About Us
Mind Psyche Spirit
The Third Pole
Deep Ecology
Buddhist Climate Project

A Buddhist Response to
The Climate Emergency


Wisdom Publications • Boston:
© 2009 John Stanley, David R. Loy, Gyurme Dorje
ISBN 0-86171-605-1 (pbk)

The Contributors:

Dalai Lama XIV
Gyalwang Karmapa XVII
SakyaTrizin Rinpoche
Dudjom Rinpoche
Chatral Rinpoche
Thrangu Rinpoche
Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche
Ato Rinpoche
RinguTulku Rinpoche
Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche
Tsoknyi Rinpoche
Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche
Bhikkhu Bodhi
Robert Aitken
Joanna Macy
Joseph Goldstein
Taigen Dan Leighton
Susan Murphy
Matthieu Ricard
Hozan Alan Senauke
Lin Jensen
Thich Nhat Hanh


The book contains 50% new content, not available on this website. It is a primer for the development of pan-Buddhist policy for a safe-climate future. It examines the challenge and opportunity of the climate crisis, in the light of contemplative, integral activism. 

It begins and concludes with contributions from the two most influential Buddhist teachers of our times: the fourteenth Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, and the Vietnamese master Thich Nhat Hanh. As their essays reveal, the climate emergency has become a paramount concern for both of them.

Part II provides a summary of the most recent scientific findings on the climate crisis, as well as related developments across the spectrum of environment and energy. The information is presented in a broad historical-evolutionary context, which incorporates a Buddhist perspective on how our present situation developed.

The following two sections offer a variety of Buddhist perspectives on the climate and sustainability crisis, by many well-known Asian (Part III) and Western (Part IV) Buddhist teachers. Part V reviews major, collective responses we urgently need to implement if we are to manage and reverse the climate emergency. The emphasis is on scientific validity, proven efficacy, the absence of side-effects, and consistency with Buddhist values. We must all inform ourselves and play our part to assure a safe-climate future, for human civilization and for all the other beings who share this precious world with us.


Table of Contents

David R. Loy and John Stanley

The Buddhadharma and the Planetary Crisis
Overview of the Book

Part I
Mind, Heart, and Nature

The Fourteenth Dalai Lama

Universal Responsibility and the Climate Emergency
The Sheltering Tree of Interdependence: A Buddhist Monk’s
Reflections on Ecological Responsibility

Part II
Global Warming Science: A Buddhist Approach

John Stanley

Climate, Science, and Buddhism
Our Own Geological Epoch: The Anthropocene
“The celestial order disrupted loosens plague,
famine, and war…”
Climate Breakdown at the Third Pole: Tibet
The Road from Denial to Agricultural Collapse
The Peak Oil Factor
Scientific Predictions of Ecological Karma
The Sixth Great Extinction
What Makes Us Do It?
A Safe-Climate Future

Part III
Asian Buddhist Perspectives

Preface: The Meaning of Aspirational Prayer
Gyurme Dorje

Pure Aspiration, Bodhisattva Activity,
and a Safe-Climate Future
Gyalwang Karmapa XVII

The Global Ecological Crisis: An Aspirational Prayer
Kyabje Sakya Trizin Rinpoche

The Mandala of the Four Energies in the Kaliyuga
A Prayer to Protect the Earth
Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche

A Prayer at a Time of Ecological Crisis
Kyabje Chatral Rinpoche

When Snow Mountains Wear Black Hats
An Aspirational Prayer to Avert Global Warming
Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche

A Prayer to Protect the World’s Environment
Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche

Human Intelligence Without Wisdom Can
Destroy Nature
Ato Rinpoche

The Bodhisattva Path at a Time of Crisis
Ringu Tulku Rinpoche

Very Dangerous Territory
Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche

A New Meaning of Chu (“Beings”) and
No (“Environment”) Has Emerged
Tsoknyi Rinpoche

Minimum Needs and Maximum Contentment
Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche

Part IV
Western Buddhist Perspectives

The Voice of the Golden Goose
Bhikkhu Bodhi

Woe Unto Us!
Robert Aitken Roshi

On Being with Our World
Joanna Macy

“Except as we have loved, all news arrives as from a distant land”
Joseph Goldstein

Now the Whole Planet Has Its Head on Fire
Taigen Dan Leighton

The Untellable Nonstory of Global Warming
Susan Murphy

The Future Doesn’t Hurt…Yet
Matthieu Ricard

The World Is What You Make It:
A Zen View of Global Responsibility
Hozan Alan Senauke

The Rising Temperature of Planet Earth
Lin Jensen

Part V

John and Diane Stanley

Clarity, Acceptance, Altruism:
Beyond the Climate of Denial
A Renewable Future
Five Transformative Powers
The End of Energy Waste
Goodbye to the Internal Combustion Engine
Tradable Energy Quotas
Drawing Down Carbon with Biochar
Reducing the Carbon Footprint of the Meat Industry
Ending Deforestation
Reforesting the Earth

Part VI
The Bells of Mindfulness

Thich Nhat Hanh


Endorsement of a Safe Level for Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide
The Dalai Lama

What’s Next?
David R. Loy and John Stanley





The Fourteenth Dalai Lama
Excerpt from:

Universal Responsibility and
the Climate Emergency

It is difficult to fully comprehend great environmental changes like global warming. We know that carbon dioxide levels are rising dangerously in the atmosphere leading to unprecedented increases in the average temperature of the planet. The Earth’s great stores of ice—the Arctic, the Antarctic, and the Tibetan plateau—have begun to melt. Devastating sea level rises and severe water shortages could result this century. Human activity everywhere is hastening to destroy key elements of the natural ecosystems all living beings depend on.

Eminent scientists have said that global warming is as dangerous for our future as nuclear war. We have entered the uncharted territory of a global emergency, where “business as usual” cannot continue. We must take the initiative to repair and protect this world, ensuring a safe-climate future for all people and all species.



Ringu Tulku Rinpoche
Excerpt from:

The Bodhisattva Path at a Time of Crisis

When society degenerates, the world becomes worse. Peoples’ negative emotions and actions become raw, aggressive, greedy, and deluded. Environmental damage accumulates, militarism and war come to the fore, disease, famine, and diminishing lifespan begin to increase. Excessive greed causes us to disrespectfully take everything from the earth or sea, while ignoring the pollution we cause. This collective negativity harms ourselves, of course, and in the case of global warming, the damage will extend long into the future of ourselves and others. Consumerism relies upon fundamental confusion, amplified by advertising. The resulting over-consumption sows the seeds of self-destruction, as we can now see in the Arctic. The sea ice has melted so much that there is a waterway all round the top of the world. Instead of taking urgent stock of what this may mean for the survival of the world we know, the neighboring countries have started to fight about who gets any oil reserves beneath the ocean.

Emptiness, interdependence, impermanence, and the dreamlike nature of things do not prevent us from taking altruistic or positive action. It may be like a dream, but it still affects beings… If there is environmental or climate collapse, everybody will assuredly be affected — some more, some less, but there will be an unprecedented negative impact. Clearly it is a vitally important bodhisattva activity to prevent a universal disaster like the collapse of our living world.



Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi
Excerpt from:

The Voice of the Golden Goose

As a spiritual teaching, Buddhism rests on two complementary pillars, wisdom and compassion, both of which can help us diagnose and address the dangers of climate breakdown. Through wisdom, we investigate a danger: see it as a whole, identify its underlying causation, and determine what can be done to remedy it at the causal level. Through compassion, our hearts feel the danger vividly and personally, and thereby expand to embrace all those exposed to harm: all who, like ourselves, are subject to suffering, who seek peace, well-being, and happiness. Reflection on the broad consequences of runaway global warming enables us to see that this is not merely a problem of rules and regulations that can be solved by a simple technological fix. It is at base a deeply moral problem that challenges our humanity and ethical integrity…

If we let our minds embrace all our fellow beings with lovingkindness, “as a mother does her only child” (Metta Sutta),we will feel a compelling sense of urgency swell up from our depths, rooted in a clear recognition of the perils that hang over innumerable beings, human and non-human, whether in this country or in other lands. And if we let our hearts be stirred by compassion, we will see that we have no choice but to act, and to act in ways that will truly make a difference. But effective action must be rooted in insight, in wisdom. Here the heuristic approach of Buddhism becomes pertinent. To resolve any problem effectively, it is necessary to see it whole and in its wider context.



Joseph Goldstein
Excerpt from:

“Except as we have loved,
all news arrives as from a distant land”

The great twelfth-century Korean Zen Master Chinul’s, framework of teaching is Sudden Awakening, Gradual Cultivation: “Although we have awakened to original nature, beginningless habit energies are extremely difficult to remove suddenly. Hindrances are formidable and habits are deeply ingrained. So how could you neglect gradual cultivation simply because of one moment of awakening? After awakening you must be constantly on your guard. If deluded thoughts suddenly appear, do not follow after them…Then and only then will your practice reach completion.”

We have probably all had moments of what we might call a sudden awakening to the truth of global warming: reading different newspaper accounts, watching Al Gore’s impactful film An Inconvenient Truth, times even of deriding those who don’t believe it’s happening—“How could they not believe the obvious scientific truth of it all?” Yet those moments can quickly pass, and the beginningless habit energies of forgetfulness, other desires, and basic ignorance re-surfaced once again. Here is where Chinul’s emphasis on gradual cultivation can be a template for our own awakening. We need to repeatedly remind ourselves of the situation and not settle for a generalized understanding that climate change is a problem. We need to be willing to make some effort to keep ourselves informed, over and over again, so that we don’t fall back into deluded thinking: “How could you neglect gradual cultivation simply because of one moment of awakening?”



Hozan Alan Senauke
Excerpt from:

The World Is What You Make It:
A Zen View of Global Responsibility

Sixty-five years ago, human technology “developed” to the point where nuclear weapons gave us the means to destroy Earthly civilization in one blow. After an initial horrendous experiment with atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we have—so far—taken the road of nuclear deterrence, refraining from further use of such weapons. But our heedless pattern of consumption, our seemingly unquenchable appetite for fossil fuels, has led us to destroy an environment that has sheltered us for age after age. In geological time, the present environmental destruction flowing from human activity over less than a hundred years—the massive generation of carbon dioxide and resultant global warming—is as swift as a nuclear bomb, and potentially as destructive to life.

The Bodhisattva precepts boil down to one essential principle: not to live at the expense of other beings. This is simple to say, and very difficult to do. Each of us must take complete responsibility for the world, as if the world’s fate depended on our words and actions. Whether we know it or not, it does.
...When I recognize that my life and everything in it has been freely given to me, how can I deny this gift to all other beings, and to the planet itself? Take only what one needs and allow all things to be free and fully themselves.


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