cherish life

- through Francois Leclercq

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Rediscover the sense of interdependence and respect for all life.

As a teenager, I roamed fields like paintings of a thousand colors: swarms of butterflies, dragonflies, carpets of flowers, herbs and grasses. I felt a spontaneous wonder at the beauty of the world. Today, in the Monts d'Ardèche Regional Nature Park, a few butterflies twirl about in their growing solitude. In less than fifty years, 60% of wild species populations have disappeared (1). Human proliferation and unlimited growth have devastated a biosphere that has worked for 65 million years to preserve life. The violence of the sixth mass extinction (2) is causing untold suffering and threatening the very habitability of the Earth. Added to this disastrous picture, for me as for others, is a feeling of helplessness and insecurity because of the impasse in which we have curled up. How can Buddhism help us?

The connection

We seem to be waking up from a collective dream that has made us forget how dependent we are on nature. The continuous increase in the urban population and lifestyles disconnected from the rhythm of the seasons have amplified the human/nature dualism. But everything exists through an incessant interplay of reciprocal relations. In Buddhism, this continuous play is called interdependence. “In the seed is contained the immense tree which rises to the sky, writes Nan Shan (3). The tree is in the seed, but it is also in the earth, in the water and the sun. »

Moving from the concept of interdependence to the reality of the experience it designates is one of the purposes of meditation. This practice helps us to become aware.  We thus find a direct relationship with our body, with the earth on which it rests, the space in which it bathes, with our breath, without forgetting the archaic dimension of our psyche, the one that feels the link with the elements, animals and nature as a whole.

Reading the teachings of the Buddha, one can feel the life of the site in the background: banks of the Ganges, woods of various species, beneficial shade of mango forests, parks populated by fallow deer and gazelles, beauty of the night. whose penumbra awakens exquisite scents. The teachings of the Buddha tell how much the beauty and the quality of being of a place participate in the full presence in the moment.

Inner transformation calls for reflection on our actions. Right action stems from ethical training based on the application of rules and recommendations. This training combines two commitments: neutralizing mental toxins by making us naturally available to non-violence and benevolence, stimulating our most noble qualities.

This vision of the world is also embodied in Japan in the art of Zen gardens, including those of meditation which remind the contemplative of their place in the cosmos. Poetry has also been able to express it and painting offers us the vision of the world perceived by the meditator. In China, in the 4th and XNUMXth centuries, Chan pictorial art (XNUMX) will express a nudity of the gaze favoring stripping, celebrating the essential and simplicity. Art reminds each of us that awakening can arise from the contemplation of a waterfall, a cloud, cherry blossoms, the gesture that traces with a single brushstroke theenso, the circle: the moon displaying its naked roundness, symbol of emptiness in Zen. Becoming aware of interdependence reconnects us with nature. Developing our capacity for universal compassion reinforces it.

The other name of happiness

Inner transformation calls for reflection on our actions. Right action stems from ethical training based on the application of rules and recommendations. This training combines two commitments: to neutralize mental toxins by making us naturally available to non-violence and benevolence; stimulate our most noble qualities. Understood in this way, Buddhist ethics correspond to an ethics of virtues with a mirror effect: development of constructive thought giving form to ways of being favorable to respect for life and beings; amplification of personal fulfillment resulting from this concern for the world. The virtues themselves carry "ecological wisdom" and encourage responsible and loving behavior towards the whole world. living world. Therefore, the right action is based on an intention in the sense that the Buddha states: “Do not be afraid to do good. It is another name for happiness, another name for all that is dear and delicious to us than these three words: to do good (5)”.

Action without intention

This approach of a progressive ethical know-how is structured around the objective of the path: the peace of nirvana. This know-how reaches its full maturity when solicitude brings a spontaneous and adapted response to the wide variety of situations encountered. We then speak of action without intention. This spontaneity is not an unconscious mechanism, but the embodiment in action of the wisdom and intelligence of the heart. In Buddhism, wisdom and intelligence of the heart remain two sides of the same coin called the primordial mind, Buddha nature, our true nature. Fully accomplished, ethical behavior is thus the natural expression of awakened consciousness.


I watch the sunset dye the Cévennes with its last lights. The enchantment of blues, pinks, vermilions and mauves is extinguished in the melancholy of the evening. Echo of tanpung, the maple leaf glow season in the far northeast of South Korea. The mountain massifs, the rocks, the majestic trees and the jade-colored waterfalls offer walkers the joys of contemplation. “Without getting tired, writes Won'gam, contemplating the mountain day after day. Without getting tired, listen to the song of the stream. Thus listening and looking are clarified. Sound and color give birth to sublime joy (6)”.

Like this XNUMXth century Korean monk, we too can try to connect with the beauty of nature by simply gazing at a bird, a flower, the sky, clouds or a tree. And, in this contemplation, becoming more aware of the interdependence of beings and phenomena, we will be led, again, to cherish and respect all life.

photo of author

Francois Leclercq

François Leclercq is the founder of Buddhist News, a website which aims to disseminate information and practical advice on Buddhism and spirituality. François Leclercq was born and raised in Paris. He studied Buddhism at the University of Paris-Sorbonne, where he graduated in social sciences and psychology. After graduating, he devoted himself to his passion for Buddhism and traveled the world to study and learn about different practices. He notably visited Tibet, Nepal, Thailand, Japan and China.

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