The world marked Earth Day on 22 April. The day was observed around the planet with expressions of hope and determination, voices of courage and compassion, and with appeals for wisdom and responsibility in acknowledgment of the urgent need for deep-rooted change in the face of multiple global crises. The day was also marked by the pain of loss and sacrifice.
Media reports indicated that 50-year-old American Buddhist and climate activist Wynn Alan Bruce had died on Saturday, a day after he self-immolated on the steps of the US Supreme Court plaza in Washington, DC, on Earth Day at about 6:30pm local time. No one else is reported to have been hurt in the incident.
Dr. Kritee Kanko, a Zen Buddhist priest and an acquaintance of Bruce, shared a message on social media, stating that Bruce’s act was aimed at raising the alarm on the global climate and ecological crisis—a fact that was ignored by many media outlets:
This guy was my friend. He meditated with our sangha. This act is not suicide. This is a deeply fearless act of compassion to bring attention to climate crisis. We are piecing together info but he had been planning it for at least one year. #wynnbruce I am so moved.(Twitter)
Dr. Kanko also cited a quote from the engaged Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh in reference to the self-immolation of Vietnamese monks to protest the US war in Vietnam: “To express will by burning oneself, therefore, is not to commit an act of destruction but to perform an act of construction, that is, to suffer and die for the sake of one’s people.” Dr. Kanko also emphasized that: “I am not encouraging suicide or self-immolation. But I want to honor what Wynn did because it wasn’t what mainstream culture is making it to be.” (Twitter)
In an official public statement for Earth Day, His Holiness the Dalai Lama focused on the climate crisis, appealing for a reduction in the global reliance on fossil fuels and for the widespread application of renewable energy. The Tibetan spiritual leader’s message focused on the interconnectedness of all life, as well as the importance of education and compassion in ensuring the well-being and happiness of all sentient beings.
On Earth Day 2022, let us remember that everybody wants to live a happy life. Not only human beings, but animals, birds and insects too. All of us should be concerned about our collective existence. As human beings our marvellous brains provide us with remarkable opportunities to do good, but if we look at how the world is today, we should be able to do better. We need a more holistic education, an education that incorporates inner values, such as a compassionate concern for others’ well-being.
Our world is heavily interdependent. New challenges, like the climate crisis that affect us all, as well as our participation in the global economy, mean that we must take the whole of humanity into account. We have to put the global interest first.
We need to take urgent steps to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and to adopt renewable sources of energy such as those that rely on the wind and the power of the sun. We must pay attention to deforestation and protect the environment better. We have to plant and care for more trees. In my own life I have witnessed the decline in snowfall, first in Tibet and later in Dharamsala. Indeed, some scientists have told me that there is a risk of places like Tibet eventually becoming deserts. That is why I am committed to speaking out for the protection of Tibet’s fragile environment.
Our life is based on hope, a desire for things to turn out well. Hope is concerned with the future. Although nothing about the future can be guaranteed, we remain hopeful, which is much better than being pessimistic. Even as global warming increases in intensity, many young people in particular are working together to find and share solutions. They are our hope.
Nowadays, when we face serious problems as a result of the climate crisis, we have to help each other by setting a timetable for change. As human beings, living on this one planet, we must make an effort to live happily together. The threat of climate change is not limited by national boundaries—it affects us all. We must work to protect nature and the planet, which is our only home.(His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet)
One the same day, the octogenarian Nobel Peace Prize laureate held an audience with participants of the “Dialogue for Our Future: A Call to Climate Action” conclave, which was being held in Dharamsala from 21–23 April.
The Dalai Lama underscored the essence of interconnectedness, noting that by taking care of others we are essentially taking care of ourselves, and that the health and happiness of the community is the source of an individuals’ health and happiness. Driving his point home, His Holiness cited verses from the eighth century Indian Buddhist scholar-monk of Nalanda, Shantideva:
For those who fail to exchange their own happiness for the suffering of others, Buddhahood is certainly impossible—how could there even be happiness in cyclic existence?
All those who suffer in the world do so because of their desire for their own happiness. All those happy in the world are so because of their desire for the happiness of others.
Why say more? Observe this distinction: between the fool who longs for his own advantage and the sage who acts for the advantage of others.(His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet)
Earth Day is observed each year on April 22 to raise awareness of and demonstrate support for environmental protection. The first Earth Day was held in 1970, and has grown to encompass a wide range of globally coordinated events. The official theme for 2022 is “Invest in Our Planet.”
Wynn Alan Bruce: Climate activist dies after setting himself on fire outside Supreme Court on Earth Day (Independent)
Climate Activist Dies After Setting Himself on Fire at Supreme Court (The New York Times)
His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s Message for Earth Day 2022 (His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet)
Meeting with Participants in a Dialogue for Our Future (His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet)
Dialogue for Our Future
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