Pablo Servigne and Philippe Cornu: learning to live with change

- through Henry Oudin

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Third and final part of the dialogue between the collapsologist Pablo Servigne and the specialist in Buddhism Philippe Cornu, on the responses of Buddhism to the ecological challenges of tomorrow.

“Nothing exists in and by itself”, such is the third truth stated by the Buddha. If we start from the principle that “everything is emptiness”, that “everything depends on our mind”, will it be easier to detach oneself from the world? And so to better live the collapse?

Philippe Cornu: It is about non-attachment rather than detachment, otherwise we fall into dualism. The phenomenal self, in and of itself, does not exist. We are made up of a number of conditioned phenomena that change every moment. Take a brush fire, for example. A first spark ignites the dry brushwood, but the flame itself only lasts for a moment. It serves as a spark for the second flame. As long as there is brush, it will burn. We see the whole phenomenon and we give it a duration. It is an illusion, since in reality, these are discrete events which follow one another and look alike. The problem with mental representations is that we end up placing a mental world on top of the real world: we no longer see the world as it is, but as our mental representations show it to us. It is the mind that creates the feeling of a unitary self that would last from our birth to our death. But this is pure fiction. According to this vision, there are plenty of possible collapses and contradictory solutions with each other. If you only see a collapsing tunnel, it's a disaster, because thought freezes. But, fortunately, one can know things in a direct way, without going through the concept.

Pablo Servigne: It reminds me of solastalgia which is the feeling of deep sadness at the loss of an environment. The one experienced, for example, by the Inuit in the face of the melting permafrost or the Australian peasants in the face of the drought. These are not just numbers, + 2° C, but palpable sensations, like the fact of no longer hearing birds sing. The silence is deafening. I'm also thinking of the change in reference points: the new generation is starting from a world where there are no more insects that come, as Philippe remembers, crashing into car windshields.

“Because of this Cartesian nature/culture ontological split, we have become not only deaf, but also blind to the screaming nature. »Pablo Servigne

Philippe Cornu: I would add that crystallizing on individual 'I's isolates individuals from each other, which creates egocentrism. Society is also a mass ego, hence this every man for himself so pregnant. However, we cannot consider the body without contact with its environment. Westerners, with modern pride, forget it. We think that we are autonomous, that we dominate nature… It is a complete mistake not to have understood the message of life, according to which we are gardeners. Spirituality asks us to care, not to destroy, dominate, exploit.

Pablo Servigne: Yes, it is the illusion of independence. Edgar Morin says it very well: “The more you think you are autonomous, the more you are dependent on the environment. And you run to your doom. We have become hyper-vulnerable, because in our thermo-industrial society, we depend on oil and rare earths.

Finally, the fourth truth stated by Buddha is: "Nirvana is beyond concepts", in other words, Enlightenment is the understanding of truth. You yourself, Pablo Servigne, write that the goal of collapsology is “to learn to live with bad news”. However, despite knowing it, we are not doing enough, especially in the face of the climate threat.

Philippe Cornu: I specify that nirvana is the unconditioned state of the mind. Because of ignorance, everything is misinterpreted. Nirvana is therefore beyond suffering.

Pablo Servigne: We are caught in this paradox: there are victories which are at the same time defeats. The petition "The case of the century" for example gathered more than two million signatures, but its initiators do not know what to do with it. Another example: what is the victory of a march for the climate when it continues to heat up? And we fall back into thought patterns that are the source of the collapse: act quickly and on a large scale. In nature, acting quickly and on a large scale is called a disaster, since everything there is slow and small-scale. This is also one of the principles of permaculture.

Knowing that a Buddhist has no other place of practice than his life itself, what actions can he implement?

Philippe Cornu: Buddhism is not a social religion. It is a reflection for everyone to move internally in search of an enlightened mind in its wisdom. Without constraint of any command. For example, the biblical corresponding to "Thou shalt not kill" is, in Buddhism, "I will endeavor not to live at the expense of the life-principle of other beings."

“We think that we are autonomous, that we dominate nature… It is a complete mistake not to have understood the message of life, according to which we are gardeners. »Philippe Cornu

Pablo Servigne: But how does Buddhism respond to the political, collective injunction that is very present in our world?

Philippe Cornu: The collective cannot precisely start from the collective, but from individuals. And that is how we contribute to the common good. For example, the Yellow Vests are beginning to discover that capitalism, neo-liberalism is leading to collapse and crushing them in the process. They follow the thread from very simple demands.

What do these words of the Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh mean to you: “What we need most is to listen within us to the echoes of the weeping Earth”?

Philippe Cornu: Behind Buddhism there is normally a form of magical ecology. Unlike Christianity, Buddhist countries settled on the breeding ground of animism and shamanism, instead of eradicating it. And Buddhism proposes to go further by taking into account the forces of nature. For example, according to Tibetan Buddhist medicine, certain diseases are linked to the fact that one has provoked the forces of nature.

Pablo Servigne: This sentence of Thich Nhat Hanh is very profound. Spirituality raises the question of our relationship to the world. And it is indeed urgent to take the time to journey inwardly to listen. In ecopsychology workshops, we learn to become sensitive again. Because of this Cartesian nature/culture ontological split, we have become not only deaf, but also blind to the screaming nature.

photo of author

Henry Oudin

Henry Oudin is a Buddhist scholar, spiritual adventurer and journalist. He is a passionate seeker of the depths of Buddhist wisdom, and travels regularly to learn more about Buddhism and spiritual cultures. By sharing his knowledge and life experiences on Buddhist News, Henry hopes to inspire others to embrace more spiritual and mindful ways of living.

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