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Buddhadharma : Winter 2008
41 winter 2 00 8 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly 41 winter 2 00 8 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly previously in the history of Buddhism. The first Buddhist Council took place in Rajagaha soon after the parinirvana of the Buddha, according to the Pali Canon; the sixth occurred in Rangoon (Yangon) in 1954. Since few Buddhist leaders are experts in climatology, the proposed meeting could begin with an overview of the most recent data and its implications, presented by respected scientists who would also be able to suggest a variety of possible responses. The rest of the time would be devoted to intensive discussions among the participants, sharing Buddhist perspectives on this critical moment and working toward an understand- ing that would include joint recommendations for how the worldwide Buddhist community might respond. Our unity would offer a powerful example to other religious traditions. Perhaps we could all then join in an effort to counterbalance the economic forces that have dominated and sidetracked the debate so far. In proposing an international meeting of Buddhists, we have already begun preliminary discussions with major Tibetan lineage holders, includ- ing Thrangu Rinpoche, Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche, Ringu Tulku Rinpoche, Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche, and Tsoknyi Rinpoche. The response has been very positive. As well, we are reaching out to Theravada, Zen, and Pure Land teachers and their organizations in Asia and the West. We are pro- posing that the meeting be convened next year, leading up to the United Nations Climate Change Conference in December 2009, which is expected to adopt a treaty that will succeed the Kyoto Protocol. Whether such a gathering is to be considered an international conference or a Buddhist Council, it is important that the various Buddhist traditions have an opportunity to meet and consider our collective situation carefully. All the previous councils assembled to affirm and preserve the dharma and Vinaya, but today’s crisis calls for something radically different. Instead of turning inward and focusing on clarifying the buddhadharma itself, Bud- dhist teachers need to turn outward and ask how the buddhadharma can help us to understand and respond to our planetary emergency. The environmental crisis is also a crisis for Buddhism, not because Bud- dhism will suffer if human civilization suffers, but because Buddhism is the religion most directly concerned with the alleviation of suffering—the duk- kha of all living beings. Buddhism has something distinctive to contribute at this crucial time, when humanity needs to marshal the best of what it has learned over the course of its history. We need new kinds of bodhisattvas who vow to save not only individual beings, but also the life-support sys- tems and suffering species of a threatened biosphere. Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche: When we call this the degenerate age or the age of dregs, we mean this is a time when sentient beings are not easily sati- ated. They are not modest in their wishes. So they do a lot of business in order to benefit themselves. They make a lot of pollution to do business and gather wealth. They do not gather that wealth for the benefit of the whole of society, but for their own individual benefit. In doing so, they pollute the ground, the water, and the air. It creates a problem for the whole world. It is all really due to our greed. “Degenerate age” arises from the strong negative emotions we have. This is something you should think about carefully. Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche: The capitalist economy and attendant consumer- ism that dominate first world cultures breed a compulsive feeling that we don’t have enough, even when our closets are full of everything and anything. That is the effect of half a century of television advertising. What Buddhist teachers and practitioners can do now is demonstrate how we can break away from that kind of culture. It’s going to take some strength, because we too can be quite immersed in consumerism. It’s going to take inner discipline to break from it and choose a lifestyle of minimum needs and maximum content- ment. Now this is crucial to understand, for many reasons, including the health and integrity of our own mindstream. If we can- not accomplish it, progress on the spiritual path will be difficult.