Vatican Extends a Call to Arms to Buddhists on Vesak Day to Address Eco-crisis
The Catholic Church’s Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue (PCID) has issued a message to Buddhists around the world on the occasion of Vesak Day, in which it emphasizes the growing urgency of a need for concerted, unified action to mitigate the massive damage being wrought by humankind on the global climate and ecology.
The PCID extends an annual greeting to Buddhist communities on Vesak Day, which commemorates the birth of the historical Buddha, Shakyamuni, and, in the Theravada tradition, his attainment of nirvana and parinirvana. The date on which Vesak Day falls varies between countries, occurring on 20–21 April this year, except in Japan, where it is observed on 8 April each year.
Inspired by the papal encyclical published in May last year, in which Pope Francis voiced his concern at the environmental destruction fueled by unchecked exploitation of the planet’s resources, the statement from PCID president Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, released last Friday, urged interreligious cooperation to counter the human failings that lie at the root of the escalating climate crisis.
The cardinal also acknowledged the concern expressed by the international Buddhist community in two landmark appeals to global leaders: The Time to Act is Now: A Buddhist Declaration on Climate Change in May last year and Buddhist Climate Change Statement to World Leaders, presented at the COP21 climate summit last December.
“These [statements] evidence a shared understanding that at the center of the eco-crisis is, in fact, an ego-crisis, expressed by human greed, anxiety, arrogance, and ignorance,” the cardinal wrote. “Our lifestyles and expectations, therefore, must change in order [to] overcome the deterioration of our surroundings. ‘Cultivating the insight of inter-being and compassion, we will be able to act out of love, not fear, to protect our planet’ (Buddhist Climate Change Statement to World Leaders). Otherwise, ‘When the Earth becomes sick, we become sick, because we are part of her’ (The Time to Act is Now).”
Cardinal Tauran called upon Buddhists and Christians to work together to create a climate of “ecological spirituality” to teach peoples and communities the necessity of environmental responsibility based on “virtue-oriented ecological ethics such as respect and care for nature.” He noted the pressing need for the followers of all religions to transcend boundaries and differences in order to promote sustainability through educational programs, teaching environmental responsibility, raising ecological awareness, and jointly building an ecologically responsible social order based on shared values.
“Dear Buddhist friends,” concluded Cardinal Tauran, “May we cooperate together in liberating humanity from the suffering brought about by climate change, and contribute to the care of our common home. In this spirit, we wish you once again a peaceful and joyful feast of Vesakh.”
The PCID, founded in 1964 as a department of the Holy See’s administrative apparatus, is the Catholic Church’s central office for promoting interreligious dialogue, operating on the basis of three principles: to promote mutual understanding, respect, and collaboration between Catholics and the followers of others religious traditions; to encourage the study of religions; and to promote the formation of persons dedicated to dialogue.
MESSAGE FOR THE FEAST OF VESAKH 2016: Buddhists and Christians: Together to Foster Ecological Education (The Holy See)
LAUDATO SI’ OF THE HOLY FATHER FRANCIS ON CARE FOR OUR COMMON HOME (The Holy See)
Dalai Lama Lends Weight to Interfaith Climate Change Statement (Buddhistdoor Global)
Buddhist Climate Change Statement Delivered to President Hollande (Buddhistdoor Global)
Top Buddhists Sign Landmark Statement on Climate Change to Global Leaders (Buddhistdoor Global)
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Conscientious Compassion—Bhikkhu Bodhi on Climate Change, Social Justice, and Saving the World (Buddhistdoor Global)