David Loy (Part 2) - Growing from Bodhisattva to Ecosattva: Integrating Personal Practice and Global Activism

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Ep. 28 (Part 2 of 2) | David Loy, Zen teacher, scholar, and prolific author, reveals his acute understanding of the crises we face today, the psychology at the root of the problems, and how we can make our way forward in this in-depth discussion. He has adopted the term ecodharma to focus attention on the challenge Buddhism faces now: integrating personal transformation with global activism and social transformation. As David points out, the focus needs to be on this world, with transcendence being a metaphorical understanding but not an excuse to abandon the problems we and our planet face today.

Besides gaining great depth of knowledge from being a scholar and student of koans, David’s insights come from a plethora of nondual experiences, which led David on a path of eco-action. Ecodharma asks: How does Buddhism need to change? How much is dwelling in emptiness becoming problematical in these challenging times? What’s best for the Earth? Everyone says practice, practice, practice…when is the performance? Is evolutionary pressure going to create a new way of living sustainably? Recorded February 22, 2020.

“When your sense of separation dissipates, it becomes not what’s in it for me, but what can I do to help make this a better world for everybody?”

Note: Regrettably 4 minutes of the recording were irretrievably lost at minute 21:26, but thankfully, the recording resumes just as Roger succinctly sums up the previous minutes of conversation. Also, this podcast was recorded live and includes, at times, some extraneous noises in the background. Please excuse them -- we felt the conversation was very valuable and well worth sharing with our audience. We hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

(For Apple Podcast users, click here to view the complete show notes on the episode page.)

Topics & Time Stamps - Part 2

  • The role of technology, moving into an age of virtual reality, and the creation of supernormal stimuli (01:41)
  • Ecodharma: addressing the need for a new understanding of practice and walking the bodhisattva/ecosattva path (04:37)
  • Keeping “don’t know” mind in the face of the eco-crisis (09:57)
  • How can Buddhism contribute to facing the critical issues of our time? (10:54)
  • The Extinction Rebellion, a grassroots direct action movement (11:49)
  • The election of Trump has highlighted our problems in making them worse (15:16)
  • The problem of complacency (17:24)
  • What signifies that one has started to walk the bodhisattva path? (19:42)
  • Desire versus craving (21:26)
  • Karma yoga and not being attached to the outcome (22:14)
  • The cycle of withdrawal and return common to those people who have contributed the most to humankind (23:45)
  • The deepest challenge of our practice is integrating the knowledge that everything is perfect, but also knowing action is needed to improve things (26:36)
  • Evolutionary psychology, the evolution of religion, and what we need to do today (28:18)
  • What socially engaged Buddhism has to contribute (34:02)
  • The challenge of the gnostic intermediary to transmit a wisdom tradition across cultures and across time (34:59)

Resources & References - Part 2


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Early on, David Loy studied koans under Yamada Kōun Roshi while teaching Eastern and Western philosophy in Japan. He began to have direct experiences of nonduality, and the recognition of unity, or connection with others, led to his activism in the spheres of social justice and the eco-crisis. A scholar, professor, and Zen teacher in the Sanbo Zen tradition, David brings a Buddhist perspective to the ecological crisis we face today. He points out there is an important parallel between what Buddhism says about our personal predicament and about our collective predicament in relation to the rest of the biosphere. David is also a prolific author; his latest book is Ecodharma: Buddhist Teachings for the Ecological Crisis; and he is co-editor of A Buddhist Response to the Climate Emergency.

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Podcast produced by Vanessa Santos and Show Notes by Heidi Mitchell

39 episodes