April 14, 2009

Tonight our topic is “Green Buddhism,” and our guest is Rosemary Roberts, author of a new book, “What would the Buddha recycle?”

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Global News on Green Buddhism

Writing for Treehugger.com A Tokyo writer named “greenz.jp,” asks: Could a Virtual Buddhist Temple Help Save the Environment?

A bunch of young Japanese monks have created a virtual temple online to talk about issues close to their hearts. They are based in Tokyo, where there are surprisingly many Buddhist temples, many as old as the city itself, dating back to the Edo Period (1603-1868) before the city started to modernize. They note that no matter how artificial our environment becomes, monks continue to pass on age-old wisdom from master to disciple, inheriting the modes of living, using the temple as its vehicle […] Perennial assumptions about nature’s power to harm human beings have been augmented by a fresh appreciation of humans’ power to harm nature. In an early text the Buddha gives his monks a prayer which reads in part:

“My love to the footless, my love to the twofooted, my love to the fourfooted, my love to the manyfooted. Let not the footless harm me, let not the twofooted harm me, let not the fourfooted harm me, let not the manyfooted harm me. All sentient beings, all breathing things, creatures without exception, let them all see good things, may no evil befall them.”


Tree Hugger also tells the story of a Buddhist Temple Built from Beer Bottles. Lloyd Alter writes from Toronto:

Fifty years ago the Heineken Beer company looked at reshaping its beer bottle to be useful as a building block. It never happened, so Buddhist monks from Thailand’s Sisaket province took matters into their own hands and collected a million bottles to build the Wat Pa Maha Chedi Kaew temple. It puts every other bottle building we have shown to shame. Even the washrooms and the crematorium are built of bottles, a mix of green Heineken and brown local Chang beer.”
You can see pictures of the temple by clicking on the following: http://www.treehugger.com/files/2008/10/temple-built-from-beer-bottles.php

In Cambodia, there is an organization of Buddhist monks who wish to protect the environment. Posted on their website are the history, goals, and projects undertaken by The Association of Buddhists for the Environmen involving monks from all 23 provinces in Cambodia working to strengthen the Sangha (the community of Buddhist monks and nuns) in its efforts to protect the environment.[…] ABE has implemented [two] projects: 1) Production of a documentary film on community forestry and monks […]  2) Environmental Education to include tree planting and home gardening in pagodas and in surrounding communities [as well as outreach to save] national parks it is threatened by illegal activities, such as wildlife hunting and poaching, encroachment, and illegal logging for charcoal production and firewood (for domestic consumption and for selling). […] http://www.sanghanetwork.org

On he Dalai Lama’s website is an article outlining the Dalai Lama’s concern for the environment a story out of Sarnath, Varanasi, India, dated 14 January 2009 :

Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama exhorted people to protect and conserve the environment for healthy life. He also suggested people to follow the spiritual ways for healthy living. Addressing the gathering of devotees and Buddhist monks at the central institute of higher Tibetan studies […] the Dalai Lama expressed his concern over environment degeneration and said that the uncontrolled material development and exploitation of nature was causing tremendous harm to the environment, particularly the Himalayan environment. “If things remain the same, the ancients rivers will go dry in near future,” he said and made an appeal not to use plastic. Highlighting the importance of healthy living, the Dalai Lama said that people should give attention to their health. Despite the advances in medical sciences diseases like AIDS were posing threat to human life, he said adding that the self-awareness was essential for the protection of health and environment. Lord Buddha in Vinay Pittak had given special emphasis on protection of trees for environment conservation, he said. www.dalailama.com

from The Earth Sangha a nonprofit charity based in the Washington, DC, area and devoted to practical environmental action. They work in the spirit of Buddhist practice, but their members and volunteers come from a wide variety of religious and secular backgrounds. On their website they describe what they see as “Green Buddhism”

In our view, environmentally engaged Buddhism—and socially engaged Buddhism in general—is just a way of living well. Although it receives some academic attention […] green Buddhism is not primarily a scholarly enterprise. We see it, instead, as a natural expression of the Dharma (the formal Buddhist teachings), given the conditions in which humanity now finds itself. If you are uncertain what to make of Green Buddhism, this [webpage] should help with the invocation of two principles:

1. Buddhism is intended to be active, and it is more than meditation […]

2. At some point in the course of […] development, the serious student of Buddhism is liable to discover that it no longer makes sense to think of one’s practice as purely a personal quest. One ceases to practice just for oneself—and that is when practice really begins. One can begin to practice for—and with—all beings. All beings become the wisdom that practice seeks and expresses. All beings are inexhaustibly marvelous just as they are, without the perceptual confusion that our own appetites and fears project upon them.

We have arrived at Green Buddhism. Green Buddhism is merely an effort to act on this process, in a practical and systematic way, for the benefit of all the other species with whom we share this world.

One final proposition:

Green Buddhism should not confuse gestures or symbols with practical action. www.earthsangha.org

Our Questions for Rosemary Roberts:

Rosemary is a social justice activist who has interests in health care, patients’ rights, domestic violence, and spiritual philosophies. Her new book is called “What Would the Buddha Recycle? The Zen of Green Living.”

Part I

  • You begin the introduction of your book, with this question: “Do I need to be ‘green’ and learn to incorporate a life of Zen to become a good human steward of the world?” Just to give us a little grounding for the philosophical stance of this book, can you tell us a little bit about what a “life of Zen” consists of?
  • You entitle the introduction “The Buddha Has Always Been Green!” What do you mean by that?
  • How did you decide to connect the worlds of “green” living and Buddhism for a book?
  • You describe three main components of Earth that have long been a part of Zen practices. Can you talk a little bit about these elements?
  • You introduce “the pathway of eight” from Zen Buddhism to talk about green practice. Can you tell us what “the pathway of eight” is and how it relates to “green” living?
  • How does “karma” become an element of becoming “green”?
  • For each chapter you have included a little side bar called “gift from the universe.” Can you describe what you were up to with these little gems and how do they contribute to the book’s message?

Part II

  • Your book covers every aspect of living, it seems, from cleaning products to eating to decorating and entertaining to building to child care to pet care. Can you tell us how you conducted your research on all of these aspects of green living? What sorts of sources did you know you could count on for valid information? Are there some sources you could recommend to our readers? What advice and information do you provide that you think will be most helpful to people? What are some of the more crucial steps you think people should take?
  • What advice do you provide that you think might meet the most resistance among even committed readers?
  • You talk about rearing mindful children. What advice would you pass on to others about helping children attend to the earth.
  • What did you learn in the process of writing this book that you found most worrisome or unsettling?
  • If you could provide one piece of advice to your readers and our listeners that you think is the single most important thing they could do, what would that be?
  • We’re wondering how you engage in these green practices in your own life. Do you find some aspects of going green more difficult than others? Did you make any changes as a result of writing and researching this book?

A Meditation for Green Buddhism
Annie B. Bond adapted a healing visualization from The Healing Power of Mind, by Tulku Thondup (Shambhala, 1996).

  • Water: Imagine water as a nectar-like medicinal stream. From your source of power it descends through your head and flows through your body, soothing and cleansing every part of it, and in particular restoring the flow and harmony among the cells affected by sickness. Feel and believe that it is washing away dirt and detoxifying poisons. Your body becomes pure like a clean, clear bottle.
  • Fire: Imagine that waves of fire come to you, enveloping every cell of your body. The flame radiates warmth health, and happiness. It burns and consumes all physical ailments related to coldness, lifelessness, or lack of energy.
  • Air: Pure air sweeps away such ailments as circulatory and respiratory weakness, or congestions and toxins in the cells of your body. The blessed air purifies and amplifies the healthy qualities of your breathing and circulation, bringing health to every cell of your body. You could imagine that this wind is like beautiful music within you. If you have a CD or tape player by your sickbed, you could hear the actual sound of music as if it were within your body, granting relaxation and health.
  • Earth: When sickness brings doubts, fears, or panic, we can remind ourselves not only of the intrinsic strength of our mind but also how resilient our body is. Feel your body as solid and strong, and take some time to rejoice in its fundamentally earth-like qualities. Visualize your whole body as being like the earth, unshakeable and self-renewing, despite the passing weaknesses or tremors of sickness. Bring as much detail to the exercise as you like. See your body’s bones, muscles, nerves, skin, and chemicals as strong. Imagine the earth within you, that your body or cells are as solid as mountains, healthy and regenerative as trees, beautiful as all of nature. http://www.care2.com/

Playlist for Ecotoipia #28

1. The Diamond Cutter Chant, Mercedes Bahleda
2.  Forgiveness, Krishna Das
3.  Gone Gone, Geshe Michael Roach and Lama  Christie McNally
4.  Gayatri, Girish
5. Kandroma, Mercedes Bahleda
6.  Reweave the Sunshine, Peter, Paul and Mary