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ARC's speech at First World Buddhist Conference: in English

Presented on April 15 2006:

All monasteries use paper, energy, transport and food: but is the paper eco-friendly? Is the energy renewable? Is the transport kept to a minimum and are the foodstuffs free of chemical sprays? And is the monastery itself a model of ecology so that local people can learn from it?

Compassion for Nature and Society

Presented by Dr. He, project manager for ARC's Chinese programmes

Link here for this speech in Chinese

Mr Palmer wishes me to convey his warmest congratulations to the Forum, and his deep regrets that due to unforeseen circumstances, he is unable to be present today. Now please let me deliver this speech in Chinese on behalf of Mr. Palmer.

I would like to begin by honouring the Buddhist Association of China and the Chinese Association of Religious and Cultural Exchange for this innovative Forum. In a world of troubles, the compassionate nature of Buddhism has never been more needed.

The Lotus Sutra paints a wonderful picture of the compassionate nature of a Bodhisattva seeking seeks to save "all sentient beings" from the wheel of rebirth and karma. Similarly, in the Jataka stories we hear of how the Buddha had many incarnations before he was a prince, including an elephant, a rabbit and a monkey. From these and other teachings, we learn that one of the most fundamental elements of Buddhism is the care and protection of all life on earth, not just of people.

So what can Buddhists actually do?

Link here for the Chinese version of this presentation.
First, Buddhists can help to strip away illusion. There are many illusions. There is the illusion that we can exploit this fragile world and not pay the cost; there is the illusion that material property is the only worthwhile goal; there is the illusion that human communities can exist without regard to the communities of animals, plants, rocks, rivers and mountains who live beside them. By recognising the true nature of these illusions, Buddhists can restore a holistic vision of our world and our responsibilities.

Secondly, Buddhists can set an example in protecting species. For example, traditional Chinese medicine plays a significant role in looking after sick people in China and it has also become popular around the world. However, some unscrupulous people use the body parts of endangered species such as tigers or rhinoceroses to make their so-called medicine. This creates a problem for Buddhists, because a medicine designed to harmonise the vital forces in the body, but which itself destroys the harmonious balance of nature, cannot by definition be good medicine. In fact it will instead bring karmic retribution for the bad things it is doing. Buddhists in China need to tell people about this – and this way they can encourage responsible use of resources for Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Thirdly, Buddhists can look at their own resources. Many monasteries own land. But is this farmed ecologically and organically? If not, maybe it can be changed. Many monasteries are on sacred mountains. But do they help protect these mountains – for example by creating tree nurseries or by clearing rubbish from the hillsides? If not, then perhaps this can be changed.

All monasteries use paper, energy, transport and food: but is the paper eco-friendly? Is the energy renewable? Is the transport kept to a minimum and are the foodstuffs free of chemical sprays? And is the monastery itself a model of ecology so that local people can learn from it? Is it built from renewable resources? Is it ecological in its use of gardens and water, and does it have an eco-friendly car park? If not, then perhaps these things can be changed as well.

Finally, Buddhists are teachers. As we all know, that is a major role of the sangha. So, can we create environmental educational projects? Can we, for example, make leaflets for pilgrims to take home, to teach them how to look after nature? Or can we run special day courses for local farmers or business-people, on how to live as good Buddhists for the environment?

The Alliance of Religions and Conservation is willing to help on all these levels. We already have projects with Buddhists in Mongolia, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Nepal, India and China. So we can help find partners for you to work with your own knowledge, networks and spiritual authority to help save sentient lives on earth, starting with your own communities. If you would like more information, please let me know.

Also, for a number of years we have been discussing a way of helping to make one of the sacred Buddhist Mountains of China a model for how other sacred mountains could be protected. We believe that now is the right time to move forward with you on this, and we therefore would like to be in contact with those of you who are responsible for these sacred mountains, to see how we can work together. Please come and talk to me during this Forum, and let us together make this one of the practical outcomes of this astonishing event.

When Buddha was born, his mother stood on earth, supported by a tree. Then when many years later the Buddha wanted testimony to his enlightened state, he sat beneath the Bodhi tree and touched the earth with his hand. Let us too, touch the earth and help support the trees. Let us be the eyes and hands of Compassion to all life on Earth.

Thank you.

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April 15 2006:
ARC's speech at First World Buddhist Conference: in Chinese
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