Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh suffered a stroke in 2014, and this text, based on a series of talks he gave in the years leading to COP 21, was prepared by his disciples….
We live in a time of collective awakening. We see many signs of that collective awakening all around us. One of the signs that we are beginning to wake up is our ability to come together as a species to face the global challenge of climate change. All of us are trying to bring about this collective awakening, and much has already been accomplished.
But it is only by continuing and deepening this process of awakening that we will be able to save the planet and make a future possible for our children and their children. Awakening is the foundation of every change. Without awakening, nothing will happen.
Our planet is a paradise. The first time astronauts took a picture of the Earth from space and sent it back, millions of us were deeply moved to see our home – the blue planet. When we look out into the vastness of space, we see that the cosmos seems cold and hostile to life. And yet there is this one tiny spot – our beautiful planet Earth – where life flourishes.
We have not known how to cherish and protect our precious planet, and in fact we are in the process of destroying the only place we know of where life is possible. That is why we need to wake up. We need to wake up to what is going on – and what is going on is that we are living in forgetfulness and we are destroying the most precious thing that we have.
Every one of us has the seed of awakening in us. And that is why we are hopeful – because if people wake up, it will not take as long as we think to improve the situation. With collective awakening, change can go very quickly. That is why everything we do should be aimed at bringing about collective awakening.
If we can live like that, then our life has meaning, and we are no longer a victim of despair. Despair is the worst thing that can happen to us, and despair will only accelerate the potential catastrophe. Awakening is our hope. And awakening is possible.
As human beings, we are a living, breathing manifestation of this beautiful and generous planet. When we are able to see this, we transform our relationship to the Earth. We begin to walk differently on our beautiful planet. We start to care for her differently; we fall completely in love with the Earth. Only love can show us how to live in harmony with nature and with each other and save us from the devastating effects of environmental destruction and climate change.
We cannot wait any longer to restore our relationship with the Earth because right now the Earth and everyone on Earth are in real danger. Real change will only happen when we fall back in love with our planet. When we recognize the beauty, the fragility, and the preciousness of the Earth, we feel connected to her, and love is born in our hearts. We all want to be connected. That is the meaning of love: to be one.
When you love someone you want to take care of that person as you would take care of yourself. That is the relationship each of us can have with the Earth. That is the relationship each of us must have with the Earth, if the Earth is to survive, and if we are to survive as well.