our fast changing world, are not a set of rules but a direction to head in. Beyond calling for mindful consumption, they encourage an end to sexual misconduct as well as a determination "not to gamble, or to use alcohol, drugs or any other products which contain toxins, such as certain websites, electronic games, TV programmes, films, magazines, books and conversations."
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default Re: Zen and the art of protecting the planet

Post by Guest on 27th August 2010, 10:27 am

Thank you Badger for this.

May I add his teaching:-

Mindfulness is the energy of being aware and awake to the present moment. It is the continuous practice of touching life deeply in every moment of daily life. To be mindful is to be truly alive, present and at one with those around you and with what you are doing. We bring our body and mind into harmony while we wash the dishes, drive the car or take our morning shower.

To be unmindful is to loose this connection of true reality.....

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Post by budburst12 on 27th August 2010, 9:00 pm

I'd be interested to know what else his five mindfulness trainings are about. An ethic for the modern day sounds very nice..
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default Re: Zen and the art of protecting the planet

Post by Adrian on 27th August 2010, 9:10 pm

The First Mindfulness Training:
Aware of the suffering caused by the destruction of life, I vow to cultivate compassion and learn ways to protect the lives of people, animals, plants and minerals. I am determined not to kill, not to let others kill, and not to condone any act of killing in the world, in my thinking, and in my way of life.


The Second Mindfulness Training:
Aware of the suffering caused by exploitation, social injustice, stealing and oppression, I vow to cultivate loving kindness and learn ways to work for the well being of people, animals, plants and minerals.

I vow to practice generosity by sharing my time, energy and material resources with those who are in real need. I am determined not to steal and not to possess anything that should belong to others. I will respect the property of others, but I will prevent others from profiting from human suffering or the suffering of other species on Earth.


The Third Mindfulness Training:
Aware of the suffering caused by sexual misconduct, I vow to cultivate responsibility and learn ways to protect the safety and integrity of individuals, couples, families and society.

I am determined not to engage in sexual relations without love and a long-term commitment. To preserve the happiness of myself and others, I am determined to respect my commitments and the commitments of others.

I will do everything in my power to protect children from sexual abuse and to prevent couples and families from being broken by sexual misconduct.


The Fourth Mindfulness Training:
Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful speech and the inability to listen to others, I vow to cultivate loving speech and deep listening in order to bring joy and happiness to others and relieve others of their suffering.

Knowing that words can create happiness or suffering, I vow to learn to speak truthfully, with words that inspire self-confidence, joy and hope. I am determined not to spread news that I do not know to be certain and not to criticize or condemn things of which I am not sure.

I will refrain from uttering words that can cause division or discord, or that can cause the family or community to break. I will make all efforts to reconcile and resolve all conflicts, however small.


The Fifth Mindfulness Training:
Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful consumption, I vow to cultivate good health, both physical and mental, for myself, my family, and my society by practicing mindful eating, drinking and consuming.

I vow to ingest only items that preserve peace, well-being and joy in my body, in my consciousness, and in the collective body and consciousness of my family and society.

I am determined not to use alcohol or any other intoxicant or to ingest foods or other items that contain toxins, such as certain TV programs, magazines, books, films and conversations. I am aware that to damage my body or my consciousness with these poisons is to betray my ancestors, my parents, my society and future generations.

I will work to transform violence, fear, anger and confusion in myself and in society by practicing a diet for myself and for society. I understand that a proper diet is crucial for self-transformation and for the transformation of society.
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Post by budburst12 on 27th August 2010, 9:19 pm

Nice. Thanks Badger! Food for thought..
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Post by Guest on 27th August 2010, 10:17 pm

This is the revised version that the article mentions...more readable and modern?

(1) Reverence For Life

Aware of the suffering caused by the destruction of life, I am committed to cultivating the insight of interbeing and compassion and learning ways to protect the lives of people, animals, plants, and minerals. I am determined not to kill, not to let others kill, and not to support any act of killing in the world, in my thinking, or in my way of life. Seeing that harmful actions arise from anger, fear, greed, and intolerance, which in turn come from dualistic and discriminative thinking, I will cultivate openness, non-discrimination, and non-attachment to views in order to transform violence, fanaticism, and dogmatism in myself and in the world.


(2) True Happiness

Aware of the suffering caused by exploitation, social injustice, stealing, and oppression, I am committed to practicing generosity in my thinking, speaking, and acting. I am determined not to steal and not to possess anything that should belong to others; and I will share my time, energy, and material resources with those who are in need. I will practice looking deeply to see that the happiness and suffering of others are not separate from my own happiness and suffering; that true happiness is not possible without understanding and compassion; and that running after wealth, fame, power and sensual pleasures can bring much suffering and despair. I am aware that happiness depends on my mental attitude and not on external conditions, and that I can live happily in the present moment simply by remembering that I already have more than enough conditions to be happy. I am committed to practicing Right Livelihood so that I can help reduce the suffering of living beings on Earth and reverse the process of global warming.


(3) True Love

Aware of the suffering caused by sexual misconduct, I am committed to cultivating responsibility and learning ways to protect the safety and integrity of individuals, couples, families, and society. Knowing that sexual desire is not love, and that sexual activity motivated by craving always harms myself as well as others, I am determined not to engage in sexual relations without true love and a deep, long-term commitment made known to my family and friends. I will do everything in my power to protect children from sexual abuse and to prevent couples and families from being broken by sexual misconduct. Seeing that body and mind are one, I am committed to learning appropriate ways to take care of my sexual energy and cultivating loving kindness, compassion, joy and inclusiveness – which are the four basic elements of true love – for my greater happiness and the greater happiness of others. Practicing true love, we know that we will continue beautifully into the future.

(4) Loving Speech and Deep Listening

Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful speech and the inability to listen to others, I am committed to cultivating loving speech and compassionate listening in order to relieve suffering and to promote reconciliation and peace in myself and among other people, ethnic and religious groups, and nations. Knowing that words can create happiness or suffering, I am committed to speaking truthfully using words that inspire confidence, joy, and hope. When anger is manifesting in me, I am determined not to speak. I will practice mindful breathing and walking in order to recognize and to look deeply into my anger. I know that the roots of anger can be found in my wrong perceptions and lack of understanding of the suffering in myself and in the other person. I will speak and listen in a way that can help myself and the other person to transform suffering and see the way out of difficult situations. I am determined not to spread news that I do not know to be certain and not to utter words that can cause division or discord. I will practice Right Diligence to nourish my capacity for understanding, love, joy, and inclusiveness, and gradually transform anger, violence, and fear that lie deep in my consciousness.


(5) Nourishment and Healing

Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful consumption, I am committed to cultivating good health, both physical and mental, for myself, my family, and my society by practicing mindful eating, drinking, and consuming. I will practice looking deeply into how I consume the Four Kinds of Nutriments, namely edible foods, sense impressions, volition, and consciousness. I am determined not to gamble, or to use alcohol, drugs, or any other products which contain toxins, such as certain websites, electronic games, TV programs, films, magazines, books, and conversations. I will practice coming back to the present moment to be in touch with the refreshing, healing and nourishing elements in me and around me, not letting regrets and sorrow drag me back into the past nor letting anxieties, fear, or craving pull me out of the present moment. I am determined not to try to cover up loneliness, anxiety, or other suffering by losing myself in consumption. I will contemplate interbeing and consume in a way that preserves peace, joy, and well-being in my body and consciousness, and in the collective body and consciousness of my family, my society and the Earth.

“The Five Mindfulness Trainings (revised)” : Thich Nhat Hanh

http://www.plumvillage.org/mindfulness-trainings/3-the-five-mindfulness-trainings.html

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Post by Wilhelm Von Rhomboid on 28th August 2010, 8:44 am

Whew! I think the first version was a lot more readable actually. 'I will cultivate the use of fourteen words wherever one would suffice and practice making sentences as long as is possible, humanly or divinely with run-on phrases and huge lists every time I use a noun.'

Some interesting points in there, but they tend to get buried in the second version.

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Post by Guest on 28th August 2010, 3:51 pm

It is interesting to see that the teaching of Thich Nhat Hanh has not become stagnant or a fixed dogma. He obviously ponders over what he teaches and is not shy of updating that which he has taught.

I think we live in a world where no time is given over to a lengthy discussion of subjects. Some things need to be said in long sentences and it is not always the fault of the teacher if the student is not erudite enough to learn a lesson.

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Post by Guest on 4th September 2010, 6:23 pm

Thich Nhat Hanh native tongue is not English and he lives and works in France. His work is translated into many different languages so exact meaning is important in this way.

Also he teaches deep listening and I am glad to say there are thousands of people around the world that do have sufficient respect for him and his teaching to listen to him and understand him.

I would like to the think overall this forum would treat such a man who has dedicated his life to helping others with deep respect.


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Post by Snoopka on 25th September 2010, 7:56 am

To me, Thich Nhat Hanh is one of the great spiritual teachers of our time. I was fortunate enough to attend one retreat with him in England, about 12 years ago? and one of the things that impressed me most about him was his extreme simplicity and true humility. He also did not seem enthralled by the notion that us Westerners felt that the only way we could spiritually develop was via Eastern traditions, and he was urging people to follow their own roots and traditions rather than resort to something that seemed more "exotic". In other words, he was not that keen on Buddhism as a fashion accessory. That made me question more deeply my own motivations and the authenticity of my commitment...

I would go and listen to him again, and there are times when I think I might go to Plum Village (where his community is, in the Dordogne) for another retreat.
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Post by Guest on 25th September 2010, 9:49 am

If I could find 300euros I'd see you there Snoopka!

I also noticed his call for "more teachers are needed, more Buddhas are needed". This shows he is truly enlightened and understands that to be caught in dogma and out of date teachings is not the best way.

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