The 17th Karmapa, of whom I wrote last week has on his site an instructional list for Buddhists, Kagyu Monastries and Centres. The list is truly inspirational and further increases my respect for the Karmapa for honing in on the right things and recognising the influence of the Net and using it. I do not have place in the column for all 108 but I will put down some and you should look up and follow the rest. This is what I call religion. 

ONE HUNDRED AND EIGHT THINGS YOU CAN DO TO HELP THE ENVIRONMENT. Produced during THE FIRST CONFERENCE ON ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION for Kagyu Monasteries and Centres, March 21st – 25th 2009, Vajra Vidya Institute, Sarnath , India .

1. Make aspiration prayers. We make aspiration prayers for all sentient beings. This should also include the Earth, which sustains us and gives us life. We can pray for a more harmonious world where humans recognize how their actions have harmed the Earth and change their behavior. 2. Read, discuss, and develop an understanding of environmental issues and how they affect you and your community. 3. Go vegetarian. Not only will you practice compassion for all sentient beings, but you will decrease the resources you use up. It takes about 100,000 litres of water to produce 1 kilogram of beef but only 750 litres of water to produce 1 kilogram of wheat. 4. Live simply. Practice your vinaya vow and live as simply as possible, without unnecessary possessions. 5. Educate people on environmental values. Whenever possible, teach stories and Buddhist traditions that illustrate harmony between people and nature. 7. Use less paper. A lot of trees are cut down simply to produce paper. Even a small choice such as printing on both sides of the paper makes a big difference. 9. When making offerings, make healthy choices. Buy fruit rather than sweets, or plants rather than cut flowers.

ACTIVITIES YOUR MONASTERY OR NUNNERY CAN LEAD WITHIN YOUR COMMUNITY…1. Create a mandala of nature. It should be a special place in your monastic lands that is an offering of all the wonderful things in nature; flowers, trees, water; recognizing that the earth itself is an offering. This will be in keeping with our own Kagyu tradition since Tsurphu monastery is known as the celestial palace and even as Chakrasamvara’s mandala. If you do not own enough land for such a project, please consider a rooftop garden.

3. Don’t buy many vehicles. There is a trend right now that senior lamas should have a car but this is not necessary. Keep in mind how harmful vehicles are for the environment; they emit carbon and contribute to global warming greatly.  11. When a new monk or nun joins the monastery or nunnery, have them plant a tree sapling as part of their commitment to serve the world. Their commitment should extend to taking care of the sapling until it becomes a tree.

12. Monasteries that need timber for building materials should oversee the planting of at least twice the number of trees that are used. 13. Encourage people who put up many prayer flags to string the prayer flags up instead of using one bamboo pole per flag. 14. Designate a sacred space on the monastery grounds, which can bring you closer to nature. Put prayer flags around a spring source, or a grove of trees, or a large wilderness area with a beautiful view, and encourage the monastic community to use it as a meditation ground. 15. Plant trees in severely degraded areas. Set up the practice of planting trees in areas where there are many landslides and above the slippage area. 16. Work with the local forestry department or an environmental organization to select the right kinds of trees for planting. Select varied species of trees that are indigenous to the area. This means that the trees will be more likely to survive. 17. After selecting the area, plant the tree saplings mixed with half-grown and fully grown trees. This will provide a more natural habitat and encourage wildlife species to thrive there as well. It is not enough just to plant a sapling; you must take care of it as it grows into a tree. 18. Keep the area protected from livestock and minimize the extraction of resources (fodder, thatch, medicine, etc.) for a few years.

21. Encourage community management of forests. If there are common property lands nearby that are degraded, work with local communities and environmental NGOs to establish sustainable community forestry. 22. Speak out against illegal timber cutting and trade. Forests belong to the entire community, not the people who cut them down. 23. Use recycled paper whenever possible. Pechas and other books regularly used by monasteries can be printed on recycled paper. 24. Use biogas as an alternative to fuel wood. In areas where people still depend on wood as their primary source of fuel, they should examine biogas as an alternative. Simple biogas plants can also address the issue of human waste and animal waste disposal. 25. Learn about the wildlife that exists in your area. Include these animals in your aspiration prayers and in your teachings. 26. Teach local communities to feel reverence for all life. 27. If you are in a heavily forested area, protect existing wildlife. 28. If you know of people who hunt or participate in illegal wildlife trade in your surrounding communities, advise them against killing endangered species. 29. Don’t buy fur, ivory, or other endangered-animal products. By buying these things, you are personally contributing to the extinction of an entire species. 30. If you can influence local communities to give up wearing the fur of tigers, leopards, and otters, do so. There are fewer than 1,500 tigers left in India now. 31. Think twice before using traditional medicines. Although we are vegetarian, we often consume meat products when we take traditional medicines. Even worse, many of these medicines are made from endangered-animal products. Look for alternatives before taking these medicines. 32. Don’t buy coral. Coral is a living organism found in the world’s oceans; it provides a home for other living things such as fish and crabs. Due to global warming, coral species are already under great threat, and if they disappear, much of the biodiversity in the oceans will be lost.

33. Don’t throw garbage into rivers! Remember that the river continues thousands of miles further and may be the only source of drinking water for millions of people. 34. In areas near a water source, designate a boundary and keep the area clean of waste products and livestock faeces. 36. Plant vegetation on the banks of rivers and lakes to protect them and to improve the quality of the water. Lakes and rivers covered with a layer of green algae are usually suffering from too many nitrates, which are found in fertilizers and pesticides. Protect them by planting river reeds and plants that are native to the area. 37. If monastic grounds are used for farming, encourage organic farming using few pesticides and fertilizers. Instead, promote the use of manure and compost products. Most pesticides and fertilizers are washed away into nearby water areas when it rains. 39. Recreate wetlands. Wetlands are nature’s filtering system for polluted water; it naturally purifies contaminated water. If you used to have marshes in surrounding areas, allow for some water diversion and plant locally found wetland plant species. 48. In dry areas, harvest rainwater. Capture some of the rain that falls on your roof by connecting a water barrel to a downpipe. This water can be used in the garden. If properly designed and filtered, you can also use rain-harvesting tanks for drinking water. 50. Reuse the water that is offered daily on all monastery altars. Monasteries can conserve a lot of water by using the water from offering bowls for watering gardens and plants. 51. In cold climates, design new buildings to face south so that rooms most used by monastic bodies during the evening have the most light and heat during the winter. Create large windows to maximize light and heat. 52. In hot climates, use shading to cool down buildings. Plant trees on the south side of the monastery to provide more shade. Use climbing plants on trellises/frames on the hottest side of buildings at least 15 centimetres from the wall. 54. Plant a “green roof.” Place corrugated tin sheets over the cement so that soil is not directly on the cement. If they are placed at an angle, the rainwater can slope down toward the roof drains. On top of the sheets you can plant a garden. A green roof will cool down the building because the plants will absorb the sun’s rays. 57. Landscape around new buildings. Plant deciduous trees (trees that have leaves in the summer and none in the winter) on the south side to provide summer shade and winter sun. 59. Plant trees or hedges around monasteries and between them and the road. The vegetation will capture most of the dust from the road before it reaches the building. 61. Create your own vegetable gardens. It is important from both a health and an environmental standpoint to eat more leafy green foods. Growing your own vegetables will also help young monks and nuns better understand interdependence between ourselves and nature. 62. Plant fruit trees and bamboos. This will bring many benefits to you. Plant fruits that are naturally found in that area. 66. Use energy-efficient lighting. Use low-energy compact fluorescent bulbs, which use only 1/4 the energy of incandescent bulbs. 67. Use lighting efficiently in main shrine rooms. Usually all the lights in the main shrine room are turned on during teachings, but often this is unnecessary if the central area is well lighted. 75. For dark rooms on the top floor or in shrine rooms, set up sun pipes. Sun pipes are like sheltered chimneys with reflective interior surfaces that direct light from the outside into dimly lit areas in a building. 76. Use solar energy in areas where sunlight is plentiful and consistent. Solar energy is used all over the Tibetan Plateau and Himalayas for heating water, producing light, and producing heat. Simple technology such as solar kettles and solar panels can be adapted easily. 77. Explore the possibility of wind energy. Wind energy is clean technology .You can use this type of energy for pumping water, grinding grain, or producing electricity. 83. Use natural materials such as earthen cups and leaf plates for public events.86. Recycle silk khatas. Instead of selling brand-new silk khatas, charge devotees a small amount of money to offer a clean recycled khata to Rinpoches instead. Since the production of silk involves killing silkworms, this is also beneficial Dharma. 87. Set up a compost project for the monastery kitchen. Create bins or establish an area that is covered with old carpet or plastic sheeting to retain moisture and heat. Add equal amounts of green matter like plants and vegetables and brown matter like paper and twigs. Turn the compost every few weeks to make sure it decomposes properly and does not produce methane. Compost can be used in the monastery’s gardens instead of fertilizer and can be sold to local farmers. 94. Create a class in your shedra on environmental protection. Invite local NGOs or environmental experts to give lectures or to lead practical activities that young monks and nuns can get involved.

Maneka Gandhi

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