Tuesday, August 26, 2008

EcoBliss: Planetary Bodhisattva -- Taking the Vow Seriously

The girls sitting by the bay.

Listening to: Something new that sounds old again; I can't stop hearing all the influences in this but I like it. Particularly, "New Age."

Today's Bliss: The waning moon sits high above the park in the blue sky. A gray cat sits to my right, in the window, watching birds in the front tree. A day of writing and drinking espresso...

(In the past, I've written about Hinduism and the Environment and even the Catholic church's recent ecologically minded imperatives.)

I know and hang out with a lot of people who would say they "practice Buddhism." Right now, among the crowd who thinks of themselves as intellectual and/or liberal, Buddhism is pretty much the rage if you're going to participate in any sort of organized religious or philosophical system.

I get this. I mean, Buddhism has a lot going for it. I'm particularly fond of Shambhala Buddhism, but I'm much too cafeteria style to sit down at any one specific table -- at least for now.

But yesterday, on my bike ride home along the bay, I was thinking about this group of people, and I was thinking about how many of them have taken a Bodhisattva vow -- a vow to not become enlightened until everyone is enlightened, a vow to be of service to all sentient beings.

"Sentient beings."

And I wonder who this includes for the people who take this vow.

Does it include the trees and the sky and the lake along which I was riding? And if so, how does it concretely affect the day to day of the vow-takers' lives? And if it doesn't concretely affect their day to day, why take the vow to being with?

According to the Gaia Hypothesis (a hypothesis designed by a "legitimate" scientist, by the way), the entire earth and its surrounding atmosphere is just one big organism. We often talk about the trees being our lungs, but this hypothesis really means it. We humans are not separate from the organism but only a small part of it.

A small part that has a big impact.

And yet that impact is not destined to be negative. Which is the point of the Bodhisattva vow, isn't it? That one, mere human being has that kind of power -- to affect all of humanity. And to take it further, to affect all of this planet.

Here is my favorite version of the vow:

May I be a guard for those who are protectorless,
A guide for those who journey on the road;
For those who wish to go across the water,
May I be a boat, a raft, a bridge.

May I be an isle for those who yearn for landfall,
And a lamp for those who long for light;
For those who need a resting place, a bed,
For all who need a servant, may I be a slave.

May I be the wishing jewel, the vase of plenty,
A word of power, and the supreme remedy.
May I be the trees of miracles,
And for every being, the abundant cow.

Like the great earth and the other elements,
Enduring as the sky itself endures,
For the boundless multitude of living beings,
May I be the ground and vessel of their life.

Thus, for every single thing that lives,
In number like the boundless reaches of the sky,
May I be their sustenance and nourishment
Until they pass beyond the bounds of suffering

Taking this vow to the next step, to our everyday ecological actions, expands the concept of service to others, which I think many of us limit out of our predominantly Puritan/Protestant context. We think of service to others in this guilt-based way; we think of it as sacrifice of self.

But we can shift that and think of service to others as a joy-based gifting. Living your bliss comes in here: when you are on your own path, you know what gift you have to give. And you do so without expectation and simply because you must.

When teaching or your art or writing or parenting becomes tiring, you keep going because you know it's what you are here to do and that being tired is temporary whereas the fruits of your work are infinite -- perhaps unknowable, but still infinite.

For another example, when we get up the morning and don't feel like being inconvenienced by a bike ride to work and consider driving our cars two miles instead, we can decide on that morning that we are not riding for ourselves but that we are riding for everyone and everything -- for the entirety of the planet.

How could you possibly get in your car then?


ecoyogi said...

I have learned a lot from Buddhist practices. Metta (lovingkindness practice) has helped me remain open through painful times. Walking meditation has been a great way of connecting with Earth mindfully. But where it gets dogmatic, as any religion does (there are just different degrees and ways they become seen by their practitioners and advocates as "the way)" I go my own way. You inspire me with your joy-filled path Christine. One that doesn't deny the darker aspects of the journey to self realization (I purposely left the s small--this is a very human experience and in that it's huge enough). Can we really wake up, in a body, without some enlightened one or a religion to save us? Yes, I think we can. We're told that Siddhartha Gautama did. For me, sentient beings encompass trees and bodies of water and animals and nature spirits, as well as humans and spirit beings. And they're all our teachers.

blisschick said...

Hey, Ecoyogi, thanks for your recent thoughtful comments. Do you also blog? Where might I find you? ;)

treehousejukebox said...

I am now in love with this phrase:

"May I be the trees of miracles"

differenceayearmakes said...

I just love to come hear and read each day - always something interesting, thoughtprovoking.

macro_mike said...

The bodhisattva vows protects your mind - from going off the rails. The Buddha was really into 'bliss', in fact, when you take the tantric vows, its a commitment!
So I was just reading this blisschick blog and it filled me full of joy. From a buddhist point of view, the baseline is 'suffering' and we need to move away from that to bliss.
Now I'm looking after my father, whis is 95 now, little bit of memory loss, that kind of thing, but all in all he is in good shape. Sometimes I think he's in better shape than me!
We all want to say thanks mom and dad and rush to get on with our lives without a thought for the unique kindness they have shown to us. After all, they gave us the body to run around in, rent free, no one else did that for us in this life. So when it comes time for payback, like old age, it can be a little difficult for us. I used to think, 'I'm not going to look after my old folks'. It was a painful conception. But being a buddhist taught me that being 'with' the pain can lead to wisdoma and happiness. The doing of it does not lose its unpleasantness or unfortunate quality, but by going through it consciously one can arrive at a peaceful and luminous state of mind - bliss.
It worked for me; love you all...

Eco Yogini said...

this is so true.

perfect post :)