Dharma Action Network for Climate Engagement

Dharma Action Network for Climate Engagement (DANCE) is a space for connecting to explore the breadth of possible Dharma responses to climate change and related issues.

DANCE welcomes everyone to connect with others and take a stance in the face of climate emergency and mass species extinction.

It is a platform where we can share, mobilise, support, inform, nourish and inspire each other. It is a platform where we can offer and find opportunities to express our love and care for all life.

This love and care can express itself in many different ways, including anything from acts of civil disobedience to meditations and vigils, from prayers to blockades.

What unifies this multitude of different expressions is our shared intention to let our responses arise and be informed by our meditative or contemplative explorations and practices. We share a commitment to non-violence, to kindness and compassion, to honesty and integrity. We share the love of wanting to deepen and live, as wholeheartedly as possible, from an understanding of our interconnectedness and interdependence. We are willing to reflect and question ourselves to keep learning and we hope our engagement is always an expression of love and service.

Although initiated by Buddhist practitioners DANCE welcomes anyone from other contemplative traditions.

As well as an opportunity to network and form more localized groups of support, activity and political action, a wide range of creative ideas and experiments in passionate and compassionate engagement may be shared, incubated, and hatched together through this space.

It can also serve as a more central forum to discuss perspectives and to voice feelings about the environmental crises we face; and as a hub for information on relevant events and resources, including related retreats, workshops, artistic and other enterprises.

DANCE was initiated in early 2013 by a group of Dharma teachers, staff and friends of Gaia House – as a forum for the wider sangha to explore what might be possible in bringing Dharma responses to the climate crisis.

This group of co-founders continues to generate projects and share them here and on the Facebook page, but the core intention is to support creative ideas and initiatives, as well as perspectives, from a much broader base. Our invitation, then, is for you to connect not with only with us, but also with others, and to take action in whatever ways inspire and make sense to you. You may even want to start up a DANCE group in your local area – and please do contact us if you would like to post an event on this website. By sharing and working together, we can encourage, support and inspire each other in this great and beautiful heart-work of our times. We can make a difference.

What do we mean by Dharma?

Dharma is taken from Sanskrit, a traditional Indian language used by many Indian religious traditions. In the Buddhist context it usually refers to the key teachings of the Buddhist traditions.

While we take inspiration from the Buddha's teachings on skillful response to suffering in our use of the word 'dharma', we also embrace dharma more broadly as teachings arising directly from climate change and the connected social crises that challenge our current ways of life and call us to a different relationship to the earth, and her peoples. We feel many commonalities with other contemplative traditions, and see the term 'dharma' as one that can contain a multiplicity of skillful views and practices including those beyond the traditional boundaries of Buddhism.

When Was Dance Launched?

The Dharma Action Network for Climate Engagement (DANCE) was launched by a group of teachers and practitioners at Gaia House in 2013 as a space for people to connect and explore the breadth of possible Dharma responses to climate change and related issues. As well as an opportunity to network and form localised groups of support, activity and political action, DANCE was also formed to serve as a forum for people to meet, voice feelings and share concerns. Members of the group extend across a variety of Buddhist traditions, but also include people who have a secular outlook and are not affiliated with any religious tradition, who are interested in exploring meditative practice through other ways and means. The intention has always been to be as open as possible and welcome people of all faiths, or non-faiths, who wish to connect and come together to respond consciously to climate change.

Tribute to Rob Burbea

We are saddened to write that Rob Burbea, a dear friend, beloved dharma teacher, and one of the co-founders of DANCE has recently passed away. Rob was one of the central driving forces behind the creation of DANCE back in 2013. At a time when climate change wasn’t as commonly addressed in the context of the dharma as it is now, Rob was already keenly aware of the crisis and would regularly include themes around climate and the environment on the retreats that he led.

Whilst much of his teaching happened within the cloistered walls of Gaia House, a silent retreat centre in rural England, Rob’s own vision for the dharma always resisted any constraint. Through his talks and personal guidance he opened up conceptions of the dharma that made students radically question everything they thought they knew, about what it was and where it could lead. Rob emphasised in his teachings the importance of re-enchanting our perceptions of the world, seeing it as something sacred and beautiful, and treating it as such. He would advocate active and at times even disruptive participation in the world in the spirit of the Bodhisattva ideal. Activism was effectively legitimised and encouraged as a profound avenue of practice, both for cultivating and for giving expression to the liberated heart. It was a talk of his from 2011, ‘The Meditator as Revolutionary’, that inspired so many of us to take our practice off the cushion and into the world.

In addition to talking about these issues in the meditation hall, Rob was also deeply committed to the cause in his personal life. Amongst many other lifestyle choices that he made, he refrained from flying and was a familiar face at climate demonstrations and protest gatherings. Already in 2009, together with a number of other meditators, Rob travelled overland to Copenhagen for the COP15 meeting. This climate pilgrimage was a profound experience for the many practitioners who joined, and a way of bringing an embodiment to their compassion and courage. Most recently, although Rob was rarely able to attend Extinction Rebellion protests due to his ill health, he was widely supportive of their actions and championed the need for civil disobedience.

Rob passed away peacefully in his home in Devon on 7th May 2020, in the early morning hours under the full moon of Vesak. We are tremendously grateful for all that he has given, and for all that he has inspired in so many others. Our words could never be sufficient. May his legacy prevail and continue to benefit all beings everywhere, for a very long time to come.

with love and gratitude ~ Juha Penttilä and Mark Ovland

Rob left a profound wealth of dharma teachings which can be explored at dharmaseed.org. For further listening and reading regarding his thoughts on practice, nature, and activism we can recommend the following:

The Buddha and the Sacred Earth

An article for Resurgence Magazine on Buddhist beliefs about and attitudes to Nature

An Ecology of Love

A talk about love, eros, metta, and the Dharma; about our sense of the Earth, and a sense of the sacred.

The Meditator as Revolutionary

The name says it all 🙂