An Interview on Global Concerns with

Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche

‘As human beings, we are getting into very dangerous territory…. Our world could turn into a desert and we really need to be aware of this.’


JS: Rinpoche, the latest report from Tibet indicates that the glaciers there are melting at 7% every year, twice as fast as glaciers in the European Alps. If we don’t change, in 20 years time there will be almost no glaciers left in Tibet. The great rivers in Asia rise there. Their summer flow depends on the glaciers. There would be critical water shortages in both India and China. Many millions of people would be affected as agricultural crops fail.

CNR: We human beings are greedy. On one hand we feel smart because we are very civilised, we have so much technology, and we have become rich and comfortable. A few thousand years ago, people lived hard lives. There were no airplanes, cars, or even bicycles, and travel was difficult. Worse, there were no modern medicines, not even proper eyeglasses! Now we are attached to our comfort and our high standard of living. On the other hand, we are just burning through everything, expanding our population, and using up the earth’s natural resources. It’s unbelievable. We are actually just living greedily in short-term luxury – but the way we live now will affect everything for a long time. The damage will not be minor at all – it might assume such proportions that life will end up much worse than it was thousands of years ago.

As human beings, we are getting into very dangerous territory. The children of the future will face great difficulties and danger: shortage of water, food, medicine – shortage of everything. This is a very real danger, not only for humans but also for all the animals. Our world could turn into a desert and we really need to be aware of this.

Right now, we are in the middle of an emergency. Every day we are falling further behind and remedial actions are getting postponed. We shouldn’t wait years, even months because each day we are causing further damage to ourselves. We can no longer think simply about Tibet, Asia, and America since this crisis is assuming global proportions and affecting the whole planet.

Now, primarily, this is in the hands of politicians. But we also need to have religious leaders, scientists, climatologists and the relevant experts discuss this issue and come to agreement as to how to best solve this problem. We need the leaders of all religions to be involved. It’s very important that religious leaders, politicians, business people, and industrialists have a genuine dialogue now. I think everybody will care, if not for other reasons, then at least for his or her future descendants. This is about our own children, grandchildren and their sons and daughters.

JS: Everything we observe now results from just 0.7 degrees centigrade increase in the Earth’s average temperature. There is still a collective failure to recognize the gravity of our situation, so we have been asking lamas which pujas could be done to advance awareness and positive, corrective action?

CNR: Pujas can indeed be helpful, but we also need to have a serious discussion and get the general public involved. Everyone needs to know the direction that we are heading. So I think the main point is to focus on education and access to information. We need to know what kind of damage we are creating and what can be done to reverse that. What is the solution? What can we do?

JS: The solution is to curtail waste and to use Renewable Energy. In Germany, business people see this as a valuable opportunity. But it seems that in general, the fossil fuel industry wants to continue making vast profits. The consensus of expert scientists is that we have a 50/50 chance to stop global warming. We must reverse the flow of carbon gas pollution by 2015 at the latest. So there are 6 – 7 years left to make a really effective world treaty. If not, we could provoke ‘tipping points’ that set off runaway global warming.

CNR: Only seven years! There is a well-known Buddhist text, theAbhidharmakosa, that implies the future of the world will become very hot—7 times the heat of the present sun.

JS: In the geological history of the planet, 55 million years ago, long before humans evolved, there was a runaway global warming event that caused a mass extinction of animals and plants. It took tens of thousands of years before the climate purified itself from all the carbon gas pollution. That is one possible outcome if we do not stop this process in time.

CNR: You mentioned aspirations, puja, and prayer. As to pujas, I do not need to say much—it’s our religion. Buddhists believe in the effect of aspirations and meditation. It is very important that all religions make their prayers and perform rituals to turn around this global warming situation. If religious practitioners begin to focus on global warming in such ways, then others may also notice it and begin to inquire into the nature and purpose of these rituals and prayers. People will pause and begin to contemplate the current situation. People will become more aware, and this will have a positive influence.

JS: Religion may be the only motive force as powerful as the corporate interests blocking constructive change. Buddhism is the only religion that is unafraid of science. Buddhist leaders could talk to scientists and reach a common position. Then they should be willing to give an informed, definitive statement – that it is absolutely not acceptable to destroy the future for our descendants and for all these other species. We absolutely condemn it. We absolutely, structurally, oppose it.

CNR: Naturally, that would be the Buddhist response. If asked, Buddhist teachers will express it just as you do. I don’t have anything to add to that—you have already said it. I am not joking.

My conclusion is that we need to create awareness about this among all human beings. It is not possible to explain this to the animals but, if it were, we should even do that. We need all human beings to recognize the implications and outcomes of our current lifestyle. We have become so greedy that we choose today’s luxury over any consideration of future consequences: ‘What happens tomorrow, happens…. I just take care of my life. Who cares what kind of life my children will face?’ We are actively destructive, but we don’t care. Above all else, we want our comfort now.

So it is urgent to clearly demonstrate what effects will appear in the future, as well as the solutions presently available. We need to encourage religious leaders, politicians, business people, and the general public to look at these trends and outcomes. Everyone needs to focus with a common energy on the available solutions. What is the best solution? How important is it to apply it? Why not apply it now? If we don’t apply it, what is the danger? We need to move to the solutions. I can’t say more than that.

Excerpt from interview by John & Diane Stanley,
Bodnath, Nepal, 24th March 2007

Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche [b.1951] is the abbot of Ka-Nying Shedrub Ling Monastery, near the Great Stupa at Bodnath, Kathmandu. Rinpoche is the eldest son of the great Dzogchen master Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche and an internationally known meditation teacher. In 1981 he founded Rangjung Yeshe Institute for Buddhist Studies. His books include Union of Mahamudra and Dzogchen, Bardo Guidebook, Indisputable Truth and Present Fresh Wakefulness.

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Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche on global warming.

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