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Buddhadharma : Spring 2019
DAVID R. LOY 41 Social engagement remains a challenge for many Buddhists, for the traditional teachings have focused on one’s own peace of mind. On the other side, those committed to social action often experience fatigue, anger, depression, and burnout. The engaged bodhisattva/ ecosattva path provides what each side needs, because it involves a double practice, inner (meditation, for example) and outer (activism). Combining the two enables intense engagement with less frustration. Such activism also helps meditators avoid the trap of becoming cap- tivated by their own mental condition and progress toward enlight- enment. Insofar as a sense of separate self is the basic problem, compassionate commitment to the well-being of others, including other species, is an important part of the solution. Engagement with the world’s problems is therefore not a distraction from our personal spiritual practice but can become an essential part of it. The insight and equanimity cultivated by eco-bodhisattvas sup- port what is most distinctive about Buddhist activism: acting without attachment to the results of action, something that is easily misun- derstood to imply a casual attitude. Instead, our task is to do the very best we can, not knowing what the consequences will be—in fact, not knowing if our efforts will make any difference whatsoever. We don’t know if what we do is important, but we do know that it’s important for us to do it. Have we already passed ecological tipping points and civilization as we know it is doomed? We don’t know, and that’s okay. Of course we hope our efforts will bear fruit, but ultimately they are our openhearted gift to the earth. It seems to me that, if contemporary Buddhists cannot or do not want to do this, then Buddhism is not what the world needs right now. Adapted from Ecodharma: Buddhist Teachings for the Ecological Crisis, published by Wisdom (January 2019)