All phenomena in the universe exist within the context of mutually supportive relationships, what Buddhism refers to as “dependent origination.” Nothing exists without meaning and nothing is without significance.
As people, we share this one planet which we will eventually pass on to our children. A clear and vital awareness of the full dimensions of life's interconnectedness must be the basis for all our actions.
Buddhism sees that the purpose of humanity’s presence on Earth is to be active participants in the compassionate workings of the universe, enriching and enhancing its creative dynamism as we live out our lives to the very fullest.
Each form of life supports all others, together they weave the grand web of life. Thus there really is no happiness for oneself alone, no suffering that afflicts only others.
How, then, are we to understand sustainability? In simplest terms, I think it could be described as follows: a way of life in which we refrain from seeking our own happiness at the expense of others; a determination not to pass on our local community and the planet as a whole to the next generation in a more dirty or damaged condition than it was when we entered it; a society in which the future is not sacrificed to the passing needs of the present, but where optimal choices and decisions are pursued with the interests of our children and grandchildren in mind.
Isolation invariably dims the inner radiance of both individuals and societies. It is the spirit of mutual respect and the willingness to learn from others that links people together. As a Buddhist scripture states, when you bow respectfully to a mirror, the image in the mirror likewise bows to you.
Life is a chain. All things are related. When any link is harmed, the other links are affected. We should think of the environment as our mother. There is no crime worse than harming one’s mother.
No one can live entirely on their own, nor can any country or society exist in isolation. Buddhism illustrates this interdependence using the analogy of two bundles of reeds. Supporting each other, they will stand, but the collapse of one will topple both.
One who loves nature can cherish other people, value peace and possess a richness of character unfettered by selfish calculations of personal gain or loss. Those who live in a calculating way will end up calculating their own worth detrimentally. Such a life is limited in the extreme. Nature, however, is infinite.
The lives of all people are at one with the universe. All the workings of the universe contribute to the formation of the individuality of each person. To put it another way, each person is a microcosm that reflects the macrocosm in a unique manner; fundamentally, the individual encompasses all. Therefore, each person is precious and irreplaceable.
We are dependent on the Earth, not the other way around. In our arrogance, we have flagrantly overlooked this. The essential teaching of Buddhism is that the life of the Buddha resides in every plant and tree, even in the smallest dust mote: it is a philosophy of the utmost reverence for life.
Whatever our ethnicity, whatever our religion, we all have families we love; there is a future we all want to protect. And no human being can escape the eternal rhythms of life: birth, aging, sickness, death. When we are grounded in this most fundamental perspective of the commonality of our lives, we can rise above any differences and without fail achieve empathy and dialogue.
When people perceive their lives as being at one with nature and the planet, their views of society, nationality and race will naturally be transformed. As long as the window of the human heart remains battened closed, no great future lies in store for humanity. People have to throw open the window of the heart. When they do so, there will be no more hindrance to peace.
When we turn a blind eye to the suffering of others, we grow numb to something important in ourselves and succumb eventually to a spiritual paralysis.
While human society highlights the “distinctions” or “differences” between us, Buddhism transcends all superficial differences and, in recognizing the commonality that all people share as human beings, focuses directly on life itself.