Tuesday, October 14, 2014

buddhist ecology (not what you think)


i found this great article by aspiring buddhist and evolutionary biologist david barash for aeon. 
Part of this sensitivity to nature is a Buddhist grasp of suffering, whose existence constitutes the first of Buddhism's Four Noble Truths. It is no coincidence that Henry David Thoreau, America's first great environmentalist, was also a student of Indian religion and the first translator of the ‘Lotus Sutra’ into English. In this classic teaching, Shakyamuni Buddha compares the ‘Dharma’ — the true nature of reality — to a soothing rain that nourishes all beings.
a buddhist idea of self can shed light on a more progressive (darker) view of ecology:
Each of us arises in conjunction with others, dependent on and inseparable from those others. Trying to locate an inviolate particle of selfhood within anyone (or indeed, in any living thing) is not like finding a solid pit inside an apricot. It is more like peeling an onion: we are layers within layers, with nothing at the centre. Or, like an eddy in a river, each of us can be identified and pointed to, but nonetheless, there isn’t any persistent ‘us’: just a constantly moving pattern of flow, with everyone composed entirely of non-self stuff, all of it passing through. For Buddhists and ecologists alike, we are all created from spare parts scavenged from the same cosmic junk-heap, from which ‘our’ component atoms and molecules are on temporary loan, and to which they will eventually be recycled.
let's be sincere about our doubts:
High on the list of such absurdities are the phenomena of iddhi, supernatural events that are supposed to be generated by extremely skilful and committed meditation. They appear often in Buddhist texts, and I don’t believe a word of them. Higher meditators are claimed to possess various supernatural abilities, becoming invisible on demand, walking through walls, on water, through the air, hearing people and other beings very far away, mind-reading, recalling past lives, even possessing ‘divine eyes’ that permit them to see the arising and passing away of karma.
barash admits the absurdity of it all. ecological poesis has an inseparable noir component.
Ecology is many things: a science, a world view, a cautionary tale. It can be nearly incomprehensible in its mathematical thickets, downright tedious in its verbal pomposity, theoretically abstruse yet dirty-under-the-fingernails practical, often ignored and derided although desperately needed as a voice for basic planetary hygiene and a practical corrective to human hubris. It has been called the ‘subversive science’, since it subverts our egocentric insistence on separateness, and with it, our inclination to ride roughshod over the rest of the natural world.
methinks some of this can still be salvaged as metaphoring auto-poesis.