Thay Phap Luu – how to address climate change

Here is an excerpt from the dharma talk from Thay Phap Luu (Plum Village), July 2019 (beginning min. 49)

(Auszüge in deutscher Übersetzung aus diesem talk und den link zum you tube-Video davon findet Ihr hier.)

“We don´t know what will happen in the future (…) so use this moment wisely.”

“Yesterday we had a question about what can we do to address the situation of the climate? 

When we think about climate change, it can touch a lot of fear. It seems like everything that we know to be stable and solid, the very climate of the earth itself, that our ancestors have enjoyed for thousands of generations is changing more rapidly than we´ve ever experienced. Thay (Thich Nhat Hanh) shared with us that the human species may disappear of the planet earth. That may happen. 

But can we look at that situation? Can we really look at that situation with the eyes of non-self? This body is not me. I am not limited by this body. Many species have come to be on the planet earth. Some of them – many of them are our ancestors. Many of them are no longer here in the same form. We can see the record written in the bones in the earth. We don´t need to read about it in a book. We just look at the earth and the earth can tell us something about their presence. 

And we know also that we will die. All of us, at some point. But now it seems for the first time that the human species, that we are reckoning with the possibility that we as human beings and other species as well, may not continue on this planet. And that can bring up a lot of fear, a lot of uncertainty. In my practice, I look at this body as not-me. And seeing that, I see that also the earth is not me. And I see that when I have a stomach ache, when I feel some pain, I bring up the seed of mindfulness in my mind and consciousness, to be aware of that pain, of that suffering, to shine light on it. Because I know that things arise due to causes and conditions. And when there is a pain in the body, when there is some imbalance, if I allow the seed of mindfulness to manifest as a flower in my consciousness, I can get an insight into that pain.

And so if this body is not me, this body is not separated from mother earth, I know that I can do the same for the earth. As long as I continue to see that this body is separated from the earth, there is no possibility for me to understand what is going on with the climate, with mother earth. But if I allow myself to be free of the limitations imposed – I impose on myself that this, the end of my fingertips is the end of this body – that is an idea but this body is actually part of a larger organism. 

Thay liked to talk about termites. When you have just three or four termites – how many of you have seen a termite mound, maybe in South America or in Africa? –  if you just have three or four termites with a a little bit of dirt, they just kind of run around, they don´t do much. But when you have many termites, somehow an intelligence seems to manifest and they start to build columns, only up to a certain height. And then they build another column and they join them them together and they start to build these columns and the mountains start to take shape. How many, hundreds of thousands of termites? So somehow one termite alone cannot do it. They just run around like this, but when they start to come together, a kind of awakening happens, a kind of intelligence. A capacity to act beyond just an individual . So what if we are able to help one another to wake up to the sitation? That is a premise of Plum Village we call collective awakening.

I can tell you to become a vegan, I can tell you to stop flying in airplanes, but what if you woke up to an understanding on your own? What if you are part of the nervous system of mother earth, and you can sense directly what you need to do? What if we all where able to let go of our craving, and to embrace our anger, to transform all of our conflicts between our brother and sisters, our family, our wife, our children, what if we are able to embrace that with mindfulness, to an extent that we can actually receive the message that is coming to us from the flowers, from the insects, from the trees? We don´t convince anyone with ideology. We want everyone to wake up, to see for yourself what to do. Nobody is standing there directing the termites saying: Build the column! And then there is a foreman screaming: No stop. stop building that column there, you have to build it over here! Some how the insight is arising in the intelligence of the community (…) 

One of the harmonies of living in communities, is to physically be together . So by being together we are creating harmony. And we can be aware of what is going on in the other person. When anger is manifesting, we can learn how to recognize it, and we see that their mind consciousness is not separate from our mind consciousness. In the same way the fear we experience with climate change is not just an individual fear. It is a collective fear. And so, all of us here in plum village, we know how to handle our fear, and we can help others to take care of their fear. Even when people yell at us and say: Why aren´t you angry, why aren´t you angry about the situation in the climate?, then we can smile and say: I am – there is anger . I am angry about this. I do experience fear. But I am taking care of my anger. I am taking care of my fear. Because I know when I am skillful in taking care of my anger and my fear than I can act in a way that I truly am a steward of mother earth. Just like I am a steward of my own body and mind. I want to live in harmony with the earth. But I know that one ideology will never be enough to solve the problem of climate change, will never be enough to bring the climate into balance. 

If I am not in balance in myself , how could I ever expect to bring balance to the earth? And I look deeply every day with the eyes of non-self to see that this body is not me (…) in order to be able to see that mother earth is also not me. That we are not separate, and that the imbalance inside of me is not separated from the imbalance in mother earth, the imbalance of the climate. That is my practice. And I know that if the feeling of fear and anger overwhelms me, I will not be able to see that situation. It is because I want so see clearly how serious the situation of suffering is, that I am taking care of my fear. I am taking care of my anger. It´s because I want to act in a way that can bring peace and happyness to the situation. That is a way we can respond. That is the way we can practice.

And don´t think that you are not already acting. Someone may tell you: „Why don´t you act? Why do you just sit there?” In Plum Village we often say – you know, usually people say: “Don´t just sit there, act! – In Plum Village, we say: Don´t just act, sit there. 

Actually, action is happening all the time, through our thinking, through our speech, through our body. It´s only an idea, we only have an idea of being passive as opposed to active. We are always acting. This sitting here in this talk, practicing together, that is creating a collective energy, that is a kind of action, already happening in our mind. And with determination, with mindfulness, and we maintain that mindfulness with our concentration, we get the insight what to do. We see we are not separated from mother earth. That mother earth is in a process of solving the imbalance, bringing balance back. She is always trying to bring the balance back. And maybe it is our way of thinking, that is actually the obstacle.  (…) 

Mother earth is there for us. She wants us to be free. She is hoping that we´re gonna get it. And I deeply feel that there is our hope: that collective awakening is possible, with the practice of understanding our mind.