Soka Gakkai International
Buddhism in Action for Peace
History & Philosophy
Stories and reflections on the Buddhist approach to life
by Christine Voelker, New Zealand
The little tree was laden with fruit, the branches almost touching the ground, lovely red apples, looking healthy and juicy.
“This is the first time in 16 years since I have been here that this tree is bearing any fruit,” our new neighbor explained in amazement. Sharing her joy, I am leaning over the fence, starting a conversation with her since she has been reluctant to talk to us newcomers, the townies who bought a two-hectare block of overgrazed bare farmland.
“A true benefit!” an SGI-New Zealand member exclaimed when we made the move, since a dream had come true for me. A longing to be able to take care of a substantial size of land, to plant trees, to establish gardens on a big scale and to live sustainably, including to generate one’s own energy.
Born in Germany, I was introduced to Nichiren Buddhism in New Zealand after my search for a spiritual home made me travel all over the world. With almost instant effect my life became enriched and happy, and I met a wonderful man.
related article A Piece of Ourselves by Julie Bygraves Julie Bygraves on developing a career in environmental policy and how her Buddhist practice as a member of Soka Gakkai International in the UK encouraged her in the process. Nature has always played a big part in my life. Trees are “sacred” to me. I could never bear to see them cut down, especially unnecessarily. The wonder of a single little seed becoming a plant amazed me as a child gardening on the third-floor balcony of our apartment in Frankfurt.
Over the years, this passion of mine to look after the planet has brought me to join all kinds of groups and political organizations. This deep wish to sustain, protect and regenerate has also caused me to become at times quite angry and frustrated.
After chanting for several years, I realized more and more that my Buddhist practice is a very positive factor that can help me change and heal many things. It also makes it possible for me to channel the energy of my anger into positive action to better the world around me.
In his 2012 Environment Proposal entitled “For a Sustainable Global Society: Learning for Empowerment and Leadership,” SGI President Ikeda reminds us of our power: “I would like to focus on the kind of empowerment that brings forth the truly limitless potential we all possess. It is important that a sense of leadership be fostered within each individual, generating waves of transformation within our communities and societies. Only then can we realize the goal of a sustainable global society in which the inherent dignity of life is given paramount importance.”
Our focus is now on the study and practical implementation of a sustainable lifestyle.
My partner and I now live in Wairarapa. It has a wonderful atmosphere, and the land gives us the potential to plant and grow our own food and develop and build an “eco house” that, through smart design and a range of green technologies, can produce its own power. Our focus is now on the study and practical implementation of a sustainable lifestyle and the development of a business that advises others on building eco houses. In this way, we would like to inspire and empower others to take practical steps themselves to better the environment.
It is easy to feel overwhelmed and powerless in the face of the global problems we are facing. But when we overcome these feelings, take action and bring our potential for goodness to bloom, we help others blossom into action too. Like the little tree laden with fruits, for 16 years of its life there was not much else around. No bee would travel to pollinate its flowers, but when an adjoining bare piece of land was brought to life with the planting of 500 trees, including apple trees, it started to attract the bees, and that allowed it to thrive.
[Courtesy April 2014 SGI Quarterly]
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