What distinguishes Green Sangha activism from other kinds of activism?
It is important to stop the violence which threatens our communities and whole ecosystems. Yet we can add to the violence if we attack those whom we perceive as “the enemy.” What if, instead, we were to embody the love and respect that we want others to show the earth?
It may seem challenging to feel equanimity and love when habitats are being destroyed, children are poisoned by toxic chemicals, and the air we breathe is polluted with the waste products of a petroleum-based economy. Yet it is vital that we cultivate calm and compassionate responses to these harms. Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese monk and peace activist, describes the importance of action rooted in equanimity:
The Vietnamese boat people said that every time their small boats were caught in storms, they knew their lives were in danger. But if one person on the boat could keep calm and not panic, that was a great help for everyone. People would listen to him or her and keep serene, and there was a chance for the boat to survive the danger. Our Earth is like a small boat and is in danger of sinking. We need such a person to inspire us with calm confidence. Only with such a person – calm, lucid, aware – will our situation improve.
In Green Sangha we support each other in the development of these qualities. Grounding ourselves in love and respect for the interconnectedness of all life, we organize actions to protect and restore the earth. Activists often express relief when they experience this peaceful approach. As one attendee said after a presentation on plastic pollution:
“Although I’m already aware of the impacts of plastics on our environment and I strive to reduce my waste and steer clear of plastics, the presentation was deeply impactful for me. I found the speaker’s presence, his energy and style, moving. He exuded such gentleness, love, and clarity that it filled my being with a feeling of peace and serenity I can’t quite describe, except I remember being surprised to find that after he delivered the message of the destruction and havoc plastics are wreaking upon the environment, I actually left not feeling depressed, but feeling moved to action.”
To cultivate this peace in combination with passionate action, we take recourse to daily meditation. We also keep in mind the deeper meaning of our work by reflecting on key Principles of Activism developed by founder Jonathan Gustin and Advisory Council member Diana Winston. See whether these ideas, combined with regular meditation, help you maintain a light heart in the midst of world-saving work.
- One Body
A poet wrote, “Throughout the universe One Body revealed.” We are the earth, sky, oceans and the entire planet. Of course we love the planet. It is us!
- Clarifying Motivation
Love (without boundaries) is our true nature. Motivation comes from the recognition that we are not separate from any aspect of life. We are love without boundaries serving itself.
- Compassionate Action
We see in our lives the same greed and confusion that we oppose. This helps us to have compassion for others. We fight the confusion that causes suffering, not the person who is confused. There is no “other” to fight against anyway; we simply meet ourselves.
- Questioning Ourselves
We constantly live with the questions of what is authentic, loving, and appropriate action. We’re willing to not know and be open to other points of view. We know we could be wrong.
- Being With What Is
We meet injustice without becoming lost in it. An over-identification with injustice leads to despair or rage. Alternately, meeting life in an intimate yet spacious way allows for a more creative and potent response.
- Holding Stories Lightly
Who would we be and how would we act without the story that reality isn’t supposed to appear the way it does? Without a story, the sense of a separate “I” dies, revealing our true nature as love without boundaries.
As spiritual activists, we stand together in our commitment to be that which we are trying to bring about in the world: peace and love.
- Holding Roles Lightly We hold the role of activist lightly, while thoroughly engaging in the work of the activist. We are more effective when we act from our true identity as Life itself, instead of identifying with our roles which are a mere fraction of our true selves.