Welcome‎ > ‎Activities‎ > ‎Compassionate action‎ > ‎

Earth Day at Auckland Zen Centre

Zendo talk by Amala Wrightson Sensei, 51st Earth Day, April 2021
Earth Day altar at Auckland Zen Centre

Earth rise
Each year AZC joins the global Earth Day celebrations. Last year was a particularly poignant celebration as it was the 50th time that Earth Day has been celebrated - for 50 years citizens all around the world have been lobbying, protesting, creating more sustainable businesses and lives, restoring wild places, protecting endangered species and gathering together every April to mark Earth Day. And yet in those same 50 years there has been massive degradation of the world’s ecosystems and a relentless increase in atmospheric pollution and carbon dioxide levels.  

Here is Sensei's Zendo talk, given when AZC marked the 51st Earth Day in April 2021:

"Why do we celebrate Earth Day? You won’t find it mentioned in any traditional Buddhist calendar. But adding this day to our annual cycle of ceremonies was not a mere whim. We started marking the day (officially 22 April) early in the life of the Auckland Zen Centre, modelling the ceremony on the "ceremonies of aid" which are conducted periodically at the Rochester Zen Center in response to famine, floods, fires and other natural (and human) disasters.

After a few years we added the extra hours of sitting, and sometimes we have also extended the ceremony into a full day of chanting. The aim is healing. Not so much healing the Earth -- the evidence from her history suggests that give her 2 or 3 hundred million years and she will heal just fine -- but the healing of human beings’ relationship with the Earth. We should also be clear that it is not all human beings who have become toxic to the Earth, but just those who have exploited her riches and/or benefited from that exploitation. There are many millions of people who have suffered under our present industrial growth economy and whose environmental footprint is comparatively tiny. That’s why we must be careful that as we respond to the climate crisis we do so with climate justice in mind.

Buddha with Blue Marble photo, Auckland Zen Centre
The damage caused by our industrial growth economy has come to a head in the past 70 years or so, and has been labelled “the great acceleration”. It can be vividly illustrated by two sets of graphs placed side by side. On the one hand, human activity since WW2: population growth, energy use, water consumption, urbanisation, release of greenhouse gasses, etcetera. On the other hand, the damage to biological systems in the same period: mass extinctions, ocean acidification, deforestation, melting of icecaps and glaciers, rising CO2 levels, and so on and on. All the graphs start out flattish and then rise steeply to almost vertical. So the purpose of this ceremony, and the extended sitting, is to sensitize us to our destructive trajectory as a species and to inspire us to reconnect with the Earth in ways that are life-giving and life-protecting.

The ceremony is also a chance to express our gratitude for all that we receive from the Earth. For those of us in the southern hemisphere Earth Day coincides with  autumn harvest time, and for several years now we have been setting up our Earth Day altar as a thanksgiving altar, decorated with some of the fruits of the Earth, gathered from our various gardens. Of course the Earth provides us with so much more than this: not only food, but water from the hydrosphere, a place to stand on the lithosphere and air from the atmosphere in which we live. We really do live in  and not on our blue planet, as the atmosphere is part of the Earth, one of its domains, and is like a protective skin enveloping us and the Earth’s surfaces, both solid and liquid. We can be grateful also for Earth’s gravity which holds us close. Without gravity, the planet’s embrace, we would all hurtle down into the depths of space."

Typical Schedule for AZC Earth Day Ceremony and One-day Sit: 

At home:

6:15 a.m. Dawn sitting (optional, outside if possible)

At Centre:

8:30 a.m.     2 x 35-minute rounds of zazen with kinhin, and opening talk from Sensei

9:45               Earth Day Ceremony

10:50 (approx) Tea, catch up
11:25              2 x 35-minute rounds of zazen with kinhin

12:45 p.m.     Lunch (provided) followed by time for rest, exercise (walk, yoga, tai qi) or samu (takuhatsu)

2:00               Zazen with dokusan
4:00              Close with the Four Vows


Earth Day Banners at Auckland Zen Centre

Every Day is Earth Day: Responding to the Climate Emergency

Earth Day is a special day of celebration. However, given the scale of the climate and ecological crisis that we face, every day really needs to be an "Earth Day". Recognising this, the Centre declared a Climate Emergency in 2019. This declaration is a way of affirming (to each other and to the wider community) that we are committed to the difficult work of facing the current climate crisis, exploring its roots in human greed, fear and denial, and its social and ecological consequences, and then doing what we can to alleviate suffering.

By declaring a Climate Emergency, we commit to:

  • incorporating climate crisis considerations into the life of our Centre, our decisions, practices, purchases and policies

  • advocating strongly for greater central government and city leadership and action on climate change

  • treasuring and deepening our practice, which enables us to find love, compassion, joy, equanimity, and the courage for action in the midst of uncertainty and change.

In making this declaration and taking up this work, we join hundreds of other Buddhist communities, faith groups, councils, cities and nations around the world, in order to serve our living planet and all its beings as best we can. In the coming weeks, months and years we will be working to keep this declaration alive and central in our practice and in our day-to-day activities.

The Centre is also a signatory to the Buddhist Climate Change Declaration (see PDF attached below) and Sensei has addressed environmental issues in a number of talks and articles including several published in Zen Bow (see PDF attached below) .

Centre Manager, Auckland Zen Centre,
12 Feb 2018, 17:59
Sally McAra,
2 Feb 2018, 15:24
Centre Manager, Auckland Zen Centre,
12 Feb 2018, 18:18