A Love Letter to Mother Earth

As the Christmas and New Year season approaches, everyone is dashing up and down doing last-minute shopping, dropping off gifts (and hopefully avoiding in-person parties and family gatherings – do it on Zoom this year, folks!) But if you can, slow down. This is supposed to be a time for some introspection. We have had quite a lot of opportunity to do that this year already, I know. But I keep asking myself: Where do we go from here in our relationship with the Planet? Where are our footsteps leading us, as humans? Down the path of greed and destruction (it’s easy to roll down that one, it seems, faster and faster)? Or uphill, towards the sunlight – sometimes a harder road with obstacles in the way – a path of patient and active nurturing of the Planet we live on?

That’s my meditation, and I hope to continue with some wise words for 2021 from various sources, including spiritual leaders. I hope you will find these helpful.

Here now is a piece I just came across on GoodReads, by the Vietnamese Buddhist monk, peace activist and mindfulness advocate Thich Nhat Hanh (from his book of the same name, Love Letter to Mother Earth, published in 2013). You can find the text on the Plum Village website. The question is: Can Mother Earth count on us?

Art by sister Trang Tuyet Hoa, Plum Village.

Dear Mother Earth,

The human species is but one of your many children. Unfortunately, many of us have been blinded by greed, pride, and delusion, and only a few of us have been able to recognize you as our Mother. Not realizing this, we have done you great harm, compromising both your health and your beauty. Our deluded minds push us to exploit you and create more and more discord, putting you and all your forms of life under stress and strain. Looking deeply, we also recognize that you have enough patience, endurance and energy to embrace and transform all the damage we have caused, even if it takes you hundreds of millions of years.

When greed and pride overtake our basic survival needs, the result is always violence and unnecessary devastation. We know that whenever one species develops too rapidly, exceeding its natural limit, there is great loss and damage, and the lives of other species are endangered. For equilibrium to be restored, causes and conditions naturally arise to bring about the destruction and annihilation of that species. Often these causes and conditions originate from within the destructive species itself. We have learned that when we perpetrate violence toward our own and other species, we are violent toward ourselves. When we know how to protect all beings, we are protecting ourselves.

We understand that all things are impermanent and without a separate self-nature. You and Father Sun, like everything else in the cosmos, are constantly changing, and you are only made of non-you elements. That is why we know that, in the ultimate dimension, you transcend birth and death, being and nonbeing. Nonetheless, we need to protect you and restore balance, so that you can continue for a long time in this beautiful and precious form, not just for our children and their children but for five hundred million years and beyond. We want to protect you so you can remain a glorious jewel within our solar system for eons to come.

We know that you want us to live in such a way that in each moment of our daily lives we can cherish life and generate the energies of mindfulness, peace, solidity, compassion, and love. We vow to fulfill your wish and respond to your love. We have the deep conviction that generating these wholesome energies, we will help reduce the suffering on Earth and contribute to alleviating the suffering caused by violence, war, hunger, and illness. In alleviating our suffering, we alleviate yours.

Dear Mother, there have been times when we suffered greatly as a result of natural disasters. We know that whenever we suffer, you suffer through us. The floods, tornadoes, earthquakes, and tsunamis aren’t punishments or manifestations of your anger, but are phenomena that must occur on occasion, so that balance can be restored. The same is true of a shooting star. For balance in nature to be achieved, at times some species have to endure loss. In those moments, we have turned to you, dear Mother, and asked whether or not we could count on you, on your stability and compassion. You didn’t answer us right away. Then, beholding us with great compassion, you replied, “Yes, of course, you can count on your Mother. I will always be there for you.” But then you said, “Dear children, you must ask yourselves, can your Mother Earth count on you?”

Dear Mother, today, we offer you our solemn reply, “Yes, Mother, you can count on us.”

From Thich Nhat Hanh, Love letter to the Earth, (Berkeley: Parallax Press, 2013)

Thich Nhat Hanh. (Photo: Dana Gluckstein)

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