This is part of a submission by Kanzan Purchase to the Peace and Environment News
When Buddhism introduced itself to Europe and North America a cultural divide was experienced. Europeans and North Americans were the product of the Industrial Revolution. Their understanding of the physical world, through the development of the sciences, allowed them to do more, manufacture more and build more through the use of machines. People were needed for less and less as machines are used to streamline processes. The end result was that people became less dependent, or focused on their local and focused more outside their community and what they can do with their increasing material wealth. The result was a breakdown of a sustainable community as they lost skills and become dependent on “stuff” manufactured by multi-national organizations far away.
The introduction of Buddhism was difficult in Europe and North Americans because it wanted to turn our focus around 180 degrees. The Buddhist focus starts with our relationships in order to gain insights on our interconnectedness with each other and the world around us. From the environmental perspective, Buddhists should address the topic from the perspective that the problem originates with us! We have to start by changing the way we see ourselves, our relations with each other, how we conduct our lives and view ourselves in the world, in order to address environmental issues adequately.
Buddhism also changes our relationship with "stuff". As we practice and gain more insight we realize that more stuff will not make us happier. It only increases the burden of being responsible for dealing with all that stuff. Happiness comes from giving up our focus on stuff, to focus more on our relations with ourselves, each other and the world. We gain "skilful means" with regards to our interactions with the world. Imagine the ecological impact this perspective could have on the world!
With regards to environmental issues all religions, not only Buddhism, have a huge role to play. For one thing religions foster introspection - the discipline to think deeply on the moral implications of our actions. This is a skill being quickly lost in the modern world. For this reason our voices need to be heard in order to influence political direction. People of faith must have their voices heard in order to influence environmental policy, based on moral reasoning.
People of faith hold a lot of power because they have global reach. If the heads of our religious groups in Canada co-ordinated with their affiliates around the world to provide one common call to action, the message would be loud and clear. From the opposite perspective, people of faith and their local groups should also act locally on environmental initiatives. They must be seen as community leaders when it comes to being environmentally responsible.
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