A Western Buddhist's Travels

Sightseeing & detours on the path of enlightenment

Putting action to words


Go forth on your journey, for the benefit of the many, for the joy of the many, out of compassion for the world, for the welfare, for the benefit and joy of mankind.” Shakyamuni Buddha (Vinaya I, 21)

The Buddha who when enlightened advised all who considered following his words, to reflect on them, to adopt them only after testing them, to see if they are of benefit. If that applies to his words, then those same processes must be applied to mine. Definitely even more so, as I am only beginning to travel my path, and am still a new student myself.

I wrote about ecobuddhism and am going to extend that into activism as part of being a Buddhist. Thich Nhat Hanh coined the term engaged Buddhism, and is an active proponent of peace. He was one of many scholars and teachers who wrote chapters for the book “A Buddhist Response to The Climate Emergency”. On the website http://www.ecobuddhism.org/ you can find more information. Also reading about the treatment of workers at suppliers to firms such as Apple, in the last few months, has also caused me to rethink how I accumulate material possessions. I have cut down my purchases considerably in the last few years, in the spirit of reducing my ecological footprint. Today I am going to take another step in trying to make a positive change. I am going to attempt to make purchases, which do not support oppression of humans, or cruelty to animals. What does this mean; it means I will have to depend on my brothers and sisters to pass along suggestions of ethical companies, as well as reports that show companies mistreating living beings. If every Buddhist starts to consider the ethics behind their purchases, we can and will create the energy for positive changes in the world. In 1995 a move was released called The American President, one of the dialogues that stuck with me, can be found: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0112346/quotes?qt=qt0341862

We have a person like the Dalai Lama who was the first signatory on the Buddhist Declaration on Climate Change who is showing us the way. I for one have decided to actively follow this and to borrow a phrase from the movie; I have quit drinking the sand. I want to drink pure water, eat healthy food and let all sentient beings live in peace with nature. When I purchase food, I will purchase it in the rawest, least processed form. When possible to purchase organically grown and non-genetically modified organisms. (non-GMO) No company should own the patent to food stocks. Also reducing the natural variety of an organism like tomatoes, from hundreds of varieties to two or three because they meet institutional needs reduces the biodiversity the world need to survive. Using tomatoes, as an example, there are over 600 varieties; yet commercial interests have reduced this to a mere dozen or so. Have you ever noticed the crowd around stalls that sell tomatoes at a farmers market? Yet the tomatoes there do not have the same uniform shape, texture or colors that are available at the supermarket. This is because these have differences in taste, and texture.

So the point of today’s post: to actively work at putting the knowledge that I learn from Buddhist teachings, and the knowledge of how consumerism is harming life on this planet, into practice every day, and with every purchase. I will not give you guidelines to follow, rather leave you to think on the points I have made. Decide for yourself what actions you are willing to take, then work at following those choices. If we all make small changes it will add up to major differences, and corporate leaders will take notice, as it will affect what they notice their profit and loss statement.

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3 thoughts on “Putting action to words

  1. Thank you for your simple, yet profound message. I have been making incremental changes in my food choices for years. If God did not make it, then our bodies cannot recognize it, And people wonder why we are getting sicker and sicker? When I speak to others about making healthier choices, the immediate response is usually: But I can’t afford to eat organic! (Reality check: You can’t afford NOT to). My response is: Yes, you can. Just eat less, but better quality food. And then I tell them about quinoa. Consumer choice is a powerful tool for change. I have noticed I can now shop in small mini-health food stores that are a found in many major chain supermarkets. Did this come because somebody thought it was a good idea? Not likely. As you stated above, it affects somebody’s bottom line if people start shopping in food co-operatives, local farmer’s markets, or larger chain health food stores like Whole Foods. One conscious person can make a difference.

    • If we as consumers choose natural healthy diets, do you know we would also affect the development industry. Huge super sized markets would not be needed. There would be no need for miles of aisles that contain hundreds of varieties of sugar packaged as breakfast cereals. There is an old saying, you are what you eat, and in the case of transfat, you eat it and it stays in the body for years. Vitamin supplements are not as effective as eating natural foods, they lack the support amino acids, and other items that help our body get full value from the food we eat. If we respect our bodies by eating right, we will feel better, which makes it easier to treat other beings properly.

      • Agree. Totally. I shop pretty much the perimeter, and am amazed at how many aisles of brightly- colored packages of “snack foods” and “beverages” I pass if I want to take a short cut from one end of the store to the other. I do use a whole food plant protein based powder because I travel a lot, and it can sometimes get pretty dicey out there on the interstates. I get a pretty complete amino acid profile with it, and all I need is a shaker bottle and some fresh water. Like drinking grass, but better than the alternative.

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