Monday, February 11, 2008
The XVII Karmapa on the Environment
The following is an excerpt from a talk by the XVII Karmapa that can be found on the marvelous website Ecological Buddhism which I encourage everyone to visit and pass on.
These days, temperatures around the world have drastically changed, which has created a great danger for the world itself. In olden times, we Kagyupas would stay only in remote mountain retreats in caves or stone huts—pleasant retreats—and there was no need to do such work as excavating the ground, cutting a lot of trees, or quarrying. But later, whether it was their increasing activity to benefit beings and the teachings, or whether it was because, as the saying goes, "The more you meditate on Mahamudra, the more active you become"—Mahamudra mediators got too busy. Those who were supposed to be following the path of the Practice Lineage in the high, rocky, snowy places could not manage to do that. They came down into the valleys, and it became necessary to build many monasteries.
Nowadays, many Kagyu monasteries say, "We’re making a new monastic building" and without any compunction cut down all the trees or forests that grew naturally around the site. This can create great harm for the environment. Some monasteries are even selling timber from forests behind the monastery. When we do that, we don’t know what harm we are creating now, but it creates problems for the whole environment a few years later. When the so-called essence of the earth, the essence of the place, is harmed, this causes great harm to the environment, and then we think, “Oh, no! What did we do?” But if we only think about it later, it’s too late. It takes twenty or thirty years to grow a single tree; it doesn’t grow as soon as we plant it.
For that reason, we need to understand clearly in all our monasteries in India, Nepal, and Tibet that if we are unable to conceive of all sentient beings throughout limitless space, that’s not so important. But we live on this Earth, and everyone can see it. If our Earth is destroyed by climate change, there won’t be any of us Kagyupas left. There won’t be any Karma Kamtsang. We’ll all be lost. It’s not the case that our Dharma protectors and Mahakala Bernakchen will save us; that the rest of the world will be destroyed and only we will be left. That won’t happen. That’s why we need to protect the environment. We should provide education in the monasteries about how to do so. We should not just always dig and build, but also do something to protect the environment. The sutras and tantras say that keeping monasteries and sacred places clean has immeasurable benefits. It is the same with the Earth: the Earth is in great danger and it needs our care, so we should try to help protect the environment for all the beings in the world. Even if we can’t do anything else, it is not too difficult to explain the basic things we need to do to protect the world. You should educate people about this and say, “This is how it is.” Whether we are members of the sangha or lay people, if we take interest in protecting the environment every single day, it will be very good.
Posted by pensum at 2/11/2008