Friday, January 14, 2011

Taking Responsibility for our Actions

“Surely one of the main problems we face, as a species and as a planet, is that we are lying in our own excrement. All the waste products produced by our consumption, from garbage and debris to chemical toxins and exotic poisons, are oozing out of us and soiling the environment we inhabit. And what the Buddha says about everything else surely applies here: Nothing happens without a cause. Things are the way they are not because of chance or the will of a deity but because people have acted in particular ways and generated particular consequences. The world we inhabit is the product of our actions, which are themselves reflections of our minds....
If we do not care for one another, who else will care for us? Who among us has the right to say of another, “He is of no use to us?” For better or worse, whether we like it or not, we are all in this together. Learning how to care for one another is a central part of the path and of the practice.”
- Andrew Olendzki, "Medicine for the World"
This passage brings two very important points in the Buddhist teachings; responsibility for our actions and interconnectivity. When people mention free will, the first things that comes to our minds is party, drinking and do whatever you want. On the contrary, free will is a powerful statement that liberates you and makes you different from any other creature of the animal kingdom, to have the ability to choose and create your own destiny. In other words, if you believe in free will, you can’t believe in blind fate, since you know you are your own creator.
This statement as powerful as it is is widely misunderstood. Yes, you have free will, you are your own creator, but guess what? You have to take responsibility of your actions too. Knowing that you have free will and you are the master of your life, then you cannot blame anybody for your shortcomings and problems. No more excuses!
Now, on the other side of this argument, interconnectivity  which means every step you take, your decisions, when you dump oil down a  drain, trash into a river, kill another living being, or give somebody a hug has its ramifications. Not everybody understands the concept of interconnectivity, so I will give a very brief example, please bear with me.
That juicy hamburger that you were eating yesterday had you connected to this world like you have no idea….
It all started in another state, many months ago as a  farmer planted wheat, which helped by the recycled water, minerals,  the  microorganisms on the soil and the sun, grew up to become a plant and months later, when the seeds started to turn yellow, trough the work of many hands, it was harvested. From there it went to a processing plant, where many people and machines, separated the grain and it got bagged  and stored in a dry place to prevent rot, then sold to another factory , taken by more men and truck where other people and machines  mixed it with yeast (that yeast  was cultured in a distant laboratory by different tightly controlled processes, by different people and another set of nutrients which in turn made of agar and came from the sea, later transported via UPS in an airplane, causing air pollution and killing some birds in its flight), spring water , and turned into dough, baked and finally turned into hamburger buns. Then sliced , packed in plastic bags made from polyethylene, (which consists of long chains of ethylene monomers derived from natural gas and petroleum,  which are both coming from  deposits  which are thousands of feet underground but this is another story by itself) and sold to another company,  transported again by  men and trucks until a main storage facility. From the central warehouse, traveled to the local warehouse and finally to your burger joint. There it was unpacked by one crew and then prepared by another before arriving to your plate.
 That was just the story of the bread…do you remember that nice beef patty you ate?
I case you didn’t know, the factory-farming system of modern agriculture strives to produce the most meat, as quickly and cheaply as possible—and in the smallest amount of space possible.  Cattle raised for beef may be born in one state, fattened in another, and slaughtered in yet another.  This cattle is loaded    with many antibiotics from a distant pharmaceutical company who in turn bought the raw material for its medication in a third world country by underpaid labor to make them cheaper. These cattle is in turn fed an unnatural diet of high-bulk left over grains and other “fillers,” which can include expired dog and cat food, poultry and leftover restaurant food. As they grow up, they are castrated, their horns are ripped out, and they have third-degree burns inflicted on them by branding—all these without any painkillers by inexperienced hands since veterinary care is expensive. During transportation, from one place to the other, cattle are crowded onto trucks, where they suffer from trampling and temperature extremes and lack food, water, and veterinary care. Once they are slaughtered, the meat goes to different locations, to be stored and finally trough many miles, trucks, diesel fuel and tired drivers, delivered to the burger joint where it was grounded and finally turned into beef patties… and that was just the short story of the  beef, we are not going to cover the fixings...
As you now know… like it or not, we touch the world in one way or another. Granted, we all have to eat to survive but we can be responsible and only use what we need.  On the same token, if we want to live in harmony with others, we must be mindful of our actions to prevent more pain and suffering in this world…
Remember, we all want to be happy!


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