Sixteen years ago the first edition of World as Lover, World as Self was a landmark book for a hardy band of engaged Buddhists in the West. At its heart, then and now, is the Buddha’s timeless message of dependent co-arising, or paticca samuppada. From the point of interdependence—simultaneously dynamic and still—Macy explored the early Buddhist teachings, her own formational experiences in Asia, and prospects for the world’s social and ecological future. The new edition is shorter, more fluid and open in style, and more urgent. As Macy explained to me, many more people have now taken up the practice of engaged Buddhism, so less explication is called for. On the other hand, the circumstances of our fragile existence on this planet, the existence of the planet itself, are hardly certain. We can gather faith from the closing words of her pivotal essay “The Great Turning”:
“The Great Turning turns my face toward the possible and helps me live with radical uncertainty. It causes me to believe that, whether we succeed or not, the risks we take on behalf of life will bring forth dimensions of human intelligence and solidarity beyond any we have known.”
Joanna Macy is a teacher in league with beings of all times. We need her wisdom, and we should study her words.