Gyalwang Karmapa’s Advice on Protecting the Environment

December 24, 2007, Translated by Ringu Tulku Rinpoche & Karma Choephel

Now I would like to speak on the subject of the environment.

These days, the temperatures around the world have drastically changed, which has created a great danger for the world itself. This is the situation, and they are always talking about this in the news and on the TV. So we need to think about this. In olden times, we Kagyupas would stay only in remote mountain retreats in caves or stone huts—pleasant retreats—and there was no need to do such work as excavating the ground, cutting a lot of trees, or quarrying. But later, whether it was their increasing activity to benefit beings and the teachings, or whether it was because, as the saying goes, “The more you meditate on mahamudra, the more active you become,” and mahamudra meditators got too busy, those who were supposed to be doing the practices of the Practice Lineage in the high, rocky, snowy places could not manage to do that. They all came down into the valleys, and it became necessary to build many monasteries. I am not talking about our time; this happened in the past.

And now these days, in many Kagyu monasteries we say, “We’re building a new monastery,” and without any compunction we cut down all the trees, the lovely forests, that naturally grew around the monasteries. This can create great harm for the environment. Some monasteries are even selling the timber from the forests behind the monasteries. When we do that, we don’t know what harm we are creating now, but it creates problems for the world environment a few years later. When the so-called essence of the earth, the essence of the place, is harmed, this causes great harm to the world environment, and then we think, “Oh, no! What did we do?” But if we only think about it later, it’s too late. It takes twenty or thirty years to grow a single tree; they don’t grow up immediately upon planting.

For that reason, we need to understand clearly in all our monasteries in India and Nepal, and likewise in all the monasteries in Tibet, that if we are unable to conceive of all sentient beings throughout limitless space, never mind that. But we live on this earth, and everyone can see it. If our earth is destroyed by changes in the climate, there won’t be any of us Kagyupas left. There won’t be any Karma Kamtsang. We’ll all be lost. It’s not like we have Dharma protectors and Mahakala Bernakchen will save us, so that the rest of the world will be destroyed and only we will be left. That won’t happen. For that reason we need to protect the environment. We should provide some education in the monasteries about how to protect the environment. I think that would be very good.

We should not just always dig and build, but also do something to protect the environment. The sutras and tantras say that keeping the monasteries and sacred places clean has immeasurable benefits. It is the same with the earth: the earth is in great danger and it needs our care, so we should try to help protect the environment for all the beings in the world. Even if we can’t do anything else, it is not too difficult to explain the basic things we need to do to protect the world. You should educate people about this and say, “This is how it is.” So whether we are members of the sangha or lay people, if we take some interest in protecting the environment every single day, it will be very good.

That was the second point, the environment.