Posts Tagged ‘John Seed’

Reweaving Shiva’s Robes

June 8, 2012
Arunachala : The Spiritual Center of the world

Arunachala : The Spiritual Center of the world

Lord Siva said: What cannot be acquired without great pains – the true import of Vedanta (Self-Realization) – can be attained by anyone who looks at (this hill). from where it is visible or even mentally thinks of it from afar.

— Arunachala Mahatmyam (Skanda Purana)

Arunachala, a mountain in the State of Tamil Nadu, is one of the most sacred sites in India. In the Hindu tradition, the story is told that their supreme deity, Shiva, manifested as a column of light stretching from infinity to infinity. He was so bright that the others gods complained that they were being dazzled beyond endurance.

In his compassion, Shiva took on a new form as this mountain, Arunachala, and more than 1000 years ago a vast temple was built at its base. Many believe that walking the 11 km around Arunachala is the fastest way to enlightenment and pilgrims by the millions have thronged there since time immemorial.

The Temple is the centre of life spiritually, culturally and physically.

In the long line of illustrious sages who have taken up abode in caves on Arunachala was Ramana Maharshi, one of the most celebrated Hindu mystics of the 20th century who died in 1950.

In 1987, the Rainforest Information Centre received a letter from one of the nuns in Ramana’s ashram telling us that when Ramana had arrived at the mountain as a young man, it had been clothed in a mighty jungle and even tigers could be met walking along its flanks. But now, nothing remained but thorns and goats, couldn’t we please do something to help restore the mountain?

The initial reaction of deep ecologist John Seed was to compose a letter, saying sorry, but our hands are full protecting our own rainforests. But he decided this he could not send. Instead he helped her set up an NGO The Annamalai Reforestation Society and raised funding for this work including two substantial grants from the Australian Government Aid agency. Two volunteers from Australia spent more than seven years helping to re-clothe the sacred mountain.

One of those volunteers was John Button who had already had several years experience of reforesting depleted soils in Australia.

The conditions on the hillsides were not good. When the monsoon rains hit, mudslides would pour down the slopes sweeping away everything in their path. To protect the young saplings, open stone walls were built around each and every sapling. A micro-climate was created which also helped to protect from the blistering hot winds. The work was labour intensive involving hundreds of volunteers.

After some years, the authorities from the main temple invited the tree planters to move their tree nursery inside the temple walls and allowed the use of their precious waters. Consequently, this initiated the regeneration of the temple gardens, growing flowers for their ceremonies as well as hundreds of thousands of native tree seedlings each year. Local authorities liked the beauty of the Temple Gardens and when requested, were given thousands of seedlings from the nursery for the regeneration of the gardens of other South Indian temples.

When John Seed returned to Arunachala in 2009, he was heartened to find that more than ten new NGO’s had sprung up around the base of the mountain. These inspired groups have constructed native tree nurseries and are engaged in tree planting, environmental education, fire prevention and fire fighting. He was able to walk in the cool shade of the trees the project had planted for over 20 years ago.

Planting trees changes the environment. Not only the natural environment but also the spiritual environment. The idea had been born and taken root that Shiva could be worshipped by reweaving his ecological robes.

Was Reweaving Shiva’s Robes a sacred task? This was a question John Seed asked himself. He decided the person to ask was Shiva. He climbed the mountain, sat and meditated and sought a sign. He received a sign in the form of a troupe of monkeys.

John Seed is the founder and director of the Rainforest Information Centre.

Child of the Universe

June 8, 2012
John Seed

John Seed

After our great experiential deep ecology workshop at Mooncourt, Glenys wanted to record “Child of the Universe” which I had sung to accompany the Cosmic Walk. Taffy did so with his camera. – John Seed

In the stillness of the mighty woods, man is made aware of the divine. — Richard St Barbe Baker

There is no better way to please the Buddha than to please all sentient beings. — Ladakhi saying

Ecology and spirituality are fundamentally connected, because deep ecological awareness, ultimately, is spiritual awareness. — Fritjof Capra

Early hours of the morning I stumbled upon John Seed singing Child of the Universe. At first I did not like as I know the original by Seize the Day, but then I decided I did like.

What is more intriguing is the story behind and my own connections with the players.

A rainforest activist based in Australia, John Seed is one of the world’s leading deep ecologists, a fully paid up member of the School of Deep Ecology.

The Norwegian philosopher Arne Naess coined the phrase deep ecology to describe deep ecological awareness. Deep ecology is the foundation of a branch of philosophy known as ecophilosophy, Arne Naess prefers the term ecosophy, that deals with the ethics of Gaia.

Fritjof Capra defined deep ecology by contrasting it with shallow ecology and showing that it is a network concept:

Shallow ecology in anthropocentric, or human-centred. It views humans as above or outside of nature, as the source of all value, and ascribes only instrumental, or ‘use’, value to nature. Deep ecology does not separate humans – or anything else – from the natural environment. It does see the world not as a collection of isolated objects but as a network of phenomena that are fundamentally interconnected and interdependent. Deep ecology recognizes the intrinsic value of all living beings and views human beings as just one particular strand in the web of life.

Deep ecology is to shallow ecology, as slow food to fast food, slow fashion to fast fashion, slow music to fast music.

A shallow ecologist jumps in the car to take bottles to be recycled at the bottle bank!

A deep ecologist has a holistic approach to life, not only a concern for Nature, but a concern for Man, a love of art, literature, philosophy, poetry, music, all things spiritual. There is often seen a strong link with Zen Buddhism.

As Arne Naess says ‘The essence of deep ecology is to ask deeper questions.’ It is only by asking deep questions of today’s industrialised, growth-oriented, greedy, materialistic society that we will force a paradigm shift. To concentrate not on simple Cartesian solutions to the causes of pollution, but to probe ever deeper to obtain a holistic view.

To probe deeper is to strip away the outer reality. It has close parallels with subatomic physics and the inner world of deep meditation. As with Buddhism, the inner reality is to achieve oneness with all reality.

In Thailand, Buddhists monks and nuns ordain old growth trees as monks to protect them.

Not surprisingly the early proponents of deep ecology and what may be loosely grouped as the ‘Deep Ecology School’ are nearly all either environmentalists, philosophers, poets, or Buddhists: Arne Naess (mountaineer, philosopher, sociologist and environmental activist), George Sessions (philosopher), Bill Devall (sociologist, philosopher, environmental activist and practitioner of aikido), Alan Drengson (philosopher and practitioner of aikido), Michael Zimmerman (Buddhist leanings), Dolores LaChapelle (mountaineer, teacher of T’ai Chi), Robert Aitken (poet and Zen Buddhist), Gary Snyder (mountaineer, poet and Zen Buddhist), Michael Soule (conservationist, biologist and Buddhist), John Seed (ecological activist with Buddhist leanings), Joanna Macy (environmental and social activist, Buddhist), Jeremy Haywood (Buddhist), Paul Ehrlich (ecologist), Fritjof Capra (polymath and practitioner of T’ai Chi), Edward Goldsmith (polymath and ecophilosopher).

I would describe Paulo Coelho (author, mountain walker, devout Catholic) as a deep ecologist as he understands how to communicate with the Soul of the World, as does Wendell Berry (farmer, essayist, poet, philosopher).

John Seed is singing Child of the Universe in the Mooncourt in the Blue Mountains of Australia. Inset in the floor a brass spiral representing the Unfolding Cosmos for the telling of the Universe Story. John had been facilitating an Earth, Spirit, Action workshop during which that story – our Story – was told, in a Cosmic Walk ceremony.

Music underlies the Universe. [see The Eight]

Theo Simon

Theo Simon


Child of the Universe was written by my friend Theo Simon of Seize the Day. John Seed met Theo at Glastonbury and asked that Theo write two extra verses otherwise there would be a gap in the candles. This Theo agreed to do. That sung by John Seed thus has two extra verses.

Theo is an excellent example of someone who decided to follow his dream. He gave up a well-paid day job to play music, lives a low impact lifestyle so he can afford to follow his dream.

I have not seen Theo or Shannon Smy for a while. The last time was a couple of years ago at a climate conference in London where on the side I met and chatted with the Bolivian Ambassador. Sadly many of the speakers were talking nonsense but the guy talking about plant-based fuel oils, rainforests and destructive palm oil plantations did talk a lot of sense. [see Zero Carbon by 2030]

The conference coincided with the released by Seize the Day of their very latest album. I got a signed copy of one of their very first copies.

Sadly Seize the Day are not on bandcamp where they will reach a much wider audience. Something I hope they will rectify in the near future, though you can listen and download from the Seize the Day website.

Deep Ecology

September 11, 2010

Deep ecology is a philosophy of nature aligned with Indigenous visions which see Earth as a living and sacred being. Using music, poetry and film as well as spoken word …

Deep Ecology is a philosophy of nature which sees that underlying the environmental crisis there is a psychological or spiritual disease stemming from the illusion of separation between humans and the rest of the natural world. The late Arne Naess, Emeritus Professor of Philo…sophy from Oslo University, Norway who coined the term “deep ecology” pointed out that our “ecological ideas are not enough to protect the Earth, we need ecological identity, ecological self”. With a presentation which includes music and poetry, John Seed shows us how to nourish our ecological identity and align ourselves with Earth.

The experience of deep ecology leads to a deepening of our love for the natural world and empowerment and vision for the protection of Nature.

— John Seed

For my lovely friend Sian.

Also see

Deep Ecology


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