Vesakh is the most important holiday for Buddhists: in it we commemorate the principal events of the life of Buddha. The feast of Vesakh / Hanamatsuri 2016, in the various countries of Buddhist culture, is celebrated on different dates, according to different traditions. This year the festival is celebrated in some countries on May 14, while in others between 20 and 21 May. On this occasion, the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue has sent the following message to Buddhists:
Together to Foster Ecological Education
1. In the name of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, we are pleased to extend once again our best wishes on the occasion Vesakh, as you commemorate three significant events in the life of Gautama Buddha – his birth, enlightenment and death. We wish you peace, tranquillity and joy in your hearts, within your families and in your country.
2. This year we write to you inspired by His Holiness Pope Francis’s Encyclical Letter, Laudato Sì, On the Care for Our Common Home. His Holiness notes that “the external deserts in the world are growing, because the internal deserts have become so vast. For this reason, the ecological crisis is also a summons to profound interior conversion” (n. 217). Moreover, he states that “our efforts at education will be inadequate and ineffectual unless we strive to promote a new way of thinking about human beings, life, society and our relationship with nature” (n. 215). “Only by cultivating sound virtues will people be able to make a selfless ecological commitment” (n. 211).
In response, Pope Francis proposes that “ecological education can take place in a variety of settings: at school, in families, in the media, in catechesis and elsewhere” (n. 213).
3. Dear Buddhist friends, you have also expressed concern about the degradation of the environment, which is attested to by the documents.
The Time to Act is Now: A Buddhist
Declaration on Climate Change and Buddhist Climate Change Statement to World Leaders. These evidence a shared understanding that at the centre of the eco-crisis is, in fact, an ego-crisis, expressed by human greed, anxiety, arrogance and ignorance. Our lifestyles and expectations, therefore, must change in order 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).
4. As the crisis of climate change is contributed to by human activity, we, Christians and Buddhists, must work together to confront it with an ecological spirituality. The acceleration of global environmental problems has added to the urgency of interreligious cooperation. Education in environmental responsibility and the creation of an “ecological citizenship” require virtue-oriented ecological ethics such as respect and care for nature. There is a pressing need for the followers of all religions to transcend their boundaries and join together in building an ecologically responsible social order based on shared values. In countries where Buddhists and Christians live and work side by side, we can support the health and sustainability of the planet through joint educational programmes aimed at raising ecological awareness and promoting joint initiatives.
5. Dear Buddhist friends, 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.
Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran
Bishop Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot, MCCJ