4th Khoryug Conference on Environmental Protection for Tibetan Buddhist Monasteries, Nunneries and Dharma Centres
5th - 9th June -Norbulingka Institute, Dharamsala
FIRST HAND ACCOUNT
Given the focus of this year's conference, it seemed appropriate that, as the delegates gathered in the grounds of the Norbulingka Institute to await the arrival of His Holiness the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa, the temperature was climbing steadily to 42 degrees. This year, Dharamsala has experienced both unusually severe winter conditions, with snow filling the Kangra Valley for the first time in fifty years, and unusually high summer temperatures. It is a reminder to everyone present that we are now living with climate change impacts.
Celebrating World Environment Day, His Holiness the 17th Karmapa and the Honorable Speaker of the Tibetan Parliament launched the 4th Khoryug Conference on Environmental Protection for Tibetan Buddhist Monasteries, which will focus on Biodiversity, Climate Change and Natural Disaster Preparedness.
The aims of the conference are to both educate monks and nuns in environmental science, and to develop self-reliance within Buddhist institutions, so that in the face of climate change and natural disasters they have a pre-prepared plan and are able to function as leaders within the community.
After prayers for the auspiciousness of the gathering, the Gyalwang Karmapa opened the conference by saying "Preserving the biodiversity and the ecosystems of our region should be like the effortless practice of dharma for us. Our basic motivation to protect the environment should come from the pure desire to benefit all sentient beings on earth since without the environment, there can be no life." The delegates from over 45 different monastic institutions listened intently to His Holiness' speech and to the guest of honor, Mr Penpa Tsering, Speaker of the Tibetan Assembly.
The conference facilitator, Dekila Chungyalpa, director of the WWF Sacred Earth Program, based in Washington DC, gave the first presentation, illustrated by slides, on the concepts of biodiversity, ecosystem, ecosystem services and tipping point. Taking them one by one, she explained what they were, their importance, and how they are inter-related and how we are affected. One of the workshop goals is to demonstrate how to see nature as whole systems, she said, paralleling the holistic approach which is fundamental to Buddhist philosophy. Finally, she presented an overview and update of threats to biodiversity and the impact of climate change, two topics which will be dealt with in greater detail over the coming days.
The afternoon session was devoted to feedback from the various monastic institutions present, detailing what they had been doing in the past year to further environmental protection. This is an important function of Khoryug conferences since it provides a monitoring and evaluation framework for the projects that the monasteries undertake. Projects range from the truly impressive including thousands native trees planted in degraded watersheds to the humble where many monasteries put aside a day in the month to clean their community and town areas. Some representatives share the difficulties that they face including the disinterest among their community members in keeping their environment clean and hygienic, and or mixed reforestation results. Others share their unique experiences in achieving success and finding out that their organic farms have made them close to completely self-sufficient for fresh produce.
5th June - Dharamsala, Norbulingkha
Celebrating World Environment Day, His Holiness the 17th Karmapa and the Honorable Speaker of the Tibetan Parliament launched the 4th Khoryug Conference on Environmental Protection for Tibetan Buddhist Monasteries. The five-day conference will focus on biodiversity, climate change, and natural disaster preparedness, and is attended by over sixty representatives from forty-five monasteries from across the Himalayas and South Asia.
The goals of the conference are to provide environmental education on biodiversity and climate change, and to train the monastic representatives to learn climate adaptation strategies and to develop disaster preparedness plans for their monasteries. The conference is organized by Rangjung Khoryug Sungkyob Tsokpa, an association of Buddhist monasteries working to protect the environment of the Himalayas and South Asia, which is chaired by His Holiness the 17th Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje. Parnter NGOs such as the Centre of Environmental Education, the Wildlife Trust of India, the World Wildlife Fund, and the Environment and Development Desk from the Central Tibetan Administration, are also present to train the monastic environmental representatives.
His Holiness the Karmapa opened the 4th Khoryug conference by stating that the Tibetan Plateau is not only of great importance to the people of Tibet and the Himalayas but to the entire world since it is the main source of water for many Asian countries. He said, "We should all try our hardest to protect the Tibetan Plateau and the Himalayas and preserve these ecosystems. Preserving the biodiversity and the ecosystems of our region should be like the effortless practice of dharma for us. Our basic motivation to protect the environment should come from the pure desire to benefit all sentient beings on earth."
He was followed by the Honorable Pempa Tsering, the Tibetan Speaker of Parliament, who commended His Holiness the Karmapa's vision in providing this kind of training for Buddhist monks and nuns. He said, "We are at a dangerous point where environmental problems can really harm life on earth. Everybody recognizes the importance of environmental issues and the need for cooperation." He went on to discuss the great benefit Tibet's ecology provides for all the countries adjoining it, including India, Bangladesh, Burma, and Laos. If the ecology was to break down, he said, we would see a wave of environmental refugees that would eclipse all the refugees we have today. Therefore, he urged that the gathered Khoryug monasteries to build bridges with everyone in and outside their societies to protect the environment.
His Holiness the Karmapa established Rangjung Khoryug Sungkyop Tsokpa after the 1st Conference on Environmental Protection of the Himalayas for Karma Kagyu monasteries in 2009, when the gathered monasteries requested concerted training and organization for their activities. His Holiness also directed the production of the Environmental Guidelines for Karma Kagyu Monasteries and Centers, which has been translated into more than ten languages and the 108 Things You Can Do, which are simple instructions for individuals and monastic centers to benefit the environment.
Many of the monks and nuns expressed their experiences with drought, flash floods, and earthquakes which have recently occurred in their location. Providing practical training of what to do during a natural disaster and how to be resilient afterwards is of great benefit, they said.
27th May - Dharamsala, Gaggal airport.
The Gyalwang Karmapa received His Holiness the Dalai Lama at Gaggal airport today, the Dalai Lama returned to his home in exile after receiving the Templeton prize, the largest annual monetary award given to an individual, for his work in encouraging scientific research and harmony among religions; the latter being one of the Dalai Lama's three main commitments. Beginning his tour from London, His Holiness the Dalai Lama had met with British Prime Minister David Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.
26th May - Dharamsala, Gyuto.
Indian football icon and former captain, Baichung Bhutia visited His Holiness Karmapa at his residence. Baichung was accompanied by former New Zealand footballer Tim Brown.
21 May,2012 - Dharamsala
The Gyalwang Karmapa held a special audience with more than 200 students, staff and Western volunteers, from the nearby Spiti Hostel, a boarding facility providing accommodation for young men and women from the Himalayan regions of Lahaul-Spiti in Himachal Pradesh and Zanskar in Jammu-Kashmir. In the main, the young people are post-16 years old students in local schools and colleges.
After welcoming them all warmly, the Gyalwang Karmapa spoke of the profound bond of religion, culture and even customs, which links people across the Himalaya.
First of all, he reminded the students that they had the opportunity not only to pursue their own goals and ambitions through higher education but also to make an impact on their own communities as well as society at large. Thus, he warned, they needed to reflect carefully on their motivation at each step of the way, because their motivation would influence both their direction and the kind of impact they would make.
Secondly, he talked about their relationship with the world as a whole and all living beings. From the Buddhist point of view, he said, this world in which we exist, as we perceive and experience it, is the result of the collective karma of all sentient beings who live in it. Human beings possess a unique intelligence and discernment but are not justified in arrogantly controlling all other forms of life or dictating what course the world should take. On the contrary, the Buddhadharma teaches us to adopt an attitude of service rather than dominance. It is only when we wish to serve that we will truly appreciate our human potential and the special contribution we can make to the world.
Thirdly, Gyalwang Karmapa focused on how the students should bring the fundamental truths of Buddhism to bear on their daily lives. This is extremely important, commented His Holiness, because the basis of suffering is our lack of understanding of how things really are. Rather than being unrelated to our everyday lives, a subject for scholarly, philosophical discourse or difficult for ordinary people to understand, Buddhist teachings are a matter of common sense, supported by things we can observe very easily day-to-day. For example, if we examine the teaching on interdependence we will see that it is self-evident in our daily life. Similarly, the truth of impermanence is not a philosophical concept that we have to establish through argument; it is what occurs daily in our life. Or with regard to our precious human existence: that we need to cherish it and put it to good use is self-evident, and true whether you are religious or not. Thus, it is important to realise that the Buddhadharma is pervasive and has practical and immediate relevance in our ordinary, everyday lives.
Gyalwang Karmapa concluded his talk with some comments on the current environmental crisis. These days we can no longer defend actions, which damage the environment by claiming that we didn't know, he said. Indeed, nowadays it's more a case of information overload. The problem is that people do not act on the information; they somehow feel that it does not concern them. This is what needs to be addressed.
Following the talk, the staff and students offered khatas to His Holiness, and then gathered on the temple steps for a group photo.
21 May,2012 - Dharamsala
The Karmapa Office of Administration is very happy to confirm that the name of His Holiness the Karmapa has now been officially dropped from the charge made against him.
His Holiness the Karmapa's position as a exemplary spiritual leader has never been more evident than during this trying period. His tranquility and focus has been steadfast, and his total faith in the fairness of the Indian judicial system remains unshaken.
Upon receiving the welcome news, His Holiness the Karmapa said, "I am happy that the charges has been laid to rest by the Himachal Pradesh Government and through the judicial procedure of democratic India. I am very grateful to the Government of India for giving me and hundreds of thousands of Tibetans asylum in this great country in our time of need. India has been my home for almost half of my life. Upholding the integrity of the historic relationship of our two countries is of utmost importance to me."
The deputy General Secretary for the Karmapa Office of Administration, Karma Chungyalpa, said, "we have maintained all along that the allegations against His Holiness were baseless. His Holiness has never been involved in financial administration or monetary matters as is true for all great spiritual masters. We are very relieved today and thank the Himachal Pradesh Government and court for this very judicious decision. We also express our deep gratitude to the many well wishers who have supported His Holiness during this ordeal."
2 May,2012 - Dharamsala
The Gyalwang Karmapa along with Indresh Kumar, a prominent Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangha(RSS) leader and Gyari Dolma, Home Minister of the Central Tibetan Administration attended a daylong programme on Buddhism ,World Peace and Danger on Himalaya "Bodh Dharma - Vishva Shanti " organised by the Himalaya Pariwar (Himachal Pradesh) in lower Dharamshala town hall.
Kalon Gyari Dolma briefed the gathering on the ongoing critical situation inside Tibet and appealed for continued support from the delegates for the Tibetan cause.
The RSS leader Indresh Kumar said Tibet was never a part of China and denounced the ongoing violation of basic human rights inside Tibet.
His Holiness Gyalwang Karmpa, in his address noted the same culture that Tibetans and Indians in the Himalayan regions have historically shared.
"Both Indian Himalayans and Tibetans are part of the great Himalayas and historically we have shared a good relationship," Karmapa said.
"Since Tibet lost its independence, the Dalai Lama and along with him many Tibetan took refuge here in the Himalayan state of Himachal Pradesh, which has kindly hosted exile Tibetan administration and been the second home for many Tibetans and also become a platform where we preserve our culture and tradition, i hope this deep and holy relationship lasts for centuries to come " Gyalwang Karmapa said while acknowledging the hospitality of the state.
Vice Chancellor of the Himachal Pradesh University, A. D. N. Bajpai, and heads of local Tibetan NGOs also attended the daylong congregation.
The Himalaya Pariwar is a regional grassroot organisation aimed at helping the people in the Himalayan Region to overcome the challenges of communalism, regionalism, poverty and unemployment.
18 April,2012 - Dharamsala
At a special ceremony this morning, the 17th Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje officially opened Gyuto Monastery's new library and presented certificates to four monks who had successfully completed their studies for the degree of Geshe Ngakrampa.
Samdhong Rinpoche, former Prime Minister of the Tibetan Central Administration, Tulku Tenzin Jampa Choesang Rinpoche, the Abbot of Gyuto Monastery, and Mr Pema Choejor, Minister for Religious Affairs, all attended the ceremony.
In a short address, Gyalwang Karmapa referred back to comments His Holiness the Dalai Lama had made during the recent Kalachakra teachings in Bodhgaya. The Dalai Lama had chided his followers for always asking him to give Buddhist teachings but never taking the initiative themselves to study the Buddha's teachings directly from the old books of the Tibetan Buddhist canon (the Kangyur and Tengyur), which sat gathering dust on the shelves of Tibetan libraries. Surveying the newly-finished library, the Karmapa wryly admitted that he too sometimes shared this view.
After the conclusion of the ceremony, Gyuto Monastery offered all the guests a specially prepared lunch.
16 April,2012 - Dharamsala
His Holiness Gyalwang Karmapa visited the Tibetan Transit School (TTS) in Dharamsala, northern India, on April 16. He inaugurated a giant mani prayer wheel and addressed staff and students.
Speaking at the Tibetan Transit School His Holiness urged the students to turn their "home sickness, worries, and sadness" into strength through hard work and dedication.
"We all are same," Gyalwang Karmapa told the students, who are recent arrivals from Tibet. "We all came from Tibet. We all have worries, sadness and maybe same aim too. I can understand you all well."
"You have to turn your worries into your strength. You have to focus on your long term goals and study hard," the Tibetan spiritual leader said.
Referring to the ongoing wave of self-immolations in Tibet, Gyalwang Karmapa asserted that Tibetans, in addition to understanding the situation in Tibet, should also understand the global situation.
"Since 2008, protests in Tibet have been going on and many have burned themselves in protest against the Chinese government," Gyalwang Karmapa said.
"Without understanding the whole situation of the world; economic, political and military, actions arising only out of a surge in emotions will not work."
The giant prayer wheel constructed by the students in honour of the 34 Tibetans who have set themselves on fire demanding the return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama from exile and freedom in Tibet.
This was the Gyalwang Karmapa's third visit to the school.
HH Gyalwa Karmapa
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