The Council Of All Beings
taken from Coming Back to Life
The Council of All Beings is a communal ritual in which participants step aside from their human identity and speak on behalf of another life-form. A simple structure for spontaneous expression, it aims to heighten awareness of our interdependence in the living body of Earth, and to strengthen our commitment to defend it. The ritual serves to help us acknowledge and give voice to the suffering of our world. It also serves, in equal measure, to help us experience the beauty and power of our interconnectedness with all life.
The form originated in Australia in early 1985, when I was on a workshop tour bringing group practices to sustain social and environmental activists. One day after a weekend workshop, John Seed, founder of the Rainforest Information Center, took me to one of the last vestiges of his continent's primordial forests, saved from the timber companies by blockades mounted by John and other local protesters. On that excursion John and I discovered that we shared a passionate interest in deep ecology and the writings of Norwegian philosopher Arne Naess about the "ecological self." As Buddhists, we both resonated with these concepts, finding them close to the Buddha's core teaching on the interdependence of all life. John expressed the wish that my workshops include a "deep ecological" group experience to directly challenge the anthropocentrism of industrial society.
So together, that day, we invented the Council of All Beings. It was introduced shortly afterwards, in the course of the weeklong training that culminated my workshop tour. At a camp north of Sydney, on huge flat rocks by a waterfall, some forty people took part. And soon they were taking the ritual back with them to their local communities.