the eco-crisis is so enormous and intimidating that we don’t know where to start. We know that the collective decisions we make in the next few years will set the course of events for generations to come. And yet the more we learn about climate breakdown, species extinction, the global economic system, corporate domination of government, and overpopulation, the less we feel able to act. Our conviction in our own powerlessness overwhelms us.

The Buddhist tradition of bodhisattva activism offers a lifeline out of this downward spiral of paralysis. The model of bodhisattva activism speaks to our current situation because the bodhisattva’s job is to do the best one can, without knowing what the consequences will be—without knowing whether anything one does makes any difference whatsoever.

According to one definition, a bodhisattva is “any person who, motivated by compassion, wishes to attain Buddha-hood for the...

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