It seems that all religions include teachings on how to be of service to the world and how to care for each other. For Hindus, karma yoga is the yoga of action and selfless service. Christians are encouraged to love one another and bear each others' burdens (Galatians 6:2). Muslims have the concept of īthār, or "preferring others to oneself." The Torah instructs Jews to love their neighbors (Leviticus 19:18). The Dalai Lama, a voice for the global Buddhist community, says, "My religion in kindness."
What does this have to do with sustainability? Everything.
When our actions to protect the environment and lower our environmental impact are refocused through the lens of a practice of selfless service, we can develop a different awareness and understanding of the issues that may help us make more compassionate decisions.
If your service is rooted in continually asking the question, “What can I do to help?” you are no longer the center of attention. Instead, you are serving something greater.
If you are spiritually or poetically minded, you may call this greater whole the totality of existence, God, or another description that resonates with you. Alternately, you can think of it as the sum of all parts of the planet being something greater than yourself. In either case, asking, “How can I be of service to that which is beyond me?” can become your practice.
From an environmental perspective, being in service to the greater whole means no longer trying to be master of the natural world. The natural world is not there for your, or even humanity’s, exclusive benefit. Instead, your life and your practice become an offering to the interconnected, interdependent web of being.
© 2014 Omega Institute for Holistic Studies