Green Dharma

29 April 2010 - 3:03pm Comments Off

Dr Ming (left) and Wai Meng (right) offering gifts to Ms Lee (centre) who helped to collect recyclables

This term ‘Green Dharma’ has been cropping up in various Dharma articles, and seeks to address whether Buddhism has anything to offer in terms helping the planet’s ailing ecology. Green Dharma has also been termed ‘Environmental Compassion’, and this article will touch upon the role in which recycling can play towards helping our environment.


Although recycling has been active in Malaysia for the last 20 years, and there has been a growing awareness, our national recycling rate still remains around 5%. Whilst this may be up from the paltry 3% of 2003, it still pales in comparison to developed nations where the recycling rates range between 30 and 47%…in fact, in Singapore, a whopping 56% of their waste is recycled, far exceeding the 2020 target of 22% which Malaysia has set for herself!

Where are we going to put the stuff?

Is Green Spiritual?

During the first Ipoh Study Group Recycling Event, participants saw the different things that people brought, and were surprised by the variety of recyclable goods. It led them to remark enthusiastically on improving their own future efforts.

When we recycle, we generally move on to a higher consciousness and awareness. Every time recyclers finish using any item, they immediately have thoughts to recycle that item. Hence, when doing this very mundane activity with the proper motivation, it becomes a practice of awareness. It leads us to develop a sense of heightened responsibility, and our consciousness moves closer towards compassion, and veers away from indifference.

By being aware of what we can do ourselves, we create far-reaching effects because the world’s ecology and environment is interdependent. A clear example of how nations’ environments are interdependent can be seen in the opening burnings in Sumatra in the past few years, as it directly affected the Malaysian air quality.

Our failure to recycle may seem insignificant but if millions of Malaysians practised recycling, the effect would be exponentially significant. Consider the ‘Butterfly Effect’, a scientific theory which directly correlates to the Buddhist principles of cause and effect. In short, Philip Merilees asked the question, “Does the flap of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil set off a tornado in Texas?” Within the context of Kechara, His Eminence Tsem Rinpoche has always demonstrated how small causes can create large ripples.

Every single person on this planet has a say in the preservation of OUR planet. Our actions are important! Even if the action does not affect the person you live with or the people next to you, as Rinpoche has said, it will leave an imprint on your mind not to give up.

True compassion cannot be realised if we have not developed equanimity and love. Recycling helps us to have a better view of equality – we see that ultimately, we are all in the same boat (i.e. my bad air is your bad air) which is why we should work together for a better future.

Thus recycling helps us to develop a selfless attitude. It is the start of thinking beyond our limited selves; that which takes us further than just our selfish little world. Most of our problems are created by the incorrect view that “I am the most important person”. Engaging in recycling undermines that view, by leading to a state of equanimity and love, manifesting as genuine concern for another being. As a result, developed higher states of mind like compassion, love and equanimity brings about more lasting happiness to us.

In all faiths, the practice of giving is applauded and encouraged. Recycling allows people from all backgrounds to offer what they can towards organisation that promote social action and spirituality; this is an activity anyone can engage in. By giving, we open up our potential to develop our spirituality even further. Giving works to counter our attachment, and the practice of giving can also lead to our overcoming aversion towards certain people. In order to practise giving towards those we do not like, we have to give up some of our dislike for such people; when we give to help others, it helps us to overcome the view of self-importance, and this is closer to truth, or Dharma.


Applying ‘Green Dharma’ Here and Now

The Ipoh Study Group recently held their first recycling event, which was a good start to this social community action. This event will be periodic, taking place on the last Sunday of every month. We had help from Ms Lee who helped to arrange for lorries to pick up the recyclables. As a thank-you for her efforts, we offered her a fruit basket and also the universal book If Not Now, When?. We hope the start of the Ipoh recycling activity will be the catalyst for more recycling activities to spring up for other Kechara chapters in Malaysia.

Lorry picking up the recyclables…a bit of an overkill! However, we hope to fill the lorry better next time around

The weighing of recyclables for payment

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