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Buddhadharma : Winter 2015
64 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly winter 2 0 1 5 suffering, while in the other, one’s mind is the prob- lem. These are differing perspectives on the path, but they can both have the effect of devaluing social and ecological engagement. In different ways, each is resigned to the way this world is—or seems to be— and therefore is not concerned about reforming it. It is not surprising, then, that both perspectives offer the same “solution” to the ecological crisis. When our attention is drawn to what is happening— to the fact that our ecosystems are deteriorating quickly and our collective response to this situation remains woefully inadequate—we can sit on our cushions and meditate, or perhaps chant, and after a while we feel better because we have “let go” of our dis-ease about what is happening to the earth. Fortunately, there is another way to understand the Buddhist path: that it is about deconstructing and reconstructing the self—or, better, the relation- ship between one’s sense of self and the world. Reconstruction involves changing our motivations, which is the key to understanding the Buddha’s innovative teaching on karma; he emphasized inten- tions because problems naturally result when we are motivated by greed, ill will, and delusion. Yet transforming motivations is not sufficient— the root of our problems is a sense of self that needs to be deconstructed. Because the self is a psycholog- ical and social construct, a cluster of impermanent processes, it is inherently insecure and anxious inso- far as it feels separate from the rest of the world. We usually experience this insecurity as a sense of lack, which nothing external can ever satisfy. Medi- tation practices can resolve this deep feeling that “something is wrong with me” by revealing our interconnectedness with the world. These transformations do not involve transcend- ing this world but rather coming to experience it in a different way, just as Nagarjuna’s assertion implies. There is another important implication, which brings us back to the challenge of social and ecological engagement. As we begin to awaken and realize that we are not separate from each other or from the earth, we also begin to see that the ways New orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Mounting scientific evidence suggests climate change is leading to more severe weather events, such as hurricanes.