International Buddhist Confederation
Statement on the Global Environment
From the 1st Founding Members Conclave, September 2013
From September 9th to 12th a meeting of 250 Buddhist leaders from 39 countries gathered in New Delhi for the 1st Founding Members Conclave of the International Buddhist Confederation. The meeting featured eminent and experienced speakers on topics of concern to the Buddhist community as well as those topics of concern to all mankind.
The plenary heard powerful messages from scientists, policy makers and religious leaders on the need for a concerted Buddhist response to the global environmental crisis, and how a network between politicians, scientists and Buddhists can create meaningful change. The environmental crisis was presented as the most pressing moral issue of our time, and there was a long discussion chaired by HH Gyalwang Karmapa, Ogyen Thinley Dorje, on this topic. In this vein there was also serious discussion of the idea of Buddhists engaging global bodies and governments on issues such as conflict resolution, the environment, social issues and inter-faith relations.
Statement of Purpose
The modern environmental crisis is rooted in human motivation and behavior. It is driven by ever increasing consumption, the belief that more material possessions will lead to greater happiness, and a lack of mindfulness about the consequences of our actions. Technical solutions are not enough. The environmental crisis, which we have created, requires a moral and ethical response. It is critical that we draw on the collective wisdom of the Buddhist traditions and the moral influence of Buddhist leaders and institutions to address the root causes of the environmental crisis and respond to the emerging effects.
Buddhist insights and teachings on suffering and happiness, causality, interdependence, and compassion can contribute to the personal and collective changes that are needed to address the climate crisis. Increasing material possessions, economic growth, and rising consumption levels are considered modern economic indicators of human progress, but beyond the satisfaction of basic needs, increasing consumption does not lead to greater happiness or wellbeing. In fact, the compulsion to consume more and more is an expression of craving, the root cause of suffering. Helping people become more aware of causality and the consequences of their actions is a critical part of reducing our environmental impact.
Buddhist leaders have a responsibility not only to teach, but also to lead through personal change and practical action. In order to reduce our impact on the global environment, our expectations and our lifestyles must change. Environmental mindfulness and environmental responsibility must be considered a form of Buddhist practice. Buddhist leaders could compose prayers and sadhanas to include environmental contemplation and action in daily Buddhist practice of their disciples and students. Buddhist leaders and institutions must provide an example to guide and inspire others.
The International Buddhist Confederation should establish a structure to focus on environmental issues. This could be a Permanent Standing Committee on the Environment or an International Buddhist Environmental Council. It should:
1. Issue a statement on climate change that endorses renewable energy, encourages Buddhist divestment from fossil fuels, and promotes environmentally sustainable lifestyles as a form of Buddhist practice
2. Bring together Buddhists working on environmental issues so they can develop a united voice. Coordinate online exchange and a conference on Buddhism and the Environment.
3. Identify priority issues and develop policies or position statements on each of these priority issues.
4. Develop Buddhist ecological leadership training materials in simple language that is easily translatable and accessible to non-scientists.
5. Complement and support on-going efforts in member countries. Compile resource materials and case studies on environmental issues, best practices, and initiatives by member institutions and make this information widely available.
6. Assess the environmental impact of modern Buddhist rituals and recommend alternatives for rituals and practices that have a negative environmental impact.
7. Assist the IBC Governing Body and Secretariat to ensure IBC operations and future IBC conferences or meetings are conducted in an environmentally responsible manner.
8. Assist the IBC Heritage Preservation and Development Committee to integrate environmental best practices into future plans for holy sites and pilgrimages.
◊ Publ. 26.9.2013