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Buddhadharma : Winter 2008
buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly winter 2 0 08 40 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly winter 2 0 08 40 Our individual predicament corresponds precisely to our ecological pre- dicament today. Human civilization is a collective construction, which has led to a collective sense of separation from the natural world, a sense of alienation that causes dukkha. Our response to that alienation has been a collective obsession with securing or “grounding” ourselves technologically and economically. But no matter how much we consume or how much we dominate nature, it can never be enough, because the basic problem is not insufficient wealth or power, but the alienation we feel from the Earth. We cannot “return to nature” because we have never really left it. We need to wake up and realize that the Earth is our mother as well as our home—and that in this case, the umbilical cord binding us to her can never be severed. In the face of such global problems as the greenhouse effect, indi- vidual organizations and single nations are helpless. Unless we all work together, no solution can be found. Our mother earth is teaching us a lesson in universal responsibility. —The Fourteenth Dalai Lama, from Collected Statements on the Environment, 2007 Given the failure of our economic and political systems, today’s religions have a special responsibility to foster a new collective worldview. This is an opportunity for religions to rise to the challenge in a way that no other institutions seem able to do. To accomplish this, religions need to learn more about talking to and learning from each other. How can they do that unless different groups within each religion first communicate effectively? The worldwide eco-crisis challenges us as Buddhists to work together and to learn from each other in order to respond appropriately. By clarifying the essential dharma of the Buddha, inherent in its diverse cultural forms, we can strengthen its vital core message for this pivotal time. Although Buddhist institutions—like other religious institutions—tend to be conservative, the Buddhist emphasis on impermanence and insubstantiality implies an openness and receptivity to new possibilities that we certainly need now. If the various Buddhist traditions were to gather to draft a joint response to the climate emergency, what an inspiring example Buddhism would provide to the other world religions. We believe that this time of extraordinary crisis calls for an international conference that will bring together leaders from all the Buddhist traditions to consider such a collective response. The urgency of our situation may also imply a Buddhist Council—something that has happened only six times Tsoknyi Rinpoche: A root concern for the environ- ment (no) is already in our prayers. It is part of Bud- dhism, in the teaching of interdependent origination. Lamas have traditionally balanced the elements in the environment by building stupas, planting treasure vases, blessing the land with rabney ceremonies, raising prayer flags, mak- ing tsa tsas, etc. We have worked hard in this way, from the time of King Ashoka and Lord Buddha. Now no has taken on a new meaning and we are facing a modern, sophis- ticated challenge. Before, imbalances in the environ- ment were due to natural causes. Now major environ- mental problems are being created by humankind itself. It takes some time to understand the causative factors fully. Averting global warming will require new education and new under- standing. We will need new prayers. I am sure, after we fully understand the issues, Buddhists will come to the forefront and work not only on the spiritual level, but also on new, physical solutions.