The third Forum on Ethics and the Environment was recently hosted at DRBU. The forum, entitled Environmental Inspiration from the Great Books: Approaching Modern Issues with Wisdom from the Classics, asked students to read a passage from a classic text that inspired them on the issue of environmental awareness.
Here are the speakers, and the authors that inspired them.
Alex + Mencius + The Buddha
Mencius said, "Only when there are things a man will not do is he capable of doing great things."
From: Ivanhoe, P. J., and Van Norden Bryan W. (2001) Readings in Classical Chinese Philosophy.
The Buddha said, "When we see someone who is practicing giving, we should aid him joyfully. By doing so, we will obtain vast and great blessings."
A Shramana asked, "Is there an end to those blessings?"
The Buddha said, "Consider the flame of a single torch. Though hundreds and thousands of people come to light their own torches from it so that they can cook their food and ward off darkness, the first torch remains the same. Blessings too, are like this."
Sutra in Forty-two Sections (BTTS)
Alex, DRBU BA ’19
The reason I chose these two passages is because without having a foundation, whatever you build on top is sure to crumble. I think that being able to follow through in your daily life for what you believe in, no matter how small, is the key for having a strong foundation. This relates to the environment because if you are trying to make the world a better place but you don't believe in it enough to allow it to permeate every aspect of your life, then you won't get very far.
Maureen + The Bhagavad Gita
The Bhagavad Gita
Fearlessness, purity of heart, steadfastness in the union of knowledge, alms-giving, control of the senses, sacrifice, study of the shastras and straightforwardness, harmlessness, truth, absence of anger, renunciation, peacefulness, absence of crookedness, compassion to beings, non-covetousness, gentleness, modesty, absence of fickleness, vigor, forgiveness, fortitude, purity, absence of hatred, absence of pride –these belong to the one born for the divine inheritance.
Bhagavad Gita 16. 1-3 (transl. Chinmaya Prakashan)
Maureen, DRBU MA ’17
When I look at the thoughtless destruction happening to the environment which is now resulting in weather extremes, and think about how we as a species, for the most part, are unable to comprehend how each of our small actions are adding up to unprecedented devastation: I wondered how this condition could come to be. Each symptom that I saw: carelessness, destructiveness, ignorance, inability to respond to the current crises --despite information and all this carried out by basically "good people" made me realize that the root cause had to do with something more fundamental. The foundation on which we have built this technology/commodity-based society is faulty.
Many scriptures, and the Bhagavad Gita in particular, state how a decline in dharma (proper thoughts and actions) leads to an increase in ignorance. An increase of ignorance leads to an increase in adharma (the opposite of dharma), leading to disharmony, selfishness, and unwholesomeness. The Bhagavad Gita is a handbook on how to live life, and so a natural choice for answering many questions.
Cynthia + Thoreau
Henry David Thoreau
I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it as quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms...
Henry David Thoreau, 1854. Walden
Cynthia, Developing Virtue Girls School ’16
I chose Henry David Thoreau's quote because it teaches and encourages me to live deliberately and consciously. Rather than rushing through everything in life, I've learned to pause for a second to enjoy and embrace my surroundings.
David + Masanobu Fukuoka
Extravagance of desire is the fundamental cause which has led the world into its present predicament. Fast rather than slow, more rather than less- this flashy “development” is linked directly to society's impending collapse. It has only served to separate man from nature. Humanity must stop indulging the desire for material possessions and personal gain and move instead toward spiritual awareness.
Masanobu Fukuoka, 1975. The One Straw Revolution
David, DRBU BA ’19
Fukuoka speaks with regard to farming yet his words resonate on a more fundamental level. This isn't just about farming: this is about a revolution of culture, about a revolution of consciousness.
Extravagance of desire is the fundamental cause which has led the world into its present predicament. Fast rather than slow, more rather than less - this flashy “development” is linked directly to society's impending collapse. It has only served to separate man from nature. Humanity must stop indulging the desire for material possessions and personal gain and move instead toward spiritual awareness.
Yaping + Xunzi
And so, when nurturing accords with the proper times, then the six (350) domestic animals will multiply. When reaping accords with the proper times, then the grasses and trees will flourish. If government commands accord with the proper times, then the common people will be united, and good and worthy men will submit and obey.
Xunzi, (2014-10-05). Xunzi: The Complete Text (Kindle Locations 2640-2641). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.
Yaping, Sangha and Laity Training Program
Xunzi was born in the third century BCE. He was one of the first to propose that the people should raise their environmental awareness. He demonstrated that we should respect all living things, including trees, animals...give them enough time and space to grow, flourish.
Frank + Mencius
The trees of Ox Mountain were once beautiful. But because it bordered on a large state, hatchets and axes besieged it. Could it remain verdant? Due to the rest it got during the day or night, and the moisture of rain and dew, it was not that there were no sprouts or shoots growing there. But oxen and sheep then came and grazed on them. Hence, it was as if it were barren. People, seeing it barren, believed that there had never been any timber there. Could this be the nature of the mountain?!
Ivanhoe, P. J., and Van Norden Bryan W. (2001) Readings in Classical Chinese Philosophy.
Frank, DRBU BA ’19
Mencius's Ox Mountain quote is applicable even today. On the one hand, Mencius has faith that people are naturally kindhearted, which means that people tend to do good things instinctively. On the other hand, because of our everyday desires, because of our environment, our purity gets tainted. So like Ox Mountain, if our purity keeps getting tainted, eventually, there's none left; eventually we will not feel the natural kindness in our hearts anymore.
So we should protect environment just like that. Our actions are tainting the natural environment and if we do not pay attention to it, there will very soon be nothing left to save. Ox Mountain serves as a metaphor because the environment we live in and the environment inside of us are actually closely related. By harming the environment we live in, not only does the environment suffer, but our nature as humans will be barren as well.