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"Canada can, within a positive friendly atmosphere, ask the Chinese government to resolve the Tibetan situation."

Environment focus for visiting Buddhist

August 1, 2010

Local community set to welcome scholar and leader Thrangu Rinpoche
By Olenka Melnyk, Freelance
THe Edmonton Journal (Canada)
July 31, 2010

The great Buddhist teacher Padmasambava warned of
a dangerous time when "the snow mountains wear black hats."

The sage, revered by Tibetans as the second
coming of Buddha, made his prophecy more than a millennium ago.

Many Buddhists believe that his prediction is
being fulfilled today as mountain glaciers around
the world recede as a result of global warming.
And a growing number are responding to the threat
of ecological catastrophe by embracing
eco-Buddhism, a movement that injects Buddhist
principles of compassion and mindfulness into environmentalism.

As part of his visit to Edmonton, the eminent
Buddhist scholar and teacher Venerable Khenchen
Thrangu Rinpoche will discuss ecological Buddhism
at a public talk on Friday. Entitled When Snow
Mountains Wear Black Hats, the presentation is
organized by his students at Karma Tashi Ling
Tibetan Buddhist Meditation Society.

"As Buddhists, we have a responsibility for where
we live and for all sentient beings," says
Charles Schweger, one of the organizers of the retreat.

"Eco-Buddhism takes traditional Buddhist
teachings of mindfulness, non-harm and
interdependence and applies them to environmental issues."

Schweger's own interest in environmentalism dates
back to his days as an undergraduate student when
he devoured early environmental works that are
now considered classics, Silent Spring, by Rachel
Carson, and Sand County Almanac, by Aldo Leopold.

As a professor of geo-archeology at the
University of Alberta, Schweger taught a course
on landscape and culture for many years. The
course explored the fundamental role that a sense
of place has played historically in establishing identity and ethics.

The loss of this sense of connectedness has
contributed to our environmental problems, Schweger says.

"If you don't feel a sense of place, then you
don't feel the need to live in a sustainable way
and to protect your environment."

Thrangu Rinpoche's approach to environmentalism
and engaged Buddhism appeals to Schweger and other members of Karma Tashi Ling.

The Edmonton sangha has supported Rinpoche's
humanitarian projects in Nepal, where he is now
based. These projects include Rinpoche's free
medical clinic and boarding school for
impoverished children from remote Himalayan villages.

Rinpoche headed Thrungpu Monastery, which was
established in the 15th century in eastern Tibet
and is known for its Buddhist scholarship. He
fled Tibet after the Chinese invaded in 1959, and
founded monasteries and institutes of Buddhist
learning in India and Nepal, as well as 17
meditation and retreat centres in Asia, North America and Europe.

Rinpoche's ability to make complex teachings
accessible to western students, and his sense
humour and compassion, have made him a popular
teacher in the West. His knowledge and skill as a
teacher were recognized by the Dalai Lama, who
appointed him as a tutor to the 17th Karmapa, the
second-highest spiritual leader in Tibetan Buddhism.

Environmentalism has become increasingly
important in Rinpoche's teaching in recent years.
He inspired and encouraged the publication of A
Buddhist Response to the Climate Emergency.

The collection of essays represents the thinking
of foremost Buddhist teachers from many
traditions, including the Dalai Lama and peace
activist Thich Hhat Hanh, as well as North
Americans Joseph Goldstein, Joanna Macy and
Robert Aitken. The book was published last year.

Applying Buddhist tenets of contentment and
non-greed to environmental concerns makes eminent
sense to Schweger. So does the Bodhisattva vow to
take responsibility for the welfare of all sentient beings.

"Rampant greed and materialism, based on
misguided notions of infinite resources and
markets, got us into this mess," he says.

Cultivating wisdom and what the Buddhists call
"skilful means" is the way out, he adds.

Schweger, who recently retired from the U of A,
would like to see a Buddhist environmental group get going in Edmonton.

Buddhism has always been deeply rooted to the Earth, he says.

To prove his point, he recites the story of the
Buddha's enlightenment 2,500 years ago. The
questing young prince had rejected the
austerities that he'd been practising for six
years and accepted an offering of sweetened, milk-cooked rice.

After eating, he sat down under a bodhi tree to
meditate. He was determined not to get up until he had achieved realization.

All night he was tempted by the demons sent by
Mara, lord of evil. At the point of
enlightenment, he was challenged once again by
Mara, who claimed the seat of enlightenment for
himself unless Buddha could produce a witness to attest to his awakened state.

In response, Buddha touched the Earth with the
fingers of his right hand. The Earth itself
confirmed his enlightenment and his oneness --
and groundedness -- with all beings.

- - -

TALK AND RETREAT

Public talk: Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Pleasant View
Community League Hall, 10860 57th Ave. $10 donation.

Weekend retreat: Aug. 7, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.,
and Aug. 8, from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

For more information: Phone 780-436-1982 or go to www.karmatashiling. ca.
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665   ctcoffice@tibet.ca
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