Thay on the Environment

In October 2007, Thich (Thay) Nhat Hahn , issued a statement to his disciples from which the following was extracted…

The Buddha has taught us to practice looking directly into the seeds of fear in us, instead of trying to cover them up or running away from them. This is the practice of the five remembrances.

  1. I will have to grow old.
  2. I will have to get sick.
  3. I will have to die.
  4. One day I will have to lose the things I cherish today, and the people I love today.
  5. When my body disintegrates, I cannot bring anything with me except my actions of body, speech and mind – they are the only inheritance that I can bring with me.

When we can practice accepting these truths in this way, we will have peace, and we will have the capacity to live healthy and compassionately – no longer causing suffering to ourselves and to others. When people with cancer or AIDS are first diagnosed and told that they only have 3 months or half a year to live, they often react with anger, denial, and despair in the beginning. They cannot accept it. However, once they can accept the truth, they begin to have peace.

The Buddha taught that all phenomena are impermanent; there is birth, then there is death. Our civilization is also like that. In the history of the earth, many civilizations have ended. If our modern civilization is destroyed, it also follows the law of impermanence. If our human race continues to live in ignorance and in the bottomless pit of greed as at present, then the destruction of this civilization is not very far away. We have to accept this truth, just like we accept our own death. Once we can accept it, we will not react with anger, denial, and despair anymore. We will have peace. Once we have peace, we will know how to live so that the earth has a future; so that we can come together in the spirit of brotherhood and sisterhood and apply the modern technology available to us, in order to save our beloved green planet. If not, we will die from mental anguish, before our civilization actually terminates.

Our mother, The Earth, the green planet has suffered from her children’s violent and ignorant ways of consuming. We have destroyed our Mother Earth like a type of bacterium or virus destroying the human body, because Mother Earth is also a body. Of course, there are bacteria that are beneficial to the human body. Trillions of these bacteria are present in us, especially in our digestive systems (known as intestinal normal flora). They protect the body and help generate enzymes necessary to us. Similarly, the human species can also be a living organism that has the capacity to protect the body of Mother Earth, if the human species wakes up and knows to live with responsibility, compassion and loving kindness. Buddhism came to life, so that we learn to live with responsibility and compassion and loving kindness. We have to see that we inter-are with our Mother Earth, that we live with her and die with her.

Mother Earth has gone through re-birth many times. After the great flood caused by global warming takes place, perhaps only a very small portion of the human race will survive. The earth will need over a million years to recuperate and put on a new whole, beautiful green coat, and another human civilization will begin. That civilization will be the continuation of our civilization. To the human species, one million years is a very long time, but to the earth and in geological time, one million years is nothing at all; it is only a short period of time. Ultimately, all birth and death are only 6 superficial phenomena. No-birth and no-death are the true nature of all things. This is the teaching of the Middle Way in Buddhism.

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