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SPIRIT OF THE EARTH
The following is an article Spirit of the Earth by John Seed first published in Yoga Journal, Issue 138, February 1998. As in the Yoga Journal, the article below is preceded by an essay by the late and much-lamented Yoga Journal editor Rick Fields: The Time is Now and followed by a Side Bar: Practice for the Planet. Rick had a deep understanding of the embeddedness of spirit in nature as will be clear from his essay below and he will be sorely missed by many. To see a scan of the article including graphics and photos, cgo to page 49.
THE TIME IS NOW
By Rick Fields
A growing recognition that we need a spiritual response to the ecological devastation of our planet is taking shape under many banners: spiritual ecology, deep ecology, Earth-based spirituality, eco-psychology, feminist ecology, creation spirituality, Gaia consciousness, and Dharma Gaia to name just a few. Thinking about all these variants, it occurred to me that they can all be considered as a kind of yoga of the Earth - Earth yoga.
Shortly thereafter, I came across an essay by religious scholar Christopher Chapple on yogic environmentalism. The yoga tradition, he wrote, includes resources that can increase environmental awareness. Practice of the asanas (postures) and prana (breath) bring enhanced awareness of the natural world, and our senses become receptive to the elements of Earth, water, fire, and air, and to the movements of the cosmos of the sun, moon, and stars. The ethical precepts of yoga also fit well with environmental precepts, says Chapple. Nonviolence limits harm to animals and the Earth, nonpossession cuts down consumption, and through the practice of purity we become aware of pollution. And the ultimate philosophical goal of yoga, he concludes, involves the cultivation of higher awareness, which, from an environmental perspective, might be seen as an ability to rise above the sorts of consumptive material concerns that can be harmful to the ecosystem.
Dr. Chapple's essay encouraged me to go further and think about the practice of an Earth yoga - a yoga that would cut through our denial, awaken us to our situation, inspire a truly Earthy spirituality, and help us defend and restore the Earth.
Just as in yoga we relax and stretch muscles constricted by the stresses of civilized life, so would the practitioner of Earth yoga extend his or her practice to include the body of an Earth attacked by the multiple stresses of civilization. From the viewpoint of Earth yoga, the body of the Earth is, like our own, a complex living organism, and like our own, sacred. Gaia, as the scientist James Lovelock calls her, has rainforest lungs, riverine arteries, soil for skin, rock bones, an oceanic heart that pulses with the slow beat of the tides, themselves pulled by sun and moon, winds that move like prana, a delicate aura of ozone and a mysteriously evolving force and unfathomable wisdom that creates and sustains and destroys and again creates all life, including ours, in a cosmic rhythm we can only contemplate with awe.
The practitioner of Earth yoga seeks to know this body upon and within which we live as we seek to know our own bodies. So the practice of Earth yoga might best begin with that portion of Earth closest to you, your bioregion or watershed. How many of us know, for example, where our water comes from and where our water, after we've used it, goes? How many of us know the contours of the body we live on? Yoga teaches us, among other things, to care for our bodies as sacred, inside and out. As we come to know the body of Gaia as intimately as we know our own, we discover places that have been wounded, polluted, poisoned and that need to be restored and healed. This is karma yoga, the yoga of work and action.
Thus just as yoga cleanses and purifies our bodies, Earth yoga cleans toxic dump sites and polluted rivers. And just as yoga restores our body, Earth yoga restores the body of the Earth: renewing streams that are no longer safe for spawning salmon, replanting clear-cut hillsides, reintroducing wolves and buffalo.Earth yoga also recognizes the necessity to preserve and defend wild lands. It teaches us to fight as spiritual warriors, without hatred, and without attachment to winning or losing. In accord with the first principle of ahimsa, Earth yoga follows the way of direct nonviolent action introduced to the world by the Mahatma Mohandas Gandhi, developed in America by Martin Luther King, and used more recently in defense of the Earth by Earth First! and others. But while Earth yoga embraces action, it is based on the peace of contemplation and the calm eye of wisdom at the center of the hurricane. There Shiva, cobra coiled around his neck, sits on top of Mount Kailas. Wilderness retreats are an important practice of Earth yoga. People emerge with a tremendous amount of inner insight, wisdom, and energy, almost as if they receive an initiation directly from Mother Earth herself, reports John Milton, who runs a week-long retreat called Sacred Passage. And that empowers them to go on and do things that are often unbelievable in their effects.
At the same time Earth yoga also includes the yoga of bhakti, or devotion. Rituals such as the Council of All Beings developed by John Seed and Joanna Macy help us identify with the Earth. Yoga has much to contribute to the development of such rituals. The movements developed by Seed and Macy to reenact our evolutionary journey, for example, could be augmented by the nature-inspired asanas of hatha yoga. Earth yoga teaches us how to stand (and be) like a mountain, or a tree, rooted in the Earth, reaching for the heavens. Poses like fish, cobra, crocodile, lion, and camel help reconnect us through imaginative embodiment with our animal kin.
The gods and goddesses and myths of India can also play a part. Hanuman the monkey god is worshiped as the servant of Ram; Ganesh, the son of Shiva has the trunk of an elephant; and Vishnus avatars include a fish and boar. The message is clear: Divinity can often take an animal form and so monkeys live free and unharmed in many Indian temples. The Jataka tales recount the Buddhas previous animal lives, and the sacrifice of his own life to feed a starving tigress and her cubs. At its highest level, this view leads to the radical ahimsa of a Gandhi, who shocked European visitors to his ashram by insisting that they co-exist with snakes, scorpions, and spiders, recognizing, as Arne Naess, the founder of deep ecology, writes, a basic common right to live and blossom, to what is sometimes called biospherical egalitarianism.
The root meaning of yoga, we often are reminded, is union, joining, bringing together. And so Earth yoga: the yoga that leads us to realize the unity, the oneness of human and Earth, civilized self and wild Nature: the Great Mystery we have never been, and cannot ever be, apart from.
The name Earth yoga may or may not serve us. But as John Seed and many others show, something very like it already exists, in vision and in practice.
SPIRIT OF THE EARTH
By John Seed
A battle-weary rainforest activist journeys to India to renew his soul.
The long train journey from Delhi to Lucknow passed like a dream as I watched the fields roll by through the window of the second-class carriage: water buffalo, kingfisher, rice, mango and cashew trees. Temples and factories, shrines and sad regiments of monoculture eucalyptus depleting the soil and bound for the paper factories. Scenes of ecological devastation and disaster were interspersed with temples dedicated to God, reminding me of the two waves, spirit and the Earth that had sculpted my life.
Through the 80s and 90s I had worked ceaselessly to save the planets rainforests. My colleagues and I had chained ourselves to bulldozers, organized nature conservation projects in Third World countries, toured the world with a rainforest road show and a ritual called the Council of All Beings. Being an ecological activist was my whole life.
Now I was on my way to spend time with a spiritual master, Poonjaji. I was hoping that meditation and satsang dialogues with him would help me to understand the connection between my work to save the planet and spiritual work. I felt a great need to join my activist side with my contemplative side, and I hoped Poonjaji could help me.
I first came to India from London in 1973, after an encounter with LSD put an end to my career as a systems engineer for IBM. Within weeks the practice of mindfulness had displaced psychedelics. I learned vipassana meditation from Goenkaji at the Burmese Vihar in Bodh Gaya, and practiced prayers and prostrations with Lamas Zopa and Yeshe in Nepal. I returned home to Australia filled with determination to practice and spread the Dharma.
The 60s reached Australia in the early 70s. Lots of young people went back to the land then, especially around the small town of Nimbin in northern New South Wales. My friends and I started offering meditation retreats to the burgeoning New Age community, and by 1976 we had built the Forest Meditation Centre. Then, 20 of us bought 160 acres of forest nearby, sloping down to Tuntable Creek, and started Bodhi Farm. We dedicated ourselves to caretaking the meditation center, organic gardening, social action, and looking after each other. It was a beautiful time. Before a hole in the sky made us fear the sun, we worked naked in the gardens and bathed in the pure water of our creek. We planted fruit trees, delivered our own babies, and built our dwellings. We shared vehicles. One day a week we sat in silent meditation together, one day we met in council. My son Bodhi was the first born there in 1977, quickly followed by seven or eight others, including two sets of twins, and so we became known in the district as Baby Farm.
My awakening to the Earth took place four or five miles from Bodhi Farm, at Terania Creek, in 1979, when a couple of hundred hippies staged what was, as far as I know, the first direct nonviolent action in defense of the rainforests anywhere in the world. This was the biggest turning point in my life. I think now that we were successful because we were so naive and innocent and unaware of precedents. A film from that period shows a policeman with a happy smile on his face sitting by the forest having his bald head massaged by a young hippie woman.
Another shot shows a band of tie-dyed minstrels standing in front of a bulldozer in the rainforest singing songs of love and peace. People climbed high into the trees and lay on the ground in front of the dozers. Hundreds were arrested, but there was not a single incidence of violence.
Perhaps it was all the sitting. But I felt as if the rainforest could speak to me and was asking me to give it voice. It was as if I had been plucked from my human throne and suddenly found myself a commoner, a plain member of the biota as Aldo Leopold called it, with a burning desire to awaken humanity to the folly of sawing off the branch that we are sitting on, unraveling the biological fabric from which we too are woven. If we enter the rainforest and allow our energies to merge with the energies we find there, I found, a most profound change in consciousness takes place. We realize that our psyche is itself a part of the rainforests. I am protecting the rain forest becomes I am part of the rainforest protecting myself. I am that part of the rainforest recently emerged into thinking.
It took a number of years, countless demonstrations, press conferences, leaflets, and many people willing to sit in front of bulldozers and go to jail. But eventually 70 percent of the people of New South Wales came to agree with us, and the government established a series of national parks. To protect the remaining rainforests we formed an organization, the Rainforest Information Centre (RIC).
In response to our success, however, Australian logging companies began to look offshore, and in 1983, community representatives from the Solomon Islands contacted RIC for aid in resisting the same logging companies we had fought, as well as Malaysian and Japanese companies. In the years that followed RIC volunteers provided technical, financial, and political support to defend forests and communities in the South Pacific, Asia, South America, and Russia. In 1984 I was invited by Earth First! to the U.S.
After two months bouncing around in the back of an old VW bus driven by Earth First! cofounder Dave Foreman, we ended our tour in San Francisco. Gary Snyder read a poem about Terania Creek, and Randy Hayes announced the formation of a new international organization, the Rainforest Action Network.
The years that followed were full of activity: direct action to save forests and wilderness, boycotts of Mitsubishi and other transnationals, support for indigenous people in their struggles. Yet it was clear that the planet could not be saved one forest at a time. For each forest we were able to spare, a hundred were lost. The Earth is not a rock with resources growing on it; the Earth is alive, and to try to protect it by preserving a tiny patch of wilderness here and there is something like trying to keep humans alive by preserving representative samples of skin here and there.
To protect the Earth, to protect ourselves, we had to change the way we saw both the Earth and ourselves. We had to change our consciousness. Unless we could address our underlying spiritual disease, no forests would be saved for long. But how, I wondered, are we to identify and understand the spiritual malaise that leaves modern humans so lonely and isolated and no longer able to hear the glad tidings of the Earth which is our home? How are we to heal the great loneliness of spirit that finds us unable to feel loyalty and gratitude to the soil, which has fed and nourished and supported us without pause for 4,000 million years?
Searching for an answer, I turned to the indigenous people who lived more or less in harmony with the Earth for hundreds of thousands of years, and found their lives were marked with rituals and ceremonies that nourished their sense of the interconnectedness of all life. In our present situation, it seemed, such rituals were desperately needed.
Working with the Buddhist activist Joanna Macy, we developed a ritual to address our contemporary situation. The Council of All Beings, as we called it, began with mourning for what has been lost, the acknowledgement of rage and anger. Using guided visualization, movement, and dance, we re-experienced our entire evolutionary journey. We made masks to represent our animal allies and give voice to these voiceless ones, invoking the powers and knowledge of these other lifetimes to guide us in appropriate actions and empower us in our lives. We see that the pain of the Earth is our own pain and the fate of the Earth is our own fate.
A MESSAGE FROM THE EARTH
For many years, it had been my custom to seek guidance from the Earth. I would lie down in the forest and cover myself in leaves and say, Mother, I surrender to you, and deliberately allow all my energies to sink into the Earth. In 1992, the instructions I received in response to my prayers and meditations changed, and from that point onward, all that I got went like this: John, finish what you've started. Don't start anything new. Leave space for me, Gaia. I felt that Gaia was telling me to take time to seek deeper answers to my questions about how the perennial spiritual thirst of humanity could be aligned with the need to address the ecological crisis. It was time to purify myself. Time to visit some of the projects that I had helped initiate and support but had never seen with my own eyes. It was time to visit my beloved India and weave once again the spiritual warp and ecological woof of my life.
With all the projects that were underway, it took me about three years to hand over the last pieces of my work and return to India, my spiritual home, in search of nourishment and vision. Meanwhile, all the psychological aches and pains, which had mysteriously vanished when my Earth service was all-consuming, now returned. I finally, had time on my hands again. So I returned to India in 1995 searching for some resolution to the spiritual crisis that had begun for me a few years earlier. In Lucknow I spent a month attending satsang with the 86-year-old Advaita teacher Poonjaji. Fifty years ago he had been a pupil of the late Ramana Maharshi, perhaps the greatest Hindu sage of this century, who had lived most of his life on and around the sacred mountain Arunachala in southern India.
Poonjaji, or Papaji, had many Western devotees who believed that he also was a fully enlightened master. Some 200 of us from all over the world crowded the hall Satsang Bhavan four mornings a week, handing him letters (his hearing was failing) with our spiritual questions which he would read and answer. Behind him on the wall were portraits and photos of Ramana.
While with Papaji I was interested in exploring the relationship between the human spiritual quest and the ailing Earth upon which it is carried out. For as long as people look on the Earth as maya, illusion, and as an obstacle to realization, how could we find the intense spiritual will necessary to make the tremendous changes in our values, lifestyles, and institutions in our very consciousness that would prevent the continued destruction of the Earth?
Lucknow seemed an unlikely place to search for enlightenment. The capital of Uttar Pradesh, Indias most populous state, is noisy, highly polluted, and hardly conducive to a spiritual quest. Still, some of my closest friends had reported that a great opportunity existed there while this great sage was.
On the roof of Satsang Bhavan was a restaurant run by and for the sangha, and I would hang out there, listening to stories from people from around the world. I rented a bicycle and, dodging the ubiquitous pigs and water buffalo, visited new friends, playing music with them under the stars. Once I visited the sad remnants of a forest nearby and prayed for direction, for renewal, for Gaia to call me once again, but I felt frustrated and full of doubt.
I found myself fascinated by Shiva the Hindu god of creation and destruction, and tried to find out as much about him as possible. For Shivaratri, the anniversary of Shivas wedding, I caught the train to Varanasi where that wedding had taken place. Millions of pilgrims crowded the festive city, and I watched the naga babas naked, ash-covered, dreadlocked sadhus carry their tridents down to the Ganges to purify themselves.
While there I came across an interview with Vandana Shiva, the Indian feminist ecologist and writer, who spoke about the river goddess Ganga and Shiva. She said that the power of the goddess was so strong that if she landed on Earth she would just destroy. Its symbolic of the way we get our monsoon rain. It comes so strong, that if we don't have forest cover, we get landslides and floods. So the god Shiva had to help in getting the Ganges down to Earth. And Shiva laid out his hair, which was very matted, to break the force of the descent of the Ganga. Shivas hair, Vandana concluded, is seen by a lot of us in India as a metaphor for the vegetation and forests of the Himalayas.
A BLESSING FROM PAPAJI
When I returned to Lucknow three days later, I wrote to Papaji twice about these concerns. The first time his answer was mostly mysterious to me and left me unsatisfied. So I plucked up my courage and wrote again a couple of weeks later:
Dear Papaji, Lakshmana Swami once said that, since God had chosen to manifest as the world and everything in it, one could worship God by having respect for the world and all the life forms it contains.
For many, many years, Papaji, it has been my privilege and joy to worship God in this manner, to feel the living Earth play my life like a musical instrument. A couple of weeks ago, when I first wrote to you at satsang, you said this: To the man speaking of Mother Earth I say: To help Mother Earth means you stand and shout at the top of your lungs.
I have shouted long and hard, Papa. I shouted in front of bulldozers and was thrown in jail. I made films and a book, which was translated into 10 languages, and conducted workshops around the world, donating the proceeds to the work, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for the protection of Nature from the Amazon to New Guinea.
For the last 15 years Papa, the Earth worked through me and I was tireless and full of joy, but eventually the impurities of ego and the conditioned mind began to rise again until, a couple of years ago, the Earth asked me to hand over what I had been doing to others and purify myself for the next task that she has for me. And here I am.
This time Papaji looked directly at me. When you take care of your mother, he said in his deep voice, then you will get some prize. When you are helping the Earth, then you are helping everybody who's living on the Earth - plants, animals, and men. And now you have a reward: that the work will carry on. You may now sit quiet, and she will give you something in the way of peace.
So, my dear friend, he continued, your work is very good. I bless you for this task that is in hand, and let me tell you, both sides can happen simultaneously: Work for the good of the Earth and the people. And for your own good do something else. They needn't interfere with each other. Stay for some time before sleep and in the morning and sit quietly for five or 10 minutes. The rest of the time you may give for the world, help those who need your help.
What a blessing it was to feel Papa rekindle the flame inside me which had been wavering and doubtful. I could not yet know how, but I knew that from this turning point it would begin to flare forth once more.
My retreat was drawing to a close, but there was still one place I had to visit: the great mountain Arunachala, in Tiruvanamalai, 18 hours south by train.
Nearly 10 years before, in 1987, I had received a letter from Apeetha Aruna Giri, an Australian nun residing in the Sri Ramana Ashram at the foot of Arunachala. She wrote that when Ramana had arrived there, the holy mountain was clothed in lush forest and one might even meet a tiger walking on its flanks. Now little grew there but thorns and goats. Terrible erosion trenched Shivas sides, and torrents of mud attended each monsoon. She had heard about our work for the forests. Could we please help her to reclothe the sacred mountain?
I had composed a reply to Apeetha, encouraging her in her efforts but pleading that we had no competence in reforestation or the rehabilitation of degraded landscapes - our mission was the protection of intact ecosystems. But it was no use, I couldn't send the letter. Ramana's smiling face which I had first seen smiling from the back of his book, Who Am I?, in London in 1970 kept popping up before me. So we raised some money and sent it to Apeetha. Through her efforts a local NGO was born the Annamalai Reforestation Society. The following summer solstice I was facilitating a Council of All Beings workshop at John Buttons shack at Sundari community in northern New South Wales. John was a permaculture designer and tree-planter who was heading for the deserts of central Australia to become involved in a tree-planting project. For some reason I asked him if he wouldn't like to try this in the deserts of Tamil Nadu instead. He asked for details, and when I mentioned Ramana, his face turned pale and he told me that he was a longtime devotee of Ramanas.
Since that time, John and his partner, Heather Bache, have worked as volunteers organizing the rehabilitation of Arunachala. The space between the inner and outer walls of the vast 23-acre temple complex has been transformed from a wasteland into the largest tree nursery in the south of India. Hundreds of people have received environmental education, and a 12-acre patch of semidesert was donated to the project and transformed into a lush demonstration of permaculture and the miraculous recuperative powers of the Earth.
Hundreds of Tamil people have been trained in reforestation skills - tree identification, seed collection, nursery techniques, watershed management, erosion control, sustainable energy systems. Shivas robes are slowly being rewoven. Furthermore, hundreds more have been trained in the techniques of permaculture, inspired by the Annamalai Reforestation Society's model farm.
The train finally rolled into Tiruvanamalai, and I was able to visit Arunachala myself and see the tremendous work that had been done to revegetate the sacred mountain.Upon my arrival I discovered that many people here believe that to walk around the base of Arunachala is the fastest way to enlightenment, and each full moon, tens or hundreds of thousands of devotees and pilgrims do so. It upset me to see the indifference with which most of these folks regarded our work. Most were oblivious, but some even complained that the newly planted trees interfered with their view of the sunset. A great deal had been accomplished by the Annamalai Reforestation Society, but how much more could be achieved if only the pilgrims realized the unity of the spirit and the Earth!
What if their worship of Shiva included devotion to his physical body, Arunachala? Imagine if they lent a hand to the planting and maintenance of the trees as part of their devotion? The greening of the mountain would be accelerated. I was giving talks and lectures in the town and I began to challenge the ecological indifference I found and to propose to the pilgrims that surely the act of worship and respect of watering the young saplings that were weaving themselves into robes to cover his nakedness was an even faster route to liberation than circumambulating the mountain.
A week later I was stricken with remorse how could I be so presumptuous as to make such claims without having even asked Shiva? So one morning I climbed the mountain and found a quiet place among the trees to meditate and pray and apologize. After some time I opened my eyes to a noise. Some monkeys had appeared from the young forest. Slowly they filed past and stood guard while scores of their tribe came into view, and then they began to relax.
They groomed each other, they made love, mothers breast-fed their babies, children played and cavorted, utterly unselfconsciously living their everyday lives in my astonished and grateful presence. I saw a newborn infant cautiously explore the ground, leaving the safety of her mothers body for what seemed to me the first time, and leaping back and climbing her fur at the slightest noise or disturbance. I had never felt more accepted by the nonhuman world. I knew that Shiva had answered my prayer, had acknowledged my efforts, and was giving me his sign of approval.
It doesn't really matter what symbols we use Shiva, Gaia, Buddha, God. What we need now is for the followers of all faiths to turn their allegiance to the Earth. What matters is that we refuse to be drawn to one or the other of the great polarities: spirit and Earth. We must neither reduce everything to spirit, from where it appears that the material world is some kind of illusion, nor reduce everything to the material, so it looks as if spiritual seekers are abdicating responsibility to care for the creation.
Donations to help the reforestation of Arunachala or for other Rainforest Information Centre projects are tax-deductible. Make checks out to Earth Trust Foundation (Rainforest Information Centre Projects). Send to
Earth Trust Foundation,
20110 Rockport Way, Malibu,
CA 90265; (310) 456-8300; fax (310) 456-0388.
The Rainforest Information Centre's World Rainforest Report plus information about RIC projects and John Seeds schedule of DeepEcology workshops and rainforest road shows may all be found on http://rainforestinfo.org.au.
John Seed can be contacted at
Rainforest Information Centre, Box
368 Lismore, NSW 2480
phone 61-266-213294, firstname.lastname@example.org
PRACTICE FOR THE PLANET
by anon, Yoga Journal
SANITY AND SPIRIT
I agree that environmental sanity is about sane science and sane politics leading to a sane society. But how do we acquire this environmental sanity? I, for one, suggest that scientists and politicians will only discover environmental sanity through a spiritual reconnecting to nature. Go sit on the Earth. Spiritual ecology is the modus operandi for achieving environmental sanity.
Jim Nollman, in Spiritual Ecology
For humans, the watershed is a hydraulic commons - an aquatic contract that has no escape clause. From forested headwaters through agricultural midstream valleys to the commercial and industrial centers at the rivers mouth, good and bad news travels by water.
Did my toilet flushing give downstream swimmers a gastrointestinal disease? Did the headwaters clear-cut kill the salmon industry at the rivers mouth? Did my citys water needs dam and drain off a river and close down an upriver farm that fed me fresh vegetables? Did the toxic waste dump leak into the groundwater and poison people in the next county?
The watershed journey is right out your window among the hills and valleys that surround you. It is the first excursion of thought into the place you live. It is not inner geography - the continuing attempt to feel better by mapping the mysterious meandering of our hearts and minds - nor is it whole-Earth geography, the struggle to gain perspective of our place in planetary history.
Watershed consciousness is a form of home awareness, respect, maintenance, and repair. It starts by knowing where your water comes from (besides the faucet or vending machine) and where it goes when you flush; what happens to the rain that runs off your roof; what soils produce your food; and who shares your water supply, including which fish. The Watershed Way is a middle way, singing a local song, somewhere close by, between Mind and Planet.
Peter Warshall, in The Many Voices of the Boulder Creek Watershed
Imagine that your feet, planted firmly on the ground, have become roots extending from yourself deep into the Earth. What is it like to have a body that unfolds itself under the Earth, traveling in the dark, to bring the water and nutrients up from the soil? Allow yourself, also, to feel your body reaching in the other direction, as you become aware that your torso is a trunk stretching upward and your arms are branches reaching into the sky. Become the tree.
Now this is the difficult part: Let it be sufficient to be a tree. Allow yourself to be aware that its not more enlightened to be human. After you have come to know the tree deeply, you can practice this meditation as a bird, a stone, a star, until you can become one with all life, with all forms of being.
Deena Metzger, in Dharma-Gaia
There was a woman who stood up against the digging of a quarry even when she was beaten and pelted with stones. When asked, What is it that gives you all this shakti (strength)? she replied: Can you see all this grass growing? We come to cut this grass and every year it grows back. And the power in the grass is the power in me. Do you see these trees growing? They are 200 years old. Every year we lop these trees to feed our cattle and to keep our children alive, so that children have milk, and still the trees keep growing and still keep nurturing, and that shakti is in me. See this stream? Clear sparkling water. This living water gives me life. And thats my shakti.
Vadana Shiva, from Non-violence in Animals, Earth and Self in Asian Traditions by Christopher Chapple
Prajak Kuttajara is a Thai forest-monk who led villagers in a struggle to save the ancient forests of northeast Thailand from being cut and replaced by eucalyptus plantations. Prajek practiced tree ordination, wrapping a yellow cloth the color of a monks robe around large teak trees, marking them as children of the Buddha. Prajek also led daily monk patrols to watch for illegal logging. Because of the respect most Thai hold for Buddhist monks, many people, including even some loggers, would not harm the trees.
Branded as a spiritual outlaw by the government as well as by conservative monks who said that monks should keep their noses out of politics, he replied, I never thought I would have to actively protect the forest where I spent 10 years in meditation. He explained that the forest is the source of everything in the world, the dharma, the natural law. It is the university of our life and understanding, the place where Buddha first had a revelation. Nowadays we don't understand ourselves, where we are in relation to nature, but if we practice meditation we will understand ourselves and the relationship between forests and our body.
From The Lost Gospel of the Earth by Tom Hayden.
The tradition of tree ordination and forest walking has been continued and expanded with deep-ecology practices and activist leadership trainings by Elizabeth Roberts and Elias Amidon in a series of Interfaith Solidarity Walks, contemplative in nature with daily prayer and meditation, in order to support local attempts to sustain land and culture threatened by development programs. For information, contact the Boulder Institute for Nature and Human Spirit, 1314 8th St., Boulder, CO 80302; (303) 939-8398; fax (303) 447-2253.
THE PRACTICE OF PERSONAL LANDSCAPE
Most of us remain strangers to the landscapes we live and work in. The following are four principles which will help you become intimate with a landscape and culture:
Love it. Love doesn't arise out of an environmental improvement program or externally applied values. Real love depends on respect for all that one meets in the beloved. Since all modern landscapes are wounded, this means appreciation for their beauty and woundedness together.
Use it. You must make practical use of a landscape if you wish to get to know it. Live in it, meditate in it, work in it, hunt and gather something you need and love to find in it. This use is what makes the relationship come alive.
Study it. You have to get to know the birds, the insects, the plants and animals, the clouds and stars and seasonal weather patterns. The roads, houses, stores, and factories, the energy grids, the communication networks, the pollutants, dumps, and wastelands.
One place. Be specific. Love, use, and study one place at a time. The more specific and limited the place, the more personal and intimate the relationship with it will be.
Become intimate with your own backyard, with a bit of riverbank, with a pond or hill. The rest of the watershed, the meta-landscape, the continent, planet and universe will be naturally drawn into this intimacy.
John McClellan, in The Many Voices of the Boulder Creek Watershed
The Chipko Movement (chipko means embrace) started in the foothills of the Himalayas in 1973 when an Indian lumber company received a contract to cut trees for cricket bats. Villagers decided to resist by hugging the trees. Faced with widespread publicity, the company backed down.
The next year the government awarded a contract to another company to cut forests in the village of Reni. Only this time, the government arranged a meeting in a distant town for all the village men, promising reimbursement for lands lost in the India-China war. With all the men gone, the company bused in loggers. A girl gathering fodder saw the loggers and alerted Gaura Devi, who called the village women to surround the trees. When the loggers arrived, one of them threatened the protesters with a pistol. The forest is our Mother, she said. Shoot me instead. Once more, the loggers retreated.
Adapted from The India Book by Andrew Schellig.
In our former lives, we were rocks, clouds, and trees. We may have been an oak tree ourselves. This is not just Buddhist; it is scientific. We humans are a very young species. We appeared on Earth only recently. We were plants, we were trees, and now we have become humans. We have to remember our past existences and be humble. We can learn the Dharma from an oak tree.
Thich Nhat Hanh, Love in Action
AN EARTH YOGIS BOOKSHELF
Thinking Like A Mountain: Toward a Council of All Beings by John Seed, Joanna Macy, Pat Fleming, Arne Naess (Branford, CT: New Society Publishers, 1994.)
Dharma Gaia: Essays in Buddhism and Ecology edited by Allan Hunt Badiner (Berkeley, CA: Parallax Press, 1990.)
The Lost Gospel of the Earth: Reclaiming the Ecological Wisdom of the Great Traditions by Tom Hayden (San Francisco, CA: Sierra Club Books, 1996.)
The Dream of the Earth by Thomas Berry (San Francisco, CA: Sierra Club Books, 1990.)
Restoring the Earth: Visionary Solutions from the Bioneers by Kenny Ausebel (Tiburon, CA: HJ Kramer, 1997.)
The Soul UnEarthed: Celebrating Wilderness and Personal Renewal Through Nature edited by Cass Adams (New York, NY: Tarcher/Putnam, 1996.)
Spiritual Ecology by Jim Nollman (New York, NY: Bantam/Doubleday, 1990.)
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