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.