Mila Khyentsé Rinpoche: Buddhism in the face of climate change, another look

- through Fabrice Groult

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Coming from a French family, Mila Khyentsé Rinpoche has been involved in the practice of meditation and Buddhism since adolescence. After studying archeology and Tibetology, he pursued a career as a research professor at the Inalco Sorbonne for several years. It was during his travels in Tibet that he was recognized as Tulku by several masters, in particular a master of Dzogchen and Tibetan Buddhism, Tertön Lobsang Dargyé Rinpoche, who enthroned him as regent-holder (1) of his line. Today, Mila Khyentse Rinpoche is dedicated to teaching Buddhism and Dzogchen in Europe, Asia and the United States.

The impacts of climate change are increasingly difficult for humans to manage. What is your position on this subject?

We must accept that our current lifestyles are impacted in the long term. In my youth, there were birds and insects everywhere. But today where have they (almost) all gone? You will tell me that it is due to pesticides. Certainly, but we have forgotten that we are an integral part of a complex and delicate natural system. The slightest variation somewhere leads to changes everywhere. This is the principle of interdependence of phenomena dear to the Buddha. We must therefore observe realistically upheavals that affect the world and therefore ourselves, and consider short-term action, without falling into catastrophism. It is important, in my opinion, to keep a cool head, because that is what is effective in dealing with any threat, any problem that may affect us.

Buddhism teaches that phenomena do not exist by themselves. Can knowledge change our way of looking at this reality?

You have to be careful here at the end of the views. Certainly, the Buddha stated that the self and phenomena are fundamentally devoid of their own nature, this is what is called absolute Truth, this does not mean that they do not exist from a point of view. relative is what is defined as relative Truth. The relative existence of phenomena depends on causes and conditions, functioning in interdependence. If we let things get destroyed, we are responsible. Compassion, one of the fundamental pillars of the Buddha's teaching, must inspire us to fight to preserve the good conditions we have at the present time. This is important.

“Why did the Buddha make a firm decision to attain Enlightenment? Because he knew that as a sentient being he was dreaming, living an illusion. On the contrary, he decided to really live, that is to say, to wake up and look at his nature directly, without filter or make-up. »

Another “Buddhist” shorthand argument that one sometimes hears about climate change is “impermanence”. Since everything is impermanent, everything changes and disappears, then what's the point of fighting sinceultimately, we are going to die ? Or, why try to change things since they are already changing on their own? Of course, everything changes and evolves in our civilization. However, is there no possible inflection in the very structure of impermanence? Of course yes. Otherwise, it would mean that the Buddha would have carried out his years of asceticism and training for nothing, without the will to break out of the cycle of suffering and without being able to then transmit the way to do it... In the same way, we can influence now on the possibilities of what awaits us in five, ten, twenty years… What applies to us applies to everyone and to the Earth. We can do something and it's time to all get on it!

Faced with these dangers and these events that affect living beings, how to welcome anxiety and how to maintain serenity and clarity?

It depends primarily on individual temperament. Nevertheless, it is important to reflect on two fundamental realities enunciated by the Buddha: impermanence and the precious human existence. All (compound) phenomena are not permanent, nothing can last… We ourselves are going to die one day and it is vain to entertain a false hope that everything can remain as it is, without any variation or transformation. . If we think a little more about death, the end of everything, impermanence, we are very surprised, because we expect it to sap our strength, to depress us… Yet it is the opposite that happens: this analysis shows us the preciousness of life. We realize that it is extremely valuable. It helps us to fight for what is essential and to let go of what is rather secondary. At the same time, this thought makes us aware of the strength and abilities we possess as human beings. This ability is real and great good news, because we can decide to fight so that the conditions in which we live do not worsen (too much). Animals have no choice in the changing climate and living conditions. They can only suffer.

It is not a question here of reassuring ourselves and, I would like to say, we must above all not reassure ourselves! We have too often confused in the past decades, well-being, comfort and lethargy - and perhaps we still do it a little bit... We must wake up before it is too late and make the firm decision to do something for his own good and the good of all – even if it is on a small scale, because no right action is insignificant. Why did the Buddha make a firm decision to attain Enlightenment? Because he knew that as a sentient being he was dreaming, living an illusion. On the contrary, he decided to really live, that is to say, to wake up and look at his nature directly, without filter or make-up. It is the same for us: we are afraid of suffering or disappearing with all the changes that are looming? So much the better, this is what can give rise to a real motivation: that of preserving life in all its forms by finding conscious solutions. This clarity will help us develop firmness of intention, crucial for our stability in what lies ahead.

photo of author

Fabrice Groult

Fabrice Groult is an adventurer, photographer and Buddhist who has traveled the world since a young age. After studying Buddhism in India, he embarked on an eighteen-month journey through Asia that took him to the Himalayas, where he discovered his passion for photography. Since then, he has traveled the world capturing images of Buddhist beauty and wisdom. He was a guide for ten years, and is now a journalist with Buddhist News.

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