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Earth Sangha


Abstract

The Earth Sangha is a nonprofit Buddhist environmental organization located in the Washington D.C. area. Informed by the Buddhist principles of nonviolence, tolerance, self-awareness, and compassion, the Earth Sangha promotes care and respect for the environment through meditation and practical action. Based on the belief that Buddhist practice is enhanced by practical action in the world on behalf of other beings, the Earth Sangha encourages its members to see the connections between their practice and the well-being of life on earth. The philosophy behind the Earth Sangha suggests that the integration of Buddhist practice and hands-on environmentalism promotes health, concentration, ethics, compassion, and wisdom. Earth Sangha models environmental stewardship through its Potomac Native Forests Project, a conservation project designed to promote biodiversity, a cleaner environment, and community involvement in environmental restoration. The project involves propagating native plant species for use in restoring degraded natural areas, revegetating stream banks, and replacing turf and asphalt with native trees, shrubs, and herbs. At present, the Earth Sangha has approximately fifty native forest species growing in its nursery—all of them derived from local wild plant populations through the Project’s own seed collection effort. By spring 2003, the nursery stock had grown to the point at which planting into restoration sites could begin. The first such site for the project is Wilburdale Park, which lies along the headwaters of Backlick Run, a badly degraded suburban stream. The Earth Sangha has a contract with Fairfax County to manage Wilburdale Park; plans for the park include a botanical survey, control of invasive non-native plants, and restoration of native flora. The Acorn, the Earth Sangha’s newsletter, keeps members informed about current projects and events. At present, the Earth Sangha has approximately 100 formal members and welcomes people of any, or no, religious affiliation to join them for meditation practice, membership, or hands-on conservation work through the Potomac Native Forests Project.

Religion

Buddhism

Geographic Location

United States of America
(Washington D.C.)
Duration of Project 1997–Present
History

The Earth Sangha was incorporated as a non-profit organization in 1997 by Chris and Lisa Bright, long-time Buddhist practitioners and environmentalists who sought a means for getting American Buddhists to bring their meditation practice into the world. Drawing on Lisa’s background as an ordained Dharma teacher in the Chogye Order of Korean Zen Buddhism and Chris’s work as an environmental researcher, the couple formed a sangha that would combine traditional meditation practice with ecological restoration in the Washington D.C. area. After regular sitting meditation sessions were established, the first stage of the Potomac Native Forests Project was initiated: in 1999, the first nursery began as a pilot project. In 2000, seed collection started in earnest. The present nursery facilities were established in 2001; since then, over fourty volunteers have worked annually in the seed collection and propagation effort. In April of 2002, the Sangha adopted Wilburdale Park and began the first step towards restoring Backlick Run: conducting a botanical survey. In July, ten members went on the first Sangha wilderness retreat in the Shenandoah mountains, which combined hiking and meditation in the forested hills of Northern Virginia. 2003 Earth Sangha activities include transplanting plants from the nursery into various locations in the D.C. area (residential yards, school grounds, stream banks, and parks); launching a native landscaping initiative in suburban areas; and continuing restoration work in Wilburdale Park. In addition to launching a native landscaping initiative in the Washington D.C. area at the end of 2003, the Earth Sangha is seeking to expand its restoration work to Northeastern Brazil and Cambodia: the Sangha is developing plans to help save a degraded forest fragment in the Brazilian Atlantic Forest, one of the world’s most diverse and endangered bioregions, and hopes to organize a reforestation project on the shores of the Tonle Sap lake in Cambodia.

Mission Statement “The mission of the Earth Sangha is to practice Buddhism in ways that help people become better stewards of the planet, and to do the practical environmental work that good stewardship demands.”
Partner Organizations Fairfax County Park Authority, New Hampshire Charitable Trust, Shared Earth Foundation, Spring Creek Foundation, and the Buddhist Fellowship of the Arlington Unitarian Universalist Church
Long-Term Goals None Listed
Bibliography None Listed
Additional Research Resources None Listed
Contact Information Earth Sangha
10123 Commonwealth Blvd.
Fairfax, VA 22032–2707
Ph:        703.764.4830
Email:   (JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)