by Thich Nhat Hanh: Heaven on Earth…
Dear Mother Earth,There are those of us who walk the Earth searching for a promised land, not realizing that you are the wondrous place we’ve been looking for our whole lives. You already are a wonderful and beautiful Kingdom of Heaven—the most beautiful planet in the solar system; the most beautiful place in the heavens. You are the Pure Land where countless buddhas and bodhisattvas of the past manifested, realized enlightenment, and taught the Dharma. I do not need to imagine a Pure Land of the Buddha to the west or a Kingdom of God above where I will go when I die. Heaven is here on Earth. The Kingdom of God is here and now. I don’t need to die to be in the Kingdom of God. In fact, I need to be very much alive. I can touch the Kingdom of God with every step. When I touch the present moment deeply in the historical dimension, I touch the kingdom; I touch the Pure Land; I touch the ultimate; and I touch eternity. In deep contact with the Earth and wonders of life, I touch my true nature. The exquisite orchid flower, the ray of sunshine, and even my own miraculous body—if they do not belong to the Kingdom of God, what does? Contemplating the Earth deeply, whether a floating cloud or a falling leaf, I can see the no-birth, no-death nature of reality. With you, dear Mother, we are carried into eternity.
We have never been born and we will never die. Once we have realized this, we can then appreciate and enjoy life fully, no longer afraid of aging or death, nor caught in complexes about ourselves, nor yearning for things to be different than they are. We already are, and we already have, what we are looking for.The Kingdom of Heaven exists, not outside of us, but within our very own hearts. Whether we’re able to touch the Kingdom of God or not at every step, depends on our way of looking, our way of listening, our way of walking. If my mind is calm and peaceful, then the very ground I’m walking on becomes a paradise.There are those who say that in their heaven there is no suffering. But if there is no suffering, how can there be happiness? We need compost to grow flowers, and mud to grow lotuses. We need difficulties in order to arrive at realizations about them; enlightenment is always enlightenment about something.Dear Mother, I promise to cultivate this way of looking. I promise to enjoy the practice of dwelling peacefully with mindfulness in the here and the now, so I can touch the Pure Land, the Kingdom of God, day and night. I promise that with every step I will touch eternity. With every step I will touch heaven here on Earth.
Dear Mother Earth,Do you remember when you and Father Sun first formed from the dust of exploded stars and interstellar gas? You didn’t yet wear the silken cloak of freshness that you do today. At that time, Mother, more than four and half billion years ago, your robe was made of molten rock. Soon it cooled to form a hard crust. Although Father’s light was far less than it is today, your thin atmosphere captured the heat and kept your oceans from freezing. In those first few hundred million years, you overcame many great difficulties to create an environment capable of sustaining life. You released great heat, fires, and gases from your volcanoes. Steam was expelled from your crust to become vapor in your atmosphere and the water in your great oceans. Your gravity helped anchor the life-sustaining sky, and your magnetic field prevented it from being stripped away by solar winds and cosmic rays.But even before forming the atmosphere, you endured a collision with a great heavenly body, almost the size of Mars.
Part of the impacting planet became you; the rest of it, along with some of your mantle and crust, became the moon. Dear Mother, the moon is a part of you, as beautiful as an angel. She is a kind sister to you, always following you, helping you slow down and keep your balance, and creating tidal rhythms on your body.
Our entire solar system is one family, revolving around Father Sun in a joyful and harmonious dance. First there is Mercury, metallic and cratered, closest to the sun. Next is Venus with her intense heat, high-pressure atmosphere, and volcanoes. Then there is you, beloved Mother Earth, the most beautiful of all. Beyond us orbits the Red Planet, cold and desolate Mars; and after the asteroid belt there comes the gas giant Jupiter, by far the largest planet of all, attended by an assembly of diverse moons. Beyond Jupiter orbits Saturn, the spectacularly ringed planet, followed by Uranus, tilted on his side after a collision, and, finally, distant blue Neptune with his turbulent storms and high winds.Contemplating this splendor, I can see that you, Mother Earth, are the most precious flower in our solar system, a true jewel of the cosmos.It took you a billion years to begin to manifest the first living beings. Complex molecules, perhaps brought to you from outer space, started to come together in self-replicating structures, slowly becoming more and more like living cells. Light particles from distant stars, millions of light years away, came to visit and stay a while. Small cells gradually became larger cells; unicellular organisms evolved into multicellular organisms.
Life developed from deep within the oceans, multiplying and prospering, steadily improving the atmosphere. Slowly, the ozone layer could form, preventing harmful radiation from reaching your surface, and allowing life on land to prosper. It was only then, as the miracle of photosynthesis unfurled, that you began to wear the exquisite green mantle you do today.But all phenomena are impermanent and ever-changing. Life over vast areas of the Earth has already been destroyed more than five times, including sixty-five million years ago, when the impact of a giant asteroid caused the mass extinction of dinosaurs and three quarters of all other species. Dear Mother, I am in awe of your capacity to be patient and creative, despite all the harsh conditions you have endured. I promise to remember our extraordinary journey of eons and to live my days with the awareness that we are all your children, and that we are all made of stars. I promise to do my part, contributing my own energy of joy and harmony to the glorious symphony of life.