“Buddhist Practice in an Age of Ecological Crisis” with Karin Meyers

Karin Meyers gave a talk on the relevance of Buddhist practices in facing the current climate crisis. We can see Buddhist practices as having an inherently ecological approach because they deal with interbeing, dependent co-arising, and interconnectedness with each other and with nature, and include ethical principles of non-harm and compassion. She explained how the practices and teachings can help us cut through the cognitive dissonance that we may feel in regards to climate change – we know intellectually that it is an emergency, but we do not necessarily treat it like one and tend to put it out of our minds because we are caught up in our everyday lives – by allowing us to come to terms with our uncertain futures, with being subject to conditions beyond our control, and with the ways we are vulnerable to suffering. While many practices and the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism relate to individual suffering and ways to freedom from suffering, we can also use them to think about collective suffering and pathways to freedom from it. It is also important to recognize that often, the causes of suffering are not simply internal, but are from social, political, and economic structures that are constituted by greed and ill will, and cause social and ecological harm as well as human suffering. In recent years certain Buddhist practices have started to change because of the climate crisis, and we see socially engaged Buddhism on the rise, with many Buddhists taking to the streets in protests, especially as part of the Extinction Rebellion movement. The demands of the movement in the US are that the government tell the truth about the climate crisis, change the rules to actually start addressing it, allow a Citizens’ Assembly to oversee the changes, and to make sure the transition is fair and just. Its principles and values of avoiding blaming and shaming, and of non-violent protest, are in line with Buddhist practices, and have therefore allowed for the increase of socially engaged Buddhists active in the movement.

By Maya Spalding-Fecher ’21