His Holiness the 17th Karmapa opened the Second Conference on Environmental Protection on October 3rd, 2009. The first conference on environmental protection had been held in March 2009, and at that time representatives from 22 Kagyu monasteries and nunneries gathered from all over the Indian subcontinent – India, Nepal and Bhutan. At the second conference, the number of monasteries and nunneries represented has now grown to 33. The representatives began arriving early in the large hall where the conference is being held. At the front, above the Gyalwang Karmapa’s chair, hung a large green banner proclaiming The Second Conference on Environmental Protection for Kagyu Monasteries and Centers.
Conference Reports from Tashi Paljor, Kagyu Office
Day One: Saturday 3rd October, 2009
The Morning Session
The Welcome Ceremony began promptly at 8.30am with the chanting of prayers, led by Umze Woser Rabten, followed by an offering of traditional Tibetan butter tea and sweet rice to all the guests.
Opening speech by the Minister of Health
The Honourable Kalon Paljor Tsering, Minister of Health in the Tibetan Government-in-Exile, gave a short opening speech. He emphasised how material progress has led to a dangerous situation in the twenty-first century because of unprecedented pollution which is causing extensive damage to the environment – he cited acid rain which damages plants and trees, poisoned drinking water and polluted air. He gave one example from a certain country where people were able to buy half-an-hour’s supply of oxygen in order to get some relief. He expressed the hope that now that His Holiness the Gyalwang Karmapa had raised awareness of environmental issues amongst the Kagyu, and initiated an environmental protection movement, the influence of his work would grow steadily and spread throughout the world.
Launch of the Tibetan edition of Environmental Guidelines
In a short ceremony, the Kalon opened a pe-ray containing copies of the eagerly-awaited Tibetan edition of the Gyalwang Karmapa’s booklet on environmental issues Guidelines for Karma Kagyu Buddhist Monasteries, Centers and Community, translated into Tibetan from the original English by the Gyalwang Karmapa himself.
Representatives receive copies of the booklet
The booklets were distributed and immediately everyone began reading and flicking through the pages!
His Holiness the Gyalwang Karmapa’s Introduction to the Conference
His Holiness the Gyalwang Karmapa then gave the introductory address. After reviewing the history of the booklet, he read the introduction to everybody. He warned that environmental changes happen very slowly but are cumulative and gave the example of a frog in a water container. If you catch a frog and put it into a container of water and light a fire under it , the frog won’t notice the water is getting hot and when it finally does, its too late.
Á few individuals on their own cannot protect the environment; we have to work together as a team to do it and that is the reason why the conference has gathered here to learn about how to protect the environment. Often environmental issues are seen as something to be discussed or as political issues, but Gyalwang Karmapa saw them as an essential part of dharma practice, working for the benefit of all sentient beings, as contained in the words of the Buddha, .
For too long, people have behaved thoughtlessly and ignored the damage to the environment that they are creating and, if this continued there was a great danger that it would be too late to do anything. Gyalwang Karmapa posited a special connection between the environment and the Kagyupa, and promised to expand on this theme later in the conference.
Environmental Protection at Work in the Monasteries and Nunneries
Finally, it was the turn of the monasteries and nunneries to present feedback, region by region, on the action that they had taken to implement the environmental guidelines and the 108 methods, since the March conference.
Many of them had planted trees and plants. In Nepal, the monasteries and nunneries had organised a recycling system for plastics, and, though they had already been using vegetable waste to feed the cows and pigs, waste that couldn’t be used that way, was now being composted and used in the gardens and fields.
The Afternoon Session
The afternoon session was led by Ms Dekil Chungyalpa, the conference facilitator, who works for the World Wildlife Fund, U.S.A., based in Washington, D.C… She gave an overview of the five environmental issues which form the core of the Environmental Guidelines booklet and provided information on the latest scientific findings.
His Holiness Karmapa has returned to Gyuto, after successfully completing the Delhi leg of his tour. His Holiness has reached Dharamsala via road from Delhi and will resume his daily activities in Gyuto.