Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu–“May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all.”
At the heart of our practice of yoga is the knowledge and intuition that we, as individuals, cannot be separated from each other or the world around us. Our thoughts, words, actions and intentions affect the people, animals and natural environment we interact with in ways we cannot control, as in the butterfly effect. What does this mean for climate change?
In many respects yoga is a community of collective action. Those of us who have an identity that includes yoga somewhere near or at the heart of who we are, seek out others who share that aspect of their identity, and on this basis we create a shared understanding of the many benefits of yoga, both to ourselves and those around us. Based on our shared beliefs around the yamas and niyamas, we come together to bring about projects such as the Yoga Prison Project, the Africa Yoga Project, the Veteran’s Yoga Project and the Sola Yoga Project.
It seems evident that, as a collective, yogis see ourselves as global citizens and what greater global challenge than that of climate change? The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report and the U.S. Global Research Program’s detailed National Climate Assessment both summarize the likely effects of climate change:
-Rising sea levels, storm surges, erosion and flooding will affect energy infrastructure, water supply, ports and tourism along coastal regions.
-Extreme heat and drought stress crops and livestock which could impact the security of our food supply.
-Ecosystems and biodiversity will be jeopardized by more frequent and extreme fires, floods and storms.
-Water quality and supply will continue to be affected by drought and flooding.
-Extreme weather events and large-scale changes in the environment increase the risk of food-borne, insect-borne and water-borne diseases.
-Rising sea temperatures and changing ocean water chemistry harm fishing communities and marine-based food production.
“Karma is the future consequences of one’s current intentions, thoughts, behaviors and actions. While the Karma you currently create is the seeds that present future life experiences, your Karma is not your fate. You have the ability to consciously choose how you respond and react to Karmic generated events, thus reducing the current impact of your Karma and reducing or eliminating future Karma.”–YB Founder and Executive Director, Tim Burgin
It is time for all yogis, from the very greenest of us to the eco-conscious hipsters, to consider what effects our actions are having on the world around us. We each weave our own tangled web of karma as our reality is being created from our own actions. So when we chant, speak or even just think the words lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu, if we include, not just all beings, but the environment in which they live, and cannot live without, we can make a significant contribution to addressing the changes that are happening in our world.
The practice of yoga can guide us toward right action and a lifestyle guided by compassionate concern for the happiness of others. A happiness that relies on having a safe and healthy planet to live on.
How will you respond to this call to action?
This is Part 1 in our series on yoga and climate change.