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Planetary Crisis Summit


By Ven. Tenzin Michael 

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Held at Jamyang Buddhist Center in London on 24th-25th April 2024

I felt very fortunate to be able to attend the 1. FPMT “Planetary Crisis Summit” organised by Jamyang London. The two day event with workshops and collective dialogue was skillfully facilitated by climate expert and author Rob Hopkins.

Several Buddhist organisations around the world already recognize the need for immediate action to save our planet from destruction, and now this topic is also discussed within the FPMT organisation. 
Jamyang‘s aim was to start a deep conversation within FPMT around our poly-crises, and to create a vision for deep conversation within the FPMT. The organisers called it „Planetary Crisis Summit“ because they didn’t want to limit the discussions on climate change alone, but include all the other crises humanity is facing today, like biodiversity loss, environmental pollution, mass extinction, population displacements, inequality, social justice, food and water shortages, famines, unprecedented heatwaves, forest fires, floods, and storms. 

If we were to look, collectively and unflinchingly at all these interrelated problems, what would we like to change? What do we see as the role of our organisations? What is our responsibility? How do we support our communities? 

The summit started with two encouraging messages from HH Dalai Lama and from Ling Rinpoche. HH reminded us about our universal responsibility on this earth, and he mentioned the importance of recognizing dependent arising as well as interdependence. 

As keynote speakers from climate science and social justice, Dr Aaron Thierry gave a presentation about the state of our planet and the different challenges which lie ahead. George Marshall explained to us the scale of what needs to be done, and why our brains are wired to ignore such facts like climate change. Prof. Jan Willis talked about how social justice and the climate crisis are linked, and how Buddhism can offer solutions.

During the break times, it was a pleasure to meet with all the different people of the FPMT family. Many senior students engaged in serving as center directors, teachers, board members, etc. Over the next two days we listened to professional presentations, alternating with moments of reflection, discussion, sharing of ideas, inspiration and practice. Together we explored topics such as: Climate Emergency and Mental Health, Activism and Buddhist ethics, and discussed how we might mobilize ourselves and our communities. 

We had a lot of fun with Rob Hobkins workshops where he guided us to imagine the beautiful future we likely to create. It’s really about imagination and hope. If we succeed as a society to collectively create a positive vision for the future, than our work will make it into reality. As Mahayana practitioners we are used to do this in our daily meditation, so why not using our meditation skills to save our planet?

In hands-on workshops and group discussions it became clear that Dharma practice and care for the planet are not separate issues, but need to go hand in hand. 
How can we keep bodhisattva vows, but ignore the suffering created by our destructive lifestyles? How should we act as buddhist practitioners? Personally I think, as a Mahayana practitioner I have a universal responsibility to care for others, and to act in ways which reduce their suffering. We should not limit our compassion to sentient beings, but we can try to expand it to include all of nature including our planet as a whole. Every action I do has a consequence, whether it is shopping, travelling or consuming energy. I need to look deeply into my motivation and check if it is really necessary, if it’s beneficial or maybe harmful. As Buddhists we should lead the way in the ecological transition, and be an inspiring example of non harm by adopting a lifestyle which cares for nature and respects the planetary boundaries.

During this summit it also became clear that the ecological crisis is actually a crisis of the mind. Because the causes of all the problems humanity is facing today, really originate from the delusions in our mind. Namely ignorance of dependent origination (ignoring interdependence, and seeing ourselves as being separate from nature and other beings), greed (of never being satisfied with what we have) and aversion (to everything that challenges our comfort and pleasure). Basically the Eight Worldly Concerns of which Lama Zopa Rinpoche talked again and again.

No matter how many technical innovations we may develop, without changing our selfcherishing attitude, we cannot expect to succeed in saving our planet from human destructive activities. As long as greed and desire guide our economic decisions, we will continue to exploit and destroy the planet we live in. The solutions to change our misguided attitude already exist in the Buddhas teachings, and therefore as a Buddhist organisation FPMT possesses a tremendous potential which allows us to offer real solutions to the world. Solutions which go beyond green technologies and a mere reduction of CO2 emissions, but address the actual root of the problems humanity is facing today. 

In short there are two main things we can do:
First, being an inspiring example by generating a loving attitude, caring for the planet, and reducing our own emissions; and second, reaching out to society by offering advice about dealing with the deeper causes of this planetary crisis. 

It has been a tremendous inspiration to come together, creating a space to discuss these challenges, looking for solutions and learning about what individuals and centers are already implementing on different levels. We are hoping that together we can continue the process by creating a dedicated group within the FPMT that would carry on the initial conversation and act as a catalyst of future initiatives in other FPMT regions, in centers, monasteries, etc.

We are at a crucial moment in world history, and I feel this is a crucial moment in the organisation of FPMT too. I’m looking forward to seeing us working together in creating the vision for a greener, happier future. A planet where the coming generations are still able to enjoy the perfect conditions to practice Dharma. 

Finally I would like to thank Jamyang London and all the organisers for this amazing event and all their hospitality. I left London with gratitude, inspiration and with the feeling that together we can make a difference!
Never give up!

Thank you all, 
Best wishes Tenzin Michael 


Here are some useful links related to the topic:

The ecological Nalanda: https://youtu.be/SBR9trNXo8g

Thogme Sangpo Buddhist Group Scotland has added Eco Dharma on to their website.
Eco-dharma combines the teachings of Buddhism with concerns about our environment. 
https://www.togmesangpo.org.uk/eco-dharma.html

EBU European Buddhist Union also has a section on Environment and Eco Dharma
https://europeanbuddhistunion.org/environment

EBU Magazine #10 is entirely about Ecodharma, with many really interesting articles. 
You can order it, or download it for free on their website:
https://europeanbuddhistunion.org/ebu-media-magazine

Jamyang Center London 
The Sanctuary Project includes a vision for renovation of the Old Courthouse in an ecological and sustainable way.
The Sanctuary Project; our values and aspirations for the community and the Old Courthouse.
https://sanctuary-project.mailchimpsites.com/

Rob Hobkins website
https://www.robhopkins.net/

The Letter: Laudato Si, Film
The Pope, the Environmental Crisis
https://youtu.be/Rps9bs85BII

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