For several years His Holiness Karmapa has been concerned to implement changes in Buddhist monasteries all over the world to address the environmental crisis. This year he brought out a booklet to be distributed to all the monasteries. (There are 350 million Buddhists on the planet, according to the pamphlet.) It is entitled Environmental Guidelines and breaks down the problem into 5 categories: forest protection, water protection, wildlife protection, waste management and addressing climate change.
Environmental architectural designer Lillian Sum has been raising awareness on environmental issues for the last 7 years.
‘I’ve dedicated my life to working on the environment. We are really pleased and relieved His Holiness Karmapa is raising awareness among the Tibetan sangha. From there it will be a light beacon to raise awareness all over the world.
His Holiness asked me to clear the rubbish on Tergar Monastery road. At first I thought it was a joke. Then he said he would request 500 Tergar monks to help me. A year’s worth of Bodh Gaya rubbish was dumped on a 60 metre stretch of road ten feet across, and five foot deep. It took over 80 tractor loads to move it. We moved the land; what I thought was land was actually rubbish!
We worked in co-operation with the Nagar Panchaiyat (the local council) and the Bodhgaya Temple Management committee, who agreed to help and give support as did the hotels. We’re working on setting up a sustainable waste disposal system. And during the process of this clean up we set up an official landfill site for all of Bodhgayas waste. Local business people and social workers have been most helpful and amazing in their support. The local people are really keen to clean up the rest of Bodh Gaya and are setting up an environmental organisation.’
His Holiness also asked Lillian to plant some trees at the side of the monastery- guavas, mangoes and other fruit trees. Karmapa came down from his roof top apartment and placed a tree into the ground. It was a great photo opportunity.
On January 16 at 8am His Holiness walked in procession with his entourage to a field adjoining Tergar and sat under a white canopy using a red megaphone to say prayers to bless the land. The site will house a new building for the Kagyu Monlam. It was delightful to drink tea, eat apple pie and enjoy the green peace of the fields in the early morning sun.