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How Can Buddhism Help Us to Avert the Crisis on Earth?


November 8, 2013

How Can Buddhism Help Us to Avert the Crisis on Earth?

Question:

As a parent I am terrified for our children and the world we are leaving them.

Global warming suggests that one day the earth will be uninhabitable. Governments seem too slow and in some cases unwilling to act for change, so how can Buddhism help us to avert this crisis? 

Answer:  

That’s a very good question. Of course global warming is a real issue, but from time to time I feel that maybe the idea of this threat is a little bit overused. When this threat is overused, it can lead to the feeling that there is very little an individual can do, which is not beneficial – or true.

What is needed is the knowledge about what each of us can do in any situation, and I believe Buddhism has a very important role here.

In this context, ‘knowledge’ is not just a vague term, but refers to something very particular: the knowledge of our inner qualities – our inner knowledge. In other words, a type of knowledge that helps to unlock a hundred doors at the same time. This is the intention of the Buddha dharma. In this sense, I think we are already in a beneficial position to address all kinds of challenges.

When we think of knowledge in more general terms, the usual method and form that it takes is education. If we leave aside the Buddhist part for a moment, I think that in many cases around the world, the emphasis on education today is much better than previously in history. There are of course still challenges faced today, but in many cases, where there was previously an absence of education opportunities, now there is an abundance of it. In fact, there are so many education opportunities in some parts of the world, that sometimes there is a problem of not knowing which route to take, a problem of choice.

As knowledge is what is required to tackle global warming and other challenges, I believe that education provides a very good platform for this knowledge and potential to be cultivated.

Education from a Buddhist point of view – what I would like to call ‘inner wealth,’ the unborn qualities that we all have, and which I already mentioned in my first answer – is about cultivating knowledge and qualities that are already there. No-one had to teach us them, no-one had to open our eyes or expose us to anything like that. Somehow, these qualities are naturally there, such as being kind, being generous, being understanding… one could even say the most basic of qualities.

These are the things that I think we need to tap into, and I think that is key to what Buddhism can offer. Ever since our historical Buddha Shakyamuni taught the Buddha dharma, these were His very first words and also more or less His last words too. And ever since, the Buddha dharma that we have been practicing over the centuries and millennia, it has always been about cultivating our inner qualities. And whoever has understood this point has lived amazing, extraordinary lives. Whoever they touched, whoever they met, whoever they spoke to – there was always a benefit.

One great example would be that of Milarepa. If we just look at his life story we can see that whoever he met, whatever the context, after that meeting somehow there was always a benefit, even from simple accidents.

So I think that in terms of overcoming global challenges, Buddhism has a great deal to offer. The platform is already there, the methods to cultivate our inner wealth, and so all we need to do is just act upon it. But how?

In this very moment, this very space that we have right here, right now, there is an opportunity. This moment for us is the centre of the universe, nowhere else. So here and now we can already start doing something… In other words, the Buddha dharma provides us the important knowledge and understanding about what each of us can do in any situation. So there is somehow no need to feel helpless or hopeless, because each of us can do so much.

In this case, the fortunate thing is that we have to hardly move a muscle to achieve so much. We just need to focus on recognizing what these inner qualities are, or what this inner wealth is – just by sitting. Buddha found a way where basically we seemingly need to do hardly anything. Whatever we’re doing, whether we are sitting, talking or even sleeping, we can activate and cultivate these inner qualities of wisdom and compassion.

If we can follow in the footsteps of Buddha, then we will be able to stop global warming, ice age, stone age, everything – all in a single sitting.

 

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