Crystal Mountain and the Wheel of Protection

- through Francois Leclercq

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A view from Crystal Mountain. From

For a few years now, I have been particularly interested in how rural Buddhist centers manage their environmental policies, best practices and challenges, which seem to me to be at the crucial intersection between the Dharma and the salvation of all beings in the world. our larger world than that of humans.

Most of the time, when I have spoken to administrators of these organizations, they appreciate my asking this question, but freely admit that their Green Buddhist practice is largely aspirational or a harmless, benign approach. However, I recently came across the common thread in terms of finding an organization that not only walks in the practice of Green Buddhism, but has provided the best road map I have ever seen, modeling all that is necessary for this work which reconnects and documents it. for the benefit of all. This is their story.

Crystal Mountain Society (CMS) is a 24-hectare Buddhist retreat center located near the northern tip of Galiano Island in the Strait of Georgia off the coast of British Columbia. Incorporated in 1976, its Spiritual Education Forest Retreat Center was launched in 1980, hosting annual summer camping-style retreats ever since.

In 2021, CMS initiated a rezoning process to deed approximately 75 percent of its 24-acre property to the Galiano Island Land Trust to create both an 18-acre nature preserve maintained intact in perpetuity and a six-acre nature preserve. hectare low impact, eco-friendly retreat center that can operate year-round on the remaining portion of the property.

Lama Mark Webber. From

CMS was founded by students of the Venerable Namgyal Rinpoche, a Westerner trained in the Theravada and Vajrayana Buddhist traditions, whose main center was in rural Ontario. When Rinpoche died in 2003, his student, Lama Mark Webber, became resident teacher. Webber moved to Galiano Island in 2007 and has been the lead instructor at both centers since 2000, in addition to his busy career as a microbiologist, chemist and university administrator.

Galiano Island is 27 kilometers long and 1,6 kilometers wide. It has been continuously inhabited by the Coast Salish for over 5 years and is one of the most beautiful places in Canada. Envious mainlanders often call it Lotus Land. For a quick word association picture, think of Big Sur in California, which is part of the same georegion and shares many of the same cultural characteristics.

The island is home to thousands of varieties of flora and fauna, is a major stopover for migratory birds, and is home to 19 reef complexes supporting a vast range of marine life, both resident and transient. In short, it is an ecological treasure.

In the 1960s, the island was subject to widespread logging. There have been numerous conflicts between activists and loggers over seemingly indiscriminate clearcutting. When the logging company, which owned about half the island, was evicted, a Galiano Island Land Trust was created to manage the development. The environmentalism and counterculture of the 1960s continue to strongly influence the island's culture today. Since the 21st century, the logging industry has virtually stopped on the island, replaced by industries such as tourism and a local arts scene. Galiano Island is also home to land under the jurisdiction of the Penelakut Indigenous Nation. Between 1870 and 1941, a small number of Asian immigrants, notably Japanese from Wakayama Prefecture, operated salt works on the northern tip of the island. So perhaps Crystal Mountain's Buddhist roots run deeper than it first appears.


The process of rezoning the Crystal Mountain property was complex. Luckily, their website explains it all, complete with plenty of paperwork needed during the process.*

These include:

• Summary of the 2021 Community Information Meeting Proposal
• Flyer for the 2022 community information meeting
• Groundwater Update 2021, prepared by a hydrogeologist
• CMS 2021-2022 well monitoring report by a hydrogeologist
• 2022 water management plan
• Updated 2021 Ecological Assessment, prepared by a licensed professional biologist.
• Map of CMS ecosystem zones
• CMS sitemap
• CMS site map with aerial photo 2022
• Annex 2 of the Pact – Tree protection map
• Septic permits 2021
• Summary of key information and issues 2022

Panoramic view of the Crystal Mountain site. Image courtesy of the author

The fundraising campaign to support the process has a goal of CA$88 (US$000). As of May 65, they had raised CA$350, but were still seeking CA$2023 to cover the costs of public hearings – one of the final steps in the rezoning process – and CA$69 to separately subdivide the area of ​​the pagoda of the property in order to preserve it. accessible. Some off-the-cuff calculations show that CA$000 must have been spent on the preliminary work mentioned above.

The most recent website updates come from the CMS Winter 2023 newsletter. The Galiano Island Land Trust has approved its application to continue, meaning no new information can be received by the Trust committee, and the public hearings are over. However, the second and third readings of the draft bylaws were delayed, pending further consultations with the Penelakut tribe, who felt they had not been satisfactorily consulted. The process is slow but continuous. The first of these other meetings between Islands Trust staff and Penelakut council took place on November 27, 2023. It concerned three Galiano rezoning applications, including the one from CMS. The intention was for the Penelakut to study the issues and return to discuss them in January. As of this writing, a few weeks into February, no further details are publicly available.

So why is all this important?

In 2019, Sumeru released Rural Buddhist Center Environmental Action Plan Toolkit, a model to help organizations evaluate and plan their environmental policies and practices. This is a free download shared under the Creative Commons 4.0 license, free to share and edit, with attribution.** It has been downloaded over 400 times.

The model was created with the help of two of my Buddhist colleagues: Dr. Paul Keddy, a highly cited environmental scientist; and Dennis Winters, a professional landscape architect who has designed Buddhist retreat centers and meditation gardens.

However, I have no idea how the people who downloaded the template used it.

You might think this is all rather questionable, because of course Buddhists love nature and would never do anything other than care for all beings. RIGHT? What if I told you that another Canadian Buddhist rural center, covering an area of ​​216,5 hectares, is building a 10-lane parking lot for thousands of cars***, or that it has fought against the government to prevent a wind farm from being planned nearby on the grounds that it would disrupt the natural environment and the tranquility of their meditators?****

I'm not saying that every rural Buddhist center should go to the extreme and donate their property to a land trust to remain wild in perpetuity. I believe, however, that it is the responsibility of the trustees of rural Buddhist organizations to do most of the work of managing their properties in accordance with best environmental practices.

If you found this article interesting, I would be very happy to correspond with you on the subject. I am particularly interested in your successes and challenges. Sharing is caring.

* Rezoning (Crystal Mountain)

**Buddhist Center (Sumeru) Environmental Action Plan Toolkit

*** 535-acre Wutai Shan Buddhist Garden Complex to deploy LocoMobi World's Worldstream (CISION)

**** Cham Shan Temple c. Director, Ministry of the Environment (PDF file; Dale & Lessmann)

photo of author

Francois Leclercq

François Leclercq is the founder of Buddhist News, a website which aims to disseminate information and practical advice on Buddhism and spirituality. François Leclercq was born and raised in Paris. He studied Buddhism at the University of Paris-Sorbonne, where he graduated in social sciences and psychology. After graduating, he devoted himself to his passion for Buddhism and traveled the world to study and learn about different practices. He notably visited Tibet, Nepal, Thailand, Japan and China.

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