Meeting Climate Change from a Spiritual Path

From: Ziraat and its Implications for Addressing Climate Change, By Felicia Kainat Norton

‘Humankind is far removed from nature both within and without and has become an exile from the ideal state of life”    Hazrat Inayat Khan

Ziraat is an activity inaugurated by Sufi teacher Hazrat Inayat Khan in 1926 joins inner cultivation with sacred ecology. It provides a powerful accommodation for planetary awakening and evolution. The Farsi word “Ziraat’ translates as sacred agriculture, as well as to fructify. Pir Vilayat, Hazrat Inayat Khan’s son and successor, has said he thought Ziraat was instituted because his father foresaw the very destruction to our natural world that we are witnessing today. It serves the harmony of heaven and earth by teaching us how to come in tune with our natural being and find our unity with the sacredness of all life. Its purpose is to realize that we may be a powerful force, as a “small band of sowers” to transform the way humanity thinks and relates-- with reverence and intimacy—to the natural world.

Ziraat places a great emphasis on manifestation, and very specific activities of responsibility, necessary to “do one’s work” in the sacred field of life, with ways of preparing the field, ploughing the ground, sowing seeds and reaping the harvest of planetary awakening. Some specific activities include:

A Daily Communion with the Elements

We give gratitude for the gift each element of earth, water, fire, air and ether brings as a daily practice, feeling our sacred connection, and deepening a mutual relationship of care, reciprocity and beneficence. We open to the earth as a profound living being, a goddess both powerful and delicate, and the elements as archangelic intelligences, imparting gifts to all beings. We would not pollute the water we drink from, or pollute the air we breathe. We take great care to be watchful and protect and honor the elements.

Returning to the Natural State/Clearing the Field of the Mind

As Hazrat Inayat Khan emphasized, the suffering in our world is greatly magnified by our ways of thinking and priorities. He noted:

“The present spirit of humanity has commercialism as its crown and materialism as its throne…. The world's progress, with selfishness as the central theme, will never lead to the soul's desire and aim; it will culminate in destruction. …..The happiness and peace of each individual depends on the happiness and peace of all.”     Religious Gathekas #17 - The Message of Unity

In response Hazrat Inayat Khan left five ‘lessons’ in Ziraat, three of which deal directly with the need for the purification and cultivation of the mind. He quoted Buddha, emphasizing the need to plough up old roots and “uproot the weeds of Illusion.” These roots and weeds he identified as greed, fixed concepts, hardened opinions and beliefs (and hearts). Once these remnants of past harvests are removed, the field is made fresh, and fertile, able to receive and sow the seeds of new inspiration, creativity and insights into harmony with life, both within and without. With the mind purified of all that is foreign to it, we are more able to act with greater clarity and vision to help restore harmony on our fragile earth. Pir Vilayat spoke of ‘the bind in the mind’ and the ‘pollution’ in our thinking’. Do our values and choices honor the inherent unity and interdependence of all life or are we autistic to this basic law of life, and lost in motives of greed and profit?

Earth Based Ceremony

An Earth based ceremony in which, through a ‘dialogue’ we reflect on the purpose and scope of our soul’s journey- “as long as time and as broad as space’, our attitude towards our work, and our cultivation of the capacity to read and listen to the sacred manuscript of Nature, aligning our work to Her cycles. Here we remember and honor our sacred covenant with our Creator, with the earth and our vows to feel responsibility, to find joy and integrity in all that we do, to thereby become mature and fruitful gardeners in the journey of the soul.

Doing our Own Work

The first and last lessons of Ziraat address “doing our own work”. The first lesson speaks of finding and working from a place where jemal and jelal-- beauty and power, or feminine and masculine, receptive and active-- are working harmoniously. The final lesson reminds us that each soul has its own unique “work” to be fulfilled individually but also in interdependence with others. It provides a code of how to work in harmony with Nature, to bring seeds to full blossom, to fulfill and accomplish our inspiration.

Ziraat’s central contribution to the climate crisis is that it is a force for a change in our thinking, a change in our attitude, an emphasis on not giving into despair but continually joining inner cultivation with hope, in the tradition of the prophets, who brought hope, possibility, and new thinking in our world.

With a deep understanding of Ziraat’s emphasis first on inner cultivation, we become aware of how crucial service is at the present time. It is not only a valuable act of moving beyond our selfish interests, it is, as the Ziraat service emphasizes, the way to “perfect freedom”. What is more, it is an exciting step for each of us, opening a focus and concentration on ‘what we want our world to be’ rather than feeling a paralysis of fear and hopelessness. Responding’ with care, wise choices, and tending to each field we find that each and every human being can do something to eradicate damaging climate change.

Inspiration for all of us as to what people are doing and what we might do:

We join, demonstrate and walk for clean air, water, for putting an end to deforestation and pollution, and continually bring environmental issues to the attention of decision makers. Many of us joined in walking in the People’s Climate March this past September in NYC along with others participating in other locations throughout the world to draw attention to the issue of climate change.

We compost, even in the tiniest kitchen, and initiate green initiatives in our work places, support local farmer’s markets, bicycle to work, carpool, recycle.

We choose one thing we would like to change in our immediate environment on behalf of the health of our earth and follow through with this. Gathering a group of fellow workers on the project.

We become ever vigilant to never harm any element, to give back to the earth, not deplete Her. We can be ever more keenly aware of our everyday actions and the effects these have.

We support, join with and donate resources and efforts to groups working on behalf of the planet. Some groups who have already laid a good groundwork we might join/collaborate with include:, the Food and Water Watch, the Rainforest Action Network, Greenpeace, the Sierra Club, and Pachamama Alliance.

We can seek to better discern between need and greed, consuming less, transforming our surface desires and using the energy of desire to deepening the inner cultivation of our being.

Fresh Vision
‘May we be among those who are to bring about the transfiguration of the Earth…who make all things fresh’   Zoroastrian Saying

The root meaning of the word Ziraat as cultivation, can also be linked with “Sirat”, the straight path and the “rainbow bridge” to a new reality resulting from the conscience which Shahabuddin Surawardhi described as ‘Sirat…the bridge finer than a hair and sharper than a sword….over which we all must pass”.

Ziraat teachings help us see that our denial, despair and our collective addiction to consumption can both paralyze us and drain the passion and energy we need for real change. Recognizing our deep pain about the world and the part we play in contributing to the problems around us may cause us to awaken. With compassion for the suffering on earth, and with an ever constant vigilance to keep purifying our mind, we are able to restore and maintain awe and root ourselves in the beauty of the earth—and of all aspects of the soul’s journey—so that we may be a force for fresh vision, creativity and healing.

For more info about the Ziraat Activity see:

May each of us inscribe a love letter to the earth through our words, thoughts and deeds. What other action is left, but to do all we can to uphold the integrity of our planet by joining our inner cultivation and an awakened conscience with outer care and cultivation of our beautiful planet.

All Warm Blessings, Felicia Kainat Norton

Ed. note: Felicia Norton, co-author of the book, An Emerald Earth, and serves as Vice President and worldwide leader of Ziraat, an activity devoted to joining inner cultivation with sacred ecology. The Inyati Sufi Order embraces a mystical path which finds the unity behind the diversity of world religions. Its founder, Hazrat Inayat Khan said, "There is One Holy Book, the sacred manuscript of Nature..."