"As Clean As, Or Cleaner"
On the Unseasonal Rains & Climate Change
Warm greetings friends, from Freedom Kuti in the unseasonal torrential monsoon-like rains,
In around ~20 years more or less having this area of Northern California as my home base here in the United States, i don't ever remember seeing rain at this time of year.
Images from Climate Change scientist Bob Dopplet's presentation to the International Vipassana Teacher's Conference at Spirit Rock which i participated in two weeks ago haunt my mind: vanishing polar ice packs, radical new weather patterns, serious and sobering predictions.
A second image: the unrolling scroll of page upon page upon page of hand written signatures on a petition to us -- to we Buddhist teachers -- to give teachings relevant to Climate Change, for the sake of us all. The scroll was placed in front of a lovely, tranquil Burmese image of the Buddha touching the earth, in the center of the sacred space of the sima we established for the ordination of our bhikkhuni sisters there more than a year and a half ago. This touched me deeply, as the two issues are deeply inter-related.
I had signed this petition myself several weeks before online on the website of the One Earth Sangha, but never thought it was going to come physically back into my hands and lap, and be presented to me/us again! But there it was, and here it is.
We teachers took commitments together. Check lists were handed out with long lists of things we can do personally and communally do to help. Much of what is listed we had already done. I participated in Gethsemani III--Monastic Inter-religious Dialogue Conference on "Monasticism and the Environment" in 2008 and a second "Monasticism and the Environment" as focus of one year's Western Buddhist Monastic Conference in 2009, serving as a presenter for both. The book Green Monasticism emerged, we learned much, and we all took commitments, many of which we have kept.
We live in a forest hermitage, where hundreds of acres of native forest are being allowed to regrow. Our hermitage is off-grid, with solar electric power and a gravity-fed spring for water.
We live very simply in voluntary poverty, "hand to mouth" on gift economy, have minimal clothing, no flush toilets, drive only occasionally, do not eat dinner, nor squander wealth on entertainments and adornments, etc...It seems like we should be off the hook...no?
I ask myself, what more can we do?
I ask myself again, is there Buddhist teaching that is relevant?
In response to these questions, so much Dhamma & Vinaya arises.
The Buddha often spoke of his teaching as Dhamma-vinaya, the two words conjoined, Teaching & Discipline, Path & Practice. In traditional Buddhist cultures such as Thai culture, Vinaya is not thought to be a teaching for monastics alone. Rather, it is thought to be obligatory for monastics alone, but up to lay individuals and community members to keep and uphold as much as is relevant, useful and possible. We are left free, (but not irresponsible).
There is much that all of us can learn from Vinaya in terms of Ethics, Law, Intentional Communities, Interpersonal and Communal Relationships, etc.
When preparing my presentation for Gethsemani III on "Monasticism and the Environment" above, I went to ask an elder Thai bhikkhu who is a long-term mentor of mine, what he would suggest sharing. I had been asked by the organizers if there was anything in the Buddhist Monastic Discipline -- the Vinaya -- that was relevant to our global environmental situation. He answered readily after only a very brief pause.
In the Vinaya, we have a precept/practice with regards human waste. It could be called "Toilet Dhamma" or "Toilet Vinaya" or one of the "Toilet Precepts". This teaching runs thus:
"Whenever going to the toilet or bathroom or privy in the monastery, the place human waste is disposed of, it should be left as clean as or cleaner than when you arrived."
This is a prime example of human consumption and human waste.
As clean as or cleaner --
-- for the one after me, for those who follow.
This precept and practice is then extended to toilets elsewhere, wherever one is, and then on to the use of monastery lodgings, and then lodgings wherever the monastic is lodged, and from there, extended to our practice with just about everything.
Wherever you go, wherever you are:
As clean as or cleaner than when you arrived.
It is a major paradigmatic shift.
What if we were to approach our life on the planet in this way -- individually and as communities? What if we were to leave our earth this way, for our children and grandchildren? What if we were to leave our minds this way? As clean as or cleaner than when we were born?
This would be a human life well-lived. A human life with no cause for regret. A human life of beauty.
I would like to ask each one reading to consider -- what if? What would this mean? What could this mean for you?
What would this mean for the way you live, and the way we live together? It would be a major shift of mind, a major shift of heart, a major shift of planetary and global consciousness.
Please start with the small things, as the Blessed One, the Buddha, so wisely and gently taught. Start with looking at the energy and source of our embodied lives as humans, and with looking at how we are caring for the process of what that becomes. In very simple ways.
Is it left as clean as or cleaner? What are the waste pathways? -- in water, in the air, in the land?
How are we caring for these?
What part can i do, what part can we do together in ensuring that these are wise and clean systems? Leaving our earth clean and pure, our hearts and minds free from fetters, free from ignorance.
Free to go freely, without regret, without dismay, leaving behind a legacy of wisdom. The wisdom that humanity is capable of, and that each of our human hearts is capable of turning around and becoming straight, clean, clear and full of integrity in living.
This would be a great thing.
Very hard perhaps, requiring great mindfulness and great wise and right effort. Requiring right view of conditional causation and its wisdom.
Requiring the Noble Eightfold Path!
[tick] -- we have that!
Here is the link for one of the videos made by Joanna Macy and Jennifer Berezen that i watched during the International Vipassana Teacher's Conference at Spirit Rock. Here is the check list we were given for helpful actions that all of us can take in our lives. I will send you the link to this teaching which i plan to make a short video of and place up on Youtube.
Please share it and this teaching around.
We have a paradigm, we have such a great teaching, and so many resources to share, that are exactly meant to give us the wisdom, the clarity, the insight, the knowledge and the moral integrity to be able to work with these things, both personally, and on the communal and societal level.
Please take these teachings and sit with them, then run with them, share them, soar with them -- set them free to spread, as so many other things go viral -- let this Dhamma go viral in the consciousness of our world.
With heart of courage and great mettaa,
amidst the rains, now turning to evening sunshine,
Ayya Tathālokā Bhikkhunī
June 26, 2013