Here I would like to share a piece of writing done by one of my favourite lamas lama Pema Chophel. Lama Pema Chophel is an American Buddhist lama that has been practicing since the 70's and has been recognized as a trained lama in the Nyingma lineage. I extremely adore him for his traditional approach and dedication to the path. He shared the following article on July 29th 2019 on Dharmawheel.net and I would like to now share this with all of you.
Does your tradition have a similar approach to dealing with outer enviroment? Have you gotten some advice how to reverse the threat of global warming?
The Power of the Dharma in Reversing Global Warming
An Exhortation to All My Dharma Brothers & Sisters
More and more people are waking up to the reality that global warming is a looming catastrophe that, if left unchecked, will cause inconceivable suffering to untold billions, if not the extinction of the human species. Some think it is already too late to reverse climate change. Yet others think that, although, in theory, we could save the planet and ourselves, realistically, political and socio-economic realities make this highly unlikely if not downright impossible on any large enough scale to make a difference, while individual efforts of reducing, reusing, recycling, and refusing are simply not going to be enough to stem this tide. However, I believe the Buddhadharma holds out a ray of hope.
In Buddhism, as taught in the Golden Light Sutra, environmental degradations (in our present case think carbon emission, methane release, ozone depletion, air and water pollution, salinization of the earth, acidification of the water, melting of the polar icecaps and glaciers, desertification, pollinator colony collapse, species extinction, the arising of new diseases, the resistance to medicines of old diseases, etc.) are all only the outer fruition of the ever-increasing growth in human kleshas and the consequent non-virtue these kleshas cause us to commit. This rampant growth in human kleshas is succinctly described in the Sam-pa Lhun-drub-ma (Prayer for Spontaneously Accomplishing [All] Wishes):
Now, in this dark age of conflict, in the final era of 500 [years],
The five poisons grow [ever] more violent in all sentient beings.
Recklessly, [we] indulge in the kleshas and the five poisons dominate our [mind-]streams.
In Words of My Perfect Teacher, Patrul Rinpoche explains that each act of our body, speech, and mind has four kinds of inevitable effect: its fully ripening effect, its effect similar to its cause, its conditioning effect, and its proliferating effect. It is the conditioning effect which causes an action to change the outer environment in one way or another for the person who commits that karma, and it is its proliferating effect that habituates the person to commit similar acts over and over again, thus further reinforcing those changes in the environment. In addition, there is the notion of collective karma. This means that sentient beings who have committed the same acts will experience the same conditioning effect, i.e., the same outer environment. Thus, as human minds and therefore behavior become coarser and coarser, as humans commit more and more mi-ge-wa, non-virtue, as opposed to virtue, the environment we share also gets worse and worse. While some people may think humans are improving and that we are getting better and better, this is not really the case. Buddhism says we are in the downward spiral of the Kali Yuga when everything is getting worse even if, to our deluded minds, we think it is getting better and better. The naïve belief in “progress” is itself just part of the delusion of our growing ignorance.
However, Buddhism is also very clear that there is a way to stem or at least slow down this downward spiral and that is the generation of Bodhicitta as opposed to ever-escalating selfishness and the development of human virtue as opposed to vice. At the beginning of the Industrial Age in the 19th century, the great Jamgon Kongtrul wrote in a well-known prayer:
In this degenerate time when thoughts and deeds are perverted
And the inner and outer elements have lost their balance,
Men and cattle are seized by epidemic diseases previously unheard of.
Intruding Rahulas, Nagas, evil spirits, and elementals of the dark side,
Blight, frost, hail, bad harvests, warfare, and so forth,
Erratic rainfall, heat, misery, and droughts in the world,
Destruction by the elements such as earthquakes and the threat of fire,
And especially barbaric offenses causing harm to the Teaching are rampant.
May all types of harm and injury in this Jambudvipa be swiftly pacified and overcome!
May precious and supreme Bodhicitta spontaneously arise in the mind-streams of all beings, human and non-human,
And may they be free from destructive thoughts and deeds!
May all be endowed with a loving mind for one another
And may wellbeing, glory, and prosperity prevail throughout Jambudvipa.
In these lines, Jamgon Kongtrul clearly links perverted thoughts and deeds to the degeneration of the outer world. He even specifically mentions things like erratic rainfall, heat, drought, and the threat of fire, all environmental catastrophes currently uppermost in our minds. However, He also clearly states that the arising of Bodhicitta in peoples’ minds and freedom from destructive thoughts and deeds can bring wellbeing and prosperity to the world.
In the 21st century, the great Dzogchenpa, Jadral Rinpoche, wrote essentially the same thing:
May all sentient beings tormented by this present age
Of the five virulent degenerations,
Know that they possess a treasure that can alleviate
The various portents of decay in the physical world and its inhabitants [italics mine]
Due to the ripening of their wrong intentions and actions –
A treasure grounded in the renunciation of harmful actions
And the cultivation of altruistic actions –
Granting all the spiritual and temporal well-being one could desire.
This is the supreme, wish-fulfilling gem of Bodhicitta
Associated with all supreme spiritual practice.
Guru Rinpoche, in the Sam-pa Nyur-drub-ma (Prayer for Quickly Accomplishing [All] Wishes), hid the following words to be discovered in this very time for this very purpose:
Training in faith, ethics, and generosity,
In liberating the mind-stream through hearing,
Having a sense of modesty, shame, and in discriminating wisdom,
May these seven jewels completely [and]
Spontaneously arise in the mind-streams of all sentient beings.
May they resuscitate peace and happiness in the world. [italics mine]
In other words, Guru Rinpoche down to our own Gurus have all said that, if we want to turn back the degradation of the outer environment of this time, the way to do that is to practice the Dharma. In other words:
Do not commit a single sin.
Practice virtue completely.
Tame our own minds.
This is the Teaching of the Buddha.
I know some reading this will say this is totally crazy. It is pie-in-the-sky thinking. It is magical thinking. Yes, it is magical thinking. From the point of view of 21st century scientific materialism, humanism, and secularism, the Dharma, and especially Mahayana and Vajrayana Dharma, are magical thinking and, therefore, at best useless and at worst delusional. Unfortunately, all too many so-called Buddhists have also bought into this modernist/postmodernist point of view. However, the views of scientific materialism, humanism, and secularism are wrong views arising from and further propelling the degeneration of our times.
So I would like to ask my fellow Buddhists who are all as concerned about the looming environmental disaster as I am to take a look again at what the Dharma actually says. If we read the words of the Buddha, it tells us that we can have a huge impact on the world and its beings by small, seemingly inconsequential acts. It is one of the four fundamental characteristics of karma that a seemingly small karmic act can lead to a huge karmic result, that karma multiplies as part of its inherent nature.
Let’s take the karmic consequences of building a stupa to the Tathagata. But let’s not think about Bodhinath stupa or Swayambhunath. Let’s not even think about a 15 or 20-foot stupa. Let’s just think about a small sa-tsa stupa, a small plastic stupa, or a small stupa that might sit on your home shrine. I’m talking about a stupa that anyone can make or anyone can buy. (You can buy a plastic stupa on eBay for $15 and fill it with mantra printed on your home computer.) If you can build a large stupa, wonderful! But don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. If we really believe in the law of karma taught by the Buddha Bhagawan, size doesn’t matter that much.
The benefits of building stupas were spoken of by Lord Buddha in the Noble Amazing Sutra:
“Ananda, if any devoted son or daughter of good family were to fill this entire three-thousand-fold cubed world system with the seven precious jewels and make offerings [of these] to all the Stream-enterers, Once-returners, Non-returners, and Arhats as well as all the sangha members in the four directions, he or she would not accumulate as much merit as someone who makes a stupa to the Tathagata, the Arhat, the perfectly Enlightened One, … that is even the size of a churura seed, with a central column the size of a needle, an umbrella the size of a juniper leaf, and filled with grain-sized statues and mustard seed-sized relics.”
Moreover, in the Lotus Sutra, the Buddha Bhagawan said:
“Whoever makes a stupa out of stones, agarwood, or sandalwood; or whoever makes a stupa with joy out of medicinal wood or even out of plain wood, earth, brick, and so on; or whoever makes a stupa by just using heaps of earth in some remote area while thinking of the Buddha; or even children who make a stupa while playing games with sand while thinking of the Victor; or whoever draws forms [of the Buddha], they will all reach Enlightenment
[due to the vast amounts of merit they will generate].”
And finally, in the Dependent Arising Sutra, the Buddha said:
“Avalokiteshwara, if a faithful son or daughter of a good family builds a stupa in a remote place the size of a gooseberry fruit, with a central pillar the size of a needle and a parasol the size of a flower of the bakula tree, and, if he or she inserts this verse of dependent arising which is the Dharmadhatu, he or she will generate the merit of Brahma. When such persons pass on from here and die, they will be reborn in the world of Brahma. When they pass on from there and die, they will be reborn with fortunes equaling those of the Devas of the pure fields.”
Thus, in the sutras, the Buddha taught extensively about the merit and power of building stupas, even tiny, little stupas, as well as the benefits to those who support and make contact with stupas. These benefits are far, far greater than the act of building the stupa. In other words, a seemingly small Dharmic act may have a disproportionately huge outcome. Similar disproportionately large beneficial outcomes are described for all sorts of other Dharmic acts in the sutras and tantras. But A) do we believe these teachings, and B) are we willing to act on them?
I believe these teachings. So I am making clay sa-tsa stupas and sa-tsa images of the Buddhas. I’m helping a Dharma friend place 1008 plastic stupas containing the Mantra of Dependent Origination all around the world, at $3 and change for each stupa. I’m putting small plastic Buddhas containing dud-tsi/amrit in every lake and pond I can (contained in small glass jars). I’m putting mani stones in every stream and river I can. I’m putting dud-tsi/amrit in every body of water, still or running, I can. And I am dedicating the merit for the sake of the benefit and ease of all sentient beings. The Dharma, and especially Tantrayana, is full of skillful means like this that do not require huge amounts of time or money, just the motivation and willingness to do something for the benefit of all. Prayer flags are another such magical appliance. Prayer wheels, Liberation-by-seeing mantras placed where others will see them, Buddha statues where others will see them, pressing sa-tsa molds into water and even into the air – all are skillful means for transforming the container, the environment, and its contents, we sentient beings. There are mantras for consecrating all sorts of inanimate objects, such as boulders, trees, meadows, and waterfalls. There a many mantras for multiplying the karmic effect of our practices. For instance, there are mantras which said even once multiply the number of stupas or statues made by 10,000,000. 10,000,000! What more could we ask? The results of saying a single Mani or a single Vajra Guru mantra are inconceivably vast and profound. Have no doubt about it. Since karma is immutable, it will come to fruition exactly as the Tathagatas have taught. We just have to give rise to Bodhicitta and practice the way our Gurus have taught us.
We are not powerless. In fact, we as Mahayana and Vajrayana practitioners have inconceivably vast power at our fingertips. I read a Khenpo say that it would take every human being in the world to practice the Dharma in order to turn back climate change. I’m not a Khenpo, but I do not agree with this. Our skillful means are so powerful that even a small group of dedicated practitioners can have a huge impact on the world. After all, this so-called world is:
Selfless, empty, and unconditioned,
Like a magical display, a mirage, a dream, an [optical] illusion,
A city of Gandharvas, an echo,
A reflection of the moon in water,
A hallucination, a water bubble, or an apparition.
It is nowhere near as solid and intractable as our materialist wrong views seduce us into believing. Similarly, there is no “us” and “them” as our erroneous dualistic views would have us think. In a message to His Vietnamese disciples, Garchen Rinpoche said:
“The minds of all sentient beings and our own mental continuum are one and the same. So when true immeasurable love arises within you, it pervades all sentient beings. Therefore, the Buddha said that virtue practiced with Bodhicitta becomes vast beyond the reaches of space. The mind of a person with such love pervades all sentient beings, and if someone recites just a single Om Mani Padme Hung with a mind that wishes for the happiness of everyone in the world, that person’s mind can truly pervade the world and all sentient beings. Furthermore, the afflictions [or kleshas] of all sentient beings of the six realms of samsara are one and the same. So if one is able to eliminate a single affliction in one’s own mind with a mind of Bodhicitta, the afflictions in the minds of sentient beings are diminished as well. This love is the heart of all the Buddhas of the three times.”
Based on this, I believe we do have enough power to turn the tide of billions of others who are going in the wrong direction. Through our practice, through the Three Jewels, through our Yidams and Dakinis, and through our Protectors and Guardians, we have the power to turn the tide. If you do not believe a single practitioner has the power to affect hundreds of thousands or even millions of other people and the world in which they live, read the biographies of past great saints and siddhas. Through a single prayer, Thangtong Gyalpo stopped epidemics, famines, and wars. The skillful means we have at our disposal are that powerful. We just have to remember the descriptions of the benefits of our practices and then put our practices into action. Then as Bodhisatvas with love and care in our hearts, we dedicate that merit for the benefit and ease of all sentient beings. “Benefit” means mundane benefit, including benefits to the environment, while “ease” means the ease of Liberation. The Dharma is not just for the peace of nirvana. It is also for alleviating the suffering within samsara. All is lost only if we fail to act, only if we fail to put the Buddhadharma into practice at this crucial time. As H.H. Dudjom Rinpoche, Jigdral Yeshe Dorje, prayed:
At this very moment, for the peoples and nations of the earth,
May not even the names disease, famine, war, and suffering be heard,
But rather may their moral conduct, merit, wealth, and prosperity increase
And may supreme good fortune and well-being always arise for them.
Does your tradition have a similar approach to dealing with outer enviroment? Have you gotten some advice how to reverse the threat of global warming?