By Susan Murphy Roshi 

I’ve recently explored in teisho the arresting phrase, ‘a cool fire’, after hearing three eloquent South Coast indigenous men describe the revival of the practice of traditional fire-stick farming – that cultural use of fire that once so strongly shaped the Australian landscape that astonished white explorers and first settlers referred to it as ‘the biggest gentleman’s estate on earth’. 

cultural fire is cool not scorching. It is relational, it reads and weeds and heals and restores the life of the land. In local Yuin language, practising and passing on that kind of awake awareness is Mudgingaalbaraga.

“It is the warm fire of love and the cool fire of self-awareness that stands firm before the life-destroying runaway heating of the planet.”

Immediately I sense kinship with the way Zen practice naturally brings the spiritual dimension of human existence to meet and bless the spiritual and physical dimension of all the rest of our kinfolk – trees, seeds, rivers, wind, sky, and every living creature that takes part in the web of life in the place where we are.  A Zen practice is a warm fire, fed by bodhicitta, the desire to wake up.  And it is a cool fire, letting a paramount sense of ‘me’ and ‘mine’ yield to finding the ease of the through line that avoids harm and nourishes all living beings.

So what has this got to do with stopping the Adani mine that threatens to wrench open the vast coal reserves of the entire Gallillee Basin of north Queensland for exploitation in a series of massive mines, of which the gargantuan Adani mine will be just the first? 

Releasing that ancient heat-sink of carbon into the atmosphere will push global temperatures to a point catastrophic to the life of the Earth.  The Great Barrier Reef, largest living ‘being’ on Earth, a treasure placed under our custodianship as Australians alive right now, cannot survive what Adani brings in its wake. That leap in global temperatures would critically threaten the very livability of much of this continent, not just for us but for all living beings. 

And that’s before we get to the incalculable cost to the lives of billions of climate refugees of the immediate future throughout the world — all for the short-term advantage of just a few giant multinational companies. Oh, and for that critical handful of swinging votes in a few upcoming Australian elections.  Pathetically enough, it comes down to this.

The ARRCC (Australian Religious Response to Climate Change) has been doing good work in raising a cool fire of spiritually-charged and informed concern, knowledge and sense of responsibility towards the planetary crisis. I’ve been part of its effort to raise consciousness on the deepest level, that can ignite and sustain action on the immediate level of this increasingly pressing matter. 

In taking our place in the nationwide Stop Adani campaign, along with many other activist groups, we are coming to the point of needing to literally stand our ground to physically oppose Adani and all that it would bring in its wake.  I intend to respond to this call if it comes.  In that light, I urge you to read this statement from the ARRCC. Its spirit accords strongly with the cool fire of custodianship of self which, in that gift of the self on behalf of all life, quite naturally becomes custodianship of Earth.  

It is the warm fire of love and the cool fire of self-awareness that stands firm before the life-destroying runaway heating of the planet.  In its own way, a reawakened mudgingaalbaraga, moving across borders and waking up country.

For now, I leave you with an excerpt below from a recent Statement by the Australian Religious Response to Climate Change (ARRCC).

With love, 


Susan Murphy Roshi 

Excerpt from ARRCC Statement on Civil Resistance


“ARRCC has weighed the dire planetary consequences of a less-than-robust response against the ethical foundations espoused by our various faith traditions. We have unanimously concluded that we must step up the urgency of our calls for action.

A role for civil resistance

Nonviolence is at the heart of all the major faiths. For example, the Israelite prophets warned the people and their rulers, at the risk of losing liberty or life. The Christian tradition has a well-grounded theology around the power of redemptive suffering and self-sacrifice for the good of others. The Buddhist tradition has for thousands of years aspired to loving-kindness towards all beings, including those with whom we disagree.

From the Hindu tradition, Mohandas Gandhi taught his followers in the Indian Independence movement “Satyagraha”, which informed other liberation movements such as the US Civil Rights movement. In Gandhi’s own words it means “the Force which is born of Truth and Love or non-violence.” It aims not to coerce an opponent, but to convert the wrongdoer in order to achieve true cooperation.

ARRCC will continue to take all legal options open to us to convince our leaders to act for climate justice. However, henceforward if and where necessary, ARRCC will not stand back from civil resistance in the spirit of “Satyagraha”.

Always with compassion. Always peaceful. Always respectful. We will stand up for climate justice if and when necessary.  We will seek to win open dialogue. We will seek consensus. Always in love.

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