MR: As you said, even when one does act in an arena like this, it can feel insignificant. You’ve used the phrase “a drop in the bucket” a lot recently, and so I’m wondering if you could speak to that—how do you see this initiative in terms of it being a drop in the bucket, and what does that actually mean?
SS: It means just that. It is, in fact, a drop in the bucket. We have a great force of people and teachings and practice to motivate us and guide us in working together, and yet because of the depth and the scale of these issues, any action we take will seem insignificant against the backdrop of the whole earth and everything that needs to be addressed. And yet, this is how anything is accomplished.
Any action, no matter how small or large, is always done step by step, through ongoing single actions. Right now there are many remarkable things happening around the world, individuals and small organizations working on behalf of the planet. Paul Hawken speaks of this as the largest human movement that’s ever taken place in human history. It has no hierarchy, no coordinated structure—it’s a collection of over a million grassroots organizations all over the world that are dedicated to healing the earth through real and specific actions.
One of the reasons that the Buddhist teachings can be so important is because they express such a deep and profound understanding of the interdependence of all things. The evidence of this interdepen dence is something we’re perhaps seeing more vividly than ever before in human history, both in terms of our destructive actions and our healing efforts. So, when you look at it from one perspective, this one action by this one sangha may seem very insignificant. But when you look at it as part of a collective group of actions taking place all over the world, it becomes something larger and more powerful.
MR: Is there anything else you'd like to add?
SS: Well, it’s like stepping off the hundred-foot pole. At this point the Green Dragon Earth Initiative is just beginning— it’s something that I feel very strongly about, and I feel that it’s something we need to be doing as a sangha. In the same way that zazen, liturgy, Buddhist study, art and body practice, work practice—the Eight Gates—are areas that every student who trains in this Order engages, I hope that through our ongoing, heartfelt and committed work on behalf of the Earth, those who practice with this sangha will become part of that work. Part of our obligation, not just as practitioners of buddhadharma, but as human beings, is intimate awareness of and advocacy for the Earth. At this point in time if we ignore the planet, we do so at our greatest peril. This is a time to bring forth profound wisdom, selfless compassion, and boundless patience, all in dynamic tension with a great sense of urgency.
We’re at a unique time in history that no human being has ever been in before. We’ve never been in a world like we are in today. It doesn’t seem that we’re going to go back to the way things were. Even if everything were to change today and all of humanity were to be in perfect compliance with what we need to be doing to stop the creation of climate changing gases and environmental overshoot— it may be that the damage is already too great to go back. We’ve already started something that is not going to just simply reverse itself, and so as Bill McKibben says in his book Eaarth, we need to learn how to live on this tough new planet. The question is: are we going to meet that imperative and take it up with courage, spirit, joy and wisdom, or are we going to pretend that someone is going to save us? This Initiative is a commitment to the path of courage
For more information on the Green Dragon Earth Initiative visit our website at: www.mro.org/zesi