…there are important parallels between our usual personal predicament – our sense of separation from the rest of the world – and our collective sense of separation from the natural world.
Ecodharma is a relatively new word, and its meaning is by no means fixed. The term combines the teachings of Buddhism and related spiritual traditions (dharma) with ecology or ecological concerns (eco). A bit more specifically, ecodharma can be understood as a new development in contemporary Buddhism, in response to the ecological crisis that now threatens civilization as we know it, and perhaps even the survival of our species; or perhaps even enriched by our understanding of the field of ecology.
That is still quite general, of course. So let me say a few words about my understanding of ecodharma and why is increasingly important today.
Three aspects or components of ecodharma stand out for me: practicing in nature, clarifying the ecological implications of Buddhism, and using that understanding to engage in the eco-activism that our situation requires.
After the future buddha left home, he meditated in nature, awakened under a tree, and thereafter mostly lived and taught in the natural world. Today we have largely lost that connection, living and practicing in buildings, but there is something special and precious about meditating outside in nature and rediscovering our deep connection with it.
The ecological crisis is a new challenge that Traditional Buddhist teachings do not address, yet many of those teachings have implications that are relevant to our situation. For example, there are important parallels between our usual personal predicament– our sense of separation from the rest of the world– and our collective sense of separation from the natural world today. Does that mean there are also important parallels between the solutions?
Any new understanding that Buddhism can provide needs to be embodied, for today we are called upon to live as bodhisattvas (or “ecosattvas”) who realize that activism in defense of the earth is an essential part of the spiritual path.
Different practitioners may emphasize some of these components more than others, but all three are needed. The Rocky Mountain Ecodharma Retreat Center will provide a home for the practice of all of them. 180 acres of pristine meadows, river and forest offer countless places to meditate and enjoy being in nature. The lodge provides all the facilities needed for talks, workshops and other interactive activities. There we can ask and plan together: what does it mean to be a bodhisattva today? And what shall we do?
But let me ask, how would you define ecodharma?
This essay is written by David Loy and was first published as What is Ecodharma? on the Rocky Mountain Ecodharma Retreat Center website. Check out their website to learn more about plans for the retreat center in Colorado. To support this exciting new center, click here.