Buddha and Mother Earth

“All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think we become.” Shakyamuni Buddha (Prince Gautama Siddharta, the founder of Buddhism, 563-483 B.C.)

I have found it perplexing when different Buddhist lineages have frowned on shamanic connections to Mother Earth. The shamanic tradition of Bon Buddhism started before Buddha`s time. However, when I learned more about Buddha, I was surprized to learn that the Earth figures prominently in the story of how The Buddha attained enlightenment.

As most of you know, The Buddha started out as a young prince, Siddharta Gautama, who was sheltered from all of life’s harsh realities by his protective father, the king. In his 20s, when he finally managed to escape the castle’s protection and stroll through the village streets to see another side of life, for the very first time Siddharta saw a person who was poverty stricken. Further along, he saw another person who was ill. Finally, he encountered the body of someone who died. Siddharta had never seen poverty, illness or death before. Horrified by what he had witnessed, Gautama vowed to alleviate suffering and set out on the path to enlightenment.

Walking away from all the wealth, power and abundance that his father’s kingdom had to offer, Gautama wandered alone across the country. He survived like a monk, with no possessions except for his robes and a food bowl for begging. On his quest, he encountered spiritual gurus who taught him how to meditate. Under their guidance, Siddharta spent years suffering the rigours of an ascetic, denying himself food and water, in search of the ultimate wisdom – enlightenment. After years of working hard to rise above his physical desires by practicing meditation and starvation, on the verge of death, he finally realized this approach wasn’t working so he adopted a balanced approach to meditation and truth seeking which he called ‘The Middle Way”. Replenished with food and water, he sat meditating under a Bodhi tree, determined to stay put until he finally attained enlightenment.

In the same way that Jesus was tested in the dessert, Siddharta was tempted by Marra, the demon lord of desire. Remaining calm and unresponsive, Siddharta resisted every temptation that Marra could devise. As a final test, Marra demanded to know who would testify that Sidharta was worthy of attaining ultimate wisdom and called-up his demon army to support him. However, Siddharta said nothing. He reached down and with his finger touched the Earth saying, “the Earth is my witness. Marra, you are not the Earth, the Earth is right here.“ The Earth trembled, the heavens shook, and the Bodi Tree rained down flowers. He had become the awakened one, The Buddha.

“The Earth is what we’re talking about, accepting the earth, not owning or possessing the Earth, but the Earth just as it is, abused, exploited, and despised, and rejected, and plowed, and mined and shat on.  It’s still the Earth and we owe everything to it.”

 W.S. Merwin