In many senses, modern consumerism, with its promotion of greed, attachment, and self-centeredness, is the reversal of Buddhist values. The result is that modern Buddhists are moving into social activism, specifically environmentalism, and protecting the world's ecology from the devastation of unchecked consumerism. In Dharma Rain
, Stephanie Kaza and Kenneth Kraft offer a resource for Buddhist environmentalists. They begin with sources in Buddhist Scriptures and writings of past masters. The rest of the book is a treasury of perspectives from contemporary Buddhist activists who look deeply at causes and solutions to environmental devastation that is happening in places like Thailand, where 70 percent of the forest has disappeared in the 20th century, and in Tibet, where the Chinese communists continue to quietly destroy not only Tibetan society but also its once-teeming wildlife and verdant flora. Many great minds chime in: Thich Nhat Hanh on interbeing, the Dalai Lama on true political success, Sulak Sivaraksa on buddhism with a small "b," Peter Matthiessen on the snow leopard, Joanna Macy on dependent co-origination, and Gary Snyder on the "harming" inherent in certain things we eat; Dharma Rain
is an embodiment of Thich Nhat Hanh's observation that "life is one," that "our way of walking on the earth has a great influence on animals and plants." --Brian Bruya
From Publishers Weekly
This book seeks to provide environmentalist themes and ideas for those practicing "engaged Buddhism." With seven sections and 40 contributors, it covers several aspects of what many believe modern Buddhists should be doing to respond correctly to environmental problems such as consumerism, economic development, deforestation, pollution and industrialization. Thich Nhat Hanh and the Dalai Lama contribute essays, as do composer Philip Glass and writers Joanna Macy and Helen Tworkov (who is also editor of Tricycle). There are lovely sections on being at one with nature and on hiking, but the book rehashes ecological material available elsewhere, and aside from the first section ("Teachings from Buddhist Traditions"), very little here is deeply Buddhist. The Transcendentalists made the same arguments for nature's supremacy in the 19th century (and indeed, several of the writers quote Thoreau). Still, there are some memorable essays: Peter Matthiessen, Patrick McMahon and Kuya Minogue provide a direct experience of the reality of nature to show why nature is worth saving: for the benefit of one's practice. Robert Aitken and William Ophuls reflect on the superiority of simplicity, providing a useful starting place for those who wish to initiate greater restraint in utilizing resources. The volume closes with suggestions for spiritual exercises, meditations and rituals (including the "Smokey the Bear Sutra"). (Jan.)
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