The simple answer to this question is YES. But perhaps, the interesting question is not whether zen is sustainable, but why is it sustainable, and in what way can Zen practice be a force of change where we can develop a better and harmonious world?
As a person I’ve always been an advocate for sustainability. Since I was a child, I’ve always felt a sense of sacredness in nature, and I just have a deep respect for all that nature can provide.
However, as I grow spiritually, I noticed a shift in my own behaviors as well as in my thinking. I realized that scientific facts and evidences are not enough to convince people to live sustainably. Persuasion is meaningless. What’s needed is a spiritual awakening, and only when people are spiritually awake, they will change their behaviors that will create more balance in their own personal life but also the lives of others.
So let’s start with the question: Why is Zen sustainable?
To practice Zen is to understand AND EXPERIENCE the interconnectedness and interdependency of all things. When we take a bite of bread, we know that the bread is much more than what we call “bread”. One simple bite contains the works of hundreds of people; from farmers growing the grains to the cashier selling us the bread at the bakery. It involves all nature forces; the sun, wind, air, water and soil. It also carries the emotional energies of all the people who have involved in the making of the bread.
Just a bite of bread, but behind it is the magical process of life that brings it into existence!
When we acknowledge the deep complexity and interrelationship of all elements that contribute to the things that we have and the food that we eat, we will be more grateful for all that we have.
Our sense of gratefulness will lead to a righteous use of any resources, meaning that we will not waste as well as we don’t take things for granted. There is a reverence to that which we call “thing”.
Excess consumption will not happen, not because we’re being told by other people what we should and shouldn’t do, but simply because we know it’s the right thing to do.
It just feels right in our hearts!
I believe it’s the reason why living Zen is also about being minimalistic. Personally I’ve experienced that the more I deepen my Zen practice, the bigger is the need for me to live simply. I have given away many of my possessions over the years. I do my best not to waste resources such as water, electricity, and food etc.
Through Zen practice I feel a deep sense of “being enough” which I bring into my awareness as well as behaviors. It arises from inner peace. Perhaps this is the key to sustainable living. Because it’s from this sense of “enoughness” that I found myself becoming more mindful over the resources I use, the thing I own and the food that I enjoy.
Living Zen can lead to minimalist lifestyle but minimalism does not necessarily mean Zen. It’s not about what we have. It’s all about our inner state of being about the things that we own. As we can have minimal possession but our thinking mind is full of worries, anxieties and fear.
Do not seek for Zen by focusing on minimizing your worldly ownership. Rather, seek for Zen in your inner world and soon you’ll find that your outer world will be transformed.
So, how can Zen be a force of change where we can create a more balanced and harmonious world? For me, it’s very simple:
Inner peace from Zen practice leads to sustainable lifestyle choices, and sustainable living is one of the key solutions for worldly challenges!
We can only transform the world to the better by being an example of the way we’re embodying Zen in our daily life. Everything connects in the web of Life and the choices that we make can create impacts that go beyond our imagination.
In the end, spiritual activism doesn’t have to be big. It might not be about participating in some movements or organizations that work for e.g. the less fortunate.
It starts with the small. But perhaps through our smallness that Life might call us to a greater service at at time where we least expect it.