Buddhists in China issue two major environment agreements
May 8 2006:
|“The most extraordinary thing is that after delivering my speech, while I was still sitting onstage listening to other people, a very old venerable monk came to the stage with his walking stick. At first I was confused why this master should be walking towards me -this is very unusual in China as nobody is allowed to walk onto a stage during such a conference - and then I heard him say how wonderful ARC's speech had been. Because it was so sudden I forgot to ask his name but just thanked him deeply for his encouragement.” Dr He Xiaoxin
A groundbreaking Buddhist conference in China has issued two major agreements encouraging Buddhists to take practical steps to protect the environment.
Following on partly from their attendance at the Northern Buddhist Alliance meeting in Mongolia last year – organised by ARC and the Mongolian Buddhist communities and funded by the World Bank and the Netherlands Government – organisers of the First World Buddhist Forum decided to place the environment high on the agenda for their April 2006 meeting.
So important was ARC's involvement that not only were we asked to make the keynote speech on the environment, and to guide their thinking on this part of the programme, but they were also inspired to invite our founder Prince Philip to write a letter of encouragement to the Forum.
In the letter he welcomed the enormous step that the Buddhists were making in their environmental thinking, and he also offered ARC’s support in helping Buddhist communities to turn significant teachings into profound actions.
“This follows many years of discussion and collaboration with the Buddhists of China,” said ARC’s secretary general Martin Palmer. “It builds on the Northern Alliance of Buddhists meeting in Mongolia, which the World Bank sponsored, and it also builds on our pioneering work that has already been done with the Daoists in China.”
The First World Buddhist Forum was held from 13th to 16th April 2006 in the beautiful city of Hangzhou, near Shanghai. There were more than 1,000 delegates – both Buddhist and non-Buddhist - of whom some 500 came from outside Mainland China, meaning that this was the biggest conference on Buddhism in China since the communists came to power in 1949.
The forum, with its theme that “A harmonious world begins in the mind” was co-hosted by the Buddhist Association of China and the Chinese Association of Religious and Cultural Exchange.
ARC's speech inspires many
ARC’s keynote speech was presented by Dr He Xiaoxin, our project manager for China. It focused on the issues of:
• Protecting people from illusion;
• Protecting species;
• Ecological use of land, sacred mountains, energy etc.
• Creating educational projects.
The full text is available on this website in English and Chinese.
Our presentation focused less on theory than on action, raising issues on how Buddhists can get involved in practical and educational projects for conservation for our natural world.
Dr Xiaoxin reported: “The most extraordinary thing is that after delivering my speech, while I was still sitting onstage listening to other people, a very old venerable monk came to the stage with his walking stick. At first I was confused why this master should be walking towards me -this is very unusual in China as nobody is allowed to walk onto a stage during such a conference - and then I heard him say how wonderful ARC's speech had been. Because it was so sudden I forgot to ask his name but just thanked him deeply for his encouragement.”
Many people also asked for the text of the speech, in order to upload it to their websites.
On the last day, the forum agreed a manifesto – to be called the Putuoshan Manifesto after the mountain on which the Boddhisatva Guanyin is said to live. The manifesto, on the theme of universal peace, addressed the environmental crisis directly. It also acknowledged that Buddhists should take individual and group responsibility for a harmonious society.
In addition, three days later on April 19, a second agreement was reached between Buddhist leaders, which emphasised the importance of environmental protection. It advocated bringing Buddhist teaching and ecological issues together to achieve a harmonious world.
“Overall, I believe ARC made a unique contribution to the forum, by encouraging practical and educational projects within Buddhist communities,” Dr He said.
One direct outcome from attending the meeting is that we have made contact with a nunnery on the sacred mountain of Wutaishan, whose abbess is keen to help develop its landholdings as a model of sacred Buddhist land management in China. Initial plans for collaboration include developing ecologically-sustainable social housing for old people and planting organic Chinese herbs.
LINKS: The First World Buddhist Forum website.
Buddhism on Line
- the biggest website on Buddhism in China.
ARC’s speech in Chinese.
ARC’s speech in English.