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His Holiness 14th Dalai Lama

Message on protection of the environment
By His Holiness the Dalai Lama Translated by Acharya Nyima Tsering

These days the environment — the source of life for all beings in the world including Tibet, the land of snows — is undergoing extensive degeneration. At this time it is extremely important that every human being, according to his or her ability, consistently puts efforts into ensuring the conservation and protection of this planet’s environment and its inhabitants.

The benefits of an undefiled environment are many; for instance, a healthy tree purifies the air and supplies oxygen for living beings to breathe. It harmonizes the elements and increases life expectancy. Its shade provides a refreshing place to rest. It brings rain at the right time. It nourishes crops and livestock, and balances the temperature. It contributes to an attractive landscape and continually replenishes its surroundings. It brings about natural development in the spheres of education, economics, and so forth.

The drawbacks of a polluted environment include a decline in the pure, cool qualities of the oceans and lakes, so that the creatures dwelling in those places are disturbed. The loss of vegetation and forests causes degeneration in the earth’s nourishment. Rain does not fall when it is needed. Unprecedented fierce storms rage, and so on. So there are many disadvantages.

From the dharma point of view, our teacher, the king of Shakaya, was also born at the foot of a tree. He attained enlightenment under a tree, and finally passed away under a tree. Particularly in the Vinaya of the holy dharma, fully ordained monks are taught how to nurture trees and so on. From that we can understand that planting and nurturing trees are virtuous acts. Moreover, the wisdom deities of the non-mundane worlds as well as various local devas, nagas and spirits inhabit trees. That also leads us to understand that trees are by nature extremely important.

It is generally beneficial to plant various types of trees, as mentioned above. In particular, fruit trees provide a living and nourishment predominantly for humans, as well as being of benefit to many other sentient creatures. They help to improve health and increase appetite, and so forth. So it certainly is important to plant trees.

Likewise, planting flowers also is a pure virtuous act. For example, when making a mandala offering we pray that the ground may be covered with incense and strewn with flowers. Flowers assists us in accumulating merit and purifying obscurations, and also are an indispensable offering item everywhere in performing religious activities, such as the visualization of meditational deities. Moreover, if there are colourful flowers and then offer them through visualization to the triple Gem, the benefit of a swift accumulaton of merit occurs. What is more, when people who are experiencing stress and an imbalanced mind stroll for while in a garden, their minds are benefited by becoming refreshed and filled with pleasure.

Therefore, the whole of society needs to take an interest in planting various kinds of trees and flowers around monasteries, schools, offices, hospitals, factories, restaurants, hotels and residences, and on both sides of thoroughfares. In order to protect the growth of whatever has been planted in the best way, people should advise their children not to harm them. This definitely is a beneficial service to oneself and others and, in fact, to all living beings.

In Tibet previously there was a good tradition of instituting laws to safeguard hills and valleys for unprotected and unsupported wild animals and birds and for the protection of various defenceless creatures. We should maintain the continuity of this tradition. At the present time a few thoughtless people hunt wild animals and catch fish and seals, through their craving for money and material goods. It is noble work for self and others, and for present and future lives, to stop all of this from happening.

Similarly, it is inappropriate and randomly to discard fruit-peel, paper, plastic, bottles, old clothes, food leftovers and other kinds of garbage. Nor should people urinate and defecate everywhere. Such things spoil the beauty of the landscape and are a hazard to health and hygiene. There are some people especially who lie their worn clothes and fallen hair to the branches of trees. This looks extremely unattractive, so from now on this habit should be abandoned.

In short, this is a request that, through understanding the interdependent nature of the world and its inhabitants, people will implement practices based upon unmistakenly accepting the correct means to cherish the potential of the vast natural realm.

May the attractive and healthy forests be increased in all the one hundred directions! May sentient creatures be freed from untimely death and live happy lives!

The Dalai Lama

September 2, 1994