In the midst of the steadily growing chaos and despair of “the great die-off,” a young man named Edgar Markham, laid off from his high school math-teaching job like so many million of others, and driven from his modest home by attacking marauders who burnt it down after cleaning out what was left of his worldly wealth, wandered the savage streets disconsolately, looking for someone—anyone—who would hire him to do odd jobs in return for a meal. But Edgar had devised a secret, which sustained him through the very harshest of times. No matter what happened, he would find an undisturbed place to sit in a lotus position, or kneel, or even stand—and put his palms together, and then recite the following mantra, one verb or verb phrase on each breath:
Breathe, Observe, Let Go.
Be well, Do good work, Keep in touch.
Learn, Teach, Heal, Create.
Depending on how much time he had, Edgar explored his mantra at various levels. For example, if something upsetting or devastating occurred nearby—if he was threatened, robbed, or beaten up, or faced any other stressful circumstance—he made do with the first three: “Breathe, Observe, Let Go.” With more time on his hand, he would explore the deeper implications of each of these injunctions, and they always brought him inner equanimity, no matter how harsh the external circumstances. From that equanimity, he gradually developed the ability to act with wisdom, compassion, and serene competence, no matter what the circumstances. When he was hungry, he would join his palms and politely ask people for food, and if rudely rebuffed, he smiled and moved on—no matter how hungry he felt.
Soon enough, his unremitting gentleness and equanimity gained him adherents—people who would take care of him, sharing whatever food they had. Others gathered to hear him teach, and his teachings always began with, and spun off, his Mantra. Soon, the mantra caught on. And as the general level of equanimity increased, the level of violence decreased, as people sought cooperative ways to solve their steadily growing problems.
Out of all this, the Gaia Movement was born. And the “seed” of the Gaia movement was Edgar’s mantra, which came to be called the “Dharma Gaia Mantra.” The Gaians—whose ethos involved total self-identification with the entire planet—did not regard anyone as their enemies; they saw all life as holy, and if they encountered violence, they treated it as evidence of the three poisons—greed, ignorance, and hatred—and saw themselves as “teachers” and the perpetrators of violence—even violence against them—as their “students.” By spreading openness and tolerance and compassion everywhere they went, they won adherents even of those who initially denounced or ridiculed them, and soon were teaching people how to collaborate in order to solve their growing problems, both locally and globally. And it was all based on their practice—in every conceivable circumstance—of the Dharma Gaia Mantra. This was the sum total of their teaching—and because it involved no mandatory beliefs, it was fully compatible with every religious tradition on the planet. So soon there were Gaian Christians, Gaian Jews, Gaian Buddhists, Gaian Muslims, Gaian Hindus, and secular Gaians everywhere, as the terminal Cancer of the Earth went gradually into Spontaneous Remission.