Following the conclusion of teachings on Nagarjuna’s Letter to a Friend, His Holiness the 17th Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, presented Khoryug; a newly formed association of Kagyu Buddhist monasteries carrying out environmental projects under his leadership and our new website www.khoryug.com.
Khoryug, Tibetan for Environment, and short form for Rangjung Khoryug Sungkyob Tsokpa, is an association of Tibetan Buddhist monasteries that have taken His Holiness’s vision to heart and are committed to developing environmental protection projects in our own locales. Khoryug currently consists of thirty six monasteries across India, Nepal and Bhutan that are working together to help create an environmental awakening in the Himalayas on the importance of forest protection, water conservation, wildlife preservation, climate change adaptation and waste management.
In the past two years, His Holiness has called for environmental commitments from Kagyu monasteries, nunneries and centers, which has resulted in many forestation activities by monasteries. In the last year, he has chaired two conferences on environmental protection for Kagyu monasteries and nunneries, with a goal of building environmental management capacity within the Kagyu Sangha. He said that ultimately, he would like Tibetan Buddhist monasteries and nunneries to become leaders on environmental issues, working within their community to address threats such as deforestation, water scarcity, wildlife extinction, pollution and climate change. Monasteries will update their progress on the website and will manage much of the information available there.
The launch was held at Tergar Monastery on December 22nd and had an audience of over 1500 monks, nuns and followers. Also present were H.E Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche, Drupon Rinpoche, Ringu Tulku and Drupon Dechen Rinpoche. Presentations included a general overview of environmental issues in the Himalayas and Tibetan Plateau by Dekila Chungyalpa, WWF; a compiled report of this year’s activities by all the Khoryug monasteries by Khenpo Kesang Nyima, Rumtek Shedra, and a talk by His Holiness himself.
In a powerful address, His Holiness urged the audience to ask themselves whether the beautiful aspirations and prayers they make in the morning are carried out in their actions throughout the day. Often when opportunities arise to work to benefit others, we do not seize them, and if we ask ourselves why this is so, it is usually because we are simply working for our own egocentric concerns. Too often we behave as if others existed for us, and as if the earth was ours alone to use as we wish, His Holiness said, and our actions based on such attitudes have had cumulative effects that are devastating for the earth itself.
Making the point that we humans are but one of the immense number of species of life on this planet, His Holiness added that nevertheless we dominate the planet as if it were ours alone, and are responsible for virtually all the damage done to it. His Holiness emphasized that this attitude is inappropriate as well as damaging, given our total dependence on others and especially on the earth itself, for our well-being and for our very survival. He noted that without the plants that yield oxygen, we would not even be able to draw a single breath.
Using a Powerpoint presentation to underscore his points with images, His Holiness took the audience on a dazzling tour of the galaxy, pointing out along the way that we humans have nowhere else to go if we destroy the earth’s natural environment.
Yet unlike humans, the earth is endlessly forgiving, His Holiness noted. When someone commits heinous crimes, such as murder, he is shunned and expelled from human society. Yet however much harm we do to her, the earth never banishes us. Despite all the damage we have done thus far, she has never given up on us, but continues to yield her resources to us with great generosity. We therefore all have a responsibility to consider what practical steps we can do to respond in kind to this great kindness that we receive from the earth.
The event concluded with a moving rendition of the song Aspiration for the World, composed by His Holiness himself and sung by a chorus of students from the Tibetan Children’s Village school.