Wednesday, May 6, 2009

108 Things We Can Do for the Earth/#1, Pray

For Earth Day this year, His Holiness Orgyen Trinley Dorje, the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa, released a list titled "One Hundred Eight Things You Can Do to Help the Environment."

While the list was written primarily for the monks and nuns who live in Karma Kagyu monasteries throughout the world (and, especially, in Asia), it struck me as I read through the list that it contains many ideas that we could all implement, if we choose to do so.

So, on an irregular schedule—since that seems to be how I'm blogging now—I'm going to start posting the 108 ideas, one at a time, along with some of my own personal musings about them.

The number 108 has significance in Tibetan Buddhism—it's the number of beads on a mala that's used to count prayers and mantra recitations, for one. There's a very interesting discussion about the significance of this number—including its astrological significance—on Ken Holmes's web site, and my friend Khandro also includes mention of 108 on her mind-bogglingly comprehensive page about number symbolism.

So, what made Number One on Karmapa's list? Prayer. Here's what he says:

"Make aspiration prayers. We make aspiration prayers for all sentient beings. This should also include the Earth, which sustains us and gives us life. We can pray for a more harmonious world where humans recognize how their actions have harmed the Earth and change their behavior."

It's true that Buddhists make aspiration prayers for all sentient beings. The primary aspiration, of course, is that all sentient beings will ultimately become enlightened—in other words, that their positive qualities will manifest fully and that their negative qualities will be eradicated.

Praying for the Earth, which sustains us and gives us life, strikes me as a new slant to the traditional Buddhist aspiration prayers. I'd venture a guess that most of us don't usually consider the Earth a sentient being, so even if we are praying for the benefit of other beings, we're praying for beings who live on and of the Earth—not for the Earth itself. His Holiness Karmapa is saying that needs to change.

Prayer in its purest form—done from the wish to benefit all sentient beings—seems to me to be, at its heart, a recognition that all of us (including the Earth) are deeply connected; this idea dovetails in a lovely way with the Gaia Hypothesis.

I can envision a day when "civilization" might be defined as both a recognition and a full expression of the interdependence of all things—Earth, Water, Air, Fire, and Spirit.

Stop for a moment and ponder: If you wrote your own prayer for the Earth, what would it be?


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