So, from that view, there are times when I think, why isn't everyone here? But that's not something I worry about. From the beginning I said that we would throw ourselves into this work and see what happened. I'm happy that so many sangha members have become so involved.
MR: Do you have hopes for the second year, places that you want to deepen or expand?
Sensei: Well, for me, the greatest challenge—because secretly, of course, I would like to fix all the problems of the earth—is the tension of how to sustain this over time, how to keep cultivating the aspects of this initiative that we've agreed are important to make it meaningful and effective and very much coming out of dharma practice. So, it's the dynamic between challenging ourselves but also enjoying the work, even though sometimes it is difficult.
MR: What do you mean, specifically, by "challenging people"?
Sensei: To help all of us find out about things that we would rather not know about. To help us examine our own lives in ways that have direct implications for our behavior and decision-making. Also to see how individual change, though essential, is clearly not enough. There has to be change on community, state, national and global levels. But how are people most effectively encouraged to engage in change? There's been quite a bit of study and research within environmentalism about the gap between what people feel about the problem and how they respond to it. So how are people compelled to respond? Do we need to be frightened into changing? Would a better incentive be based in economics? Can it be based on love—for the planet, for things, for life? How do we inspire each other, ourselves, to actually engage this?
Some students struggle with guilt because they think they're not doing enough. Others have expressed their reluctance to come to the meetings because they're afraid they'll be made to make a commitment they may not be ready to make. So we've made it clear that we just want anyone on any level to be engaged in this. The whole point is just to be precipitating a shift, and so on any level that people want to engage, we're happy to have them come and engage, and there's no expectation that they will do more or less. They can come to one meeting; they can come every other month; they can come to every meeting. We're just happy to see them, and we want them. This is not for the Order. It's for the Earth.
MR: As Buddhist practitioners, aren't we engaged in the practice of changing our minds? What does this have to teach us in terms of doing environmental work?
Sensei: What compels someone to want to apply effort to change when they come into Buddhist practice?
MR: For me, it was suffering.
Sensei: Right. So it's something that you're experiencing directly, viscerally. It's in your mind, it's in your life, it's something you face every day. I think that's one of the challenges.