Buddhist Education
A harmonious World Begins in the Mind A Synergy of Conditions
BY T.Y.S. LAMA GANGCHEN, LAMA HEALER
08/05/2010 03:02 (GMT+7)
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        Firstly I would like to offer greetings and respect to the distinguished members of, both the panel and the audience, and other eminent members of the honorary and organizing committees. I like to thank the organizers for inviting me to participate in this conference, at such a significant moment, when China’s development and importance is once again renewed and gains much international attention. In particular, I would like to congratulate this great country for having very successfully hosted the 2008 Olympic Games.
 
     Events like this forum strengthen international exchange and dialogue for the benefit of development and better understanding, as for example on the issue of environmental pollution, which is not confined to national borders, but affects the whole world. In particular, this Forum - A harmonious World Begins in the Mind, a Synergy of Conditions - focuses on great values such as harmony, respect, cooperation and gratitude and uses the profound Buddhist wisdom of karma and interdependence as basic guidelines to foster insight into the laws of existence that will bring about a spirit of harmony with oneself, one’s surroundings, family, environment and society. 


     In the history of Buddhism in China, it is worthwhile recalling that the oldest wood block printed book was discovered in Dunhuang and dates back to 868 AD. This text happens to be a Chinese translation of the Diamond Sutra and hence is not only a testimony of the great technological advancement of China at the time but also of the profound interest in Buddhism.
 
     In the 13th century, when Marco Polo visited Asia, he initiated a significant exchange not only of trade but also of cultures, traditions, customs, and thought; and Chinese culture already at that time reached far into the world. Even though then China had fallen under foreign invasion, Marco Polo in his writings expresses his great appreciation for the high level of Chinese civilization and special sense of social harmony and unity that distinguished the nation from most other countries he had visited.
 
     Maybe also today China could take a leading and exemplary role in finding and implementing solutions for dealing with the global environmental crises.
 
     I am the Founder of the Lama Gangchen World Peace Foundation, a United Nations affiliated NGO (ECOSOC), and my work as a peace messenger involves traveling thousands of miles a year. Please allow me to share with you a few observations I have made during my travels around the world in the last 20 years.
    I have been teaching a practice through a book entitled "Making Peace with the Environment", which won the Healer of the Environment Award by the city of Aqui Terme in 1997 and for which the famous Italian showman, Marco Columbro, realized a video. In 1996, I have created the Himalaya Andes Amazon Healing Arts Association in Brazil to further environmental education and awareness. I have visited the Amazon three times and in a meeting with the Minister for the Environment in Brasilia, I proposed to preserve the Amazon forest not only for the large sweet water resources and the indispensable source of oxygen for this planet, but also to take advantage of the numerous rare medicinal plants in the Amazon. This could provide jobs for the local communities and valuable remedies for the sick in Brazil and world-wide.
 
 
The Environment: Microcosom and Microcosm
 
     Today, out of necessity most people live and work in large polluted cities deprived of the natural elements and energies of the environment. Electricity, central heating, air conditioning and such things as mobile phones upset our natural equilibrium. We call our cities 'urban jungles', but really they are urban deserts, as almost nothing grows there.  I am not suggesting that we need to return to the countryside, but we need to acknowledge the need for a natural environment for our own well-being and mental and physical health.
 
     Along with the industrial and technological revolutions have come destructively high levels of pollution. There are now 500,000 man-made pollutants in our environment. As a result city life makes us very tired and weak. We suffer from allergies, headaches, colds, coughs, memory loss, and also more serious illnesses.
 
     Worldwide in the 19th and 20th centuries there has been the development of science and high technology, which has brought many wonderful benefits to modern society and which is now enabling so many human beings to survive on our planet. At the same time we need to distinguish between technologies that are good for us and those, which harm us. We can choose green technologies and leave a positive legacy to the future generations.
 
 
     For example, lead pollution is a neural toxin, which lowers children’s intelligence; chemical food additives cause hyperactivity and so on. In many ways we are creating the conditions for poisoning and killing our body, mind and our environment. To improve our physical and mental health we need to make peace with the environment.  We need to increase our awareness for nature and for saving our environment and it's inhabitants. We have already unleashed the greatest wave of extinctions in seventy-five million years. We need to re-evaluate our dependence on this planet and develop a non-violent attitude towards it, if we want to create a sustainable society. We have a huge global responsibility and technological progress and business must go hand in hand with healing the planet. Whatever we want from life, be it physical health, material success, a beautiful healthy place to live in, or we wish for spiritual liberation and Enlightenment, we need to take care of the five elements and purify and re-energize them so that they become strong and clean once again.
 
    We need to respect and heal both our natural and urban environments. Our ancestors created balance and harmony through good city planning and architecture.  Of course we need to take into account the complexity of modern city life, but the great city-states of ancient times still have many wonderful ideas to offer us. Our ancestors understood how to balance the urban and natural environments.  All ancient cultures highly respected nature and sacred spaces as integral parts of their city planning. Especially in China you have the great science of Feng Shui and Tao, and a precious heritage of great masters like Confucious or Lao Tse, who taught about the natural laws of the five elements and the effects on the environment, our health, stability, wealth conditions, etc individually and collectively.
 
    I grew up in an ancient society, in Tibet, that was deeply rooted in spiritual and environment values. In Tibet unless we were rich and had a horse, we walked everywhere, and we were directly in touch with the earth every day.
 
    Modern society has lost touch with the Earth and consequently this is creating many difficulties and dangers. Not only have we lost touch with the earth, but we have also lost contact with the space, wind, water and fire elements. These elements are the very basis of our physical existence, that we have become disconnected and alienated from and as a result, we have spread pollution and destruction all over our planet. We do this out of ignorance, not realizing that we are also destroying our bodies and minds at the same time. It says in the Kalachakra Tantra, an ancient Indian environmental and vajrayana work:  “Just as it is with the outer world, so it is with the inner world”. Our body is made up of and functions due to the same five elements that we find in the outer world. These five elements are:  space, wind, fire, water and earth. We need to recognize and accept this in order to understand the importance of taking care of them.
 
     The energy and elements of our body and mind are a microcosm, that mirror the outer universe, the macrocosm. This means that harming and polluting the environment causes us mental and physical problems. This is what is implied by a synergy of conditions.
 
 
Environmental Education
 
     If we continue in our present self-destructive fashion, and ignore the already present global environmental emergency, the danger will arise that the five elements of our planet will disintegrate and die and consequently the conditions for our live will cease to exist. If we destroy our outer and inner environment, what kind of legacy do we leave for our children and the future generations to inherit?
 
    Given the fact that modern society is faced with far greater dangers of environmental pollution and destruction then the past, environmental education has gained tremendous importance in the last few years. 
 
    Of course many of the technological advances of modern society are wonderful, but, now we are all run and rush every day, just to survive and we have forgotten our ancient ideas, values and nature. Perhaps we can once again learn from the ancient traditions and cultures such as those of China.
 
     Nowadays, in the global village, everyone is more or less afflicted by the same problems. For example, worldwide water pollution is damaging both the environment and our health. It seems as if there are unlimited water resources on this planet, but in fact the drinking water reserves are only a very small percentage. According to the statistics of the World Bank and the World Health Organization, half the world’s population is without clean drinking water and contaminated water is the source of 80% of all illnesses in the developing countries. Thus, it is essential that we do something to avert this devastating situation. Environmental education is fundamental.
 
    In 1972 the first Conference on the Human Environment took place in Stockholm, which lead to the establishment of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). The declaration states many very significant concerns, such as:
    “A point has been reached in history when we must shape our actions throughout the world with a more prudent care for their environmental consequences. Through ignorance or indifference we can do massive and irreversible harm to the earthly environment on which our life and well being depend. Conversely, through fuller knowledge and wiser action, we can achieve for ourselves and our posterity a better life in an environment more in keeping with human needs and hopes. There are broad vistas for the enhancement of environmental quality and the creation of a good life. What is needed is an enthusiastic but calm state of mind and intense but orderly work. For the purpose of attaining freedom in the world of nature, man must use knowledge to build, in collaboration with nature, a better environment. To defend and improve the human environment for present and future generations has become an imperative goal for mankind-a goal to be pursued together with, and in harmony with, the established and fundamental goals of peace and of worldwide economic and social development.”
    nearly forty years ago the great importance for environmental care was clearly understood, yet it seems that in fact today we are even more far from reaching those goals. A renewed effort was made during the conference in Rio de Janiero in 1992, and since then of course many other events are being held to bring awareness to the global environmental emergency, such as for example, the recent international debates on global warming, the destruction of the ozone layer, and the loss of our biodiversity during the major conference of Clima Latino organized by the Andean Parliament in Ecuador in October 2007.
From the very beginning, everyone has singled out the importance of environmental education for both children and adults. However, while progress has been made, education has not been instrumental in stopping environmental destruction from taking place.
Therefore, more then ever, it is essential to promote environmental education. However, an emphasis on our ‘outer environment’ and the measurements of its destruction by use of technology and research to address our environmental problems is not sufficient, as we have the proof in the increasing numbers of natural calamities all over this planet.
 
    We know that there are environmental biologists, environmental conservationists, environmental ecologists, environmental economists, environmental educators, etc.  These are important professions. And we know that traditional environmental economists may be effective in modifying behavior and, ultimately, change the natural and human environment, with the use of technologies and the so-called economic policy incentives (e.g., taxing the polluter).
 
    We must all individually recognize the fragile situation and the already irreversible damage of our planet and feel the urgency for protecting our environment - only then will it be possible for something to change. It is extremely important that we leave the remaining precious natural treasures of the environment in an undisturbed and peaceful state. I believe that every citizen of our planet has a deep responsibility to stop the environmental destruction and instead, help in its recovery.
    We should not give up our collective responsibility for the environment and expect our Government, or the United Nations to solve the global environmental problems. Most people do not give much thought to the state of the environment; we mainly think about our jobs, money and relationships. Even those who do think about global environmental issues often feel powerless and frightened and so they quickly switch their thoughts to other more comfortable subjects. However, our society is made up of many individuals and hopefully all the governments and the United Nations will respond positively to a genuine change in public opinion and environmental consciousness.
 
 
Inner Peace Education
 
    At the same time we need to clean and recycle not only our wastes, but also the inner pollution of our negative emotions and destructive attitudes, if we are to live happily in our cities.
 
    We can learn from Buddhism how to deal with many of psychological causes of stress in modern cities; lack of friendships, breakdown of traditional family structures, loneliness, poverty, competitiveness, uncertainty about the future and violence. Now both our emotional lives and our cities are full of violence and lack peace and harmony. We need to recognize this.
 
    In the next century, in many countries there will be intense competition for human resources such as work, money, living space, nutritious food, clean water and air. As 'mega-cities' become more common, non-violent education will become vital in the prevention of widespread urban crime and civil unrest. We need education to overcome inner darkness, fear, inner violence and prejudice, so we do not express our destructive habits against our fellow citizens and the environment. Inner Peace Education helps us deal with the stress of modern living and the many different types of outer and inner violence we now experience. This will be very important for the next generation, who will face worse difficulties than us. I believe, Inner Peace is the most solid foundation for World Peace and global Harmony.
 
    As we have more or less lost the psychological side of our education, we need non-formal education, to teach us the inter-personal skills that are missing in modern urban life, such as love, compassion, harmony, inner peace and inner space so we can learn how to create a harmonious environment around us. These skills increase our positive emotional states and help us to deal with the stressful and difficult situations confronting us, such as lack of traditional social networks, stress, unemployment, uncertainty, ageing, sickness, bereavement, competitiveness and the alienation of modern city life.
 
    We need to develop a peace culture within our institutions and collectively make a big effort to overcome the culture of violence. Our media could be used to provide more positive and constructive information that could contribute to a more harmonious society, especially for entertainment. We also need more empowerment of women within our societies, both socially, and economically. Non-violent education is a long term investment for the psychological health of our society.
 
 
    Recognizing and Taking Care of the Five Elements - Ancient Wisdom on Environmental Care
 
    By taking care of the elements, we can have a healthy body, a healthy mind, a healthy life and a healthy world, both in this and future lives. To come to this point we have to learn about and understand the interdependence between our bodies and minds, the five elements and the environment, which we inhabit. We must re-discover that which is important and precious in life. We have forgotten our ancient values and ideas on nature. Consequently the environment, as well as ourselves, is becoming increasingly sick and tired because of so much suffering. Machines and development are beneficial, but the environment and natural things are also true. My opinion is that now we should put more energy into learning how to live in harmony with the environment.
 
    If we understand that our Earth is precious and lovely, we will develop a special feeling towards all the five elements. This is Self-Healing. Relatively few people in modern society practice Buddhism, but everyone needs to recognize the preciousness of the five elements.
 
    Siddharta, Gautama Buddha, 2500 years ago deeply researched the nature of our human existence and discovered many profound truths such as the interconnectedness as well as the impermanence of all phenomena. He was an inner scientist and today scientists begin to understand that his discoveries about reality are very much in tune with those of modern science. Hence also many modern scientists, doctors, psychologists etc find that Buddhism is very easy to relate to and that it provides many very useful insights, methods, and applicable views independently of being a believer or not.
 
    According to Buddhism everything is interconnected and hence outer and inner conditions are intimately related and produce individual and collective results. Everything is woven into this web of interdependence and we live in circumstances that are the outcome of individual and collective karma. But we also have part in creating the world we live in and the future generations will live in, by generating positive or negative influences that contribute to the health our environment.
 
    Through understanding tendrel, or ecological interdependence, we are able to comprehend the positive and negative results of our actions on the environment. Through this understanding we gain a lot of feeling and energy to purify the five elements of our body and of the world. We have collectively polluted our planet and so, we collectively need to do something to heal our world and restore its original balance and harmony. In this way our wish to live in a pure and healthy world will definitely come true.
 
    There already exist many ways of taking care of the environment but used alone these are not enough. We need new complimentary solutions that take into account the psychological and emotional reasons of why we harm our environment. We need to understand interdependence, and practice non-violence towards the environment and protection of animals, while living in harmony with nature and the seasons.
 
    For many people, it is difficult and uncomfortable to follow ancient traditions. Modern people like to receive information in different ways; through study, education and the media. People like to go to conferences, seminars, watch television, listen to the radio, and use the internet to look for new ideas. In reality everybody is searching for solutions to their suffering, and I think  we need to  combine the essence of vajrayana tantric and mantric environmental care with modern environmentalism  and is very important and necessary as it fits in with our modern mentality.
 
    Taking care of the environment is an inseparable part of Buddhist meditation practice. An important preparatory practice, before beginning any actual meditation, is to clean, purify and heal the environment through various techniques such as visualisation, concentration and the chanting of mantras. Once this is completed we begin the meditation in an environment that is clean and peaceful. In this way our meditation is more successful. We should try to see the external pollution around us as a reflection of the pollution in our body and mind. When we are cleaning the outer environment, we should try to imagine that we are purifying our body and mind as this increases our good health and life force. Through cleaning the environment, our mind becomes clearer enabling us and other beings, including subtle sensitive beings, to feel happier. It also creates the cause for us, in the future, to be reborn with a beautiful, clean body in a pure environment.
 
    In Vajrayana Buddhism the five Dhyani Buddhas represent the five enlightened wisdom aspects of mind. They may also be seen as the five Supreme Healers as they manifest the antidote to help us overcome our five main mental poisons of Ignorance, unlimited attachment, anger and hatred, miserliness and pride and jealousy and fear. All our psychological disturbances can be summarized in these five main afflictions as we learn to deal with them we slowly discover our crystal clear, pure qualities of wisdom, love, compassion, generosity and all-accomplishing wisdom, and discover our true Buddha nature that enables us to live in harmony with ourselves, and our surroundings.
 
    Furthermore, Vajrayana Buddhism deeply explains how the nature of our existence is depended on the five elements. Their harmonious interdependence is constructive, when in disharmony it becomes destructive and leads to disintegration. This is how our body grows and also dies, and the same is true for all phenomena. As without the five elements no existence is possible, they may also be seen as the five Great Mothers, of earth, water fire, wind and space the source of all creation.
 
    Thus we need harmony with the five elements and harmony in our mind. To achieve this we need the blessings and methods of the holy beings, such as Guru Buddha Tubwang Tendrelma “The One Fully Able to Heal by the Power of Interdependence”, who due to the positive interdependent arising of his special kindness and particular dedication, revealed countless outer, inner and secret healing methods, as well as the union of method and wisdom yogas. These methods bring to us solutions in this age of environmental degeneration and pollution. They awaken the pure crystal blessing energy, which heals, transforms, purifies and regenerates the essence of the outer, inner and secret five elements, thus increasing and stabilizing inner and world peace.
 
A harmonious world begins in the mind
A purified mind contributes to a purified world
A calm mind contributes to a peaceful world
 
 
Conclusion
    Nowadays, faced with a complex, existential global environmental and social crises, we need to rediscover the ancient secret powerful methods of our religious traditions and reveal them openly to heal our bodies and minds, the environment of our planet and the countless beings it supports. All the religious leaders need to show their power, love and compassion and the new solutions of inner science and technology to develop peace and harmony for both the global family and the small family. For this reason I have proposed the creation of a Spiritual Forum at the United Nations, which, in collaboration with many other international organizations, we have been promoting worldwide since 1995.
We need to unify science and religion into a New Wisdom Vehicle through which we can create peace in our minds, society and environment. We need to use alternative technology as well as using meditation and yogic science to change our minds and heal our emotions. In this way we can find solutions for every moment of our daily lives and save our planet.
 
    Great Forums such as The first World Buddhist Forum which was held two years ago in Hang Zhou  and the holy island of Puto San, and now this second great event here are a brilliant contributions to unify the different Buddhists traditions and try to implement the manifold methods in all aspects of our modern society, as in this Forum we have touched 13 major topics. I hope that China will help to save the great Buddhist heritage, in particular the precious treasure of Vajrayana Buddhism still preserved until today in Tibet, and share this profound wisdom with the future generations of this world.
                    
    In conclusion, as the future generations are really depending on us and on how we create a world that would not foreclose their options; we need to make a new effort to take care of our planet and leave a world where they do not have to pay a prohibitive cost to maintain a minimum level of material welfare; a world where environmental and spiritual welfare is at least as important as material welfare is today.  So, they may become both materially and spiritually rich and healthy. This will go a long way to making peace possible in the twenty-first century, even as the world population grows. We need to learn to live with an attitude of Non-Violence not only between nations, races and creeds but also towards the environment. We need to make peace with the environment!
 


                     Making Peace With the Environment

                     Making Peace with the Five Elements

                      Making Peace with Mother Earth

                      Making Peace with Mother Water

                      Making Peace with Mother Fire

                      Making Peace with Mother Wind

                      Making Peace with Mother Space
 
                      Making Peace with every nation

                      Making Peace with this World
 
Thank you very much!
 
T.Y.S. Lama Gangchen
Italy, August 2008

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