Monday, February 17, 2014

A Clean Environment Is a Human Right

By The Dalai Lama

Tibet should not be used for the production of nuclear weapons and the dumping of nuclear waste. Tibetans have a great respect for all forms of life. This inherent feeling is enhanced by our Buddhist faith, which prohibits the harming of all sentient beings, whether human or animal. Prior to the Chinese invasion, Tibet was a fresh, beautiful, unspoiled wilderness sanctuary in a unique natural environment.

Sadly, during the past few decades, the wildlife of Tibet has been _most totally destroyed and, in many places, irreparable damage has been done to its forests. The overall effect on Tibet's delicate environment has been devastating - particularly since the country's altitude and aridity mean that the process of restoring vegetation will take much longer than in lower, wetter regions. For this reason, what little is left must be protected and efforts made to reverse the effects of China's iniquitous and wanton destruction of the Tibetan environment.

In doing so, the first priority will be to halt the production of nuclear weaponry and, even more importantly, to prevent the dumping of nuclear waste. Apparently, China plans not only to dispose of its own but also to import other countries' waste, in exchange for hard currency. The danger this represents is obvious. Not only living generations, but also future generations are threatened. Furthermore, the inevitable problems this would cause locally could so easily turn into a catastrophe of global proportions. Giving waste to China, which might have access to large areas of lightly populated land but has only crude technology, will likely prove only a short-term solution to the problem.

If I were actually to vote in an election, it would be for one of the environmental parties. One of the most positive developments in the world recently has been the growing awareness of the importance of nature. There is nothing sacred or holy about this. Taking care of our planet is like taking care of our houses. Since we human beings come from Nature, there is no point in our going against Nature, which is why I say the environment is not a matter of religion or ethics or morality. These are luxuries, since we can survive without them. But we will not survive if we continue to go against Nature.

We have to accept this. If we unbalance Nature, humankind will suffer. Furthermore, as people alive today, we must consider future generations: a clean environment is a human right like any other. It is therefore part of our responsibility towards others to ensure that the world we pass on is as healthy, if not healthier, than when we found .it. This is not quite such a difficult proposition as it might sound. For although there is a limit to what we as individuals can do, there is no limit to what a universal response might achieve. It is up to us as individuals to do what we can, however little that may be. Just because switching off the light when leaving the room seems inconsequential, it does not mean that we should not do it.

This is where, as a Buddhist monk, I feel that belief in the concept of karma is very useful in the conduct of daily life. Once you believe in the connection between motivation and its effect, you will become more alert to the effects, which your own actions have upon yourself and others.

Thus, despite the continuing tragedy of Tibet, I find much good in the world. I am especially encouraged that the belief in consumerism as an end in itself seems to be giving way to an appreciation that we humans must conserve the earth's resources. This is very necessary. Human beings are in a sense children of the earth. And, whereas up until now our common Mother tolerated her children's behavior, she is presently showing us that she has reached the limit of her tolerance.

It is my prayer that one day I shall be able to carry this message of concern fonhe environment and for others to the people of China. Since Buddhism is by no means alien to the Chinese, I believe that I may be able to serve them in a practical way. The last Panchen Lama's predecessor once conducted a Kalachakra initiation ceremony in Peking. If I were to do the same, it would not be without precedent. For as a Buddhist monk, my concern extends to all members of the human family and, indeed, to all suffering sentient beings.

I believe that this suffering is caused by ignorance, and that people inflict pain on others in pursuit of their own happiness or satisfaction. Yet true happiness comes from a sense of inner peace and contentment, which in turn must be achieved through cultivation of altruism, of love, of compassion, and through the elimination of anger, selfishness and greed.

To some people this may sound naive, but I would remind them that, 'no matter what part of the world we come from, fundamentally we are all the same human beings. We all seek happiness and try to avoid suffering. We have the same basic needs and concerns. Furthermore, all of us human beings want freedom and the right to determine our own destiny as individuals. That is human nature. The great changes taking place everywhere in the world, from Eastern Europe to Africa, is a clear indication of this.

At the same time, the problems we face today - violent conflicts, destruction of Nature, poverty, hunger, and so on - are mainly problems created by humans. They can be resolved - but only through human effort, understanding and the development of a sense of brotherhood and sisterhood. To do this, we need to cultivate a universal Responsibility for one another and for the planet we share, based on a good heart and awareness.

Now, although I have found my own Buddhist religion helpful in generating love and compassion, I am convinced that these qualities can be developed by anyone, with or without religion. I further believe that all religions pursue the same goals: those of cultivating goodness and bringing happiness to all human beings. Though the means might appear different, the ends are the same.

With the ever- growing impact of science on our lives, religion and spirituality have a greater role to play in reminding us of our humanity. There is no contradiction between the two. Each gives us valuable insights into the other. Both science and the teachings of the Buddha tell us of the fundamental unity of all things.
Finally, I would like to share with my readers a short prayer, which gives me great inspiration and determination:

For as long as space endures,
And for as long as living beings remain,
Until then may I, too, abide
To dispel the misery of the world. 

Adapted from the chapter Universal Responsibility and the Good Heart in Freedom in Exile: The autobiography of His Holiness the Dalai Lama of Tibet, Hodder and Stoughton. UK 1990. (p 280-299).

Update on 'Snake Salvation' Reality TV Show

By Kirby Robinson

We ran the following story on October 24, 2013.

The world is running out of ideas for reality shows we’ve seen every version of real housewives short of Real Housewives of Skid Row. A production company kicked around the idea of one set in the paranormal field but got no takers from the network. Just about every combination of reality show has aired short of people killing each other. Lately, the Christian faith has become a fertile field for shows of this type.

In the case of the two newest offerings, we end up with show that exposes us to a world most of us have only read about or seen on TV and film. And the other just confirms what many suspect -- fakes and frauds have taken over the church.

Snake Salvation from the National Geographic Channel focuses on two churches, one in Tennessee, and the other in Kentucky, that practice snake handling.

Snake handling has been around for years mostly in the Appalachian area. It’s a very small fringe movement in what is often referred to as the Holiness Movement, a sub group of the Pentecostal church. They draw their spiritual authority from the book of Mark chapter 16 v18.

“They will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.” NIV

The services that feature handling venomous snakes will also feature poison drinking [lye or strychnine] and fire handling.

They claim that their faith must be tested and as they pass each test, their faith grows stronger, even if they are bitten, burned, or become sick from the consumption of poison. They reject the medicine of man and depend solely on faith healing.

You’ll never find such churches on your Main Street, nor will they advertise, but they are out there.

Is Snake Salvation staged and fake like your common paranormal reality show such as Ghost Adventures or Ghost Hunters. Well, in one episode a cottonmouth snake bites a preacher while he is out snake hunting.

They are on solid spiritual ground for thinking the way they do. No one holds a gun to anyone’s head to attend their church or think the way they think. It’s their spiritual path and the world, and the law, should allow them the freedom to practice their faith. As to anything being faked, the scenes featuring snakebites are real. Yes, we took very close look at those scenes and could find nothing fake.

We recommend that you watch this show as it’s worth your time.

Sadly, we must share this update to the story:

Unfortunately, at times like these God haters, atheists and members of the new age use such events to mock God and question the faith of some of God's followers.

Pastor Jamie Coots has done nothing wrong. He simply lived a faith that took God at His word. Many ask for healing but die without being healed. That doesn't mean there is no healing. It simply means that God chose to call them home for reasons we can never understand.

This should be an example that matters of faith never should be turned into a reality TV show, as vanity could creep into a believer's heart.

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