The term “EcoSattva” is a combination of “eco” or “ecology” with “Boddhisattva,” someone compassionately dedicated to relieving the suffering of the world. An EcoSattva is one who practices compassionate care of the Earth. “A monk once asked the Chinese Master Yun Men, “What is the work of the Buddha’s whole life?” Yun Men replied, “An appropriate response.” Our monthly EcoSattva Gathering, a gathering of intention and energy in service to our fragile Earth, seeks to manifest an appropriate response to today’s environmental challenges, grounded in the needs of our beautiful and beloved DownEast Maine. To that end, we serve as stewards for two conservation parcels right in our own backyard that are managed by the Downeast Salmon Federation and the Downeast Coastal Conservancy. This year we will be hosting a booth at the Machias Blueberry Festival (August 18-20, 2017) to disseminate information about reducing the use of plastics, which pollute the world’s oceans, including the Gulf of Maine on which so much of life DownEast depends. As a sangha, we have developed and committed to an Environmental Policy Statement:
Our Commitment to the Earth
Boundless Way Zen DownEast
When I look deeply into the real form of the universe,
Everything reveals the mysterious truth of the Tathagata.
This truth never fails: in every moment and every place things can’t help but shine with this light.
Realizing this, our ancestors gave reverent care to animals, birds, and all beings.
Realizing this, we ourselves know that our daily food, clothing, and shelter are the warm body and beating heart of the Buddha.
How can we be ungrateful to anyone or anything?
Our planet is in trouble. Decades of burning fossil fuels has poisoned our soil, air and water, altered our climate, and destroyed vast numbers of plants and animals. Our appetites for consumption have created mountains of garbage that despoil our landscape, leach toxins into our water, and discharge pollutants into the air we breathe. We have leveled vast swaths of delicately balanced mature forests, gouged our landscape with strip mines, sealed much of our land mass with impervious surfaces, and disrupted natural biological cycles by artificial light polluting our night sky, and noise polluting our air and seas.
We have become alarmingly disconnected from this beautiful, bountiful, life-giving planet we call Earth, which has not only given birth to each of us, but nourishes us and protects us. We have forgotten that the Earth is not something outside of us: it is something that arises within us. We are completely inseparable from this marvelous ecosystem that sustains our bodies and minds. Our daily food, clothing, and shelter are the warm body and beating heart of the Buddha.
In the face of the stark challenges facing our planet, it is tempting to turn away. We may fall into a feeling of despair and hopelessness that we are already doomed, and that nothing can alter the course of our inevitable annihilation. We may experience false optimism that someone else will solve the problem. Or we may simply feel paralyzed, not knowing where to begin to make a difference in such an overwhelming problem.
Our Boundless Way Zen DownEast community is committed to not turning away, nor sitting on our cushions while expecting others to solve the problem. We recognize that we have a brief window of opportunity to take action, to preserve humanity from imminent disaster, and to assist the survival of the many diverse and beautiful forms of life on Earth. Future generations, and the other species that share the biosphere with us, have no voice to ask for our compassion, wisdom and leadership. We commit to listen to their silence, be their voice, too, and to act on their behalf. As a community, we commit to actualizing the Bodhisattva vow and to helping ourselves and others to fully awaken to the truth of an endangered planet. We vow to live as EcoSattvas, and practice compassionate care of the earth.
In service of this EcoSattva Vow, we commit to the following:
Cultivate Deep Inner Resources. Our path to protecting our planet begins with our path to awakening. The preservation of our outer resources depends on the cultivation of deep inner resources. As we more fully awaken, our consciousness shifts from carelessness to mindfulness; from domination to service; from competitiveness to kindness; from independence to inter-dependence. In the place of greed, aggression, and delusion, grow love and compassion. What we love, we cannot destroy. And ultimately, we transcend even the boundaries of inner and outer.
Connect to the Natural World. The environmentalist John Seed has said, “We must come to understand that life-forms do not constitute a pyramid with our species at the apex, but rather a circle where everything is connected to everything else.” As we awaken more fully to the natural world around us, we begin to appreciate the “Earth Dharma” of our fundamental relationship to the Earth and each other. Whether in an unspoiled wilderness, a city park, or simply noticing clouds floating by overhead, when we bring our attention to the natural world we more fully appreciate its beauty, wonder, and intricate interconnections.
Alter Our Daily Practices to Live More Lightly on the Earth. Our Boundless Way Zen DownEast community is committed to making every effort to reduce our carbon footprint in the foods we serve and the products we use. As much as practical, we will:
Use cleaning products that are simple, biodegradable, low-impact, ethically sourced, and fair-traded.
Use energy efficient fixtures, equipment and appliances.
Use recycled paper products; avoid using paper products whenever possible (napkins, paper towels, dinnerware, etc.).
Follow organic practices in maintaining our gardens.
Purchase foods that are grown sustainably with practices that foster soil health and protect water quality, promote biological diversity and protect farm-worker health.
Purchase food and products that conserve energy and protect natural resources, while supporting a strong, local economy which protects future generations.
Raise Awareness of Environmental Issues. We will maintain an Environment Committee to consider policy questions that may arise, and to develop initiatives to raise awareness and engage the broader community in living more sustainably.
Thich Nhat Hanh has said: “All civilizations are impermanent and must come to an end one day. But if we continue on our current course, there’s no doubt that our civilization will be destroyed sooner than we think. The Earth may need millions of years to heal, to retrieve her balance and restore her beauty. She will be able to recover, but we humans and many other species will disappear, until the Earth can generate conditions to bring us forth again in new forms. Once we can accept the impermanence of our civilization with peace, we will be liberated from our fear. Only then will we have the strength, awakening and love we need to bring us together. Cherishing our precious Earth—falling in love with the Earth—is not an obligation. It is a matter of personal and collective happiness and survival.”