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ENVIRONMENT

CONFERENCE ON RELIGION, NATURE AND SURVIVAL

Kyabgon Sakya Trizin addressing the conference, 1989

In November 1989, a one-day conference on the role of religious communities in protecting nature and the environment was held by Tibet House and the Inter-Religious Forum for Communal Harmony at India International Centre in New Delhi. The main speakers were Kyabgon Sakya Trizin Rinpoche, head of the Sakya tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, Swami Chidananda, head of the Divine Light Society, and Sunderlal Bahuguna, an activist in the Chipko (hug tree) Movement. The religions of Islam, Sikhism, Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Christianity and Jainism were also represented.

The participants agreed that the subject of the conference was of compelling urgency since humanity is facing irretrievable damage to the planet. There was consensus on the key role religions have to play as the scriptures and teachings of every religion contain guidance for preserving the harmonious balance between humans, nature, and all living beings.

INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON ECOLOGICAL RESPONSIBILITY: A DIALOGUE WITH BUDDHISM

What do Buddhism and Ecology have to say to one another? Tibet House organized the international conference, which met in New Delhi to explore this question, in 1993. Ecologist, Agriculturists, Businessmen, Economist, Social Activists, Journalists and Philosophers from 22 countries gathered at India International Cnetre to focus on dialogue by asking questions about mutual reciprocity: how can Buddhist teaching and practice enable people to work towards healing the environment, and redefining people’s understanding of “Buddhism.”

In his inaugural address to the conference, His Holiness the Dalai Lama expressed his heartfelt concern about these important issues: “I feel that it is extremely important that each individual realizes his responsibility for preserving the environment, to make it part of daily life, create the same attitudes in families, and spread it to the community.” The proceedings of this seminar have been published. See Appendix.

On this occasion, a book of poems on environment titled ‘The Sheltering Tree of Interdependence: A Buddhist Monk’s Reflections on Ecological Responsibility’ composed by HH the Dalai Lama and transcreated in English by Amit Jayaram was also released.

MULTIPURPOSE WORKSHOP FOR TEACHERS

In 1995, an eleven-day workshop for teachers at the Tibetan schools was organized by Tibet House in collaboration with the Central Tibetan Schools Administration (CTSA), the Tibetan Children’s Village (Dharamsala), and WWF-India. Forty-one teachers met in Delhi to participate. Eighty-two Tibetan schools in India aim at educating Tibetan children within their culture. It is therefore essential for the teachers to update their knowledge regularly. Lama Doboom Tulku and Sri Ravindra Varma were the conveners. Over fifteen distinguished Indian and Tibetan scholars, educators, and activists spoke.

WORKSHOP ON ECOLOGY

Tibet House has a consistent interest in issues related to ecology and the environment. Continuing with this tradition a Workshop on Ecology was organized in collaboration with the NGO Inner Challenges at Bangalore from June 24-20, 2004. The participants were teachers from the Tibetan Schools in five large settlements in South India as well as members of the Tibetan Women’s Association.

Group photo of the participants at the Workshop on Ecology, Bangalore

The group analysed the causes responsible for the present state of the environment like the influence of modernisation and changes in attitudes and value systems following a materialistic lifestyle. They pointed out that the lack of consciousness of the effects of such lifestyle as the main cause of environmental degradation. The participants called for collective responsibility, need based consumption, water harvesting, use of solar energy and an all together simpler lifestyle. Among the resource persons were Shri L.C. Jain, Prof. Ramchandra Guha, Prof. R.V.G. Menon and other well known specialists, who enjoyed working with Tibetan teachers.

KALPA TARU – TREE PLANTING

School children planting saplings on the 69th birthday of HH the Dalai Lama

At the initiative of Tibet House, Tibetan Buddhist communities celebrate His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s birthday on July 6 as a tree planting day to mark his conceren for the environment. On the morning of July 6, l994, a tree plantation ceremony was held on the lawns of Tibet House. Religious leaders from Delhi representing all the major faiths gave their blessings to the tree saplings before planting them. Prof. H.Y. Mohan Ram of Delhi University gave a talk on ‘The Benefits of a Tree’. The leader of the Chipko Movement, Sunderlal Bahuguna, recited a ‘Prayer for the Trees’ written by the renowned “Man of Trees,” Richard St. Barbe Baker.

Since, every year the tree planting ceremony and interfaith dialogue is performed as an established tradition of Tibet House on July 6. In 2001 a massive tree-planting programme took place in the Tibetan settlements in South India. And in 2002, about 65,000 saplings of eucalyptus, malgium, accacia, cashewrena and roadside trees were planted in and around the Tibetan settlement at Mundgod.

Also in 2001, planting of trees and flowering shrubs in the garden of National Gandhi Museum was celebrated in cooperation with the Gandhi Peace Foundation. Prayers and chants from Hindu, Sikh, Christian, Jew, Parsi, Jain, Baha’i traditions, followed by monks from the Theravada and Japanese Buddhist traditions, preceeded the plantings.

Dr. M. M. Ahuja, AIIMs, addressing the gathering

POSITIVE HEALTH

In July 1991, experts from a variety of systems of medicine gathered at the India International Centre for a one-day seminar on traditional methods for preserving and promoting health. The panellists included experts in Ayurveda, Tibetan Medicine, Homeopathy, Allopathy and Yoga