Ogyen Trinley Dorje, spiritual head of a 900-year-old lineage of Tibetan Buddhism, says his deep concern for environmental issues comes naturally. As a boy on the Tibetan plateau, he lived close to the land, so, as he notes, “My views on the need for environmental stewardship did not come from artificial or theoretical knowledge but from early experience.”
Now living in northern India (near his mentor, the Dalai Lama), His Holiness the 17th Karmapa is promoting a program that seeks to instill good environmental practices in Buddhist monasteries and in local communities across the Himalayan region.
While on his current U.S. tour, the 29-year-old Karmapa sat down with Yale Environment 360 editor Roger Cohn and discussed how environmental awareness fits with the Buddhist concept of interdependence, why the impacts of climate change in the Himalaya are so significant, and what role religion can play in helping meet the world’s environmental challenges.
“The environmental emergency that we face is not just a scientific issue, nor is it just a political issue,” he said. “It is also a moral issue.”
Yale Environment 360: I wanted to start by asking about the programs you’ve launched in monasteries in the Himalaya to foster environmental protection and environmental stewardship. What is the goal of those programs, and how do they work?