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Buddhadharma : Spring 2019
40 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER'S QUARTERLY yet another newspaper or online blog reporting on the latest scien- tific studies, with disheartening ecological implications. Not only are things getting worse, it’s happening more quickly than anyone expected. How do we react? The news tends to make us depressed or anxious—but hey, we’re Buddhist practitioners, so we know how to deal with that. We meditate for a while, and our unease about what is happening to the earth goes way... for a while, anyway. This is not to dismiss the value of meditation, or the relevance of equanimity, or the importance of realizing shunyata. Nevertheless, those by themselves are insufficient as responses to our situation. When it comes to the ecological crisis, Buddhist teachings do not tell us what to do, but they tell us a lot about how to do it. Of course, we would like more specific advice, but that’s unrealistic, given the very different historical and cultural conditions within which Bud- dhism developed. The collective dukkha caused by an eco-crisis was never addressed because that particular issue never came up. That does not mean “anything goes” from a Buddhist perspective. Our ends, no matter how noble, do not justify any means, because Buddhism challenges the distinction between them. Its main contri- butions to our social and ecological engagement are the guidelines for skillful action that the Theravada and Mahayana traditions offer. Although those guidelines have usually been understood in individual terms, the wisdom they embody is readily applicable to the more collective types of engaged practice and social transforma- tion needed today. The five precepts of Theravada Buddhism (and Thich Nhat Hanh’s engaged version of them) and the four “spiritual abodes” (brahmaviharas) are most relevant. The Mahayana tradi- tion highlights the bodhisattva path, including the six “perfections” (generosity, discipline, patience, diligence, meditation, and wisdom). Taken together, these guidelines orient us as we undertake the eco- sattva path.