Reply To: 26.5.2014 Ancient Futures

Author Replies # Posted on May 27, 2014 at 14:48

Reflection, Helena Norberg-Hodge, May 26
By Yongliang Gao

Question from Nik: What lessons from Buddhism can we take up in order to lead more sustainable lives?

This is an interesting question, and also a hard one. I must confess that I haven’t read Helena’s chapter on Buddhism by now, but Buddhism is a dominant religion in a few Asian states, China is one of them and therefore is familiar to many. Rather than looking into Helena’s literature, I choose to share an example of my grandma’s lifestyle, who is a Buddhist. Hopefully she doesn’t mind that I mention her in here.

I am not sure how non-Asian people think about Buddhism. But when the word Buddhism comes to me, I get a sense of peace immediately, because peace sounds like the true essence of the religion. I know a bunch of people who believe in Buddhism, their thoughts and behaviors are always unbelievably peaceful. My grandma, for example, never uses air conditioner in the summer no matter how hot the weather is (btw, she lives in very south of China and the temperature there in summer is often higher than 40 degrees). Every time I try to switch on the air conditioner in her house, she says that what makes you feel hot is your mind. If you cool down your mind, you calm down your body and then the air conditioner will no longer be needed. What I want to say here is that Buddhism seems to let the followers separate their minds from the physical world. This is of importance for people who want to maintain sustainable lives. Like the case of air conditioner, people can actually live sustainably if they are able to tell the real needs from their desirable wants, not mention the fact that air conditioners release greenhouse gas, which is unsustainable to live with, economically, energetically and environmentally.

I don’t know much about religions. But from what I know, Buddhism encourages its believers to live in an individualistic utopian world rather than the actual one because once you live in there, you can live for yourself, forget the vexing miseries and abandon the desires that the real world imposes on you and that seems to be the beauty of Buddhism. In this way, one indeed lives in his/her simple but happy life, and fighting and consumerism cannot bother him/her. I wonder if it complies with Helena’s idea about localizing the economy.