Several outstanding events occurred this year which indicate to all of us here that His Holiness’ activity has begun in earnest. December 29th and 30th were dedicated to cleaning up this most polluted of holy places. Yes, the earth here is sacred but it would be better without the plastic graveyards, the open sewers and the rotting corpses. I actually picked up two dogs lying in the middle of the road, one killed, the other mortally wounded by passing cars.
I was one of several volunteers leading a team of monks and laypeople to the market area and behind to the river. Remember the Niranjana? Well to get there involves crossing a tipping ground, wading through a polluted stream and shuffling along the wastelands of sandy soil which used to be a riverbank. Emboldened by our new white gloves, we carried rakes, tongs and plastic bags, like a little brigade of environmental zealots, into the streets looking downwards at the lurking culprits. Rubbish of all descriptions was everywhere. In very short time we had filled the bags and had to stand waiting for the community tractor to dump our waste into.
I was truly impressed at the attitude of the monks. They just rolled up their robes as high as they could, like a doctor putting on rubber gloves before operating, and got down to it without any commentary whatsoever. A professional approach to the job, I thought. One monk told me that His Holiness Karmapa had said that if they didn’t get out on the streets and put their views into action no one in the community would respect them.
In Karmapa’s own words:
“Whatever I do I want it to have a long term visible effect and for it to be practical. If I have the opportunity I want to create long term change and improvement of the environment in Tibet and the Himalayas, especially to benefit the forests, the water and wildlife of this region.”
His Holiness Karmapa’s Environmental Motto:
“Protect the earth. Live simply. Act with compassion. Our future depends on it.”
At Gaya Airport His Holiness Karmapa planted a tree; but I was too preoccupied looking at the ground and the mountain of plastic waste by the stricken riverside to follow his procession.