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.


Martin Ehrensvärd said...

Way to go! How lovely to hear these words from the mouth of the Karmapa.

Anonymous said...

- Planet's sufferings & causes by Karmapa:

Anonymous said...

The Passing of His Holiness the
XIth Mindrolling Trichen

Anonymous said...

Tai Situ Rinpoche on a stupa in San Francisco:

Anonymous said...

Garchen Rinpoche:

Anonymous said...

National.Geographic;Light At The Edge Of The World:Himalayas Science Of The Mind, featuring H.H.Trulshik Rinpoche and Matthieu Ricard:

46 min.s

Anonymous said...

I have been around this Karmapa a lot and he is truly a great being. I have no doubt he is Guru Rinpche in person.

I am so happy that at only 23 years old he is making changes in the world. He really is going to be huge.

Karmapa Khyenno!

Anonymous said...


Karmapa Kheynno, Karmapa Kheynno,
Karmapa Khey Kheynno.

Anonymous said...

It is heartening to be made aware of the 17th Karmapa's deep environmental consciousness. His observations on the plundering of forests by some Tibetan monasteries in India are both factual and courageous. Comparing various monasteries where i've spent time, it does seem that the Karma Kagyus have a case to answer. When i resided at Sherabling in the seventies and early eighties the loyal Tibetan male retainers would think nothing of chopping down established trees everytime firewood was needed. Yet apparently the nearby Tashi Jong monastery had a 'gobar gas' system, relying on fuel from cow dung.

Once, I knew the workmen were eyeing off a tree in front of my hut at Sherabling. So i pinned a picture of White Tara on the trunk. It worked for a while, but as soon as I departed for a few days, that tree got the chop! When i tried to raise the issue of how the forest was being razed with Situ Rinpoche, he scoffed at me, "You think you're here to save the Himalyas!". This is an absolutely true story.

But the most conspicuous illustration of Tibetan Buddhist arrogance towards the environment would have to be the skyscraper-high Maitreya stupa at Bodh Gaya. I haven't seen it but the informed descriptions of the damage to the water table and the leaching of resources needed by the desperately poor local villagers just screams of the promotion of religion at any cost.

Western Buddhists should be impassioned by His Holiness Karmara's convictions. There's no need to sacrifice your eco-awareness for spiritual knowledge -even when you're hanging out in the Gompas of India & Nepal. The two principles can abide harmoniously as both are motivated by the sustainment of sentient and natural life forms.

This is not to suggest Asian communities need anymore white colonial imperialist trips laid on them. Nobody likes a preacher. But now that Karmapa has spoken out, perhaps the Tibetans in particular will be more open to learning about environmental realities. 'We don't inherit the earth from our parents, we borrow it from our children'.

Anonymous said...

We can also reduce the meat in our diet and/or becoming more mindful:

HH 17th Karmapa asks centres, monasteries to go vegetarian:


Drubwang Rinpoche: Why Buddhists should be vegetarian:


Kyabje Chatral Sangye Dorje Rinpoche:

Anonymous said...

Well,well Kerrie sounds you haven't changed ...vaguely remember a time of passionate tree hugging at that place...with Norma and Graham in the lead and your White Tara picture...have not been back since but it is a huge monastic compound now with thousands of monks who were't going to camp under a tree..suppose it all depends on motivation...let's go back there and plant some trees...sure to create a stir....Karmapa Khyeno.