As the coronavirus pandemic continues, with all its myriad forms of suffering, concurrent with the climate crisis, systemic injustices, and all the rest of it, the reality of the “dark age” prophesied in ancient Buddhist texts is feeling way too real. And yet, dark as it may be, “at least we have spiritual tools,” says Gelong Loden Nyima in this recent interview with Asaf Ophir on the Hear the World podcast.
In the 35 minute conversation, Nyima—a Buddhist monk, teacher, and resident at Shambhala Mountain Center—speaks with incredible clarity about how the core practices and ethical framework of Buddhism can help to support and guide us in the crucial work of caring for ourselves and others, and engaging in meaningful social action.
Enjoy the audio interview below, and scroll down for selected excerpts, transcribed.
“In Buddhism our actions really matter, and we need to use them wisely because it’s all of our actions which co-create our world—for better and for worse.
“While this pandemic affects everyone, the ways that it does also devastatingly demonstrate the existing, ongoing, unresolved inequities in our society—such as socioeconomic disparities and racial injustices. In terms of ethics—and I’m speaking as someone who’s experiencing privilege and not oppression—some of the questions we need to ask ourselves include: Are we paying attention to these issues? Are we listening to people who have experiences different than our own? What is our role in these issues? What kinds of influence do we have, and how can we use it to help? What actions can we take? These questions are not new; and I think they are questions that we have to keep asking.
“We go through cycles based on the effects of our collective actions. And right now, if we look around, on an individual level we see a lot of wonderful work. But, on a collective level, we see the ripening of the mass amalgamations of many years of actions arising from greed and over consumption; from willful ignorance to our environment and the suffering of each other; and from aggression. The world that those have created has an environmental crisis on an existential level for humanity, severe resource depletion—even famine—pandemic illnesses like the one we’re seeing now, war, and systemic injustices. Tragically, as we know, those don’t wait and take turns for each other to happen. Those all compound each other.
“Knowing that it’s likely to get worse before it gets better, as that happens, it’s how we live our values that’s going to matter. None of us can change—drastically and immediately—this kind of situation. So what matters is: How do we show up? How do we live love in times of chaos? Meditation is one tool that we have, among many across different traditions. As Buddhists, in addition to informing our actions, meditation can help us train to be able to care for ourselves and care for each other. Really, that’s what’s going to matter, I think, as this continues.”
Of course, we have to continue to do everything we can to impact the situation in the pragmatic ways that it’s calling for. But knowing that so much is beyond our control, and knowing that what we’re experiencing is kind of a taste of things to come, it’s less ‘What is going to happen?’ and more ‘Who do we want to be? How do we want to respond and relate with each other?’ ”
About Gelong Loden Nyima
Gelong Loden Nyima is a fully ordained Buddhist monk. He lived at Gampo Abbey from 2009 – 2017 where he completed shedra studies, practiced intensively, and served in various roles including as Shastri. He now lives and teaches at Shambhala Mountain Center, and spends a portion of each year in retreat.