to promote Tibetan and Buddhist Studies and Culture
cultural centre of H.H. the Dalai Lama New Delhi VOLUME 28
“And It Was Very Good…” Towards a Christian Planetary Eco-Spirituality M. Darrol Bryant, Distinguished Professor Emeritus Director of the Centre for Dialogue & Spirituality in the World Religions Renison University College/University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
Let me begin with a personal word of thanks to DoboomTulku, long-time Director of Tibet House, for the invitation to address the issue of what he has called “spiritual ecology.” We have known each other since the early 1980s, and he was my guide into the world of Tibetan Buddhism. For that, and his continuing friendship, I am immensely grateful. When I probed him about “spiritual ecology” he told me that he wanted me to address the ways Christians are addressing environmental and ecological matters.1 It was an understanding of the topic that was echoed in the introductory comments of Geshe Dorji Damdul, the new Director of Tibet House.2
crisis requires the co-operation and insights of all the great wisdom, religious and spiritual traditions.3 It cannot be redressed by any single tradition alone. It is a planetary issue that faces all communities and all spiritual pathways.
I am happy to take up this topic, but I do so with one qualification. The ecological
After a personal prologue, I want to say something of how this issue has emerged
in the Christian world, the shape of the crisis facing humankind, the work of Thomas Berry, the most important Christian voice on this issue, and then conclude with a sketch of a Christian spiritual ecology.
I. Prologue Darrol Byrant
I was raised on the prairies at the centre of North America. Fifty miles from where I was raised is a stone cairn with a plaque that reads “the geographical centre of North America.” To grow up there was to live under a boundless sky and an endless horizon. My father came from a farm on the edge of the Turtle Mountains – they are really some small bumps on the prairies – and on the border between the USA and Canada. I spent a lot of time
To my knowledge, there is only one volume that has the phrase ‘spiritual ecology’ in the title. It is by Jim Nollman, Spiritual Ecology, A Guide to Reconnecting with Nature (New York: Bantam Books, 1990). Nollman is the founder of “Interspecies Communication” in Seattle, Washington. One thing is clear in his volume, he finds institutional religion distasteful yet he feels driven to describe his approach as spiritual ecology, rather than ‘deep ecology’ or any number of other descriptions of approaches to nature that recognize what I would call the numinous dimensions of the natural world. He recognizes that scientism, the view that the physical cosmos is all there is, is not adequate to the reality of the natural world. The occasion for this invitation was another trip to India (March 1-21, 2011). Over the past 26 years, I have travelled to India more than 20 times. Several times, as now, I have brought groups of students to encounter the living religious and spiritual traditions of India: Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Jain, Baha’i, Tibetan Buddhist, Christian, etc. These experiences have also shaped my perspective on these matters. I have addressed this issue in other papers I have written. See, for example, “Ecological Evil and Interfaith Dialogue: Caring for the Earth” in William Cenkner, ed., Evil and the Response of World Religion (St. Paul, MN: Paragon House, 1997), pp. 210-222.
2 on that farm, and from the haymow we could look out to that endless horizon to the east and across the border north to Canada. The only sign of human habitation was a grain elevator across the border. Behind us lay the woods of the Turtle Mountains – named by the native peoples of our area. They thought they looked like a herd of turtles moving across the prairies. It was on this farm that my mother and I spent the first winter of my life. I had been born the previous March, just a few months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941 and the entry of the United States into World War II. My father was away working on the Alaskan highway and my mother and I lived in a log cabin on the farm, not far from the big house where my uncle Bill and his family lived. I have a picture of myself in a crib pushed up to the open door, my hand reaching out to touch a wild deer whose nose was stretched out towards my waiting hand. My mother is there with me. Later, I remember riding horses across those prairies and walking in the woods, trying to be silent and attentive to the presence of the wildlife of the woods. The land and the sky were my constant companions. They shaped me in ways that I only later became aware of. But my world began to change when I went away to college. My world became enfolded in the second nature or the urbane constructed culture of North America. These early experiences became the background for my later encounter with the environmental crisis that has become a defining feature of our world.
II. The Crisis We have become aware of the environmental and ecological crisis only in the past half century. The wake-up call in North America came with the publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring in the late 1950s. She brought to public attention the consequences the pesticides, herbicides, and toxic chemicals, especially DDT, were having on the bird population of North America. She worried that we could find ourselves facing a silent spring, where song birds would be no more. By the 1970s, it was
widely known that the industrial culture of the West was polluting our lakes and rivers, our air and atmosphere. Earth Day became in the 70s a public event to rally support to address the environmental crisis. It wasn’t until the new millennium that we became aware of the global warming. But the catastrophic weather patterns of recent years are starting to awaken people across the globe to the fact that we need to dramatically alter our relationship to the good earth. My own awakening to the environmental crisis grew out of events in my local community in 1989. These events affected me, my family and the community in which we live. Thus I need to sketch that situation. In November of 1989, I was in at my College (Renison) at the University of Waterloo when a colleague remarked, “Did you hear that the drinking water wells have been closed in Elmira?” No, I hadn’t heard and I immediately pressed him for details. He reported to me that he had heard on the radio that the wells had been closed in Elmira due to chemical contamination, but that was all he knew. My thoughts immediately flew to our children in school in Elmira, Emma and Lucas. Were they safe? What was happening? I called my wife, Susan, who was also at work and she too had heard the news. But again, she knew no details. Someone said that they had heard that the schools had been closed. As we drove home that afternoon and the lovely small town where we had lived for 16 years came into view, our concern for what was happening to our community, our children, and our planet, grew. We were appalled by the news (Isn’t it strange how we always assume bad things happen in other places and to other people?) and wondered what the effect would be on our life and community. We had found out that the schools had immediately shut off the water but were uncertain about everything else. We did not know the nature of the contamination at that point. We wondered whether other parents driving home knew what had happened or were they still protected by their
ignorance. How could this happen? What was the contamination? Who was responsible? In the months preceding this fateful day in November, 1989, Susan, my wife, and I had been involved in the formation of a small environmental group in Elmira. Its first meeting had been held in late August of that year when a “mission statement” had been formulated and a name agreed upon. The group had called itself APT Environment (Assuring Protection for Tomorrow’s Environment). This group had emerged when a local chemical company, Uniroyal Chemical Ltd. (now Crompton), had announced in the spring of 1989 that it intended to seek approval for a “toxic waste incinerator” in Elmira. Four women, including Susan Bryant, had been among the first to respond to that announcement with the conviction that some kind of community response and opposition to this proposal was necessary. We thought of that fledgling group as we drove into town and down the treelined streets to our home. By the time we got there, we felt the necessity for some kind of public response, some way to express our outrage and concern. Within ten minutes of getting home and seeing that the kids were all right, we had determined to launch our own protest. It would consist of a banner stretched between two hockey sticks – something always at hand in a Canadian household – but what would it say? After fifteen minutes of discussion and a couple of quick telephone calls, we were on the floor writing on a bed sheet the basic message: “Two Wells Contaminated” and our question “What’s Next?” We felt that this would inform other parents driving home into Elmira of the problem, show an immediate response, and express our concern at what was happening. Susan and I, together with two of our children and two of their playmates, drove over to the edge of town, parked our car and took up our place along the roadside. A few cars honked, some people waved as they went by, but most just kept driving, taking only a furtive glance at the banner. Elmira was not a town where
3 even a little action like this was familiar. As the sun went down, our “little protest” folded its banner and went home. Our engagement with the local environmental crisis had begun. Since 1989, we have been part of a community in distress as it has attempted to come to grips with the issue of our contaminated water. Some have become active members of APT Environment, others have defended Uniroyal Chemical, the company responsible for contaminating the water, but most seem to want to pretend it is business as usual. We have seen the inadequacies of the provincial Ministry of the Environment and its belated efforts on behalf of the community and the environment. We have learned that some knew for more than a decade that this kind of contamination was just a matter of time. We have learned about chemicals like NDMA, the potent little carcinogen that is in our water and the four hundred others that are in the aquifer but not yet in our wells. We have seen our environmental group receive local and national attention from the media and gain an impressive degree of legitimacy. We have endured the longest Environmental Board hearings in the Province of Ontario as Uniroyal Chemical sought to stall the implementation of the order to begin the clean-up of fifty years of mismanagement, stupidity, and, as emerged in the proceedings before the Environmental Board, wilful and knowing contamination of the environment. Our own APT group is now acknowledged by the Ministry of the Environment as a crucial player in the process to address the local crisis, yet we are often treated by others in the community as if we were the ones who contaminated the municipal water supply. For more than four years, not one drop of the contaminated water was cleaned up. Every day, 220,000 imperial gallons of water is newly contaminated. Since 1994, there has been a beginning of a clean-up but it will take the next forty years (if ever) to accomplish. Moreover, the clean-up that the Company is 4 5
pursuing does not isolate the contaminated soil from the Creek, and thus new contamination continues. Even the treated water is not wholly free of contaminants when it is discharged to the Creek that runs through the property and into the Grand River watershed.
III Notes on What I’m Learning In the local situation sketched above, we have in miniature the global crisis of our time. At the beginning of the third millennium of the Christian era, the most fundamental crisis that confronts us all is not political, nor economic. It is ecological and environmental. It is the question of the relationship of humanity to the planet. It is a question of whether or not our collective hubris can be stayed. It is seeking to overcome our appalling disregard for the larger ecological systems that sustain us all. It is a question of reviving an effective love for our planet: its blue sky, white clouds and atmospheric gases, its green grass and soaring trees, its oceans and rivers and streams and lakes, its whales and dolphins and creepy crawly things, its mountains, prairies, deserts, plains and plateaus, its wildlife and fragile fabric of interlocking networks of being and becoming. Unlike other issues facing the human community, the environmental crisis confronts us as a species, calling for a response that will alter our very way of being together on and with this planet. Here my presentation shifts from the narrative form to a series of reflections upon our local manifestation of this global phenomenon. 1. The most profound realization that has emerged for me is the conviction that we need a fresh new perception and awareness of the universe as a living reality. As a living reality, we have to abandon notions of the natural world as “dumb matter” or just “stuff” or even as “natural resources” that we, humans, can manipulate at will without regard for the intrinsic structure, character, place, and
significance of that dimension of our living planet. This awareness of a living planet is consistent with earlier traditions of “Mother Earth” that are found among the primal peoples of North America and in many other religious ways. It is a view that is increasingly obvious to those who have turned their attention to environmental and ecological matter. It is part of what has emerged in the writings of such diverse thinkers as George Grant (Canada), who sees the link between modernity with the quest for mastery over the non-human and human world; Thomas Berry (USA), who recognizes the loss of a viable cosmology in our technological age; and Sri Bahuguna (India), who sees that we must regard the trees and waters as part of a living world and not merely “stuff.” The concept of the living earth is also there in J. E. Lovelock (England) when he writes in Gaia, A New Look at Life on Earth: What, then, are those activities of man which pose a threat to the Earth and the life upon it? We as a species, and by the industries at our command, have now significantly altered some of the major chemical cycles of the planet. We have increased the carbon cycle by 20 percent, the nitrogen cycle by 50 percent and the sulphur cycle by over 100 percent.”4 This view is expressed in the earlier vision of Aldo Leopold (USA), who wrote: Possibly in our intuitive perceptions, which may be truer than our science and less impeded by words than our philosophies, we realize the indivisibility of the earth – its soil, mountains, rivers, forests, plants and animals – and respect it collectively not only as a useful servant but as a living being... Philosophy then suggests one reason why we cannot destroy the earth with moral impunity; namely, that the “dead” earth is an organism possessing a certain kind of and degrees of life, which we intuitively respect as such.5”
J. E. Lovelock in his Gaia, A New Look at Life of Earth, New York: Oxford University, revised edition, 1987, p. 110. Aldo Leopold as cited in David Kinsley, Ecology and Religion, Ecological Spirituality in Cross-Cultural Perspective, Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1995, p. 155.
The point here is not to be anti-science or anti-technology. Rather it is an attempt to focus our attention on those features of the modern impulse toward mastery and technological domination that have resulted in our degrading the natural world in an unprecedented way, one that is adversely affecting the very planet we call home.
even the most primitive tribes have a larger vision of the universe, of our place and functioning within it, a vision that extends to celestial regions of space and to interior depths of the human in a manner far exceeding the parameters of our own world of technological confinement.8
The perception of our planet as living is on a collision course with the technological hubris that has come to characterize the form of civilization that we have created in the West.6
Yet Berry is not “anti-science” nor even “anti-technology.” His analysis, rather, presses us to go through a too restricted and destructive “enchantment with technology” that has “altered the earth and human life in many irrevocable ways” to the wondrous earth and “the larger community of living species” that science itself has disclosed to us.9 Now, Berry argues, we need to appropriate “the deep awareness of the sacred presence within each reality of the universe. There is awe and reverence due to the stars in the heavens, the sun, and all heavenly bodies; in the seas and the continents, to all living forms of trees and flowers; to the myriad expressions of life in the sea; to the animals of the forests and the birds of the air.”10 Only such “a comprehensive vision can,” he continues, “produce the commitment required to stop the world of exploitation, manipulation, of violence so intense that it threatens not only the human city, but also the planet itself.”11 In light of our own local crisis, I find such views persuasive.
The story of the unfolding of this form of civilization in the West is too long to retell here. But it seems clear to me that from the dawn of the humanism of the Renaissance to the elevation of technical reason in the Enlightenment and the marriage of science and techne in industrialization, we have been fashioning a form of civilization that neither human nor planetary life can long endure without unprecedented catastrophe arising from the human destruction of the very networks of life that sustain us all. Many of these points are eloquently articulated in Thomas Berry’s The Dream of the Earth,7 a book which I find very helpful in addressing some of the larger questions that confront us in the local crisis in Elmira. What I find most impressive is his sense and perception of the living planet. The analysis of what arises from that sense is more controversial, but I have tried to draw some of his contributions into my account here. For Berry, the principle issue is vision, or a comprehensive cosmology that appropriates the universe as a living whole. According to Berry,
2. The redress of the catastrophe facing our planet cannot be achieved without concerted efforts. This is not a matter that can be addressed by a single constituency, whether it be scientific or religious or secular or governmental. It requires a coalition of forces and sources that will share a new sensibility,
one that will have a determinative effect on the outlook and efforts of people in all these different areas. In other words, the current dominant modes and mentalities are not adequate. This shift in sensibility will be especially difficult for the commercial mentality that is so much with us in North America, presenting a major obstacle to redressing the environmental crisis. If the planet is seen as simply a giant market place, then there is little hope that we will be able to move beyond exploitation to more benign ways of being part of our earth. After more than six years of the crisis in Elmira, it has become clear that the current management of Uniroyal Chemical Ltd. has no interest in seeing the environment healed. Their approach is one of delay, divide, and feign interest. They seem more interested in paying legal fees than they do in altering their patterns of relating to the environment. 3. We need to have a sense of the planet as the living context of our life. Just as we tend to demonize the enemy in times of war to justify our murderous relation to other human beings, we have “denuminized” the earth in order to render it fit for our efforts at “mastery.” These developments should not be laid solely at the doorstep of science in its highest forms, but at the feet of a complex of cultural forces (science being one among many) that would have us believe we are dealing only with “dumb matter.” This view is neither “good science” nor anything else. It is rather a perverse mentality of mastery that precludes recognition of how the human order is enmeshed in the natural, and how a failure to respect the natural order has disastrous consequences for both.12 We are interdependent. We are all connected
See Jacques Ellul, The Technological Society, New York: Vintage, 1964, still one of the most important critical analyses of technological society available. See also the important work of the Canadian social philosopher, George Grant, Technology and Empire, Toronto: Anansi Press, 1969, and Technology and Justice, Toronto: Anansi Press, 1986.
See Thomas Berry, The Dream of the Earth, San Francisco: Sierra Club, 1990. Berry grew up in North Carolina, third in a family of thirteen. He entered a monastery as a young man and became a Passionist priest. He did a doctorate at the Catholic University in Washington D.C. and became a cultural historian, knowledgeable about Chinese and Indian religions and culture. He became a Professor at Fordham University in New York City. With the publication of The Dream of the Earth, Berry shot to public prominence. His work was widely discussed and deserves to be even better known.
8 9 10 11 12
Berry, p. 37. Berry, pp. 41-42. Berry, p. 46. Berry rightly notes that “to restore a sense of the earth as the matrix of the human, as primary norm of all human values and activities is a difficult change.” p. 120. Berry, pp. 46-47. See George Grant, op.cit. for a penetrating analysis of the modern view of science and technology as mastery.
to one another. This notion is not a “mystical” or “religious” assertion. Recent science tells us it is simply a matter of fact. Everything we do and think affects everything else in the entire universe.
of modern science, we must also acknowledge its other face. When the practice and procedures of science are linked to a mentality of mastery and material comfort, then we began to diminish ourselves and our planet.
Thomas Berry eloquently expresses this point in the following words:
Similarly, the Christian traditions, especially the Protestant tradition, must acknowledge their role in the current crisis, the role of denying the presence of the numinous in the natural order.14 They need, then, to seek to recover that sense of the living planet buried in their own sacred literature (read the Psalms with an ecological ear!) and its mystical traditions.
A third principle of the universe is the communion of each reality of the universe with every other reality in the universe. Here our scientific evidence confirms, with a magnificent overview, the ancient awareness that we live in auniverse – a single, if multiform, energy event. The unity of the entire complex of galactic systems is the basic experience of contemporary physics.13 Here, again, the point is the awareness or sensibility that arises from this fact or principle. It should translate, at the human level, into an awareness of the “taoistic” or “buddhistic” interrelated nature of life on this planet. We are part of the whole; the whole is part of us. 4. We must learn respect for the life forms of the planet for their own sake. Time and time again, we in Elmira found ourselves confronted by a mentality that failed to recognize that the forms of life found on this planet were deserving of recognition as valid in their own terms. Too often, the life forms of the planet have been viewed as simply an endless material resource to be used for human material comfort. But such a mentality fails to recognize that the rain forests, for example, are the lungs of the planet, that the waters sustain all forms of animal and vegetative life. Thus to contaminate the water, our Sister, according to St. Francis, has implications that exceed the human and the immediate context in which the water is contaminated. While we have gained greatly through the achievements 13 14 15 16
As Berry rightly remarks, “if we were truly moved by the beauty of the world about us, we would honour the earth in a profound way. We would understand immediately and turn away with a certain horror from all those activities that violate the integrity of the planet.”15 The point here, as it arose in our struggle with Uniroyal Chemical, is that a vital sense of respect for all life forms is essential. We cannot account for what we are doing to our planet by simply saying that it happens out of ignorance of the consequences of our actions. We have discovered that Uniroyal management has “known” about the problems of polluting the environment for decades, yet has not ceased doing things it knew were damaging. It is in this context that one can see the importance of respecting the life forms of the planet for their own sake. 5. We need to recover rituals that link us to creation. One of the most powerful and moving expressions of human creativity is ritual. In ritual, we draw upon capacities other than the capacities for technical analysis and discursive reason. Here, we are instructed in the many languages of
the body and heart that are present in gesture and action. Yet one of the things that our APT group discovered was the lack of structured forms, what I call rituals, to mediate fitting relations between the human and the earth. I found myself looking longingly to the Native American rites that acknowledged the Four Directions, the Rhythms of the Seasons, the Ever-flowing Waters, the Green Grass.16 Those traditions cannot be ours in the way they might earlier have been, but they can inspire in us the emergence of our own rituals. For example, when we reached the first anniversary of the announce-ment of the contamination of our waters, some of us in APT Environment felt the need to mark the event. As we pondered what exactly we wanted to do/say and to whom, it emerged that our primary desire was to acknowledge, as the 13th century saint Saint Francis had, our “Sister Water.” We felt it appropriate to acknowledge both our gratitude for her sustaining and cleansing gifts and our determination to see her restored. Thus we created our own ritual event. This ritual proved to be a valuable development as it touched our lives in strikingly moving – and fitting – ways. 6. It is clear that we need to alter laws in two respects. First, we need to create stronger laws that protect the environment and attach effective penalties to the failure to do so. And secondly, but more importantly, we need to recognize in the law the “rights” of the environment such that the earth, air, water, trees, etc. have legal status. Time and again, we have come to recognize in our local situation that we did not (1) have in place adequate laws to cover our situation, (2) that when we did, they were often not adequately enforced and when enforced did not have stiff enough penalties, and (3) that the water, in its own right, does not have legal standing in the law. It seems to me essential
Berry, pp. 45-46. See Berry’s important critique of Christianity on pp. 109-162. Berry, p. 10. See, for example, Ed McGaa, Eagle Man, Mother Earth Spirituality, Native American Paths to Healing Ourselves and Our World, San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1990. Here we read that “The Sioux were taught and understood that all things are of the Great Spirit. Trees, rivers, mountains, grass, four-legged animals, two-legged animals, and winged creatures all came from the Great Spirit, called Wakan Tanka. p. 3.
6 that changes along these lines be incorporated into the law. They flow naturally from an awareness of the living planet. 7. A conviction that has emerged from our local crisis, but one that I doubt is widely shared, is the conviction that we need the rebirth of metaphysics in order to adequately criticize the sciences and technologies of mastery. This assertion I cannot defend here, but point you to a splendid volume by Seyyed Hossein Nasr entitled The Encounter of Man and Nature: The Spiritual Crisis of Modern Man. Written in 1968, Nasr’s volume raises the issue of the relevance of metaphysics to the contemporary crisis in relation to the natural world in a startlingly impressive way. Nasr argues that the loss of metaphysics is a loss of an adequate orientation towards the whole of reality and consequently a misapprehension of the natural world. As he remarks, A re-discovery of metaphysical knowledge and a revitalization of a theology and philosophy of nature could set a limit upon the application of science and technology. In the old days man had to be saved from nature. Today nature has to be saved from man in both peace and war... What is forgotten is that in both the state of war and peace man is waging an incessant war upon nature... It is no more than a chimerical dream to expect to have peace based upon a state of intense war toward nature and disequilibrium with the cosmic environment.17 What Nasr raises here is the question of limits and the proper relationship of the human to the natural and cosmic orders of reality. These questions have to do with the very nature of being and beingwith-the-earth, which are proper metaphysical issues. But within the current cultural and philosophic climate, 17
these are very difficult issues to even raise, let alone articulate in a language that has any possibility of being heard. But I suspect that they may be essential to our collective future. I concur with Nasr’s observation that “the long tradition of the spiritual vision of nature, with the metaphysical doctrine upon which it is based, must again be brought to live within Christianity if the encounter of man and nature is not to result in complete disaster.”18
IV. Elements of a new Eco-spirituality These notes and reflections come together, I believe, in the need to cultivate what might be called here a new ecospirituality, a sense of ourselves in relation to the environment that is fitting to the living planet. Some of the marks of that eco-spirituality are • a sense of the living planet, • an awareness of our interdependence with the whole eco-system, • a willingness to challenge the dominant patterns of our technological culture in the name of the earth as a whole, • a sense of the need to be eco-warriors as well as eco-lovers. This new eco-spirituality is already beginning to emerge in environmental and citizen groups that take up the challenges that arise in local contexts across our globe. It is reflected, albeit ambiguously, in groups such as Greenpeace, the campaigns for the rain forests, the efforts to save vanishing species, the movement concerning global warming, and the challenges to industrial forms that devastate the planet. However, it must be acknowledged that many of the movements to save the environment get caught up in political agendas that are simply inadequate to the crisis that faces us all. The ecological
crisis cuts across party politics and the divisions of left and right, calling for some vision beyond those well-worn grooves of political rhetoric and life. The ecospirituality called for here must be wise enough to keep its focus on the earth as a whole rather than on the short-term fixes of the present political agendas. We need a new politics, one that recognizes the fundamental rights of the environment itself. People will come to some form of ecospirituality in a variety of ways. Some will come from spiritual backgrounds, others from secular contexts. Some will come from a love of the land, others from the world of science. But what will be shared across those many differences of background will be a response to the call of the Earth to heed her living voice and manifestations. Across their differences, they will share a sense of responsibility to and for the living planet as the matrix of our life. They will all be learning to hear and heed the earth anew. And what they hear will be expressed in various ways. Some will use the language of the heart; others will speak the language of numbers. Some will express what they hear in the language of poets; others in the exactitude of science. Still others will translate what they hear into the languages of law, ethics, economics and life-style. But those differences will not obscure the common effort to speak on behalf of the living planet. This new eco-spirituality was expressed in more religious terms by one of Dostoevski’s characters in Brothers Karamazov when he directs us to Love every leaf, every ray of light. Love all the animals, love every separate thing. If you love everything, you will perceive the mystery of God in all, and when you perceive this you will grow every day in fuller understanding of it, Contd. on page 15
See S. H. Nasr, The Encounter of Man & Nature: The Spiritual Crisis of Modern Man, London: George Allen &Unwin, 1968, p. 135. This neglected gem, written by an Islamic philosopher, is worth our attention. In his study, Nasr quotes the Christian philosopher Erigena as follows: “In the corporeal world as well as through all realms of creation the Trinity is present; the essentia of the Father as the source of existence, the sapientia of the Son as the source of wisdom, and the vita of the Spirit as the life of all things in the Universe. And so man also has a triune nature composed of the intellect (nous), reason (logos) and sense (dianoia).” p. 101. S. H. Nasr, op.cit., p. 105.
The Paradox of Mind and Brain Geshe Dorji Damdul
All beings, whether human or animal, including the tiniest of insects such as a mosquito, seek happiness and wish to avoid pain, fear, and anxiety. All experiences, whether desirable or undesirable, are felt and interpreted by the mind. It is the mind which determines if something is agreeable and conducive. Without understanding what mind is, one is challenged with the mysteries of how to acquire what we seek and to discard the disagreeable or the harmful. Thus the study of mind becomes crucial in all the ancient Indian philosophical systems, including Buddhism and Hinduism. In modern science, there is now a growing interest in the study of the mind, for the simple reason that scientists are becoming aware of how closely the state of mind of someone is related to his or her physical well being, contrary to earlier times where physical wellbeing was treated as being totally independent of the individual’s mental state. Neuroscientists and medical experts now believe that negative emotions such as anger, fear and jealousy eat into our immune system, while positive emotions such as mental calm and compassion build and enhance it. Quite a lot of research is being done collaboratively between scientists and Buddhist masters on how meditation affects our mental wellbeing and gives rise to new neuronal synapses in the brain. Scientists at the universities of Stanford, Emory, and San Francisco have ongoing projects to study the mind and the brain in meditative practices. Extensive and regular interactions have been going on for quite some time between scientists and Buddhist practitioners. Such a unique dialogue was conceived and initiated by H.H. the
Dalai Lama and the prominent neuroscientist, the late Francisco Varella.
engaging in thoughts, even if they bubble to the surface.
Mind in Buddhism and in Neuroscience, respectively
Slowly one will start to experience a vacuity when thoughts subside on their own, like a child feeling exhausted when the mother pays no heed to his attempts to draw her attention. Continue with this meditation and try to prolong the duration of the experience of the vacuity. At one point in time, just as a bright sun can briefly be seen in between a finely narrow opening of two clouds, one will briefly experience the sheer luminosity and the knowing nature of the mind as it is, very briefly though, at the outset. Through persistent practice of this meditation, stability can be achieved in viewing the mind in its true nature in the form of luminosity and pure awareness. This gives an unwavering conviction in the bare presence of mind so distinct from physicality.
While Buddhism defines mind as “a clear and knowing agent,” in the nature of non-tangibility and non-perceptibility, neuroscientists as of now mostly believe it as either a pure product of brain or the brain itself. The latter base their belief on popular acceptance. Given that the brain is such a complex entity, neuroscience has still a long way to go before coming to decisive conclusions it can make in the future. There are quite a number of challenges neuroscientists are confronted with when they reduce mind to brain and the functions of mind to that of the brain. Buddhism, on the other hand, tries to offer extensive explanation of the mind’s separate existence on the basis of reasons and experience through meditative techniques found explicated in the 8th Century Buddhist Master Acharya Dharmakirti’s treatise called the ‘Commentary on Valid Cognition.’ Specific techniques are explained in Buddhism as to how to experience the nature of mind – luminous and cognitive – in total contrast to the tangible brain. One of the common techniques is to stop chasing after all the past memories one has. One is also not to immerse oneself in the anticipation for the future. Cut your thoughts from any external sensory objects like form, sound and so forth. Simply remain vigilant and aware of the present moment. Don’t engross yourself in thoughts that might arise in the course of this meditation. Simply keep watching the present mind without yourself
On the basis of this understanding, the existence of rebirth is accounted for, by applying Acharya Dharmakirti’s reasoning, which consists of two premises, the first being that all compounded things have causes and the second, that the causes must be of the same nature as the result. In this case, the non-tangible luminous mind alone should precede as a substantial cause for a mind to come into being. Tracking back the substantial cause of that cause will, in turn, take us to the time of the first inception in the mother’s womb. The mind that preceded this mind at this stage will shed light on a person or being designated on the basis of that mind which is referred to as the former life. This logic will make sense only if one has the experience of the nature of mind which one can have through the techniques like the ones mentioned above.
8 It is a great revolution in thought and also an incredible achievement of humanity that neuroscience has unfolded some of the secrets of life which were once a mystery in the ancient times. They found that the cerebral cortex in the brain is concerned with higher mental functions: perception, action, language, and planning. Three structures lie deep within the brain: the basal ganglia, the hippocampus and the amygdala. The basal ganglia help regulate motor performance, the hippocampus is involved with aspects of memory storage, and the amygdala coordinates autonomic and endocrine responses in the context of emotional states. Kandel, a Nobel Laureate in Physiology (2000), in his ‘In Search of Memory,’ said; “We had learned that memory derives from changes in the synapses in a neural circuit: short-term memory from functional changes and long-term memory from structural changes.” He added, “Since as we had found, longterm memory involves the growth of new connections, it is not surprising that the synthesis of new protein constituents is required for that growth. Baily and his colleague, Mary Chen, and Carew and I found that long-term memory is not simply an extension of short-term memory: not only do the changes in synaptic strength last longer but, more amazingly, the actual number of synapses in the circuit changes. Specially, in longterm habituation the number of presynaptic connections among sensory neurons and motor neurons decreases, whereas in long-term sensitization sensory neurons grow new connections that persist as long as the memory is retained. There is in each case a parallel set of changes in the motor cell.” While there is no objection to the above findings, a question still arises if one believes that this finding accounts for everything about memory. While we know the association of long-term memory with certain structural changes happening in neurons, the question is why are such
structural changes in neurons associated with long-term memory? To tease apart this question into smaller units to make it simple: Is the changed version of the structure of the brain itself the long-term memory? Or, is the memory a product of the structural changes in the neurons? If the former, given that the individual person experiences the memory so vividly, he/she should have a bare experience of the physiological changes in the neural structures. Which, of course, is not the case. If one asserts the latter – because it is product of brain–, that is in itself implicative of being subsequent to the structurally changed neuron. In which case, we should account for the substantial basis of the memory, just as the smoke which is subsequent to fire has a concrete substantial physical basis distinct from the fire which produced it. Therefore, the knowledge that long-term memory is associated with certain structural changes in neurons answers the question of how long-term memory occurs in physical – mental relational context, but does not tell the full story. The following questions remain when one reduces mind and all mental activities to brain and neuronal activities. 1. What makes animals self-operational and not computers, despite the latter’s great sophistication? 2. How does one account for the voluntary physical movement of animals, including humans, against the natural forces like blowing of wind? (While the wind determines where a specific leaf is going to be the next moment, it cannot determine where an animal is going to be the same next moment. It is instead determined by another factor known as intention of the animal.) The same question can be put more articulately and technically: How does one explain the distinction between the
natural Law of Causality and the Law of Causation that involves intention? (H.H. the Dalai Lama also points to the existence of two kinds of Law of Causation – 1) natural law of causation and 2) the law of causation which involves thoughts. The latter is distinguished from the first on the basis of involvement of mental intention on top of the natural causal operation. An action operates in one way due to the presence of mental intention, which otherwise would have operated differently. This point is an extension of the first question.) 3. Why the brain and its activities are seen by a third person as well, while the mind is experienced in its bare form through first-person experience alone. 4. How does one reconcile the fact that all things are of the nature of mere mental imputation? Through fine analysis, everything is seen to exit only through mental imputation, which even Quantum Physics is coming to admit now. The brain is no exception. How can one account for this phenomena of the world of imputation without accepting the mind as the agent over and above everything, instead of the brain determining the mental functions. (If everything is purely physical with no distinct mind, the entire universe should well be represented in its entirety by brain mapping alone, in which case, because brains differ from individual to individual, all maps should be different. One thus becomes handicapped to espouse the tenability of external objects, which the world anyway witnesses and experiences commonly.) 5. How does one account to the question, Why did the Universe evolve the way it did. (H.H. the Dalai Lama questions the mode of formation of our Universe and Darwin’s Evolutionary Theory if a
distinct mind has no role to play in them.) 6. On what ground can one reject the idea of the mind affecting the brain under certain situations in the way that the brain affects the mind at other times? (Through collaborative experimental researches being carried out in a number of Western Universities, apart from the conventional acceptance of the mind being affected by the brain, the reverse effect is also found. Training in pure mental processes like compassionmeditation, and mindfulness-meditation, is seen to alter the brain, lessen stress levels and sugar levels and so forth.) 7. With the above questions still to be answered, can we truly equate mind and brain altogether? (What Kandel explains in his book “In Search of Memory,” represents external neuronal expressions and not the mind itself, which is of course contingent on the former. It is like perceiving and explaining the suit an acrobat has put on and not the exact physical skill or proficiency the acrobat has. The physical skill of the acrobat cannot be fully felt and explained on the basis of the space suit he has put on as the suit in itself limits the person from fully displaying his physical acrobatic skills. It would be improper to grade the acrobatic skill of the person simply on the basis of the space suit he is putting on. The mind and brain are inter-linked closely in a similar fashion. Most of the activities of the gross mind, if not all, no doubt, are necessarily dependent on neurons and the physical brain. But explaining the brain does not fully account for the mind. The mind becomes progressively more independent of the physical body including the brain as it becomes subtler (Please refer to the subheading – Gross and subtle mental states–below.) Exploring the mind and its functions as explained in ancient Indian psychology
as outlined below will greatly help us to cross the limitations imposed by the radical materialists.
Divisions of mind in Buddhism Prime cognition and non-prime cognition. Direct perception and conceptual mind
Seven kinds of mind 1 Direct cognition 2 Inferential cognition 3 Subsequent cognition 4 Non-discerning perception 5 Correct assumption 6 Doubt 7 Distorted mind with reference to the object of apprehension (Note the difference between distorted mind with reference to the object of apprehension and the mistaken mind with reference to the object of appearance)
Primary mind and mental factors Broadly speaking, mind is classified into two: primary mind and mental factors. Just as in the court of a king, the king takes charge of overseeing all the courtly activities, and the ministers are assigned to more specific responsibilities such as external affairs, finance, education, environment and so forth, the primary mind is like the king which experiences the overall feelings of the mind, whereas the individual mental factors are like the ministers assuming specific responsibilities of feeling, attention, contacting with the object, intending, making discrimination etc. Buddhist psychology offers explanation to 51 mental factors which are grouped into six sets: 1) Five Omnipresent mental factors 2) Five discerning mental factors 3) Four variables 4) Eleven virtuous mental factors
5) Six root afflictions 6) Twenty secondary afflictions
Gross and subtle mental states Gross mental state is constituted of the five sense consciousnesses and a part of the sixth mental consciousness, which is coarse, such as the one in waking state. Within the sixth, progressively, the mind becomes subtler in the dream state, deepsleep state, faint state, and death state. The subtlest mental state becomes manifest in its full form at the last moment of the time of dying. It is for this reason that while medical experts qualify the person as dead when the brain activation stops, Buddhism describes the person as still in the process of dying and not as yet dead. In the case of the yogis, this subtle mind is activated while still alive through meditative techniques. This subtle mind is the one on the basis of which the possibility of achieving Buddhahood is explained. Modern scientists have no clue or explanation to this phenomenon popularly known as meditative equipoise of death in Buddhism. Last year, a renowned Tibetan Buddhist master who is the head of the Gelug Buddhist school remained for 18 days in meditative equipoise in Drepung Monastery in South India after he was clinically declared dead. Geshe Dorji Damdul
Recommended Readings: 1 Emotional Awareness – H.H. the Dalai Lama and Dr. Paul Eckman 2 Destructive Emotions – Mind and Life Conference (Science and Buddhism conference) with H.H. the Dalai Lama 3 In Search of Memory – Dr Eric Kandel (2000 Nobel Laureate in physiology) 4 Commentary on Valid Cognition (Pramanavartikakarika) – Dharmakirti
22nd Padmapani Lecture Professor Geze Bethlenfalvy August 5-6, 2010 Professor Geze Bethlenfalvy, an eminent Hungarian Scholar delivered the 22nd Padmapani Lecture over two consecutive days at the India International Centre. He spoke on “The Message of Buddhism for the 21st Century” on August 5, 2010. This session was chaired by eminent Indologist, Dr. Lokesh Chandra. In his talk Prof Bethlenfalvy asserted that certain consequences of science and industrialization have made the survival of mankind doubtful. We have to realize that the causes can be found within individuals and nations, among which a central energy comes from the greed and desire for more wealth and power. Since capitalism became the ruling system, the desire for more money became a central ambition. Starting with ourselves, nations and mankind in general can become aware of the universal danger. We have to recollect the teachings of the Buddha,
which teach us to resist our own desire, greed and anger, the practice of killing each other and other living beings including plants, and to develop compassion. The second part of the talk was titled “Aspects of Buddhist Meditation” and it was held on August 6, 2010. Chaired by Dhammacharya Shantum Seth, this session gave a long view of meditative traditions in India. The practice of yogic concentration goes back to the Indus Valley Civilisation. It has developed through the last 5000 years in various Indic religions and communities. The Buddha also used the methods of meditation, as described in many texts, the most detailed being the Satipatthana Sutta. Around the First Centuries BC and AD, a new method appeared, which can be called “visualization”. This was also used by
the Buddhist communities, and the description (and later depiction) of Boddhisattvas, etc. emerged. From the 4th Century in Hinduism and from the 7th century in Buddhism, tantric meditation was developed. This technique was adopted and preserved in the most complete form by the Tibetans. Prof. Bethlenfalvy touched upon a most developed form of meditation, referred to by Tibetan sources as the Rdzogs-chen system, in his wide-ranging and enlightening talk.
A Lecture on Spiritual Lifestyle by Maulana Wahiduddin Khan August 7, 2010 Jointly organised by Tibet House and India International Centre The eminent Islamic scholar, Maulana Wahiduddin Khan, spoke to a packed conference room at India International Centre, on how to create peace for oneself, and thereby promote peace in the world at large. He reiterated simple observations and truths, beginning, “Every day there is disastrous news” from the wider world – floods, fires, melting of icecaps, global warming, air and water pollution. Such corruption in air, land and sea, he said, is due to manmade events, which were predicted by the Quran in the 7th century. The Quran also, he continued, gave the solution: “Do not corrupt the earth after it has been set in order.” This evergrowing kind of corruption has developed especially during the industrial age. Before this period, man lived basically in harmony with the earth and with others. But as the industrial age
patience, analysis and reflection, and positive reactions in every (including negative) situation. By “simple living,” he means avoiding a luxurious lifestyle. By adopting this uncomplicated formula, he says, “Your life will be tension free.” We cannot change the world, he continued. We can only change ourselves. progressed, Man’s deviation from nature has reached such a level, that according to some noted scientists, mankind, or perhaps life on earth, may come to an end within the century or even within a dozen years, unless we alter our trend. “Our luxurious life is not tenable in this world,” Maulana Khan observed. His spiritual formula, instead, is “Simple living, high thinking.” By “high thinking” he explained that he means an intellectual, mind-based spirituality, cultivating
“Clarity begins at home.” Practically, this much is possible, and it is enough, for an individual to live in peace. But as well, large events in history follow a process, which begins with a few people. “Positive individuals, in sufficient numbers, can bring about a peaceful society. To achieve this end, we must reengineer and de-condition our minds. This will help us develop and we may save humanity from chaos.” Reported by Vivian Ray
Realising a Middle Path for Healthy Environment, Development and Society March 9, 2011 Organized at Doeguling Tibetan Settlement at Hubli, Karnataka An environmental workshop titled, â€˜Realising a Middle Path for Healthy Environment, Development and Societyâ€™ was organised at the Doeguling Tibetan Settlement on March 9, 2011. The workshop was presided over by Venerable Doboom Rimpoche, Director of the Tibet House, New Delhi in the presence of Mr. Tsotsopon P. Dhondup, Chairman/Representative of the Central Tibetan Administration. Mr. Ajay Rastogi, Director, Ecoserve was the key resource person and Green Volunteers Programme members were the main participants. 23 participants from all the 9 camps participated in the workshop. The workshop began with a brief address by the Rimpoche who reminded the participants about the key environmental message of His Holiness regarding the interdependence of all species on earth. Mr Dhondup outlined the various programmes and policies of the HH Government in exile. He mentioned that in 2002, the policy of organic agriculture including soil and water conservation was adopted and since then considerable progress has been made in all the settlements. He also informed the participants that in 2010 a policy of ban on plastic bags has been implemented. Ajay Rastogi offered his expert advice on the organic programme components and shared all the documents from the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations and Government of India joint programme on organic agriculture; which he led for 4 years. He also informed participants about the Participatory Guarantee System, a new certification mechanism adopted by the Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India in February 2011. After tea break, the next activity started with the game, Web of Life which encapsulates the message of interdependence of species and mankindâ€™s role as steward and custodian.
The four most important environmental issues facing us today were explained with examples: 1. Loss of biological diversity; 2. Degradation of natural resources; 3. Pollution of air, water, and soil; 4. Climate change. Discussion on these subjects also addressed solutions that communities can evolve to conserve the environment and how the local actions can be linked to solving global problems. A motivational film on the melting of glaciers in Ladakh (due to climate change) and the efforts made by a group of residents to create check dams that would facilitate freezing of water and thereby improving the eater availability was shown. Post lunch sessions were devoted to vision building and the planning process for a systematic build up of the activities of Green Volunteers. Four issues were mainly identified: To improve water availability for drinking and irrigation; to improve drainage, sanitation and waste management; to improve sustainable agriculture; and to
create biodiversity park/garden in the settlement. Subsequently, an exercise of possible tasks to be undertaken for these activities were discussed and enlisted by the groups. Everyone opted for one or two activities and subsequently, groups of volunteers with common interest emerged. They have decided to hold another meeting to further discuss and plan the actions within their subgroups. Followed, details chalked out by each group would be presented before a common meeting of all members and the executive of the Green Volunteers would steer the process of facilitating the members to implement the plans. Concluding remarks were made by the Rimpoche and the programme was much appreciated. He also distributed the certificate of participation to each participant. Members said that they gained knowledge in an interactive way, and also could develop a direction for future activities. Reported by Ajay Rasgoti
Events Buddha Purnima Celebrations Buddha Jayanti Park Each year, Tibet House celebrates Buddha Purnima with an inspiring early morning programme on the green and soothing lawns facing the exquisite Buddha statue at Buddha Jayanti Park. This year too, people gathered early to offer flowers, incense and prostrations at the Pratima, watched by the geese who inhabit the pond that encircles it. This was followed by readings and chants from the different traditions of Buddhism by representatives of each tradition. Apart from those who come for this event (open to all), its location in the park also translates into a larger participation as the morning walkers watch on curiously, some joining in under the white shamiana. Before everyone disperses everyone is invited to share in the traditional refreshments of Tibetan style kheer and tea.
Buddha statue at Buddha Jayanti Park
Tree Planting Ceremony & Interfaith Prayers at Bhai Vir Singh Sahitya Sadan in collaboration with Bhai Vir Singh Sahitya Sadan July 6, 2010 His Holiness the Dalai Lama has an abiding commitment to ecological conservation. In keeping with this spirit,
Tree Planting Ceremony and Interfaith Prayers
his birthday is always an occasion for reflection on our responsibility to mother earth. An interfaith prayer followed by a tree planting ceremony at the venue for that year are the other regular features of how Tibet House marks July 6. This year the event took place at Bhai Vir Singh Sadan. Prof Mushirul Hasan, former VC of Jamia Milia Islamia and currently heading the National Archives, chaired the session and shared some beautiful verses from Ghalib on the universal nature of the Divine, cautioning against divisive tendencies that religious orthodoxy often produces. A beautiful rendition of verses from the Guru Granth Sahib, the sacred book of the Sikhs, followed. The singer sang: “Narayan kehte narak na jayen/Narayan sava sagal phal payen,” verses that reiterate the value of remembering the divine. Swami Satyeshananda from the Ramakrishna Mission, Dr. A.K.Merchant from the Baha’I Temple, Father Stenley Kozichira, Rabbi Ezekiel Isaac Malekar and Venerable Katsu Horiuchi shared the wisdom from their respective traditions. Several tree saplings were planted on the premises of the Bhai Vir Singh Sadan before refreshments.
Launch of Weekly Class on Buddhist Tenet Systems from November 7, 2010 Every Sunday (3.30 pm - 6.30 pm) H.H. the Dalai Lama advises the Dharma Centres across the world to emphasize the study of the classical Tenet Systems of India rather than the ritual side of Buddhism. Tibet House acted on this idea the moment Geshe Dorji Damdul joined Tibet House in 2009. The program was intensified in 2011 when Geshe la was assigned the new responsibility as the Director of Tibet House. He says, “The study of tenet system is the only way to unlock all the sophisticated treatises on philosophy.” He gives the analogy of a lamp to look for gems in the king’s treasury. If you truly want to lead a life full of peace and joy, satisfaction and dignity and you want to leave an unforgettable legacy to your loving children and their children, you must put into practice the profound wisdom and the vast altruism as explained in the treatises. Geshe Dorji Damdul offered a weekly class on Sundays for those interested in the study of tenet systems of Buddhism. This class is going to be a long term one. Geshe la is using Ven Konchok Jigmey Wangpo’s text – “THE PRECIOUS
A weekly Buddhist philosophy and tenet class in progress
GARLAND OF TENETS” which has the English translation version from Snowlion Publication, USA with the title “CUTTING THROUGHAPPEARANCE”.
“Dalliance of Spirituality and Ecology – A Hindu Perspective” by Acharya Shrivatsa Goswami December 1, 2010 Tibet House in collaboration with India International Centre organized a talk on the exciting confluence of Hindu spirituality and contemporary ecological concerns. Spirituality, for a Hindu, is based upon awareness of human existence, which does not consist only of a body made up of the five elements (earth, water, fire, air, and ether). There is a pervasive, driving force called the soul, which keeps the body going. The
Acharya Shrivatsa Goswami
Sanskrit word for spirituality is adhyatma. Just as the body is based on the soul, nature is based on the spirit. The Hindu religiosity is in turn rooted in the natural world. No temple or household altar is complete without the Saligrama (a black
stone with fossils embedded in it), a plant of sacred basil, water, and fire. Hindu ritual is meant as a constant reminder to keep the relationship between body and spirit intact. From the Hindu point of view, religious and secular, spiritual wisdom and scientific knowledge, purusha and prakriti, male and female, dance together in love, making a full circle of mutual understanding and responsibility.
Remembrance in Gratitude for E. Gene Smith February 2, 2011 India International Centre E. Gene Smith (1936-2010) was a doyen of Buddhist culture and understanding who dedicated his life to preserving the literary heritage of Tibet. He passed away at his home in New York on 16 December, 2010, three days after returning from his last visit to India. He was a friend and inspiration to all at Tibet House. Born in Utah in 1936, Gene la, as he was fondly called by Tibetans, studied at a variety of institutions of higher education in the U.S. After completing his Ph.D. and travelling to Leiden for higher studies in Sanskrit and Pali. In 1965, the year Tibet House was established, he came to India to study with living exponents of all Tibetan religious traditions. In 1968 he joined the Library of Congress Field Office in New Delhi and served as Field Director between 1980-85 and was in Jakarta and Cairo for 12 years. It is during this tenure
that he undertook the project of printing rare Tibetan texts that were brought into exile by the Tibetans as also those with Tibetan speaking communities of India, Nepal and Bhutan. Tibet House played a vital role in this work of acting as a link between him and the publishers. In 199 he and a group of friends established the Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center which has undertaken wide scale digitization of Buddhist Texts, ensuring the preservation of the endangered heritage for posterity. In 2007, Tibet House had the privilege of honouring Gene-la for his lifetime achievements by presenting him a citation and scarves in five colours. On February 2, 2011, Tibet House paid homage to his memory. After chanting by Tibetan monks, Zongsar Khyenste Rinpoche spoke simply and movingly of the tremendous contribution that Gene-la’s work made to his own education as a young monk. Dr. Kapila Vatsyayana and Dr. Lokesh Chandra as well as Vaid Bhagwan Dash remembered Gene-la as a profound scholar, an organization builder, and a remarkably exemplary human being with his deep humility and sense of humour. A short film on him was also screened. His “vibrant life, serene contemplation and unparalleled oceanic learning”, to use of Dr. Lokesh Chandra’s words, will continue to inspire all of us.
Remembering Gene Smith
“Be Ye Light Unto Yourselves” Exhibition of Paintings by Elizabeth Sass Brunner and Elizabeth Brunner August 5 – August 12, 2011
(Left – Right): One of the Elizabeth Brunner –“Sitting Buddha Image” Elizabeth Saas Brunner (Right) and Elizabeth Brunner
Hungarian artists Elizabeth Saas Brunner and Elizabeth Brunner were an intensely spiritual mother and daughter duo bound by a common love of India. The late artists’ Buddhist series of paintings, in the possession of Tibet House, were displayed at the IIC in an exhibition titled “Be Ye Light Unto Yourselves”. Held to mark the birth centenary of Elizabeth, the exquisite exhibition featured 22 paintings, the majority by the younger Brunner. Saas’ mystical works date back to 1934 and were painted in Bangalore, Karnataka. Elizabeth Brunner’s paintings cover the period 1956-1972. They are set in Kushinagar, Sarnath, Bodhgaya (India), Burma, Sri Lanka and Thailand, all places associated with the Buddha. While Saas largely depicts Buddha seated in meditation, Elizabeth’s varying images of the great personage are derived from the places she has visited. One can contemplate a sitting Buddha (from Kushinagar), the emerald Buddha
(Bangkok), the reclining Buddha (Bangkok), monks praying in front of the Buddha at a Marble Temple (Bangkok), as well as as the stupa in Sarnath. The works of both mother and daughter are in subdued yet warm earth tones, except for one by Elizabeth titled “Buddha with Sapphire Eyes”, painted in Colombo (Sri Lanka). Elizabeth also did a portrait of His Holiness The Dalai Lama, whom she greatly admired, and of one of his tutors and other Tibetan personages. Eminent Hungarian scholar Professor Geza Bethlenfalvy, who inaugurated the exhibition, said, “While Saas was primarily a painter of landscapes and spiritual themes, Elizabeth was largely a portrait painter. The mother had what I would call transcendental experiences such as visions of a crucifix, Buddha and Shiva and these found reflection in her art. Elizabeth was influenced by her mother and also by the permeation of Buddhist
thought to Hungary at the beginning of the 20th century.” Professor Geza gave a brief description of Saas’ paintings on display, of “a meditating Buddha seated on a globe in some of the paintings. Around him is an aura, or light that emanates from his body and soul.” Elizabeth willed these painting to the Dalai Lama and they are now in the collection of Tibet House, New Delhi, the cultural centre of the Tibetan leader. “Though I wouldn’t call the mother and daughter Buddhists, they were greatly inspired by Buddha’s philosophy and teachings,” said Lama Doboom Tulku, Director, Tibet House. Saas and Elizabeth arrived in India in 1930 via Italy, Egypt and Libya. Inspired by Tagore, they lived in Shantinketan for two years and decided to make India their home. Elizabeth has done a number of sketches of the bard. Apparently Tagore was greatly impressed by her talent. As were visitors to the exhibition.
Most Venerable Doboom Rinpoche When you came from Dharamsala some thirty years ago to take charge of the Cultural Centre of HH the Dalai Lama in Delhi, Tibet House was just a building. It was you who made it into an institution of excellence to promote the best of Tibetan culture and traditions, both secular and spiritual. For this, we – the staff and members of Tibet House – wish to express our gratitude.
You also brought to India the best of international and Indian scholars from a variety of disciplines. You enchanted the audiences by live Sacred Music performed by artists from different countries.
You organized many events and oversaw publications that helped people, mainly Indians, learn about Buddhist philosophy, psychology, ecology, art, inter-faith dialogue, sacred music, Tibetan language, traditional medicine, history and much more. Above all, we learnt how to integrate all this knowledge into our being to make ourself and others happier. We find no words to thank you adequately for that.
courageously dedicated you were to make this great dream true.
The people of Delhi watched in admiration the making of the canopy at Buddha Jayanti Park and the powerful consecration ceremony of the Buddha statue donated by His Holiness the Dalai Lama to the people of India. How
You offered to the people of Delhi and from other places the teachings by H.H. the Dalai Lama and other great masters such as H.E. Ling Rinpoche, H.E. Sakya Trinzin Rinpoche, H.E. Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, H.E. Kalu Rinpoche.
Lama Doboom Tulku Rinpoche la Former Director, Tibet House
You dedicated the prime of your life working for Tibet House, for the fulfillment of H.H. the Dalai Lama’s great vision that the rich tradition of India – Buddhist philosophy, logic, epistemology and medicine– which the Tibetans inherited from the great Indian masters be given back to the Indians. You did so with great patience, creating, over thirty years of committed directorship, a large network of friends and supporters of Tibetan culture. We all thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your accomplishments, dedication, patience and personal affection. May you enjoy good health, long life, happiness and peace. May all your wishes be spontaneously fulfilled, Rinpoche.
Contd. from page 6 until you come at last to love the whole world with a love that will be all-embracing and universal. But this religious expression of an ecospirituality must be linked with practical efforts to remake our relations with the natural world. When joined with sensitivity to the living planet, such practical efforts gain a resonance that sustains and energizes. The environmental crisis generates the necessity for more than piecemeal changes. It will not be adequately met by making a little change here or there. Given our experience of this global crisis in 19
Elmira, it is obvious that we need a deep and abiding shift in our selfunderstanding as a human species in relation to the earth and its ecology. Here, I call this an eco-spirituality, but others may give it another name. In his great story of Western humanity, Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy (1888-1973) argued that the great question facing the successive revolutions of the West was where to draw the boundaries between the earth, society, and the heavens.19 In each dramatic change in the revolutionary formation of national nurseries of the different human types,
those boundaries fell into new configurations. Each revolution stormed, as it were, “the heavens” with a new outbreak of inspiration that could reform societal life on the earth. In so doing, they surpassed what had gone before in the name of a new heaven and earth. We are, I believe, at a juncture in the new global, rather than national, story of humankind where we are being called upon to redraw those boundaries again. But now we must heed the call of the earth in whose nexus belongs our being and becoming. We must rediscover our life together with the earth.
See EugenRosenstock-Huessy, Out of Revolution, TheAutobiography of Western Man, Norwich, Vt.: Argo Books, 1969. We have just completed the first decade of the new millennium, a millennium that was welcomed in myriad ways around the globe. One of those was by the World Festival of Sacred Music, a project of HH the Dalai Lama that was headed by DoboomTulku. It was a series of musical events on each of the continents. Pope John Paul II’s millennial address acknowledged the failures of Christianity in the preceding millennium, asked for forgiveness, and prayed for spiritual guidance and renewal in the coming millennium.
Farewell to Ms Chungkey la, our former Secretary With a heavy heart, Tibet House recently bid farewell to Ms. Chungkey la who was its Secretary for over fourteen years. She resigned on personal grounds. Chungkey la left behind a legacy of dedication to work and the interests of Tibet House. That is a source of inspiration for all the staff members. She stood out for her administrative skills, energy, honesty, and above all, for her caring attitude towards all. Tibet House will always remember her enormous Chungkey la contribution, which was not only in the service of this (Former Secretary, institution but for Buddha Dharma and Tibetan culture in Tibet House) general. As a cultural ambassador of H.H. the Dalai Lama, Tibet House feels a sense of loss at her departure. Her service to our beloved leader and Guru, HH the Dalai Lama, who is the living embodiment of peace and compassion, is exemplary. We all wish her a long, healthy life and success in all her endeavors.
Study Group Lectures and Film Screenings April, 2010 “Buddhist Archaeology of Central India”– an illustrated lecture by Dr. Muhammed K.K. May, 2010 “Boddhichitta – The Compassionate of Mind of Enlightenment” led by Geshe Dorji Damdul. A Six Day Intensive Course (May 14 – 19, 2010). July, 2010 “The Lost World of Tibet” – Screening by Dan Cruickshank. August, 2010 “Identification of the Abode of Mahakassapa: A Probable site of Kukkutapadagiri Mahavihara” illustrated by Mr Manoj Kumar. September, 2010
1. LIFE OF LORD BUDDHA FROM CHINESE SUTRAS ILLUSTRATED IN MING WOODCUTS by Dr. Lokesh Chandra; International Academy of Indian Culture and Aditya Prakashan, New Delhi-2010 (received on 09/07/2010) 2. CANDI MENDUT (Womb of the Tathagata) by Mark Long; Aditya Prakashan, New Delhi-2009 (received on 09/07/2010) 3. TIBET ( THE LOST FRONTIER) by Claude Arpi; Lancer Publication – (received on 09/07/2010) 4. ETHIC FOR NEW MILLENNIUM (Ancient Wisdom Modern Word) by H.H.The Dalai Lama, Hachette India (received on 09/07/2010) 5. FREEDON IN EXILE (Autobiography of the Dalai Lama), – Hachette India. (received on 09/07/2010) 6. INDIA AND TIBET by Sir Francis Younghusband, Low Price Publication (received on 09/07/2010) 7. WHAT MAKES YOU NOT A BUDDHIST by Dzongsar Janyang Khyentse, Timeless Books (received on 09/07/2010) 8. WITNESS TO TIBET HISTORY by Baba Phuntsok Wangyal, Paljor Publication. (received on 09/07/2010) 9. THE NEGOTIATION THAT NEVER WERE by Claudi Arpi, Lancer Publication (received on 09/07/2010) 10. PRAMÁNA: Dharmakirti and the Indian Philosophical Debate, Seminar papers, Edited by Lama Doboom Tulku Rinpoche and Maya Joshi, Manohar Publishers, 2010.
New Tibet House Publications
“Buddhist Psychology”– an illustrated lecture by Geshe Dorji Damdul. Four Day Intensive Course (September 24-27, 2010) “The Wheel of Life (Sipa Khorlo) and the three principle paths” By – Geshe Dorji Damdul. October, 2010 “Kasyapas in Ancient Sacred Literatures and Art” — an illustrated lecture by Mr Manoj Kumar. November, 2010 “Re-visiting Buddhist Russia” – an illustrated lecture by Prof. Andrey Terentyev. Launch of Weekly Class on Buddhist Tenet Systems – Lead by Geshe Dorji Damdul; Starts from November 7, 2010. (On every Sunday) December, 2010 “Buddhist Monasteries in Zangskar, Ladhak” – an illustrated lecture by Ms Deldan Angmo. January, 2011 “Buddhist Principles Applicable to the Information Age” – an illustrated lecture by Dr. Alexander Berzin.
Thang Sak Pay Zig Je (Sambhota XVI) Price: Rs.150
Duptha Rinchen Tengwai (Sambhota series XVII) Price : Rs.60
February, 2011 “Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment” by Ven Atisha Dipangkara Five Day Intensive Course (Feb 23 – 27, 2011). March, 2011 “Caring for Art Treasures” – an illustrated lecture by Ms Ann Shaftel.
Tibet House, Cultural Centre of H.H. the Dalai Lama 1, Institutional Area, Lodhi Road, New Delhi-110003, India Phone: 91-11-24611515 Fax: 91-11-24625536 Email: email@example.com
Published annually Tibet House Bulletin is edited by Ms Maya Joshi Design and Production by Communication Consultants