What Is EcoSangha Buddhism?
By Rev. Don Castro
To be a Buddhist is to be both an ecologist and a conservationist. This is the vision EcoSangha strives to promote.
It is a vision modeled on the Buddha as the Great Physician who is called to the service of those in pain and suffering, who scientifically investigates the nature of and prognosis for an ailment and then compassionately effects a cure. The progression from symptom to cure is presented by the Buddha in his fundamental teaching of the Four Noble Truths: symptom, diagnosis, prognosis and cure.
In terms of ecology, the Buddha fully understands the profound problem of our earth in crisis. His insights of non- duality and interdependence are applied on a cosmic scale. In fact, the late professor of Buddhist Studies, Francis Cook, in the 1970's referred to Buddhism as "cosmic ecology." This is not ecology in the shallow sense but "deep ecology" in the deepest sense.
Not only does Buddhist ecology encompass the study of forest and ocean systems but also human values, family life and political activities, etc. Nothing is left out because everything is mutually interpenetrating and interdependent. Buddhist ecology, then, is the overarching science bringing all sciences together, both human and natural. For instance, a psychological analysis of human greed is related to consumption of oil is related to global warming, etc. Buddhism always teaches of profound causes and conditions.
Implicit in any scientific endeavor are values. Values can be investigated rationally but reason alone cannot explain values. As the Great Physician, the Buddha identifies with the pain of the patient and compassionately devotes himself to a cure. In terms of our environmental crisis, the Buddha prescribes what might be called "deep conservation", a way of living that is in harmony with our environment.
This vision of Buddhism as ecology and conservation is a dynamic and inspiring view with profound personal and social implications. It is a vision that all Buddhists can embrace, uniting us in addressing a most crucial issue facing all life on this earth. We may disagree for personal or sectarian reasons on the method conservation to cure our sick planet. But, we should all be able to agree on the inherent, ecological nature of Buddhism.
Among our many sublime Buddha images with their various postures and mudras, there is one image that is so wonderfully appropriate for Buddhist ecology that it has been adopted by the EcoSangha as its symbol. The "Earth- Touching" mudra of the Buddha depicts the very moment when Shakyamuni Buddha called upon our Mother Earth to bear witness to his enlightenment. Today, Mother Earth is bearing witness to our wanton mistreatment of her. To cure our mother, we must truly change our mind (and lifestyle) so that conservation becomes an integral part of our Buddhist practice.
EcoSangha urges Buddhists of all traditions to truly demonstrate the spirit of interdependence and non-duality of a Maha Sangha by joining together to form an EcoSangha. We urge all Buddhists to give dynamic new meaning to the Earth- Touching mudra of the Buddha by also regarding it as "The Ecology Mudra." This can be a unifying image for all Buddhists and can be displayed and venerated as a part of every EcoSangha Buddhist shrine. Finally, we hope to promote dialogue and cooperation among Buddhists to strengthen our mutual commitment to harmonious living.
EcoSangha Seattle's programs are primarily conducted on-campus at Seattle University, located on First Hill near downtown Seattle.
For information on the EcoSangha program at Seattle Buddhist Temple, please contact:
Rev. Don Castro
Seattle Buddhist Temple
1427 So. Main Street
Seattle WA 98144
Phone 206 329-0800.