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Gyalwang Karmapa Delivers Inaugural Address to Environmental Section at Global Buddhist Congregation

November 28, 2011- Park Hotel, Delhi

His Holiness the Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, today delivered the inaugural address at the Global Buddhist Congregation’s section on “Environment and the Natural World.” Opening the daylong session, the Gyalwang Karmapa addressed a packed hall of hundreds of delegates gathered from 32 countries around the world. The Gyalwang Karmapa will also attend the closing ceremony, which will be presided over by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and joined by a suite of world figures.

During his inaugural address, the Gyalwang Karmapa spoke on the underlying causes that have brought us to what he describes as a ‘critical juncture’ in the degradation of our natural environment. Among those causes, His Holiness focused on a virtual “religion of consumerism” and a persistent egocentrism that has led to an unhealthy relationship between human beings and their environment. Applying Buddhist principles of interdependence, compassion, and no-self, the Gyalwang Karmapa outlined a Buddhist response to the environmental challenge facing the world today.

His Holiness spoke strongly against the consumer culture that has overtaken our global society. He acknowledged that world religions are in agreement that material prosperity does not translate into real happiness and wellbeing. Yet he went on to say that religious leaders have a responsibility to do more to open their followers’ eyes to the failure of consumerism to bring lasting happiness.

We appear to be in a dangerous state of denial about the consequences of our actions on the environment, the Gyalwang Karmapa stated. “The essential problem,” he said, “lies in the way we conceive of ourselves in relation to others, including the environment. We feel we are separate individuals, but in fact nothing exists independently.”

“Former generations may conceivably be excused for the harmful consequences of their actions,” His Holiness the Karmapa said. “But our generation cannot, as we have access to an abundance of information on the environmental impact of our current lifestyle.” He continued, “Our task now is to turn information into an awareness that we feel in our hearts, and that can inspire us to live according to environmentally wise and compassionate principles.”

His Holiness called on the audience to interact with the natural world in such a way that they cultivate and extend a mandala of love and compassion, based on the model of the relationship between mother and child.

Speaking earlier on his participation at the Global Buddhist Congregation, the Gyalwang Karmapa said: “Addressing the changes in our environment is one of the most pressing issues of our day. As His Holiness the Dalai Lama has long pointed out, the harm done to our environment is rooted in human minds and behavior.  Because this problem arises from our attitudes towards the world we live in, I believe world religious leaders can contribute greatly to a change in our relationship to the earth and to our patterns of consumption of her resources.  I am very pleased that the Global Buddhist Congregation is making the environment a focus during its meeting in Delhi, and am honored to be given this opportunity to be part of global Buddhist conversations on this important issue.”

Over the course of the past five years, the Gyalwang Karmapa has taken an increasingly active role in championing an issue dear to his heart—the protection of the natural environment. Taking up a call that His Holiness the Dalai Lama has long urged, the Gyalwang Karmapa is emerging as one of the most vocal Buddhist environment leaders, speaking and acting on Buddhist principles of caring for the environment that supports the lives of all of us who share this planet. He has organized conferences, founded a region-wide an activist organization — Khoryug (the Tibetan term for Environment) — and contributed to various academic and scientific publications on the issue.

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