As straightforward as it gets.
7. Environmental Protection- Cultivating New Feelings for the Earth
We human beings have tremendous intelligence, but it is clear that there remains a big gap between the brain and the heart. We seem to find it easy to process new information and generate new ideas, yet much harder to produce new feelings.
Although we readily recognize the import of a situation conceptually, somehow this understanding often fails to move our heart. Our intellectual intelligence doesn’t transfer into intelligent emotions.
[A] sense of wonder and appreciation of the earth’s beauty is a helpful place to start in developing strong feelings for the environment. When we talk about the environment, in broadest terms we are talking about the whole universe.
[I] have noticed that sometimes people speak of our planet as a thing. This attitude will not lead to the feelings of closeness and affection that would move us to take care of the earth. As we know, the earth is not a dead rock floating in space. It is a living system.
[I] do not believe we can ever possibly be too grateful to the earth. It is the universal home where we have experienced every phase of all our lives, in the past, now, and in the future. In this way, the earth offers herself equally to us all, as the stage on which to act out our happiness and our sorrows -our most joyful comedies and our most heart-wrenching tragedies, and everything in between. Yet the reality is that we are rapidly destroying her.
If the only platform we have collapses, all the present and future acts of our lives will be over, forever.
I think the earth can be a teacher to us, offering a model of how to care for and treat others. She especially shows us how to see everyone as completely equal. [T]o her we are all the same. She does not make a distinction, but instead grants us all alike the conditions we need to survive and live out our lives. [S]he offers the same air to all beings alike, unconditionally.
[W]e have a Buddhist prayer in which we ourselves aspire to become like her. We say:
May I be like the earth,
providing the air, the ground, water,
and everything she provides
that is our sacred source of life.
Inspired by the example of the earth, this prayer encourages us to aspire to be an unconditional source of well-being and life for others. This is a supreme aspiration.
[T]he single most important factor that will move us to act to protect the world is compassion.
Our compassion must encompass all that is inanimate as well as animate. In fact, it may at times be difficult to distinguish between what is animate and inanimate, but our compassion should extend to both the physical environment and the beings that inhabit it.
Compassion is central to environmental protection because it moves us to act to cherish and take care of others. Compassion involves more than simply knowing about a difficult situation. Even witnessing pain directly does not necessarily prompt a reaction of compassion.
[S]ome people seem to believe it is courageous to kill animals. Unfortunately, nowadays we have developed the wrong kind of fearlessness -fearlessness in harming others. At some point, this “courage” in harming others is bound to turn on us. As people become habituated to taking the life of animals with no thought for the pain they are causing, in the end it becomes easy to harm and kill humans.
[W]hen compassion is present, we do not overlook others’ pain. Rather, there is a sense of urgency to end that pain, as if a fire has just been lit underneath you. When you have such compassion, as soon as you see suffering, you wish to jump and act to end it at once. You have no fear and no hesitation in taking on the suffering of other people, animals, and even the planet herself. This is what I would call the right kind of fearlessness. This is the fearlessness of true heroes.
I think what is missing in those who see others’ pain but feel nothing is a sense of closeness, and a recognition of just how similar we and other living beings really are.
[C]ompassionate action does not imply looking down on some poor, pitiful animal or person, and showering our charity on them from a lofty position above. That kind of charitable action can end up just feeding our ego, and can be more like a savior complex or pride than actual compassion. With that kind of pitying attitude, we are actually holding ourselves apart from other beings. We are denying our profound similarity to them.
[W]ith compassion, we come closer to other living beings as we recognize that they are vulnerable to suffering, just as we are. [C]ompassion is what we feel when we focus on the person or animal who is suffering, not what we feel when we focus only on the suffering.
What is the object of your compassion?
It is the being who is suffering. If you take and animal or person as the object of your compassion, you will not be overwhelmed by their suffering. If your attention is not directed primarily at the suffering, you can focus on them, and on what you can do for them. [T]he point is to care so keenly for others that you give rise to courage and determination to relieve them of their suffering. That is compassion.
[O]ur compassion should set the course of our actions, while our wisdom serves to determine how best to plot that course forward.
What is next?
[T]o avoid becoming overwhelmed by the enormity of the task at hand, it is important to keep in mind that society is nothing apart from its individiual members. Our current environmental crisis was created by thousands of small acts, mostly done unthinkingly. It can also be undone by thousands of small acts -and if we engage in those acts consciously, problems can often be resolved more quickly than they were created.
[A]s vegetarians, we would make far more efficient use of what our planet offers us. Vast quantities of feed, water, land, fuel, and other resources are requires to sustain livestock -far more than what is needed to produce a plan-based diet.
What do we do about what these facts are telling us? Are we moved to take advantage of this huge opportunity we have to slow climate change and reduce pollution by shifting away from meat?
There is also abundant information about the conditions under which animals raised for our food are living, how they are slaughtered, and what you are eating as a result of that. Even though we know there is intense suffering involved as well as devastating environmental consequences, many people still remain unswayed. Some people have taken note and responded accordingly, but most continue as before, as if nothing harmful were going on. Why?
What does it take for our ideas to move our heart?
What does it take to make that shift happen?
How long must we wait until something we know is harmful becomes unbearable for us?
Will we have to wait until the Pacific Ocean turns red with blood?
Is this what it will take for the majority of people to wake up to what is going on?
Even that might not have the necessary impact on our heart, because in fact, we already have plenty of compelling evidence to show us where our planet is headed. Most people would like to give up eating meat but have been unable to do so say the reason is because of the flavor and because of habit.
[B]ecause they are enslaved to their emotional craving for meat, many people do not want to give up meat even when they know that it is the right thing to do. Apart from that desire for the flavor, most people have no real reason to keep eating meat.
[W]e allow the tiny excuse of our taste buds to overshadow everything eles.
[I]t seems clear to me that we urgently need something that pierces our heart, and translates our ideas into feelings. [P]eople will not make lasting changes if the reason is just because _____________ (i.e., the Buddha) said to do so. If you are doing something because you feel pushed by a person of authority, then when they are not around, you are likely to fall back into your old habits.
[I]f you have no real feeling for an issue, your commitment to it will often be quite unstable. So when I was presenting the issue to the public, I took the arguments that the monks and nuns knew already from the texts, and spoke of them in as immediate and vivid a way as I could.
My basic point was that the best way to protect life was to give up meat. Being vegetarian is a supreme act of saving lives. But I spoke very directly, and made a heartfelt appeal. Then I offered them plenty of options. If they were eating meat several times a day, they might stop for one meal a day or for one day a week, or they might stop completely for the rest of their lives. Then I asked people to consider taking a vow to stop for any time period that suited them.
To my great surprise, between 60 and 70 percent of those listening took a vow that from that day onward, they would stop eating meat of any kind. Some of those who did were old Tibetan lamas with a long lifetime of eating meat. I have met them since, and they have told me that they were moved to break the habit then and there, once and for all.
Word of this talk- and I think maybe also a recording of it- reached Tibet. After that, we heard that meat sales dropped noticeably in the area around Lhasa, the capital of Tibet. The word also spread to my monasteries and even into the villages. Since then, many monks, nuns, and laypeople have stopped eating the meat that was always considered integral to the Tibetan diet.
I had really no expectations that my talk would bring such results. I feel convinced it did so because it was a truly heartfelt appeal. I had no fresh information to offer, but I offered the freshness of my own feelings, and tried to make those feelings come alive for the people listening. This might be one small example of how speaking from the heart can affect others more that ideas alone do.
You cant trust these Russians, can ye?
It’s about time we stop cutting away our defence budgets in Europe and start to built up a new army to defend ourself. The cold war has started al over again!
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