The Dalai Lama On Ecology

The following article is from the Spring, 1994 issue of the Snow Lion Newsletter and is for historical reference only. You can see this in context of the original newsletter here.

An Appeal from Tibet House, New Delhi, and The Foundation for Universal Responsibility, New Delhi, India

His Holiness the Dalai Lama, in a booklet of poems entitled The Sheltering Tree of InterdependenceA Buddhist Monk's Reflections on Ecological Responsibility, states:

Being attentive to the nature of interdependence of all creatures both animate and inanimate, one should never slacken in one's efforts to preserve and conserve nature's energy.

On a certain day, month and year one should observe the ceremony of tree planting. Thus, one fulfills one's responsibilities, serves one's fellow beings, which not only brings one happiness but benefits all.

These poems reflect His Holiness's concern for ecological balance in nature and the survival of life on earth. Emphasizing the need for environmental awareness in his inaugural address to an ecological conference, His Holiness said, I feel that it is extremely important that individuals realize the responsibility for preserving the environment, to make it a part of daily life, create the same attitude in their families, and spread it to the community.

In observance of His Holiness's birthday on July 6 and to demonstrate commitment to the ecological balance, we appeal to all individuals and families, especially but not only to Tibetans and Buddhists, to plant a tree on July 6, every year.

The Foundation for Universal Responsibility will be happy to provide seeds blessed by His Holiness the Dalai Lama to those who would like to organize collective tree plantations. The above mentioned booklet of His Holiness' poems is being distributed through welfare officers of Tibetan settlements and Tibet Offices in different part of the world.

Contact Tibet House, Cultural Centre of H.H. the Dalai Lama, 1, Institutional Area, Lodhi Road, New Delhi-110003 INDIA.

The following is the complete poem written by His Holiness:

THE SHELTERING TREE OF INTERDEPENDENCE A Buddhist Monk's Reflections on Ecological Responsibility
By His Holiness the Dalai Lama
Published by Tibet House, New Delhi

During the course of my extensive travelling to countries across the world, rich and poor, east and west, I have seen people revelling in pleasure, and people suffering. The advancement of science and technology seems to have achieved little more than linear, numerical improvement; development often means little more than more mansions in more cities. As a result, the ecological balancethe very basis of our life on earthhas been greatly affected.

On the other hand, in days gone by, the people of Tibet lived a happily life, untroubled by pollution, in natural conditions. Today, all over the world, including Tibet, ecological degradation is fast overtaking us. I am wholly convinced that, if all of us do not make a concerted effort, with a sense of universal responsibility, we will see the gradual breakdown of the fragile ecosystems that support us, resulting in an irreversible and irrevocable degradation of our planet, Earth.

These stanzas have been composed to underline my deep concern, and to call upon all concerned people to make continued efforts to reverse and remedy the degradation of our environment. The poem is being released on the occasion of the presentation of a statue of the Buddha to the people of India; and to mark the opening of the International Conference on Ecological Responsibility: a Dialogue with Buddhism.

1.- æ- æO Lord Tathagata born of the Iksvakus tree, peerless one who, seeing the all-pervasive nature of interdependence between the environment and sentient beings samsara and nirvana moving and unmoving, teaches the world out of compassion bestow thy benevolence on us.

2.- æ- æO the savior, the one called Avalokitesvara, personifying the body of compassion of all Buddhas, we beseech thee to make our spirits ripen and fructify to observe reality bereft of illusion.

3.- æ- æOur obdurate egocentricity ingrained in our minds since be-ginningless time contaminates, defiles and pollutes the environment created by the common karma of all sentient beings.

4.- æ- æLakes and ponds have lost their clarity, their coolness, the atmosphere is poisoned, nature's celestial canopy in the fiery firmament has burst asunder and sentient beings suffer diseases unknown before.

5.- æ- æPerennial snow mountains resplendent in their glory, bow down and melt into water, the majestic oceans lose their ageless equilibrium and inundate islands.

6.- æ- æThe dangers of fire, water and wind are limitless sweltering heat dries up our lush forests lashing our world with unprecedented storms and the oceans surrender their salt to the elements.

7.- æ- æThough people lack not wealth, they cannot afford to breath clean air, rains and streams cleanse not but remain inert and powerless liquids.

8.- æ- æHuman beings and countless beings that inhabit water and land, reel under the yoke of physical pain caused by malevolent diseases, their minds are dulled with sloth, stupor and ignorance, the joys of the body and spirit are far, far away.

9.- æ- æWe needlessly pollute the fair bosom of our mother earth, rip out her trees to feed our short sighted greed, turning our fertile earth into a sterile desert.

10.- æThe interdependent nature of the external environment and people's inward nature described in Tantras, works on Medicine, and astronomy has verily been vindicated by our present experience.

11.- æThe earth is home to living beings equal and impartial to the moving and unmoving, thus spoke the Buddha in truthful voice with the great earth for witness.

12.- æAs a noble being recognizes the kindness of a sentient mother and makes recompense for it, so the earth, the universal mother which nurtures all equally should be regarded with affection and care.

13.- æForsake wastage, pollute not the clean, clear nature of the four elements and destroy the well being of people, but absorb yourself in actions that are beneficial to all.

14.- æUnder a tree was the great Sage Buddha born, under a tree, he overcame passion and attained enlightenment, under two trees did he pass in Nirvana verily, the Buddha held the tree in great esteem.

15.- æHere, where Manjushri's emanation, Lama Tsongkhapa's body bloomed forth, is marked by a sandal tree bearing a hundred thousand images of the Buddha.

16.- æIs it not well-known that some transcendental deities, eminent local deities and spirits make their abode in trees?

17.- æFlourishing trees clean the wind, help us breathe the sustaining air of life. They please the eye and soothe the mind, their shade makes a welcome resting place.

18.- æIn Vinaya, the Buddha taught monks to care for tender trees. From this, we learn the virtue of planting, of nurturing trees.

19.- æThe Buddha forbade monks to cut, cause others to cut living plants, destroy seeds or defile the fresh green grass. Should this not inspire us to love and protect our environment?

20.- æThey say, in the celestial realms the trees emanate the Buddha's blessings and echo the sound of basic Buddhist doctrines like impermanence.

21.- æIt is tree that brings rain, trees that hold the essence of the soil. Kalpa-Taru, the tree of wish-fulfillment, virtually resides on earth to serve all purposes.

22.- æIn times of yore, our forbear - ers ate the fruits of trees, wore their leaves, discovered fire by the attrition of wood, took refuge amidst the foliage of trees when they encountered danger.

23.- æEven in this age of science, of technology, trees provide us shelter, the chairs we sit in, the bed we lie on. When the heart is ablaze with the fire of anger fueled by wrangling, trees bring refreshing, welcome coolness.

24.- æIn the tree lie the roots of all life on earth. When it vanishes, the land exemplified by the name of the Jambu tree will remain no more than a dreary, desolate desert.

25.- æNothing is dearer to the living than life. Recognizing this, in the Vinaya rules the Buddha lays down prohibitions, like the use of water with living creatures.

26.- æIn the remoteness of the Himalayas, in the days of yore, the land of Tibet observed a ban on hunting, on fishing, and, during designated periods, even construction. These traditions are noble for they preserve and cherish the lives of humble, helpless, defenseless creatures.

27.- æPlaying with the lives of other beings without sensitivity or hesitation as in the act of hunting or fishing for sport, is an act of heedless, needless violencea violation of the solemn rights of all living beings.

28.- æBeing attentive to the nature of interdependence of all creatures both animate and inanimate, one should never slacken in one's efforts to preserve and conserve nature's energy.

29.- æOn a certain day, month and year, one should observe the ceremony of tree planting. Thus, one fulfills one's responsibilities, serves one's fellow beings, which not only brings one happiness, but benefits all.

30.- æMay the force of observing that which is right and abstinence from wrong practices and evil deeds nourish and augment the prosperity of the world. May it invigorate living beings and help them blossom. May sylvan joy and pristine happiness ever increase, ever spread and encompass all that is.t

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