by Khandro Kunzang
Since 1970, April 22 has been designated as ‘Earth Day’ to demonstrate support for environmental protection. From a Buddhist point of view, the ‘earth’ (Jambudvipa) includes not only the physical environment, weather patterns, and ecosystems. It also includes dimensions and realms and beings that live among the elements – within the waters, the mountains, the winds and forests – and play an integral role in maintaining the health and balance of our world. Many of these beings also received teachings from Shakyamuni Buddha and other Masters. As it commonly states in the Sutras, those who listened to the words of the Buddha include ‘gods, asuras, gandharvas, kimnaras, yakshas,’ etc. Guru Rinpoche converted many of these classes of beings into protectors of the doctrine. Tantric practitioners regularly make offerings to many of these beings, turning them into allies to support one’s practice.
According to the teachings, this earth is divided into three main sections: all that live above the earth (celestial), on the earth (terrestrial), and below the earth (subterranean). Within these three divisions are many classes of non-physical beings that are very much affected by our human activity, and in turn, affect us. When we pollute and destroy the outer environment, we also disturb their residence and create imbalances in their realms, and they also become sick. In turn, they affect our health, prosperity, peacefulness, success, and they affect our climate and weather patterns.
…”When beings engage in the ten non-virtues, causing warfare and committing immense sin, these negative activities will pollute the mother elements and give the spirits opportunities to become more upset. Thus, the seasons will become unbalanced, the crops will fail, the weather patterns will bring disaster, diseases will multiply every year and even the best remedies will no longer have any effect. Food and herbal medicine will loose their potency, requiring stronger dosages…” prophesies of Guru Rinpoche
While indigenous cultures around the world continue to recognize and honor these realms of sentient beings, understand our interconnection with them, and seek to make positive relationship with them; the modern industrial, science-driven cultures do not. Perhaps much of the extreme imbalances we are now witnessing on our planet are due in part to our disconnection and denial of this realm of existence, and our relationship with it.
In addition to honoring and respecting our physical earth and the physical sentient beings (the container and it’s contents), we can use this time to celebrate and give thanks to the sustenance that the earth, in all it’s dimensions, provides for us. There are many ways that Buddhist practitioners can ‘give back’ to the elements and the beings residing therein. Besides making the commitment to become involved in the global issues of climate change, sustainability, and educating ourselves on how to live more in harmony with the earth, we have a variety of practices that help to purify the subtle elements, restore harmony and wellbeing to the environment, and bring many blessings to all the beings in all the realms. Here are just a few suggestions:
1. Raise prayer flags to bless the surrounding area.
2. Make ‘sang’ offerings, such as the Riwo Sanghchod to purify the elements.
3. Make offerings to the local dhamapalas, bhumipatis and nidhipatis – the elmental beings that support the environment. Offerings such as Naga pujas, Solkas to the Dharma protectors, Lenchak Torma, and Yang-gug.
4. Recite the Sutras out loud.
5. Bury Earth vases and Wealth pills in the land, offer mendrub and wealth pills to the rivers, lakes, and seas.
6. Support the building and construction of sacred statues, stupas and mandalas that bring tremendous blessings to the area.
7. Refrain from cutting down trees, disturbing the earth, or doing any construction without first making offerings to the local spirits who live there.
8. Learn about these realms of beings, what brings them benefit and what harms them. Recognize their existence in your life.
By doing these practices and activities, the energy of the environment is purified and blessed, raising the vibration for all beings living there, and instilling more peace and prosperity to the land.
In addition, we offer this prayer, written by the Dudjom Yangsi:
An Aspiration Prayer to Protect the Earth
by Dudjom Sangye Pema Zhepa
Homage to the spiritual teacher of sages and Buddhas,
Whose Buddha-mind renounced deceitfulness many aeons before,
Who one-pointedly loves living beings with kindness and compassion,
And who attained the supreme level of accomplishment through the direct path!
O Compassionate Teacher,
You who have manifested the abiding nature of all that can be known,
Through pristine cognition that perceives without obscuration or corruption,
Skilled in teaching the disposition of dependently arisen phenomena –
Turn your enlightened intention towards this very time!
Now when the elements of the physical world and its inhabitants have degenerated
Due to bad habits born of greed and aversion, with regard to mundane prosperity,
And through the production of various man-made chemical substances,
The time has come for you to love us even more with your compassion!
At this juncture when the world and its inhabitants near dissolution,
As life forms, snow mountains and continents are degraded
By the excavation and ravaging of elemental resources,
By the polluting fumes of some electricity generation technologies,
And by various contagious diseases, harmful to living beings,
We pray with fervent devotion
To the Lake-born Lord, sole refuge of this degenerate age,
To Avalokitesvara, most sublime being of compassion,
To Tara, Mother of the Conquerors, who protects from the eight fears,
And to all the ocean-like hosts of the Three Roots and oath-bound protectors:
Do not renege on your compassionate pledges to protect us
(Just by calling your faces to mind)
From disharmony, degradation and the like,
Caused by engaging in negative actions!
Grant your blessings that the world might enjoy the glory of peace and happiness
And that all living beings might swiftly and without obstruction
Accomplish all their aspirations that accord with the sacred teachings, just as they wish!