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17th Karmapa holds Buddhist Environment Conference

March 30, 2009:

The 17th Karmapa, Ogyen Drodul Trinley Dorje holds up his new books. From the Kagyu Office website.

The 17th Karmapa, Ogyen Drodul Trinley Dorje, hosted the first ever Conference on Environmental Protection for Kagyu Monasteries and Centres last week, in a move that could lead to increased environmental awareness throughout the Himalayas.

The conference at Vajra Vidhya Institute in Saranath, between March 21-25, 2009, was attended by representatives from 26 Buddhist monasteries in India, Nepal and Bhutan. Sikkim-born Deki Chungyalpa, from WWF-USA, was the conference facilitator. One of its outcomes was the announcement of the Karmapa's intention to publish 108 Things to Protect the Environment - some of which were inspired by the Eight Year Plan that ARC is helping the Mongolian Buddhists create. The list of "108 Things" was published in July 2008.

The Karmapa, who has shown a passion for environmental protection since he was a young teenager, made an address explaining the importance and the goals of the conference as well as the relationship between the environment and Buddhism.

It was also the opportunity to launch a new 24-page book, titled Environmental Guidelines for Karma Kagyu Buddhist Monasteries, Centers and Community and published in Chinese, Tibetan and English, to explain the importance of caring for the environment to his followers, and give some practical advice on how to do so.

“During the time of the Buddha, the monastic community lived carefully and frugally and nothing was wasted. I have read that when new robes were offered to the monks, the old robes were used to cover their cushions and mattresses. When those covers wore out, the cloth was used as dusters and finally when even that wore out it was mixed with clay and used to plaster the walls.”

The Environment Handbook includes a special painting of a river flowing through a landcscape full of animals, helped to be beautiful by humans teaching compassion, being mindful of waste, and not shooting needlessly.
The Karmapa recommended Buddhists following the Buddha’s example of following a middle way – “our lifestyle should be neither too hard nor overly indulgent.”

Some of the potential pathways to this include simple changes to behaviour and priorities:

• Planting native trees to restore forests around monasteries on degraded lands or with degraded community lands nearby.

• Protecting existing forests from being over-harvested.

• Educating communities about the capacity of grasslands in high altitude areas.

• Protecting nearby water sources by preventing pollution and discouraging local communities to dump their rubbish.

• Helping local farmers create vegetation buffers between farm fields and rivers by planting trees and grasses to filter out the toxic substances from water before it reaches rivers and canals.

• Promoting No Hunting Zones.

The Mongolian Buddhists have created an eight-year plan and their own handbook to environment protection. Link here for more details.
• Prohibiting wearing ornamental fur from endangered animals.

• Discouraging traditional remedies that use illegal animal products.

• Using fewer things, reuse what you have, recycle what you can’t reuse.

• Being models for composting, and inspire others to do the same.

• Designing energy efficient buildings: concrete and marble in cold climates are impractical – instead use proper insulation, allowing natural light and with particular tree species planted around to keep warmer in winter and cooler in summer.

• Eat less meat, encouraging “individuals to cultivate compassion for all living things and lighten the load that the Earth already carries.”

The main goals of the conference were identified as being: • To train senior monks from Kagyu monasteries on environmental issues in the Himalayan and the Tibetan plateau.

• To develop environmental activities addressing these issues that monasteries could implement.

• To develop preliminary work-plans for these projects and set up a process to carry them out.

In the forward to his book, Ogyen Drodul Trinley Dorge writes that the challenge of climate change “is far more complex and extensive than anything we alone can tackle. However, if we can all contribute a single drop of clean water, those drops will accumulate into a fresh pond, then a clear stream, and eventually a vast pure ocean. That is my aspiration.”


The Mongolian Buddhists, with ARC and the World Bank, have created an Eight-year plan and their own handbook to protecting the environment. Link here for more details.

Other news from the Office of the Karmapa.

Interview with Ogyen Drodul Trinley Dorge in The Times, March 2009.

The full Environmental Guidelines booklet. This is a 1.9 MB document.

More details about further Conference on Environmental Protection proceedings for Kagyu Monasteries and Centers.

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MONGOLIA: Buddhists and Environment Handbook
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