Clark Strand posted the second of his Green Meditation posts about the paramitas, or “transcendent perfections.” He began with a piece on Generosity, the first Paramita. This week’s piece is on the second, Moral Discipline. In April Clark led a 4-week Tricycle Retreat on Green Meditation, which was itself a follow-up to his groundbreaking article, “Turn out the Lights,” in our Spring 2010 issue. What follows is Clark’s teaching on the second paramita. Read the whole article for the mantra practice which concludes the piece.
In practicing the paramita of moral discipline we avoid harmful actions and, ideally, seek to perform acts which bring happiness to other beings instead. We may have rules such as the Buddhist precepts to aid us in this endeavor, but the basic rule is simple and universal: do for others what you would have them do for you. This is the “Golden Rule” that appears in one form or another in each of the world’s major spiritual traditions.
The Green Bodhisattva also practices the Golden Rule of moral discipline, but understands that what seems good for human beings in the short run, is seldom sustainable in the end. The Industrial Revolution brought a higher standard of living to people living in developed nations, provided we interpret that phrase to mean a standard richer in material wealth and prosperity, and marked by generally longer lifespans. But that revolution also brought a global population explosion that, in itself, is the driving force behind the sixth major species extinction in the history of our planet.
We may tell ourselves that the primary reason for this is fossil fuel use, but that knowledge only serves as a kind of moral buffer. Because, really, the problem is us—in vast numbers, redefining the entire planetary ecosystem for our use. The Green Bodhisattva refuses to interpose any environmental problem (or technological solution) as a moral buffer between himself and the fate of other species of life on Earth. The Green Bodhisattva knows that, as a species, humanity is in need of a major course correction on its collective journey through deep time.
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