Compassion In Action

Why 'Compassion In Action'?

On Mon, 6 April, 2015 - 17:31
mokshini's picture

Compassion In Action is our new community space for the ongoing sharing that started life as ‘Beyond BAM’ (‘Beyond Buddhist Action Month’)!

Essentially, this space is about metta: the quality of unconditional loving-kindness, a key value in our Triratna community as it is in all Buddhist traditions. The Triratna Buddhist Community aims to be a force for the good in the world, and all we do is dedicated to benefiting others. All of our retreats and events end, or begin, with the wish that what we do may alleviate the suffering of our world.

What does loving–kindness and wisdom mean in the context of the 21st century?
Living in the world today includes awareness of the facts of climate change with its rising temperatures and the devastating impact that it is already having on our planet: reduction of habitats for animals and humans alike, species extinction, rising sea levels.

It also includes awareness of the facts of an increasing divergence in equality in our westernised societies, as well as of the grinding poverty, war and displacement that is taking place in many parts of the world.

If climate change and inequality cause suffering, is it our duty as Buddhist practitioners to try and do something about it?

Actions have consequences
This is a basic and fundamental Buddhist teaching. Whatever we do, say, or think will have a consequence. But as our world is becoming increasingly interconnected and complex, am I aware of the consequences of the consumption patterns that I engage in every single day?

Do I stay awake to the fact whenever I buy something I have a direct effect on a producer who may be living on the other side of the world, and that I therefore directly affect the quality of his or her life? So if I pay £40 towards an item of clothing that has been made in a sweatshop in Bangladesh, or knowingly buy coffee that is not fairtrade - these actions will have a definite effect, even though it is invisible to me and I have to use my imagination to become aware of it.

This is a particular kind of mindfulness practice I think - quite particular to the 21st century: the mindfulness of making conscious the consequences of our consumption habits. Making conscious that somebody has made, sewn, stitched these garments I wear; asking, “Where is my money going?” Or the mindfulness of making conscious were my food has come from: if I eat strawberries in winter or nectarines flown in from Thailand - what does that mean in terms of carbon footprint? When I start making it conscious, can I really believe these actions are compatible with ling a sustainable lifestyle?

In this way the practice of mindfulness of what I consume and buy, and the consequences of these actions, takes on a distinct shape.

Are we also aware of the effect of our collective consumption habits on future generations? What world are we going to leave behind for those living in 20-30 years’ time? And if we make this conscious - do we really want these consequences?

I take the Buddha’s injunction in the Karaniya Metta Sutta quite literally: this sutta is one of the oldest known texts in the Buddhist tradition in which the Buddha describes the development of Loving Kindness practice, In it he says:

May all be happy and feel secure.
May all beings become happy in their heart of hearts!
And think of every living thing without exception:
the weak and the strong,
from the smallest to the largest,
whether you can see them or not,
living nearby or far away,
beings living now or yet to arise –

may all beings become happy in their heart of hearts!

(Translated by Ratnaprabha)

Let’s use this page as a collective way to make what is happening to the earth and beings on it part of our discourse within Triratna.

Listen to Mokshini’s talk on ‘Altruism - Actually Getting Out And Doing Something’

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Read and listen to the Karaniya Metta Sutta

Join the ‘Karaniya Metta Kula’ Group

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Christine's picture

Lovely, thanks for a wonderful and inspiring post, Mokshini. Imagine the impact such mindful compassion would have if it became the norm! Let’s engage our sangha(s) to the challenge; after all, there is no better place to begin ethical exemplification in the world than in our spiritual communities.