Tantric Motivations for Countering Climate Change

Editors' Note: This article is part of the Public Square 2014 Summer Series: Conversations on Religious Trends. Read other perspectives from the Pagan community here.

As a practitioner of Tantra, I suggest that despite evidence asserting climate change is irreversible, Tantra offers us a road to hope and a mandate that our activism on behalf of the planet prevail. Whether or not we believe that we can alter the course of our current predicament, we have more to consider than acquiescence and nihilism in response to bad news, and we have even more to feel than unrelenting frustration over our species' lack of will to change.

The tenets of my faith hold that creation is the immanent heart of the Divine. I believe the Earth body is our body is Her body. And if I believe that we are all the substance of the other, creating a profound relationship within the whole of creation and the spiraling of evolution, then I have access to a genuine experience of empathy, both for the planet and for the circumstances of which we are all a part.

This way of conceiving of reality breeds action. Empathy motivates us to remedy the causes of pain and suffering that we, as part of the web of life, experience. Without empathy, we remain at a distance from what we can only consider as other people's problems. Action with such awareness is also an embrace of life as it appears in the moment, accepting challenges as a part of the dynamic dance of energy and consciousness that weaves our collective story. To deny the importance of these challenges is also to deny the possibilities of this lifetime's striving and yearning: in our response to challenge, we grow on the path.

Tantra teaches that the fabric of life is woven across time and space on threads of creation and dissolution. With and through our particular human bodies, we gift the Divine with the insights born of a unique love perfected through the fires of our individual torment, however acquired (for example, through the karmas of past actions, the oppressions of society, or the psycho-spiritual hindrances of birth). This love, in fact, was the instigation for our incarnation in the first place. It is the presence of this love that, the mystics agree, compels us toward the unknown in our often unconscious quest for wholeness.

In seeking to know itself through new relationships of flesh inspirited, the Divine created and our crucible was formed. From this inspiration and with the lessons of our triumphs and failures deeply embodied, both we and the cycles of the cosmos continue to evolve. We adapt, transform, release attachments, and come to the center of our hearts where the wisdom of head and body comingles into intuition and resilience.

As we increasingly give expression to the Divine will, our souls rejoice, because doing the work of this lifetime frees us. Freedom earned on the path of spiritual progress is our own embrace of unconditional love. However, to be clear, this work is not facilitating a movement toward that which lies beyond the body, brought on by a need to return to Source. Rather, it is a movement into the fullness of our embodiment, complete with the attachments and sufferings of our encapsulation, the residues of our encumbered perceptions, and the effluvia of the physical. Through our labors on the path and with freedoms gained from the effort comes the stuff of intoxicating bliss—the nectar of Tantra that is release from our most deeply seated fears.

In this way, we might consider that the crisis we all face—a crisis that haunts us regardless of our race, class, sexual orientation, gender, age, or other such distinctions—is exactly what will catalyze the elusive spiritual covenant of our time: peace. Might crisis, as it can for us on the path, not push the whole of creation beyond limiting and oppressive value systems into a revelation of high expectations, accountability, and promise? It may be that an irreversible crisis is what can finally take us collectively toward innovative solutions to climate change, among other ills. Perhaps there are new ways of being that draw on the resources of the whole of humanity, doing so in ways we never before imagined, and moreover, that were never before allowed.

In response, what can we do now, even if we are still in a place of uncertainty regarding Gaia? Here are two suggestions:

  1. Ritual. Why? It plays out the cosmic order. In Tantra, worship is not merely a symbolic performance, but an engagement of cosmic events in this world. In this way, we can own the larger picture of which we are a part and see reflections of our greater truth while living the lessons of the here and now.
  2. Define, Claim, and Act on Your Spiritual Values. No matter what your faith tradition, there are still spiritual values within that you must discover and claim for your own. If they happen to reflect the teachings of your outer path, all the better. Either way, the process of coming to know yourself as a value-based Earth citizen can do much to instigate change in day-to-day behaviors and motivations. Be willing to dig deep, surface, and move in the world in alignment with your values from the inside out.

Continuing to believe in the rightness of our existence, despite the mistakes of the past and the grim shadow on the horizon, is essential to maintaining a connection to the Divine in times like these. This alone has the power to liberate us by virtue of our belief in the possible.