Living more naturally and mindfully will change our lifestyle. That is the point: We must end our addiction to fossil fuels, meat, and shopping, so we may live happier, more fulfilling lives.
This is the core of Buddhist economics: happiness comes from caring for ourselves and others, from supporting Mother Earth, as we live mindfully with love and compassion. We know our true nature and develop our full potential, and use our talents and energy to help our family, community, and world.
Now we understand that driving gas guzzlers, overeating meat and wasting food, and tossing stuff into the landfill is hurting both ourselves and others, and destroying Mother Earth. We want to change our lifestyle to become happier and healthier, as individuals and as a global society.
Often when people are confronted with the climate crisis that is killing the earth for humans, they shrug it off, as in “this is how everyone is living, and how people like us have always lived”. Then they continue to destroy our planet with their wasteful lifestyle that pollutes the air and water and earth. We do not have the right to harm people and other species as we overheat the earth. Our entitlement is to clean air and water and nourishment, and not to our addictions to fossil fuel, meat, and wasteful consumption. Freedom is knowing yourself and developing your full potential, so you can pursue a life that is filled with meaning and happiness.
Remember Aristotle’s eudaimonic happiness, where happiness comes from self-realization and living a worthy and moral life. This is based on people developing their full potential and living a life in service to others and the community. Aristotle teaches us, “He is happy who lives in accordance with complete virtue and is sufficiently equipped with external goods, not for some chance period but throughout a complete life.” He also says, “The contemplative life is happiest.”[i]
The Dalai Lama teaches us that material gain is based on an erroneous assumption that what we buy “can by itself alone, provide us with all the satisfaction we require,” and wrote that “genuine happiness is characterized by inner peace and arises in the context of our relationships with others.”[ii]
Moving from a closetful to a mindful way of life is not hard to do, once you realize the benefits to yourself and the world. My book Buddhist Economics shows you the way, including working with environmental and political groups to demand that local to global governments restructure the economy to use clean energy, develop sustainable agriculture, redistribute resources from the rich to the needy, promote peace, and evaluate economic performance as quality of life.
Together our society can move from “me” to “we”, as we enjoy life and support Mother Earth. In a Buddhist economy that cares about the human spirit, we suffer less and enjoy life more.
As Thich Nhat Hanh teaches us, “The healing of our bodies and minds must go together with the healing of the Earth . . .Together, we can bring about real transformation for ourselves and for the world . . . We will survive and thrive together with our Mother Earth, or we will not survive at all.”[iii]
[i] Aristotle, The Nicomachean Ethics, Oxford edition. Book 10, p. 18, 193.
[ii] Dalai Lama, Ethics for the New Millennium (New York: Riverhead, 1999), 16, 99, 61.
[iii] Thich Nhat Hanh, Love Letter to the Earth (Berkeley, CA: Parallax Press, 2013), 240, 572, 627.